Sunday, July 19, 2009

A daughter's journey home

I would like to start by saying a big Thank You to all the dear ladies who took the time to share their stories following my post from Thursday. For those who haven't checked in during the last few days, be sure to take a look at the comment thread. You will see some wonderful, truly inspiring testimonies of women who found their way home, sometimes against all odds, and delight in their work as wives and/or mothers.

Through email, I received a beautiful letter from a stay-at-home daughter, now preparing to be a wife, who also shared the story of how her heart was turned towards home. Her message was written in such a touching and eloquent way, and I was truly moved to read it. I'm happy to tell you that I obtained this young lady's permission to share her letter with you all.

"Dear Anna,

I am currently a “stay-at-home daughter” so I cannot answer the question in your poll. Since your questions in your post somewhat apply, though, I thought I’d answer them here in an e-mail.

By God’s grace and guidance, I have never moved out of my parents’ house. However, most of my time was spent outside of the home. I went to a private pre-school at age 4 and then was in the public school system from age 5 to 17. Afterward, I went to a public university and graduated at age 21.

I went to school to be a teacher and taught in public schools (1 year at one and 3 years at another) until I was 25. At the end of my last “public school” year, I didn’t know what I would do, really, but I knew I didn’t want to work for the school I was currently in anymore, so I quit. Initially, I was interested in working for another school, but then I started to wonder if maybe I shouldn’t go back to working for such a corrupt system?

So, I guess I officially “came home” when I was 25, even though I was confused at that time. Since then, I have been home for 3 years… mostly. I would say that even though I have not always been at home physically in the last few years, my heart has come “home” and I have been learning the importance of home, what it means to be at home, etc. (During that time, I took a part-time job for a few months and also helped in a school in our Faith for 4 days a week for a total of 11 months.)

To give a little background, I have a stay-at-home mother who has been at home since she had her first baby over 30 years ago. Naturally, I wanted to be like her. My parents didn’t know about the option of homeschooling until the last several years, after it was too late for most of my siblings and I, with the exception of the sixth and last child who was homeschooled for his last two years of high school. We blindly followed our society’s expectations for getting an education, then a degree and settling into a profession/career.

Deep in my heart, I knew I always wanted to be a wife and mother, ever since I can remember. While I did have some advantages that have prepared me somewhat for this desired role, I wasn’t being fully prepared, especially because of the emphasis on education and a profession… along with the practical fact that in order to be a wife and mother, one first has to marry a husband. Since I didn’t marry anyone right out of high school, I did what the world expected me to do: went to college. I thought teaching was the only real option, as I love children. I was planning to attend school and teach just to take up time until I married… then it wouldn’t be long before I would be a full-time stay-at-home wife and mother.

I never had much vision for the future of my life and didn’t give it too much thought as I believe in the coming of the Messiah and establishment of God’s Kingdom on earth. I just hoped that, until then, I would be able to be married and have children. I never anticipated how many years would pass until I would actually have a real possibility of marriage! (I am 28 and will be 29 in early September.)

What prompted me to come home was dissatisfaction with the institution I was working for. I initiated coming home myself, but my family was supportive of my decision. Just as I wasn’t really sure what to do with myself, they didn’t have a strong opinion about what I should do, either. My sister, though, seeing how much I was consumed by the whole education system (in time, energy, etc.), knew that she didn’t want to do the same thing, even though she was going to school to be a teacher at the time, too. Her heart “came home” before she finished college, but she did finish because she was almost ready to graduate, anyway. Since then, she has had a couple part-time jobs, but has been mostly at home. Thankfully, my parents were supportive of her decision, so that made it easier for me.

The reasons why I ended up staying at home and not finding another full-time job were spiritual. I realized I was giving all my time to random families of the world (even though I did care about many of them and loved the children in my class) – while neglecting my own family and more importantly, my reading of Scripture and spiritual development. Since my parents were happy to have me stay with them as long as I wanted or needed to, I didn’t need to continue the job for financial reasons.

When I stopped working full-time, I felt a huge weight lifted from my shoulders. The freedom I felt was indescribable! It was so wonderful to be free from working for a dishonest and unfair institution, as well as not having to get up at around 5:30 in the morning and be away from home until late in the evening, take work home with me, etc., etc.! Some of the joys of being at home include being free to structure your own day, having time to do what is important to you, having the ability to be creative (such as with sewing and baking projects) and being in a safe, peaceful environment away from the frantic busyness and evils of the world. It has taken me awhile to learn what I can do to contribute to my family, but I am realizing how much my mood and level of contentment/enthusiasm affects my family and ways I can help with cleaning, laundry, meal preparation and all the other homemaking tasks.

