Tuesday, July 24, 2007

The Market Value of Motherhood

A friend called with a job lead last week. It should be just perfect for me, he said. I'd be able to work from home, doing interesting work for which I would be paid very well.

Sounds great except for one teeny-tiny thing. I have a job, educating and raising my four children. This job involves a lot of shopping, cooking, and housework. It also involves a lot of time spent with various children, helping them learn all the things they need and want to know.

I don't get paid for this work. No one is interested in seeing this work on a resume. Most people seem to think that an imbecile could do this job with one arm tied behind her back.

And, y'know, a lot of it is just grunt work. It doesn't take a genius to chop vegetables, mop the floor, or remind the kids to practice their piano. If I want to do it well, though, it takes so much more than that. What does each child need, to bring out the best? How do I help this child learn how to handle this difficult personality trait? How do I teach them values like compassion, fairness, and a good work ethic? How do I teach them to balance their lives, take care of their bodies, and create good lives for themselves? What will it take to help them become happy, healthy, productive adults?

When I was new to parenting, I focused on learning to be a good mother. I read parenting books, hung out on parenting mailing lists, attended mothers' groups, and spent time with mothering mentors. In those days, I believed strongly that parenting was important work, worth doing well.

These past several years, I've moved with a different crowd. I've spent time with people whose children are grown and spent seven months working fulltime for a high tech company. During this time, I found that I had devalued mothering once again. Mothering no longer seemed like work that ought to take so much time and thought.

After quitting my job, it's taken me three months to get my household back together. The kids are, if anything, taking a little longer. I'm groping my way blindly back to a place where I believe parenting is important work, a place where I can value the work I'm doing.

My time at work showed clearly how much parenting my kids need, and what it costs them not to get it. The marketplace, however, says that the value of my work is 0.

Women face this question all the time: do the unpaid work that will lead to well-adjusted adults in the next generation or do the job that yields a paycheck and looks good on your resume?

So I'll consider the job, but I'll try to remember the value of the one I'm doing now.

Monday, July 16, 2007

Stringing Summer Days Like Pearls

We're in the full swing of summer now, that time when one gorgeously perfect day slips into another. My intense spate of floor rejuvenating and furniture rearranging is over. Garry has finished handling his father's estate. Morgayn's completed her summer Spanish course. It's time to relax and enjoy life.

Another reason to celebrate is that our dear house cleaner Gilly is working for us again. Gilly's had a rough year, working as a nurse and helping to take care of her terminally ill brother, and so we've been doing all the cleaning ourselves. Or, as was often the case, not doing it. We'd just decided to bite the bullet and hire a different cleaner when Gilly called to tell us that she wanted to work for us again. We were all glad to see her. The house sparkled for all of ten minutes after she finished, giving me the momentary illusion of having it all together.

I need these sparkling-house moments, just like I need the moments of peace, contentment, intimacy, laugher, and perfect harmony with my kids. The raven in my heart collects these moments and arranges them in her nest so they can sparkle in the light.

Our friend Charles had his annual pool party. We had a good time chatting with his sisters and their kids. Charles' pool has a low diving board, and Remus John plucked up the courage to try it:

Malcolm's a natural on the diving board, too.

The boys spend hours every day out in the yard, pacing around with sticks and talking ninety miles a minute. I've tried photographing them, but I never manage to capture their energy and intensity.

We're in stage one of a drought. Matisse has taken on the job of collecting bath water for the garden. She's convinced her siblings to leave the water after their baths and showers. She then buckets it outside to the flowers.

It hasn't been very hot this summer, but it's been warm enough for us to operate our green air conditioning. We open up the windows in the evening when the outside temperature dips below the inside temperature and close them in the morning when it gets hotter outside than in.

Garry's been having trouble with clogged ears. Among the things that he's tried have been ear candles. This amused me so much that I had to share:

Sunday, July 8, 2007

Nevada Trek

July 4th was blazing hot. Garry, the boys, and I spent the afternoon at the swimming pool. Malcolm spent most of the afternoon jumping off the diving board. He learned how to do cannon balls and enjoyed making huge splashes. Remus John tried to pluck up his courage to try the diving board, but he didn't quite manage it. He did jump off the side of the pool in the 9' area at lot, though.

Early Thursday morning, Remus John, Garry, and Sombrito set off for Garry's father's land in Nevada. They were clearing out an old storage trailer and getting the land ready to sell.

Sombrito spent his time at his old home romping with neighbor dogs and lying in the dust.

Remus John took some time out from the clean up chores to tour a mine and climb a juniper.

Garry packed up the stuff he wanted in a U-haul trailer and drove it home in one long, slow day.

Remus John's favorite thing in Nevada was the alligator lizard he befriended.

We didn't expect Garry and Remus John until tomorrow night. Last night at 11:30, Matisse came in and said, "Either I'm going crazy or I just heard Remus John's voice outside."

The security light went on then and we heard footsteps on the stairs to the front door. A dusty man, a very dirty boy, and a dog who looked like he'd been taking dust baths came in the door.

I got Remus John sponged off and into his pajamas, whereupon he climbed into bed with Malcolm so they could read and talk together.

There's no place like home.