Tea-parties & art classes – REALLY?

A few days ago someone said something that really got to me. In fact, its been chewing me up quite badly.

She commented that her husband  must now work and save extremely hard (he is in his 60s) because of all the years he “had the kids and no support”. What she meant by this is that this man’s first wife was unable to work as the result of severe, untreatable illness, so his was the only income in his household.

This was not the first time she has made such comments. She has often spoken about how “unfair” it is that some husbands are solitary earners in their households, and speaks of their wives as “lazy” and “useless” and “enjoying tea parties and art classes all day”.

And yes, she speaks of these things, in a tone of utter disdain, to me, a wife whose husband is our household’s solitary earner. Does she do it because she knows I’m different? No. She does it because really values her own opinion and she wants everyone to know very clearly what her opinion is and to make anyone who doesn’t fit her mold of ‘acceptable’ feel very small.

So I wanted to correct her. To tell her that quite contrary to being lazy, I actually work very hard. That Andrew and I are a team – he works hard to earn the money, I work hard to stretch it really far. I wanted to tell her about our savings accounts and investment plans, that, ahem, (and you can ask Andrew – he’ll be the first to agree), I am to thank for. He is the big spender here, I am the saver. Those savings have been carefully carved out of a modest budget and purposefully set aside through some very careful planning and spending on my part.

I wanted to sit her down with a calculator and show her how much it would cost to send our children to school (no such thing as free education in South Africa), how much the uniforms and fuel for the car and classroom supplies and field trips would all add to that. And then compare that figure to what I would earn if I went out to work instead of homeschooling them. I have no higher education. My earning capability is basic, at best. I’m not proud of that, but I’m not ashamed of it either. It just is what it is. The truth is, with four children, I would need to earn the same as Andrew to afford to send our children to school.

Tea parties and art classes are nowhere to be found in my schedule. Nope. My schedule is full of things like piano, violin and flute lessons, swimming classes, horse riding lessons, youth clubs, getting our eldest daughter to her babysitting jobs. When it came to fitting child-related activities into her schedule, they would have taken the form of  “mid-term break: collect X from boarding school”.

What is more, my schedule frequently involves running errands for Andrew and doing other things that help and serve him. Quite the opposite to abusing my man by making him work so hard and using all that free time all for myself, I actually do things for him.

But truthfully, I would be wasting my time and efforts if I engaged her on this subject. Her mind is made up.

So why did it bother me so much?

I don’t know. It could be because I know there is nothing wrong with how we have set up our lives. It could be the frank and open insult. It could be that this all seems very rich coming from a woman who has such strong opinions on right and wrong in marriage but her own ended very sadly in bitter divorce after her husband had an affair.

Probably the closest reason I can get to is that no one has any right to tell anyone else how to live their lives. We can have ideas and opinions, but they are our own and we have no place forcing them onto anybody else. Andrew and I love the way we have set up our lives. It works very well for us. He doesn’t feel unsupported or that it is unfair that he brings in our income alone. In fact, there are times when I have considered picking up part-time work and actually, he really prefers me to be fully available and focussed on our home and family.

So now I just need to take a deep breath and, in my thoughts at least, tell this person to take a hike. We’re happy. We’re different. But we’re happy. Our life works for us. So deal with it.

* It is also worth mentioning that the man who, in her opinion, needs to work and save harder is actually extremely wealthy and without debt and has, by his own admission, plump retirement accounts. He harbours no hard feelings against his first wife (who died many years ago) because she couldn’t work.

It’s not about ME

 

“This isn’t about you.  And it’s not about what you do or do not like.  It’s about me.  Stop whining about the dishes and the laundry and the dust.  Quit worrying over tiny handprints on freshly washed windows.  It doesn’t matter if you enjoy every part of what I’ve asked you to do.  It matters only if you choose to proceed with a willing heart to do that which you’d rather not.  You were made for great things and serving me here, now, is only the beginning.  Just you wait until I show you what I have planned for you later!”