Oh, there are many challenges, frustrations and weaknesses I have in being at home! Where do I begin? I’ll just share a couple things.

Most of the initial challenges and frustrations had to do with going from being in the world full-time to being at home. It was very challenging transition. I hardly knew what to do with myself! While I did enjoy the feelings of freedom and independence from the world’s expectations and not having someone dictate to me what I had to do and when, I almost went “crazy” with the extreme change. It took me awhile to find a place… I would say that it is only now, after three years of being at home, that it is more natural for me to be here. Mom had been doing most of the housework herself and hadn’t delegated much responsibility to her children, mostly because we were so busy with our own agendas including school or jobs. So… was I needed? What could I do? It was so frustrating!

Almost a year ago, we moved to a small farm in the country after my parents and a few of their children (including me) have turned our hearts toward home. We have been so blessed by the ability to have somewhat of a “homestead” with fruit trees and bushes, a huge garden that we have put in and we are hoping to have some animals, too, such as chickens. Now that we’ve moved here, there is little question about what I could do to contribute! My sister, mom and I take turns preparing meals for a whole week, including shopping for groceries. There’s other housework we can do, we put together a quarterly magazine for the encouragement of ladies (called Daughters of Zion)… the opportunities for ways I could contribute are endless.

Another challenge that probably most everyone who decides to come home faces is how to explain to others what you are doing. While you may find some who understand and are supportive, most people don’t understand and will try to make you feel insignificant or your efforts worthless. We do live in a community where it is generally acceptable to be at home – more so here than where we moved from. However, we do have acquaintances that have questioned us (mostly my sister and me) and have tried to “advise” us otherwise. We have had a hard time deciding how to answer the awkward questions when they are asked – not only do you have to be careful about what you say, but also how you phrase what you say. We basically try to explain that we are serving our family.

I think perhaps it is more difficult to explain what you are doing when you are a stay-at-home daughter than when you are a wife and mother. Once in a while someone will ask me if I plan to teach again, but they know that a farm can keep a daughter busy, so they don’t ask too many questions about why I am not off somewhere in the world. Thankfully I haven’t been given much of a hard time about what I’m doing.- - - I am thankful to Yahweh for teaching me so much throughout the last 10 years or so. I know that I am much more prepared now to be a stay-at-home wife and mother than I was when I graduated from high school.

Even though I always wanted to be married and at home raising children and knew enough about the physical responsibilities (I could cook well enough and knew how to care for babies), I wasn’t ready for the huge responsibility of being a proper help-meet to a husband or how to help nurture and train children to love the LORD their God with all their hearts in the fashion of Deut. 6: diligently throughout the day. Yahweh has blessed me with a good man whom, according to His will, I will marry this autumn. This man is so thankful to have found someone who will joyfully keep his home and help raise his children (if God wills).

What a blessing that we have been prepared for each other! As you say, though, we can never be ready for everything and we have to actually live the experience to learn as we go.The thoughts and experiences you have shared on your site, “Domestic Felicity”, have been encouraging to me. Thank you for taking the time to pass on what you have learned. I will look forward to continuing to glean support from your site as I transition into the new blessed role of wife and mother!"


Lur said...

Thank you so much for posting this! I have just graduated from high school (I was homeschooled since the 3rd grade), and am finally eager to be a "stay-at-home" daughter. I have always loved to teach and have loved children and have wanted to be a stay-at-home wife and mother, but still wanted to go to college and get my degree and teach till I was married. Then, towards the beginning of my senior year in highschool, I realized how much I would miss home by being in school and then having a full-time job. My father wants me to be a stay-at-home wife and mother but still wants me to have job training, so I will soon be starting an online course to get the qualifications. I am so thankful that the Lord has provided a way for me to stay home and get the qualifications needed! Such a blessing!

Mrs. White said...

This is a wonderful post. How generous this girl is to write such a long letter of explanation. I think she makes a very good point about not having enough to do at home, until they moved to a farm and starting publishing a small magazine. One thing we dearly need is plenty of ideas of how to keep our older girls busy at home. There is only so much sweeping and cooking one can do (as my oldest used to say). How do we keep them occupied at home when the house is already clean?

