If you don't have time to read...or don't care to read...the ramblings of a stay-at-home/work-at-home wife and mother in the backwoods of Louisiana then I'll cut straight to the point.
I haven't "fought" for my rights because I was too busy "working" for them.
For those who are sitting in waiting rooms or bus lines or whose Monday has soured already on their newsfeed, here's my story.
When I was of childbearing years, I married a man who not only shared my values and loved me but one who committed his life to me and my children. And he put a ring on it.
For the past thirty years he's gotten up every single morning to go to work. He has worked two jobs. Then comes home to help with the kids and the house and the yard. Thirty years later, he's still doing it. I've already written about him (and that embarrasses him) so I'll just leave you with this: An Ode to My Husband
Like me, there were things he had to let slide or didn't do well. The demands (especially with what society considers a large family) are great and time is short. We couldn't do it all, or even that well, but we never gave up on each other or our family. And we did not seek true happiness outside of our family.
This might seem simple-minded and of a provincial mindset but truly it's more far-reaching than that.
We didn't demand the government to support us. We didn't get mad at the government when we didn't get what our neighbors had. We didn't fight anybody. We didn't throw bottles and rock. We didn't curse the police.
What did we do?
We got up and we showed up. We showed up to work. We showed up to table. We showed up to family get-togethers. We showed up to our kids' school events and outside activities.
And we worked. I mean, praying only gets you so far. You've been given the ability to work. God wants to see what you'll do with it. I worked through our first four pregnancies in order to have maternity insurance and, when I was able stay home while pregnant with the last one, I had an insurance clerk at the hospital (while seeing that I was a stay-at-home mom without knowing my full story) have the gumption to say, "Must be nice."
I didn't reply at the time. I didn't know how to answer because...only a few years before...I was in her shoes, sitting behind that desk, worried about money and if I'd have a job to have and provide for the babies I desired to have.
Yes, sometimes life is very nice. But not always. Don't ever fool yourself into thinking someone else's life is better or easier than your own.
She didn't know about my vehicle breaking down when I was nine months pregnant and needing a new transmission. She didn't see me cry right there in the office, swollen belly and swollen face. She didn't know about our parents both offering to loan us the money and how arrogantly stoic we were determined to pay our own way through life without their help. She didn't know how my husband upped his salesman skill and got us that $500 commission check in order to pay for that transmission (this was in 1987). But, at that time, our parents extended us help when the government wasn't there.
She didn't know about the plight of my car stalling on me or not starting in the icy cold mornings when I had to get to work with an eight month old baby and me sitting behind the wheel crying while the baby screamed in the backseat (no cell phones in those days).
There was even the time, one week into our marriage when the old burgundy Chrysler my brother-in-law fixed up for us so we'd have a second vehicle broke down on us in the backwoods of northern Louisiana. I sat in an old gas station/bar/burger joint in the middle-of-no-wheres as my new husband (who had just absent-mindedly introduced me by my maiden name) worked with the owner of the joint trying to get it to work. But that was before kids... ;-) That bar owner extended his help when the government wasn't there.
She didn't know that when I was newly pregnant with our second baby (our totally unplanned pregnancy) that I had severe bleeding and was out of work for a week, not knowing if the baby would keep, not knowing if I'd be able to go back to work or be stuck on bedrest for the remainder and not be able to work for that maternity insurance I was working to pay for. She didn't know about the time I was called in to a finance committee at work, eight months pregnant with that same child, and having to go that whole week not knowing if I'd have a job at the end of the week or not. How did that that pregnancy turn out? I wrote about that too and, in a few years, our family might have our very own Nurse Practitioner (God willing): I Know a Nurse Like This
She didn't know about the hold-your-breath lifestyle we lived being open to God's plan and welcoming each child we were given...me working part-time and in-house jobs in order to have extra and my husband putting in large amounts of overtime just to feed and educate those children. She didn't see the six times we've had to listen to people think how naive and stupid we were for getting pregnant...again...despite the fact we cared, raised, loved and tended to these little people without government assistance that was meant for those who truly needed it.
She didn't see the miscarriage of our third pregnancy.
She didn't know about my scare during my fourth pregnancy of being told I measured too small for the gestational period and might need to go to Baton Rouge to a prenatal specialists if the baby was not growing properly. Three weeks later and more measuring and more ultrasounds, my ob-gyn was satisfied enough to just continue watching the slow growth and see what happened. That baby came four days early and weighed 9 lbs 11 oz.
Then there was the fifth pregnancy where my oldest daughter's teacher (and much of her class) came down with Fifth Disease. So did our young son. I knew from talk with another mother that there were risks to my unborn baby.