Read the rest of this post at Walking Redeemed.

Persevering toward results

Our children have never attended school. Our approach to education has mostly been informal. We believe in building solid language skills (reading, writing and speaking), proficiency in math to a minimum of Grade 10/O level standard and helping them learn how to learn. These skills combined with a strong (Biblical) work ethic and respect for authority are what we consider most important.

A change in pace

This year Amie embarked on formal study for the first time in her life, at the age of 16. She needs to complete 5 subjects over 2-3 years (by age 18) in order to qualify for a senior certificate which she will require to attend university (which she has decided she wants to do). She wants to only take 2 years to do this so that she can attend a year of Bible College before starting her degree. She is required to take English and another language (she chose Afrikaans) and has further taken history, maths and music. She desires to do an arts degree so a science isn’t necessary.

This is the first time she has needed to submit assignments to an outside authority and follow a structured curriculum. Besides maths and music, she has not formally studied the other subjects before (by means of a structured curriculum). There is very little input from me – she follows the curriculum, “attends” the weekly online tutoring sessions and submits her assignments under her own steam. She manages her own time with only seldom check-ins from me to find out what she is doing and, if it isn’t school work, to take a quick check that she is, in fact, on schedule.

Has it worked?

To date, her assignments have been returned with only positive feedback and good marks. Today her English tutor paid glowing compliments about her standard of work, diligence and ability. She even asked if Amie was considering tertiary study in English. Amie didn’t have the heart to reply that she really has little passion for the subject and is only taking it because she is required to!

We went into this year knowing it would be a test of what we have believed regarding education and would evaluate our approach in harsh, real terms. We have spent the past 15 years doing what we believed would equip our daughter with a good education. This year was the first step in setting her free to stretch her wings (and stretch our faith!) and, so far, we are glad with what we are seeing.

Of course, exams loom at the end of the year, and more next year and then ultimately she will face an acceptance to or be declined university entrance. We know there is still a long way to go.

But today when we were talking about her English tutors comments she said to me: “I bet it is because of all of those letters you made me write mom. Over and over until they were perfect; only then could I send them. And every email you checked. It’s also because I read so much.”

We fought over those letters she mentioned! And we fought about the books she chose that were thin on literary value. And we fought about the classics I encouraged her to try (which she now scours 2nd hand bookshops for). And we fought whenever she read something but couldn’t answer my probing questions on character, plot, lessons learnt from the story.

But today she credited all that with her ability to do well. She recognizes now why I pushed so hard. Not just in English either. The tears over the hours of music practice are another example. In fact, examples abound in almost every area of her life. I push her hard to be the best person she could possibly be. That’s my job.

Don’t Give Up!

Moms, don’t give up. Pressing our children in the right direction will reap results if we persevere. There are times I wonder if I’m making any real progress. Often times I worry that the days are passing by quickly, turning into weeks, months and years and I wonder if I’m doing enough.

Take heart, fellow mother. Keep up the hard work. Keep guiding your children, instilling the qualities you know to be right and true and necessary, gently but with determination. God honours and blesses our efforts. And in time, so will our children.

 

Amie writing while on a recent camping trip in the mountains

Amie writing while on a recent camping trip in the mountains

 

 

Motherhood is a calling

“The question here is not whether you are representing the gospel, it is how you are representing it. Have you given your life to your children resentfully? Do you tally every thing you do for them like a loan shark tallies debts? Or do you give them life the way God gave it to us—freely?

It isn’t enough to pretend. You might fool a few people. That person in line at the store might believe you when you plaster on a fake smile, but your children won’t. They know exactly where they stand with you. They know the things that you rate above them. They know everything you resent and hold against them. They know that you faked a cheerful answer to that lady, only to whisper threats or bark at them in the car.

Children know the difference between a mother who is saving face to a stranger and a mother who defends their life and their worth with her smile, her love, and her absolute loyalty.”

Read the full post here: Motherhood is a Calling at Desiring God Ministries.