Way down, at the very bottom of my email inbox is an email that I received from my friend Lucy on August 9, 2010. It’s a list of topics that she suggested I write about here on Instead of the Dishes. I’ve kept that list for all this time, planning to someday check them all off, and still I haven’t. So, this post is for Lucy, to tie up some of those subjects she sent me so long ago. It’s her list, with not quite a whole blog post for each, but at least my thoughts.
Lucy’s email specified that these subjects are in no particular order:
1. Why do you stay at home with your children instead of have an outside job?
Wow, things have changed a lot since you asked me this three years ago, Lucy. In fact, I truly do have another blog post planned in the next week to address my thoughts on deciding what kind of mom to be. But, back then, when I really was a stay at home mom, I did it because I thought it was the best thing that I could do not only for my children, but for my family. Craig and I made this decision together. Coming from a career working in the non-profit world, and being married to a dentist, the loss of my income and overall finances were not a big concern for us when the kids were born. I understand that this is not the case for every family, and I know that it certainly helped make the decision easier.
Not that I didn’t struggle with the decision over the years. I feed off of having projects, making a contribution to the world, and helping my peers. Having two children under the age of two does not facilitate any of that. Looking back, I feel like I was truly functioning at about 50% of my normal capacity those first couple years. I really don’t know how working moms do it. I don’t think I could have done it. I didn’t have much to give, but I wanted what energy/effort/attention I did have to go to my children. People always say they don’t want to miss the milestones of those early years with their babies. To be quite honest, it’s all a blur to me. I don’t remember as much as I want to, and of course the kids don’t remember any of it, but I’m glad that I did it anyway.
2. What is it like to lean toward atheism while living in the Bible belt?
Well, first let me clarify that I don’t lean toward atheism. I do tend to lean AWAY from organized religion, and for many Christians, that’s as bad as being an atheist. But, atheism is the belief that no deities exist. I do believe in a higher power, I believe in living life in the service of others, and I believe in giving thanks for the world we’ve been given to live in and for the blessings that we have. So, regardless of exactly what my views are, yes, they are very different from the majority of folks around me. And Lucy, if you think you live in the Bible belt there in Central Arkansas, you ought to come north a bit – it’s a whole different degree of dogma here. Quite honestly, it’s hard. I sometimes feel like a closeted minority. When nearly everyone around you feels, believes, practices their faith in the same way, and that way is different from your own, it’s hard not to feel judged, criticized, looked down upon.
3. Your thoughts on smaller living/living with less. I love that Carina’s birthday theme is Heifer Project. Our culture consumes like locusts – why do you think this is and how do you combat this?
I don’t know if I really have the experience to address this. I’m well aware that my family has more than most. We’ve worked hard for our successes, and both Craig and I are blessed to have the drive and motivation to want to learn more and do more for our family and those around us. We also both came from humble beginnings. Our backgrounds are very different, but both of the families we grew up in were lower middle class at best. I think that instilled a level of frugality and delayed gratification in both of us.
Our society has become a throw-away society. If something is broken, we don’t fix it, we get a new one. Our possessions are more about status than they are about needs or functionality. You are what you drive. We’ve tried our best to steer our kids away from these type of concepts, away from the incessant marketing onslaught that is network television, and away from I-want-itis. From simplistics like keeping ongoing wish lists of the things we want and being aware that there are so many people out there that have so much less than we do, to bigger concepts like how we can use our resources to help others, and investing our own extra money in experiences and events rather than “things”, we have worked hard to imbue our kids with a larger world view that goes beyond what is immediately evident and available to us.
4. How do you raise your children in such a highly sophisticated yet extremely immature culture without hiding out in the mountains?
Sometimes I want to hide out in the mountains. Sometimes I am truly concerned for what society will be as my children come of age. We all do the best that we can do for our kids, I think. For Craig and I, that means teaching our kids to think independently, to be prepared to go against the norm in order to stay true to yourself, and to not pay too much attention to what others are doing. The tricky thing about parenting is that we don’t really know if we are doing a good job until it is too late. I just have to hope that my children are well prepared for whatever their future may hold. I build on that hope by doing what I can to try to anticipate and prepare for that future. I’m still learning as an adult how to function in this culture, and I take those lessons and pass them on to my kids, so that they will be more prepared than I was/am.
