Archive | June 2013

You Are Raising Today the Ones Who Will Change History Tomorrow

Last week I read an article in the Huffington Post that deeply troubled me.  You can read the article here “Grown and Flown”  written by Lisa Endlich Heffernan.

I wrote a reply to her article that has generated a lot of conversation on Huffington Post.  You can read my reply Here  as well as my entire blog post HERE.

fjordTruthfully, in retrospect, what troubled me about Lisa’s article was the fact that she has chosen to live in a place of long-term regret.  I believe that as a healthy woman, it is important that when one looks back over one’s life what is most easily and vibrantly seen are those things that stir up gratitude and thankfulness.  And so my heart breaks for Lisa and for the sadness that fills her soul simply because she chose to stay at home with her children.

I know that the conflicting opinions between stay at home moms and working moms create a volatile issue among women today and truly it is not in my heart to make anyone feel guilty over their parenting choices.  I chose to stay home and I am glad that I did.  The sacrifice that my husband and I made financially still impacts our lives during our empty nest years and I turned down many prestigious and exciting career opportunities.  But if I had it to do over, I would do it again.  And again and again and again.

However, I am also wise enough to know that not many women are able to stay at home all day every day while their children are growing up. 

My heart breaks for single moms who would love to stay home but can’t.

My heart breaks for women whose husbands are underemployed or have lost their jobs and so these women must leave their children under the care of others for 40 or more hours a week.

My heart aches for young widows who must provide food on the table, medical insurance and the monthly mortgage payments alone.

Unfortunately, we live in a two-income world and in order for a family to have any financial latitude or stability at all, many women are forced to work outside the home.

I know all of these things … and this is what I want to say from the heart of a mother whose children are now healthy adults pursuing with passion and focus the dreams that are within their magnificent hearts.

Spend as much time with your children as you can.  If you must work outside the home, then give up other things that would take you away from quality and quantity of time with your children.  Rather than going to the gym 5 nights a week … go during your lunch hour so that the evening hours are times of reading books, playing games and snuggling.  Rather than going to Weight-Watchers, book club and making coffee dates with friends, have people in your home and make it a family night.

time shadow           

Always remember that love to a child is spelled T-I-M-E.

            If at all possible, during the pre-school years, work only part-time or not at all.  Habits are developed, character is set, self-esteem is created and home values are established during the important pre-school years.  No one will do the job that you, the mother, will do.  No one can take your place … not a daycare … not a nanny … and not even a wonderful grandmother.  Do not underestimate the importance of a leisurely morning of homemade pancakes, followed by an hour of reading books and snuggling on the couch and then time spent together making messy crafts and singing silly songs.  These years will never come again so wring the joy and purpose out of each one.

            If you must work due to extenuating circumstances, don’t spend one day in guilt but joyfully give everything you have and everything you pretty baby and mother read the booksare to your children when you are together.  Make every week-end a time of celebration and love.  This does not necessarily mean spending wads of money. Your meaningful and delightful time together can include making cookies, going for walks, doing crafts, reading books, going to the library, planting a summer garden, blowing bubbles, making snow angels, counting the stars and a thousand other activities that just say, “We’re together!”

            Re-evaluate your spending habits and financial goals to see if you can lessen the hours spent away from home.  If you are working in order to go to Disney World, buy a boat or live in the lap of luxury … think again.  Your kids want you more than they want designer clothes, $1,000 birthday parties or colossal Christmases.  They want you.

            When you are together, try to lay aside the computer, your phone, the iPad and anything else that makes your child feel unimportant in your life.  Focus on your child’s dear face, their precious and creative words, the inflection in their sweet voices and the heart they are offering to you, their mom.  Today’s e-mail, twitter and Facebook posts are rubbish in comparison to the soul of your growing child.

