In 1953, she joyfully walked out of her office for the last time. Her fondest dream had come true! At age 37, she finally would carry a baby to term, softening the pain of her three failed pregnancies.
Even though the baby was born with severe disabilities, she rejoiced to be a mom. When a second baby came two-and-a-half years later (this time perfectly healthy), she happily settled into her role of stay-at-home mom. Sure, she served in United Cerebral Palsy and March of Dimes, as well as local women’s groups. She even signed up to lead her older daughter’s Girl Scout troop. But she loved being home with her little girls. It was all she ever wanted!
Late in 1963, she accompanied her husband on a working vacation to San Diego, leaving the girls with they grandmother for the week. It was the first time they had gone anywhere without the kids. After her husband’s conference, they took a day in Tijuana, Mexico — of course, buying costumed dolls for their little daughters.
Shortly after returning to the hotel, her husband suffered a massive heart attack, dying in her presence before the ambulance could get there. She managed to live off his life insurance for several months, but eventually widowhood forced my mother to get a full-time job outside the home.
Well into my adulthood, Mom confided in me that she didn’t want to go back to work. Her dream had always been to stay home with her children.
Mom was, from all I know about her, a nominal Christian. More than once, she insisted that the Bible wasn’t actually God’s Word. It offered some good principles, and it helped in understanding literature, but she worried that I took it just a little too seriously. So I find it interesting that she ended up teaching me the value of Paul’s instructions to Titus:
3 Older women likewise are to be reverent in behavior, not slanderers or slaves to much wine. They are to teach what is good, 4 and so train the young women to love their husbands and children, 5 to be self-controlled, pure, working at home, kind, and submissive to their own husbands, that the word of God may not be reviled. ~~Titus 2:3-5 (ESV)
Something deep in my mom’s conscience knew that mothers belong at home with their children. Having no choice but to work outside the home, she appreciated those early years when my sister and I were little. She missed designing and sewing our Halloween costumes. She missed our Friday night international nights when she cooked meals from different countries and then read to us about the customs of each country. She missed being active as a Girl Scout leader and teaching us how she made her sensational pie crusts.
She missed being close to us.
She told me that it is hard to be a working mother. I can’t imagine the sorrow she felt when her boss threatened to fire her unless my sister stopped calling to check in after school every day. But I know that she wanted motherhood to be as it had been when Daddy was alive.
Mom taught me not to judge women who had no choice about working. Just as circumstances thrust her back into the workplace, so other mothers sometimes have to leave their children in the care of others in order to provide food, clothing and shelter. But her life taught me that a mom should — whenever possible — make sacrifices in favor of staying home. Like she wanted to.