Saturday, September 06, 2008

Mindsweep moments that changed my life.

I have for the most part decided not to write about controversial issues or ones that might hurt or offend family reading our blog. I think in view of the greatly heralded Republican pick for vice-president it is time for me to craft a post on a deeply personal subject. I have close friends and family that might get upset when I hit the sacred cow of working mothers. I am not trying to heap guilt on the mothers that must work. They carry enough hardship. My own mother had to work while I was in Jr. High and Highschool. If she didn't we would not have eaten. I know that, but there are still times when I wish my mom had been there. I do have a big problem with moms that choose to work while popping out a couple of kids and leaving them to be raised by strangers.

There is a computer game that we like to play called Minesweep. For those unfamiliar with the game the player is presented with a screen that he or she has to logically flag the hidden bombs while uncovering the safe squares. If you successfully guess all squares you win the game. If you inadvertantly click a bomb, everything blows up. There are also times in the game when you flag a square and it opens up a big patch of safe area. Sometimes in life we are doing something little and God allows a big patch of truth to open up to us. Some folk refer to this as an "Ah-hah!" moment or an epiphany. I call it a mindsweep moment. There are several that changed my life and how I live today. In order to have others understand my position I need to share some more personal details of my life.

I have always been "good with children." I was one of those responsible, highly in demand babysitters from the age of 11 or so. By the time I graduated high school I had coached Jr. High volleyball, taught preschool, taught in VBS, and babysat quite a bit. Everyone always said how I was so good with children. So, of course, what should I do? Become a teacher! That is what you do when you are good with children, right? Not become a stay-at-home mom. That is not seen as a viable option for a brilliant young woman with childcare skills.

I bought into the lie hook, line and sinker that if I wanted to make a difference I should touch children for Jesus in daycare. Now I have worked other jobs not just childcare, but those jobs are not significant ones to this story.

I was a nanny to a wonderful family. It really was a very fulfilling job for me. I never turned on the TV, we went for walks almost everyday, read books and ate wholesome meals. I learned an awful lot about ordering a home while having that job. I also went to college and took lots of Child Development classes. I was more and more convinced that the way to touch the next generation was to be a Christian Childcare provider.

I got a job working for a for profit daycare after I had been married for not quite a year. Here it was that I was going to get started using all my education and gifts! At first I really enjoyed it. I was hired as an "infant teacher." That meant that I was one of two teachers with up to eight babies under one year old to care for in one small classroom. I also moved around to different classrooms as a subsitute teacher. I worked in every classroom from infants to the older after-school programers. I also advanced to handling medication as well as running the front desk. I was good, very good.

Now remember this was a for profit daycare center. It was also located not too far from the city court house. We had a few children in the center that the moms were single moms and doing everything they could to keep their children fed and clothed. I felt for those moms. The rest, however, were children that had parents that chose to work. We even had one boy in the preschool classroom that had a mom that didn't work. She openly stated that her husband could support her and she didn't need to work, but her son bored her. She figured he would be better off at the center playing with his peers than with her because she wanted to do her grown-up things. He was a nuisance.

Not all of the parents were that blatant about it. Most I would say were as duped as I was. Most parents felt somehow that they really HAD to have two incomes. None really saw that their children needed them rather than the 3500 sq. ft. house that they never really lived in. Or the second BMW, or the namebrand shoes, or the list could go on and on indefinately. The children really needed mom and dad.

One of my mindsweep moments came on the day after Thanksgiving. The center I worked in was closed 6 legal holidays a year. That meant we were closed Thanksgiving day, but open for business the day after. I worked that day. Now it wasn't a regular day as most parents had that day off. We did have about 35 kids show up. I held some sweet little ones as they cried while mom and dad left them at the center. I don't recall a single parent that left a child there that day that was going to work. There might have been a few, but I only remember that most, if not all, were going shopping. Those parents were going shopping, fighting the crowds and buying their children incredible Christmas presents. I am sure most of them spent far more on gifts than I made that month.

Now does anyone remember what they got for Christmas each year as a child? We all remember a few special Christmases that we finally got that long awaited bike or doll. For the most part we don't. We do remember those times of being with mom or dad when they chose to take us for a walk or get us an ice cream. I knew that day at the center that those children would have traded all their presents for their parents to have spent some time with them. If their parents had instead gotten an ice cream cone from McDonald's (this was before their pro-gay agenda:) and walked with them on the beach they would probably have remembered that day forever. Wow! Our children really do want us. We would see if we gave them the choice.

The other mindsweep moment was much more intense. We had two little girls at our center. Even now thinking of them makes my heart constrict. Their parents both held high-powered important jobs. Those two girls, aged 1 and 3 when they started, were the first ones at 6:00a.m. to be dropped off. They were also the ones usually left after 6:00p.m. when the center closed. Often times the "back-up" babysitter was the one that showed up to pick them up. When these little girls had chicken pox the babysitter kept them at her house because they were not allowed at our center until their pox had cleared. The younger girl had gotten pink-eye. She was back at our center after the required 24 hour antibiotics had been administered. I was on meds. that day so I got to give her the drops. Here I was holding this precious little girl with the puffy eyes trying to get her to let me drop the antibiotic into her eyes. It dawned on me that while this was my job, "THIS WASN'T MY JOB." Her mother should have been the one holding her and comforting her. Her mom should be there when she was sick. It dawned on me that this was not right. It also dawned on me that I was not honestly making a difference.

I ended up leaving the center after my first son was born. It took me a bit longer to figure out that a mom isn't replaceable and that God gave me my own children to make an eternal impact on. God didn't give me other folks' children to raise, but mine. I look back and see those two instances that set my feet on a different path. I also read those heart-warming stories of teachers that make a huge difference in one child's life and sigh. Yes, those teachers after years of sacrifice help a handful of children that might not have been helped otherwise. The fact is that I make an eternal, irreplaceable difference in seven children's lives. I do make a difference when I take care of my God-given responsibilities and then maybe give hope to others that might see the path I have taken and have the courage to take that same path.

The way I see my calling clearly now makes it impossible for me to uphold Sarah Palin as a great VP choice. She might be politically savvy, she might champion causes that I stand behind, she might honestly make a great vice-president. Unfortunately, she has five children that need her desperately. There are other people that could do a good job as governor or as vice-president. No one can fill a mom's shoes when it comes to her own children. Trust me I have tried. I was very good. I was not good enough because I wasn't the mom.

I have witnessed the hurt desperation in innumerable children. I cannot stand by and silently condone this travesty. May God open mothers' eyes to the privilege our children really are. Now not only am I good at what I do, I hold a position no one else in the world can hold. That is power. It is power that I can only wield on my knees and from my heart. How I mother my own children is what I will stand accountable for one day.


Sharon said...

You are so very A W E S O M E :)
Love you,

Michele said...

Yes. Thank you. :)

We have been praying hard for Mrs. Palin. I am familiar with her and her family, as they are from a town close to where I grew up. They attend the same church as my best friend's parents. As more information about their family becomes public, the more obvious it is that her family needs her.

Well said.