Whether you work 40 hours a week at a prestigious job, 20 hours a week at a mediocre job or stay at home all day long, know that the gift of parenting is unequalled in importance or in prestige.  Remind yourself that your career does not equal self esteem, your income does not define your importancemother with children sits on the grass and the demands of a boss are not nearly as important as birthday parties, ball games and ballet recitals.  Make choices based upon long-term investment in your family rather than the short-term clamor of today.  When you are with your children during those precious hours, whether long or short, give them your whole heart and attention.

            Parenting is not easy but it is worth it!  When my children were small, I used to love to mow the grass.  I would beg Craig, my husband, to let me mow our acre yard every week from April – November.  He would stay inside with the children and I would sweat with delight as I pushed our lawn mower through the weeds and grass that filled our yard.  I have figured out in these latter years, that the reason I loved mowing the lawn so much is because I saw immediate results.  I could look behind me and see exactly where I had been and the difference that my sweat and woman-power had made.  Parenting is not like that.  As a mother, you sweat, push, walk, pull, talk, encourage, scold, exhort and rarely see an immediate result.  However, in the long haul of parenting, you are making a difference.

You are today raising the ones who will change history tomorrow.

You are raising the dreamers, the doers, and the doctors of the next generation.  You are raising presidents, authors, pastors, thinkers, mothers and worship leaders.  You are raising men and women who will live on in history because of your impact.

You are fixing the mistakes of our generation by raising the next with honor and integrity.

You are splashing a dark and ruined world with the miraculous legacy  fashioned by a stable home and of parents who were engaged in the lives of those whom they treasured the most.

Whether you work 40 hours a week or have been given the delightful opportunity to be a stay at home mom, value the lives of those whom you have created by an act of love.  Their lives will never develop well without you and you will never become the person you were meant to be without them.

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Grown and Flown – Why I Have No Regrets Being a Stay at Home Mom

I wrote this blog as a rebuttal to the recently published article in the Huffington Post by Lisa Endlich Heffernan – “Grown and Flown – Why I Regret Being a Stay at Home Mom”

Dear Lisa –

I read your article that was published in the Huffington Post.  I didn’t know whether to cry or protest with alarm … but then I realized that I was just really, really sad for you.

I am sad that you are looking back with such mountainous regret.

I am sad that the lives of your magnificent sons can be compared to degrees, computer skills and the complexity of the women’s movement.  I am sad that you have chosen to measure the worth of your life by your achievements rather than by the health of your relationships.

I really don’t want to be judgmental so forgive me if I come across as such.  Just as you have opinions about your choices in life, I have opinions about mine.  I am content knowing that I didn’t need a realtor, a car dealer or a travel agent to help me decide whether or not to stay home with the most valuable treasures that I have ever been given.  I didn’t make my decision based upon chaos but upon conviction.  Truthfully, I don’t care about finances or diminished earnings as much as I do about the emotional health and magnified blessings of raising my 5 children well.  I didn’t bolt out of the workforce but I chose to make a decision that would define me for all of my days … I stayed at home with 5 of the most incredible human beings ever created and with joy.

My most expensive mistake would have been staying in the work force and accepting the prestigious jobs that were offered to me.  I realized over 30 years ago what has been confirmed to me time after time after time:  you cannot put a price tag on time spent with your children.  Earthly wealth, bonuses and power advancements pale in comparison to the value of simple time spent raising, nurturing and loving children.

I thought that I would take the opportunity to give the “other side” from the perspective of a mother looking back at 3 rich decades of staying at home to raise 5 incredible children.

You said, “I let down those who went before me.”  Lisa … that is called peer pressure and no valuable decision is ever based upon the expectations of others.   I didn’t want my life to turn out like Betty Friedan’s or anyone else’s.  I wanted to choose my own road.  I chose to swim upstream in an age where women were effectively crashing the glass ceiling.  By choosing to stay home, I have supported and strengthened the most vital people in my personal world.