5. What you enjoy about living in Little Rock.
There were lots of things that I enjoyed about living in Little Rock. I put together a summer bucket list of things to do in the city, and I think that encapsulates a lot of the things that Little Rock has to offer to families. Compared to where we are now, Little Rock is much more diverse, and has a more metropolitan feel to it. I miss that. I love the mild winters and the 10 month growing season. For a midwesterner like me, Spring in Little Rock seemed almost tropical with the gorgeous flora and the humid warmth. I miss the drawl of the accents and the tall, tall pines swaying in the breeze. I miss having a Tropical Smoothie Cafe on every corner, and all the great parks dotted throughout town.
Little Rock is a great little city, but there are certainly a few things I don’t miss too, like the chaotic school districts, the cliques based on what neighborhood you live in, and the slowly vanishing sense of safety in various parts of the city. The downside of the diversity is that there turned out to be fewer genuine people. And the pieces of southern culture I can do without include the “good ol boy” politics and incredibly slow customer service across the board.
6. The public school vs. public school quandary that is Little Rock
Turns out I did write a whole series on this one! The first post in the four part series, called “On Education”, is here.
7. Describe your first job. How old were you? Do you think you will want your children to get a job at 16, focus on studies or will it depend on what type of person they are? How do you feel about allowances? Basically, what are your thoughts on responsibility and financial instruction with children?
I was 14 when I had my first summer job. I worked in the restaurant at a local campground as basic kitchen help. I did everything from scrub potatoes to serve drinks, bus tables, and clean up at the end of the night. After I turned 16 and could drive, I always had a job, or two, or three. At least, until age 29 when my second kiddo was born and I decided that two kids was the only job I could handle. My kids are now 5 and 6. They do not earn allowances at this point, although they do have specific chores that are their responsibility. They probably will get an allowance eventually, but honestly, we try to encourage them to realize that as a member of our family, contributing to the household is a mandatory requirement. It’s not something “extra” that you get paid for, it’s about doing your part to earn your share of the things that we enjoy in our lives.
While Craig and I haven’t really discussed it, I’m more for paying out $$ for doing things that go above and beyond the standard duties of taking out the trash and keeping your room clean. I do give the kids a penny for every piece of trash they pick up on the walk home from school. I want our children to understand that earning and having money is necessary and valuable, but that it doesn’t solve all your problems or have a direct bearing on happiness.
8. Conscientious parenting vs. helicopter parenting – where is the line?
I think the line is different for everyone, depending on the parent’s own experience and upbringing and the type of kid they are dealing with. If having two kids has taught me anything, it is that there is no one universal parenting style that works for every tot. My own perception of my parenting style is that I am less helicopter and more “Free-Range” with my kids. But, perhaps there’s someone else out there who would cast me into the helicopter crowd without thinking twice. My best hope is that when we do go over the line, it comes up and smacks us in the face quickly. I see (what I consider to be) bad parenting habits manifesting in little people all the time, and I wonder about how much easier that entire family’s life would be if they were to make some adjustments. I also constantly find myself questioning what adjustments I could make in my parenting practices to curb my own offspring’s bad behavior.
9. Things you have learned that help keep a marriage going strong
Hooray, I did write on this topic for you! My post on Love and Marriage.
It’s interesting to read that post now, a year and a half later. I am currently listening to the audio book of The Secret Lives of Wives by Iris Krasnow. It is a collection of interviews that she has done with wives who have been married for 30 years or more. To me, it feels like sitting in a circle of older women who are sharing their marriage experience as friends. It is reassuring to be able to identify with different components of almost every woman’s story, and to garner all this incredible advice on how to make marriage last through the decades. Many of the main themes of the book are the points I touched on in my post, which makes me feel like I’m on the right track. I’d also recommend Surrendering to Motherhood by the same author.
Thank you, Lucy, for being an honest and genuine friend, for reading my blog, and for always giving me important things to think about. I guess I need a new list now. ~Fawn