My husband and I love hearing comments on all our posts, be they Thought Tools, Ask the Rabbi, or my Musings. This week’s Ask the Rabbi question focused on whether retirement meant something different to women and men. One response came from Claire, who started her comment with these words:
Thank you for validating stay at home mothers, especially homeschooling ones. I passed the CPA exam 8 years ago and was just getting ready to return to work (part-time) while my children were in school. I learned more about the Common Core and decided against it. I actually think the way things were being “taught” was part of the reason why my son was confused. I knew he was capable of much more so I decided, once again, to focus on my family first. I began homeschooling him and have been very thankful for that decision ever since. I would say the only difficult “thing” for me is that, at times, I feel uncertain of my future once my children grow…
Claire’s concern resonated with me as I’m sure it did with others. It also reminded me of a very early Musing I wrote almost ten years ago. I thought that some of you might not have all my Musings memorized (just kidding!) and that this piece might deserve reposting. Enjoy.
I had lunch the other month with a powerful group of women. Around the table sat a highly intelligent and accomplished bunch made up of small business owners, executives, and/or entrepreneurs.
I didn’t meet these women through a business organization or college alumnae program. We actually met many years ago, when it seemed as if all of us were always pregnant or nursing (actually this wasn’t an illusion – for years we were always pregnant or nursing) and we spent a lot of time together learning, swapping advice, laughing, chatting and simply being there for each other. Had you asked us to look ahead at that point to the time when our children would be grown, I think you would have been met with sleep deprived gazes that couldn’t comprehend that there would be a day when diaper pails and bibs would no longer be the central decorating theme of our homes. Our short term goal was to get a solid night’s sleep, our long term one to finish a magazine article in one sitting; I certainly don’t think any of us anticipated our present lives, still dedicated to our families, but also engrossed in careers.
And yet, here we were. What had been a group of full time stay at home mothers who shopped together for triple strollers, bought pots at restaurant supply stores and were mistaken for a preschool when we went to the park en masse, had in the blink of an eye found ourselves the mothers of adults who no longer needed us hovering over them.
And while our husbands, by assuming full financial responsibility, had given us (and themselves) the precious gift of time with our young children, by the time those years passed, our families’ bank accounts were in dire need of infusion. While we all had college degrees and some of us more advanced ones, our resumes had huge spaces in them that were less than impressive to prospective employers.
Yet, somehow, as I looked around the lunch table, each of us when the time was right had turned the vast skills and experiences we had gained in those years of focusing on being wives and mothers and transformed ourselves into driven, competent, and savvy professionals. Rather than being discouraged by how little others would appreciate our home based accomplishments, we assessed our own talents and interests and carved out a niche for ourselves.
I think it is entirely possible that if in the early years of our marriages we had been aware of the financial realities of the future, we might have been drawn to make different, perfectly rational decisions. Perhaps we would have had fewer children or kept our feet in the door through part time employment, or opted for nannies to enable us to work full time. Looking back, I’m glad we were naïve. While I don’t advocate digging one’s head into the sand, sometimes we need to thank God for keeping the future hidden in a mist and trust ourselves that when we need to step up to the plate, we will be able to do so.