You said, “I used my driver’s license far more than my degrees.”  Not me … I have wrung the substance out of my college degree every day that I have stayed at home with these miracles whose last name is “McLeod”.  My college degree was in English, Communication and Music.  Music filled the very heart of our home and my children grew up knowing the music of Gershwin, Chopin and Tchaikovsky. They knew the great hymns of the faith, the patriotic music of our country and all of the little ditties that I wrote and sang endlessly to them.  I read to my children every day they were under my watch.  We read “Pat the Bunny, “The House at Pooh Corner”, “Carry on, Mr. Bowditch” and “Little Women” until I had them memorized.  I taught my children to love words and books and great authors.

And speaking of driver’s licenses, Lisa … although we had 5 children, we chose only to have 1 car until our oldest son was in high school.  It was the price that we paid for living on a one- family income.  What a glorious price!

So, unlike you, I did use my college degree in the home although that blasted driver’s license was what went virtually unused in my life.

You said, “My kids think I did nothing.”  Perhaps you need to re-evaluate the value system that your 3 sons are embracing.  My kids, who are now pursuing their dreams and passions with whole-hearted intensity, know that I sacrificed that which is temporary for that which is lasting.  I, as an empty-nest mother of 5, know deep within my soul that not only did I NOT do “nothing” but that I enthusiastically and with no regrets did EVERYTHING!  My kids, healthy young adults in their 20’s and 30’s, still call me for advice, send me sweet text messages, and now fan the flame of the dreams that are flourishing within my heart.

You said, “My world narrowed.”  Au contraire, Lisa Endlich Heffernan, my world expanded and exploded!  Who knew that a grin on the face of a baby would be more beatific than Victoria Falls or the Grand Canyon?!  Who knew that the giggle of a two year old would hold more rich substance than the London Symphony Orchestra?!  Who knew that playing a rousing game of Candy Land with a 5 year old was much preferred over boring, endless and political business meetings?!  Who knew that going to piano recitals, basketball games and National Honor Society Inductions would fulfill me more than stamps on my empty passport?! Who knew?!

You said, “I got sucked into a mountain of volunteer work.”  Lisa, my new friend, I hope that no one allows you to actually think this selfish thought!  Even the liberal media ought to confront you on this regardless of their parenting choices.  America is built upon the spirit of volunteerism.  Our most grateful thanksgiving, as a family, was the year that we served soup at the homeless shelter downtown.  When our two older boys were active participants in the local basketball league for middle school boys, I saw that it had been taken over by politicking, obnoxious men. I volunteered to be the first woman commissioner and got the job and although I invested hours into this realm of service, I received absolutely no pay.  I loved making decisions that I believed were in the best interest of children of all playing skills and not just potential olympians.  Volunteers have the power to change the world whether or not they ever receive the paycheck that the Chairman of the Board earns.

You said, “I worried more.”  Truthfully … I worried less.  Had I been stuck behind a desk in some corporate castle I would have worried my brain and my heart out!  I loved knowing who they were playing with every day and what language was being used in my yard.  It brought me peace to volunteer at their school and observe everything from the top administration to the dear lunch ladies.  Lisa, if you have a problem with worry it is NOT because you were a SAHM.  It is because you have chosen to worry.

You said, “I slipped into a more traditional marriage.”  There is nothing intrinsically wrong with tradition itself.  However, it is two adults who must agree on what type of marriage they are building and it is definitely not dictated by parenting choices.  My marriage remained vibrant, challenging and fulfilling during all of the years in which we were raising the rambunctious, creative and competitive clan McLeod.  Craig and I often yearned for more time alone but we were the ones who had chosen to have 5 children and we gave ourselves to it wholeheartedly during those years.  Craig did laundry and unloaded the dishwasher.  I mowed the lawn and took the car in for repairs.  Craig read books, wiped noses and changed diapers.  I watched sports, fixed leaking faucets and pitched unending baseballs in the front yard.  I loved our non-traditional, traditional commitment to one another and to our children.