"In a relatively small percentage of cases, parvovirus infection during pregnancy can lead to miscarriage, stillbirth, fetal anemia, and sometimes inflammation of the baby's heart." http://www.babycenter.com/0_fifth-disease-parvovirus-b19-during-pregnancy_1463060.bc
I was not aware how incredibly small the risks were; only that I'd been exposed to them. And, something I don't see listed anymore but was told could happen was that if the virus was transferred to the baby, she could be born with the birth defect known as a "waterhead" baby. That scared me more than anything. The whole illness in our family and school and the scare that insured all came to nothing but it sure raised the stress-level of that pregnancy.
Then there was the time...probably the most stressful year of my life...when I was eight months postpartum, working, homeschooling, tending to four little ones, and running around clueless; that I hit rock bottom and fell into a deep dark hole. I was physically knocked down with a broken ankle and left to heal on the sofa with an eight month old baby prowling the floor and three older ones involved in All-State baseball tournaments and VBS. Help came in the form of morning phone calls from my mother reminding me to smile and laugh daily, a good friend who physically cleaned my house and took me to the doctor, and grandpas who came daily to pick-up the older kids up and bring them to where they needed to be.
The clerk didn't see the old ranch home we live in today, a place we've held onto because we didn't want to be saddled with a mortgage in our ancient years. It's not new or fancy but it's paid for and that, in and of itself, is a freedom...a freedom we earned. We did not build up more debt expecting anyone or the government to pay it off.
That girl behind the desk also didn't see the year of caring for a parent sick with Alzheimer's while caring for five little people in the same home...the year that stretched our marriage further than we wanted to stretch. The year I realized (after 20 years) that when you marry, you do indeed marry the family. I've written about that too: Pro-life Isn't Always Pretty
Brokenness, you see, isn't about loss; it's about allowing others to rebuild us into another version of ourselves.
That girl doesn't see that our pre-retirement years aren't for sailing on cruise ships and traveling the world but, instead, we're still taxing teens around, still schooling, making ourselves open to help with the newer generation.
If I truly wished to make a statement I'd do something else instead of just writing my story on my page. Personal stories are pretty boring afterall. And people really don't care for martyrs anyway. And I am not a martyr. I rather like my quiet boring life in this old ranch house.
We simply welcomed these children, believing that they would bless us in our old age and that they would become productive citizens and hardworking men and woman of God. And we never looked at it being anyone else's job to raise them. We asked for them. We had them. We raised them.
If someone watched them while I worked, we paid them. We never filed for government assistance or food stamps. We stood in checkout lines watching food stamps recipients get foods that was too expensive for our weekly budget to afford. And we listened to our children wonder why we bought the store-brand pizza when so-and-so got Digiorno pizza. We worked to buy diapers. We worked to pay off our house. We used tax money to catch up on bills. My husband sold two boats he dearly wanted because fees and his children's happiness meant more to him.
We were never rich; we just didn't quit working. We never had it all, but who does?
Instead of fighting and arguing and whining and complaining, we worked. We worked so that we would not become a slave to someone else. We worked so that we would become a master of our own future. We worked so that we would not have to be enslaved by the whims and decisions of the government. We worked so that we could respect ourselves. We worked so that our children would respect us. We worked so that they would always have a place to call home. We worked in order to sympathize with our fellow human beings and take nothing for granted. We worked so that our parents would be proud of us.
My point is there is no need to fight life. Life might be a ba-tie (fight/battle) as my old Cajun French mawmaw would say, but there's no reason to fight the world that is battling their own ba-tie. We all have work to do and, if we were actually doing it, we'd be serving others instead of condemning them.
Appreciate the little things...notice how the little things are large moments of gratitude for us...that were done as and when they could be done. No one can do all, but most the time we can do something.
Do you look for the small things? Are you grateful for them?
Expect nothing but be grateful for all and count it all Grace!
And that's when we go to church. Something hidden and still.
We went. every. single. Sunday. And expected our children to do the same.
This isn't some heroic essay. Please, bare with me. Remember, I am no martyr. I also don't want it to be a moan and groan piece with people saying Nobody told you that you had to live that life! It also isn't a suffrage post tooting what a hard life we've had and how we stayed the course to victory.
There is no victory; there's a just a older ranch house where too sinners live with too many kids and too many dogs. The only victory here lies in the crucifix that hangs upon our wall.
We always believed that there was something greater than ourselves to give worship, thanks and praise to and that one hour a week was something the Faith of Our Fathers had been doing for centuries and centuries before we were a piece of dust in the universe. Just because we were born in the 21st century didn't give us an excuse to stop.
And we thanked God for all our blessings, all our hurts, all our decisions, all our anguishes, all our losses, and all our gifts.
That's when we prayed. After the work, we laid it down at the feet of Christ and we prayed. And that gave meaning to the new morning when we had to get up and show up and go back to work.
In giving it all, God blessed it.
* * * * *
* I often think of that young girl working behind that hospital desk and I hope she found the same contentedness and peace that I have found. The first step though is not looking for Oz any further than your own back door.