Wednesday, January 2, 2008

A little background

On my first post, I explained part of my title -- what it means to be a red letter Christian. The rest of it says that I am a full time mom. Now, I know that some people might take offense, and think that I am suggesting that mothers who work out of the home are not "full time" parents. I've been a working mother, too, and know better than that! However, I have a hard time with the other labels stuck on people like me, who are not working for pay. "Homemaker" and "housewife" have such a dated sound -- I'm no June Cleaver, nor do I aspire to be. Stay at home parent is better, but not really accurate, giving the amount of car time most of us log. So for lack of a better title, I chose that one.

In the last few years, since I made the chose to step out of the workforce for a season to care for my children, I've found that there are misperceptions about just what a full time parent is. There are two main stereotypes that I've seen. First, is that women who stay home with their kids are unambitious, undereducated, and probably not smart enough to hold a job, anyway. The other is that we must be embracing old ideas about gender roles, believing that a woman's place is in the home. I reject both of these stereotypes, at least in my own life and decisions.

As for the first stereotype, I know quite a lot of women in their twenties and thirties who have chosen to opt out of the childcare-and-career treadmill, and none of them fit the profile. Most have at least some college education, some hold advanced degrees, and nearly all have worked full time in the past. Personally, I have a Master's Degree, and worked as a professional before and for half a year after my older son was born. Still, I find that people sometimes speak to me as if I might not be quite bright enough to follow what they are saying -- a strange experience for someone who was always one of the "smart ones" in school.

As for the other, many of my acquaintances are more conservative in their beliefs, and many do find support for their choices in religious teachings. I, however, consider myself a proponent of biblical equality (more on that in later posts), and do not think that my gender automatically makes me a better parent. For those first six months, my husband was the stay at home caregiver, and he did a wonderful job, too.

So, why has an educated, employable woman chosen such a traditional seeming path? For us it had a lot to do with job opportunities and a desire to move closer to family. My husband found a job within an hour or two of both sets of grandparents, which was a great improvement over the twelve hour drive from our old home. It was also a decision that we made even before our oldest child was born, that we wanted our children to have the experience of being cared for by a parent, with plenty of opportunity to grow and learn in the unstructured environment of the home. For the time being, that means being with me.

Taking care of kids is hard work -- another reason why that stereotype of the lazy housewife doesn't hold water. There are days when I long to go back to work -- and probably, in the next year or two I will, at least part time. But there is a lot of joy in it, too, and most of the time, I am grateful for the opportunity I've had to watch my two little boys grow.

Tuesday, January 1, 2008

Happy New Year

Writing a blog is essentially a self-centered exercise -- I must think that there is something interesting in my thoughts if I am attempting to add them to the great cacophony of voices in the world we call cyberspace. After all, the greatest crime a blogger can commit is to be boring, and I hope I will not be that. But I am also not proposing to write great literature, or offer solutions to all of life's problems. Instead, these are the musings of someone who does not have all the answers, but hopes, in some small way to work my way closer to the Truth.

That capital T in truth is intentional. I am conversant with the theories of postmodernism -- I've even read Foucault, and survived to discuss it coherently! -- and agree with a great many of its criticism of modernity. However, as a Christian, I believe that there is truth beyond what our limited senses can reveal, an absolute truth that is contained within the person of the creator of the universe. That I believe we will never in this lifetime fully comprehend that truth, that I accept that each person will come away with an understanding of that truth built upon their own experiences, and must, to borrow from postmodern language, create their own narratives of understanding, does not in anyway diminish the fact that beyond all of us, beyond our limits and strivings, there is Truth.

As a red-letter Christian, I believe that the truth is found in the God of the Bible, and exemplified perfectly in the life of Jesus Christ, who was fully God and yet fully human. But what is a red-letter Christian? I came across the term recently in Tony Campolo's book "Letters to a Young Evangelical," and found it a perfect discription of the faith I want to live. As Campolo describes it, this is a label for those who, while Evangelical in theology, reject the baggage that comes with that term, particularly its association with the religious right. Along with other speakers and writers who embrace Evangelical teachings on faith and yet also believe in progressive social action, Campolo was searching for a name that reflected more clearly what he believed. Ironically, he relates, the name was suggested by a secular Jewish country and western DJ. "When he heard about our intense desire to be faithful to the words of Jesus as recorded in the New Testament, he said, 'Oh! You folks are into those verses in the Bible that are in red letters!"

That is my desire as well, to be faithful to the words of Jesus. But faith is a journey, and I have a long way to go. More than anything, this blog will be for me a record of the journey, and I hope, a catalyst for growth. If anyone else happens to read these words and find encouragement through my struggles to live what I say I believe, then I will be glad. But regardless, I hope that by the end of another year, I will be able to look back and say that this process has changed me into something more like the person God is calling me to be.