Wednesday, November 05, 2008

For the Spouses that Support Us & Those Who Cannot Join Us

Every now and then kids say something so unexpected, but so seriously and so much in earnest that you have to bite the insides of your cheeks to keep from laughing aloud and offending them. That happened a few days ago and I just found the scrap of paper upon which I recorded the moment. It was one of those things that you don't want to forget so you can tell your child when she's a teenager in front of all her friends. (Evil cackle!)

(Above: Ella and Derek enjoying her pool this summer.)

I used to be one who could be a real worrier. Then I married Derek and found that he could worry enough for both of us so I quit. He's done the vast majority of fretting ever since.

On this particular day he was working on more than his fair share of the family anxiety. Ella and I were headed up to Mum's for the day. Derek must have said something to Ella as he was snapping her into her car seat because as I pulled out of the driveway, Ella informed me that we had to pray for Daddy because he was having a bad day. I thought that a good idea and once we had agreed that yes, I should keep my eyes open since I was driving, I prayed aloud for Derek.

The moment I was finished, Ella began her prayer. This is (more or less) what she said:

Dear God, Daddy is bigger than Mummy, and Mummy does a lot. Daddy doesn't
do a lot but he gets very worried and has bad days. Jesus help him to be
safe and secure so he isn't worried and can have a good day and get stuff
done. Amen.

I kept my laughter at bay by chewing on the insides of my cheeks. The perspective of a child is so totally different than that of an adult! The part that killed me was "Daddy doesn't do a lot," mostly because it is utterly untrue. Derek (in my opinion at least) is Mr. Wonder-Husband. He cooks, he cleans, he does laundry, and he writes the grocery list. He is also Mr. Wonder-Dad. He baths Ella, reads to her, takes her for walks, puts her to bed, and takes her away when I'm about to pull my hair out. On top of that, he works full-time.

Now, he doesn't do all these things exclusively. Some he does a lot of, and some he does less of. It's a balance thing. But truth be told, if he didn't do a lot of these things there's no way I could homeschool Ella. We don't go over to "school" everyday, but when we're home we do "school" stuff (although she doesn't realise it). Often this is when our lessons for arts and crafts and practical life frequently occur. We'll also read books, do so cooking or baking, play games, and go exploring (which becomes biology, botany, construction - how many 4-year-olds know the difference between concrete and cement? - and anything else that comes to mind). Many evenings are taken up by making Montessori materials and planning lessons, and now that I'm pregnant, naps are often required at some point during the day.

But when you consider who does the most with and for Ella (in her point of view especially), it would be Mummy. Laundry, cleaning, and cooking, don't count as doing stuff! It's not directly for or involving her, so how can it be? As for working in the Pastor's study, or when Derek's home working, what she mostly sees is "Daddy reading," or "Daddy 'playing' on the computer," which in her view isn't working at all! So what does Daddy do? Daddy plays with her (or somehow keeps her occupied) when Mummy's napping. Daddy either reads to her or snuggles her most night, occasionally doing both. Daddy usually has breakfast with her in the mornings (he's a morning person, I'm the night owl). So Daddy does do some stuff!

When she's older, I hope she'll come to realise that if it wasn't for all the "other" stuff Daddy does, then Mummy couldn't be both parent and teacher. If it wasn't for Daddy's willingness to spend time with her when Mummy's tired and/or irritated, Mummy might just ram her head through a wall! If it wasn't for Daddy's hard work and acceptance of a single-salary lifestyle, rather than having Mummy all day, she’d have daycare or preschool and it certainly wouldn’t be Montessori!

I’ve heard people say, “Well, anyone can homeschool, if they really want to. They just have to learn to make sacrifices." I've also heard similar things said about being a stay-at-home parent. "We all know that if people weren't so materialistic every child could have a stay-at-home parent. Families don't need two incomes, after all."

I don't buy it. Life isn't that simple. There are a lot of single parents out there now and they have only themselves to rely upon. I have a great respect for those mothers who work hard to do the best by their children, even when they have to do it all alone. Because they need to work, homeschooling is rarely an option. And there are plenty of families where one of the spouses can neither work, nor care solely for the children because of a disability. The other spouse either has to work, or sometimes has to take over full-time home care, leaving them in a situation where caring for their children has to be shared.

Perhaps you've never witnessed this phenomenon, the superior stay-at-home mum or the homeschool mum who looks down on anyone who sends their children to public school. If you've ever been on the receiving end of such comments, I apologize now on behalf of stay-at-home parents and/or homeschool parents everywhere. Too often when we find out what's right for us, we try to make the point to everyone else that it's right for them, too.

Basically, I want to say "Hurrah!" for all the husbands (and in some cases the wives) who make it possible to be a homeschool and/or stay-at-home parent. Without their help, support, and constant love we couldn't be all that we are for our children.

And "Hurrah!" for all those parents who are stuck in situations where neither option is possible but they do their best to fill in any gaps that result from working away from home or from sending their children to public school.

In both cases, I hope that your children (and mine) grow up to understand and honour the decisions you made, the effort you put in to being the best possible parent, and the sacrifices you made for the sake of their education, care, and well-being.

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At 6:52 p.m. , Blogger Zirbert said...

You know, as much as I love the D-guy too (in a totally non-Brokeback way) - I consider him my brother in everything except blood - I really could'a done without the shirtless pic.

Good to see that even at the age we're getting to, though, he clearly isn't losing his hair.


At 8:16 a.m. , Blogger HomeSchooler said...

I toyed with the idea of saying, "Oh, I guess I shouldn't have cropped the photo to above his tube top," but the truth is... I think he looks good. And it gives me great joy that my husband is hairier than me! Well, everywhere except his scalp. I've got it over him there.


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