You said, “I became outdated.”  Lisa … girlfriend … you are really stretching here for reasons that you regret your choice to be a SAHM.  There is nothing outdated about a love that sacrifices that which is momentarily preferred for that which is the long-term best.  The most significant women of every generation have known the fulfillment and power of laying down that which is culturally acceptable for that which is priceless.  I actually believe that I stayed trendier and more hip by choosing to stay at home.  I knew the language that my kids and their friends were talking.  I wasn’t held captive every day by a stodgy old boss who was stuck in yesterday’s mindset.  I listened with great interest to political ideas of teen-agers and their friends.  I participated in late-night chats about dating, the pros and cons of piercings and what colleges offered what types of scholarships.  If you became “outdated”, Lisa, it is because it is what you chose to be.  Becoming “outdated” is not the cause and effect process that most SAHM’s experience.

You said, “I lowered my sights and lost confidence.”  I understand that every woman faces the struggle of self-confidence but this is not a unique struggle that only stay at home moms experience.  If you had been passed over for a grand and much deserved promotion, you might have lowered your sights and lost your confidence in that role.  If you had run for a national election and lost, you might have lowered your sights and lost your confidence in that choice.  So, Lisa, don’t blame your lack of vision and confidence on the significant role that you played as your children’s primary care-giver.

As a woman who has made the same choice to stay at home while raising children just as you did, I just want to tell you that I don’t regret one minute of it or one long-term lasting effect of that singular choice.

You see, in every generation, mothers are able to accomplish what no other nanny, daycare or even grandmother can do.  To be a full-time mother is a glorious privilege and the highest call of personhood that a woman can fulfill.  Never minimize this world-changing choice with false regret or by second-guessing yourself.  Lisa, I salute you!  Thank you for choosing to stay at home and invest yourself in something that was rich and real and vital … the lives of the little boys under your watch.

Now, as I sit at home alone in my immaculate and quiet home, I realize that I did indeed have it all!  Today I will sit behind my computer all day long meeting my next book deadline and creating speeches that will help women live well.  However, my heart aches for the echoes of laughter that used to resonate within the walls of this home.  My mind is filled with the faces of those little people who loved my grilled cheese sandwiches and threw their arms around my neck.

The difference between you and I, Lisa, is that I do not live in a world of regret but in a world of contentment.  I chose to be a SAHM and I am grateful for the years of never-ending mothering.

What’s on Your Destiny List?

Many people create a “Bucket List”…a list of fun things to do before they leave this earth. I want to encourage you to write a “Destiny List”! There are things that God wants YOU to do, at this time in history, that cannot be done by anyone else…

One in a Million Dad!

This Sunday is Father’s Day which has become a bittersweet holiday for me on two fronts.  Let me explain …

dad-hand-cardMy father went to heaven in 2002 and I remember one of the first thoughts that I had was, “I will never get to buy another Father’s Day card for my Dad.”  I had always been a “daddy’s girl” and something precious and stable was gone that day from my life.

It hit me in that moment that the man who had loved me since the instant I was born, although no longer with me in the physical, would ever live on in my heart.

Norman Frederic Burton was just a month short of being 81 years old when he died and how I loved every minute spent in his presence!

I had a Dad who loved the Word of God and taught me to love it as well.  He believed that the Bible was the final authority on everything.  I believe it, too.

I had a Dad who was a giver … he generously gave to the Kingdom of God even when it meant personal sacrifice for him and for our family.  I hope that I am as generous as he always was.

I had a Dad who loved creation and the wonder of God’s world.  He took me to see the Grand Canyon, Yosemite National Park, the Grand Tetons and to beaches along both shores.  He taught me to love the rich, dark soil in our yard and to cultivate things of beauty from that soil.  Whenever I spend time outside drinking in all that God created, I somehow feel closer to my Dad.

I had a Dad who believed in honesty and integrity.  He not only believed in it but he lived it.  He was a man who never lied and paid his bills on time.

