We recently received an email from one of Nick’s tenth-grade [public school] teachers, sent to all the parents: “I would like to invite parents to come to our class to speak about the career they chose. I want to expose the student to a variety of careers and experiences. Would you like to come and speak to us?” My very first thought was for Aileen: “I think you should go as a stay-at-home mom.”
When I met Aileen, she was a seventeen-year-old high school student who was earning good grades and active with teams and organizations; when I began dating her, she was a first-year university student who was preparing for a career of helping others through social work; when I married her, she had completed her undergraduate work and was about to pursue a Master’s degree. But then we settled into life together and she soon admitted that her real dream and desire was to be a stay-at-home wife and mother. She had always wanted this. It is what her mother had chosen and what she wanted as well. And she did. She withdrew from her program, settled into her new vocation, and was soon joined by one, then two, then three children.
Aileen had options before her and made her choice. She chose the thing she wanted to do and the thing she felt called to do. She believed that this was the way she could best serve her family. Yet when I told her, “I think you should speak to Nick’s class,” she scoffed. Maybe she thought I was teasing or mocking her. But I wasn’t. I think it would be wonderful for her to represent something very few children in that school have ever seen.
We live in a neighborhood of baby boom bungalows and 70’s-era townhouses. It is a neighborhood people go to in order to buy their first home (before they get enough equity to upgrade) or where they return to buy their final home (when they downgrade to get equity back out). While our neighborhood is perfectly respectful, it is known as “the ghetto” of our town simply beside of what has sprung up all around it.
The local high school is up the road, past the shopping center, in a different voting ward, in a neighborhood of enormous new homes. We once calculated that with what it costs to buy one home there, you could buy seven of ours. Without exaggeration, they have more square footage in their basements than we do in our entire house. The school board reports that the average annual family income for students in that school is climbing toward $200,000. Suffice it to say, there are not a lot of single-income families there. There can’t be when you need to qualify for and pay down a million-dollar mortgage. There are plenty of nannies and babysitters, but not a lot of stay-at-home mothers.
I am not passing judgment on those families. Not in the least. I am merely making the observation that my wife chose a rare and counter-cultural vocation. She chose a vocation that was once very respectful but is now viewed with some shame. I would love for her to explain why she chose this vocation even with other options available to her, what opportunities it has given her, whether she would do it like this if she had to do it all again. I would like her to explain to the tenth-grade students that this, too, is a choice available to them, and a choice worth considering.
She won’t, and I respect her decision. She is a reluctant public speaker at the best of times, and a high school careers class would push her too far from her comfort zone. I understand that. But at the very least I want to express my love and respect for her and for the path she chose. Though she followed her desire and her conscience, it has not always been easy. Even while she has always been personally confident of her choice, she has faced outside criticism. She has felt out-of-place. She has felt judged. But I, her husband, and we, her children, honor and love her. To echo Lemuel, “Her children rise up and call her blessed; her husband also, and he praises her: ‘Many women have done excellently, but you surpass them all’” (Proverbs 31:28-29).
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