I had a Dad who loved my mom.  He was crazy about her from sun-up till sun-down.  He never spoke an unkind word to her or about her.  I loved watching them dance on our 1960’s gold carpet in the living room.

I had a Dad who could fix anything.  From flat bicycle tires …  to overflowing toilets …  to leaky roofs …  to removing splinters from my fingers.  He even had the knack of mending my broken heart a time or two.

I had a Dad who was never ashamed to go to the grocery store … canned an entire year’s supply of tomatoes, green beans and applesauce in our pink and green kitchen … and rocked babies to sleep in his arms while whistling.  He made donuts and zucchini bread.  He created gorgeous needlepoint pictures and did the dishes every night after dinner.  He was the manliest man I have ever known.

I never thought that I would find a man who could live up to the reputation and example of my Dad.  But I did … which brings me to the second reason that Father’s Day is bittersweet for me.

The second reason that Father’s Day is bittersweet is because our children are all grown now.  We no longer wake up to homemade Father’s Day cards, burnt breakfast in bed or Father’s Day crafts made in Sunday School.  Our three boys are now fathers themselves and our daughters are still praying for the men who will father their children.  I gave my children the greatest gift I could find … a man who would father well.

mcleod family young

Craig, the father of all 5 of my children, is a one-in-a-million kind of Dad.

He coached too many baseball teams to count.

He played endless games of H-O-R-S-E and P-I-G in our driveway with three little boys who grew up too quickly.

He went to ballet recitals and piano recitals with no complaints but with bouquets of flowers in his arms for little girls who are now beautiful young women.  (I only had to pinch him a time or two to stay awake!)

He read books time after time after time.  French Fry Forgiveness … Peanut Butter and Jelly Secrets … The Door in the Dragon’s Throat … Carry On, Mr. Bowditch … Charlotte’s Web … Trapped at the Bottom of the Sea … The American Girl Books … Little House on the Prairie … and any book at all by an author by the name of Matt Christopher.

He played Monopoly, Clue, Chess, Checkers, Trouble, Uno, Kemps, Mau, Speed Scrabble and Candyland until other fathers would have been writhing in pain.

He has watched “Beauty and the Beast”, “Cinderella”, “Peter Pan”, “The Sound of Music”, “Hoosiers”, “The Lion the Witch and The Wardrobe”, “Mary Poppins”, “Remember the Titans”, “Star Wars”, “Lord of the Rings”, “Miracle on 34th Street”, “Little Women” and “Father of the Bride” when lesser men would have been screaming, “UNCLE!”

mcleod kids adults craig and joni craig and joy

He stood with me in prayer and encouragement through long days of depression and infertility.

When the money was tight and bills were ferocious, he never asked for anything for himself but gave and gave and gave to this family.

He has discipled his children with love, integrity and the power of believing in their dreams.

He has loved them through wins and losses, A’s and F’s, and popularity and loneliness.

He has led by word and by example.  The 5 children who have grown up in our home have seen a man who has relentlessly followed Christ every day of his life.

My 5 children have seen their father refuse to speak ill of those who have mistreated him.

They have seen their father walk in victory and joy during days when other men would have given in to depression and discouragement.

Matthew, Christopher, Jordan, Joy and Joni have all been fathered by a man of God … that is no small thing in a culture of compromise, moral mediocrity and the relentless call of busyness.  Their father has stood head and shoulders above the rest while cradling their 5 precious lives in his heart.

craig with sleeping sons

craig helping chris

Most of all, our 5 children have been raised by a prayer warrior.  Any success or accomplishment in their lives has happened because they had a daddy who knew the power of prayer.

And so I face Father’s Day 2013 with both joy and a touch of sorrow.  I am so grateful for a father and a husband who loved with their whole hearts.  I am eternally thankful for two men who chose to submit their lives to the greatest Father of all.

Happy Father’s Day!