As I was reading this delightful post, a thought came to me. Remember Jane Austen's Emma? What an interesting piece of literature. In those days, and in that culture, it was normal for girls to be at home - not to be out earning money in the world. How did they keep busy? Well, they were very social and hospitable with their visiting. Yet, in this day, no one is at home to visit, or they don't have time for company.

Blessings from a mother of five (three of which are girls, ages 21, 20 and 14)
Mrs. White

michelle portland oregon said...

What wonderful thoughts. Now if all women and society can look at it as a blessing to stay home. I think the world and our furture children would living in a more loving place. Thank you Anna for all your beautiful posts.

Paulina said...

Wow. You have no idea how much this letter spoke to me. It couldn't have come at a more perfect time. The woman's situation is almost exactly the same as mine. Isn't it weird how things like this happen? The other day, I was introducing the idea of being a stay at home daughter to my father, who believes education is absolutely necessary. By education, I mean college. He told me I was being very unrealistic by even suggesting that I miss out on the opportunity to further educate myself. But why did I agree to enroll myself into a college in the first place? Simply because that is what is expected of you in this society. That's the only reason why. I never once questioned this. Now, thankfully, I'm seriously starting to ask myself whether or not this is the right thing for me to do. After all, isn't my greatest desire in life to be a mother and a wife?

I wrote a blog post about all this last night that is scheduled to be published in August but it's almost scary how similar my situation is to this young woman's.

Thank you for posting this! I look forward to reading more of your posts.

In Christ,

Katy said...

I do not mean to enter a spirit of negativity into this discussion so please forgive me ahead of time. I was homeschooled and then stayed at home with my parents. When I became an orphan at the age of 23...I was completely unprepared for what faced me. Suddenly, there was no one around to protect me from the world. I immediately had to find a job (several washer, housekeeper, etc.) in order to pay bills. Some kind neighbors took it upon themselves to watch out for me...but it was still hard going. I had few friends and virtually no outside activities so I had to start over completely. Finally, I went to school and got my teaching certificate, found my beloved on eharmony, became a teacher, married and had a sweet baby. I am happy now...but for me those initial "unprotected" years were very dark.

Anonymous said...

Thanks for sharing this young lady's story. I have daughters who will be finished with highschool in a few years...It is good to read of options other than college and work outside the home!

Kyle, Amanda, and Tobias said...

This story really hit home for me. I also went to school to be a teacher and did teach for 1 year before I became pregnant and became a housewife. I miss teaching terribly some days but I plan to homeschool and look forward to it! I could not send my children to public schools after what I witnessed in my own experience there as a child, in my student teaching experiences through college, and in my first year as a full-time teacher. I can't wait to be my children's teacher, I expect it to be harder than being a public school teacher in some ways, easier in others, but overall extremely rewarding.

Katy, I like hearing stories like yours because it helps me in deciding what needs to be included in our homeschool education as my kids get older. I always hope to learn from the wisdom of others. I'm not sure if you will check back here again but I am curious what specifically was lacking in your homeschool education?

I hope my daughters will be able to stay at home or at least stay focused on home throughout their lives regardless of what professional career they choose, if any. But I also intend for my children to all attend some sort of higher education. Though I do not plan to teach professional for a long time, I feel blessed to have the teaching education I had because I hope it will better prepare me for being a mother and homeschool teacher. I also think studies like finances, design, business, and early childhood education can be so useful to young women in the home! That kind of education can help them learn to budget, save, and invest their money wisely, keep their home beautiful by hand-making things, helping their husband in running a home business, or understanding child development and education for help in raising their own children.

Anonymous said...

This was uplifting to read, & I wish this young woman much happiness!


Katy said...

Hi there...fellow (former) educator. :) I wanted to answer your question. My homeschool education was not at all lacking. I loved being educated at home and ended up graduating with honors from the university. The problem I suppose was that I was very protected and not at all used to working outside the home. When I found myself suddenly without my financial and emotional support...I felt like a boat without a rudder truly. Like many girls who fantasize about remaining at home all their every thought revolved around home. Reality hit me like a cold bucket of water. I would like to homeschool my own little ones as well. I do want my daughters to have exposure to the outside world, work in the outside world, and just be more prepared to care for themselves in the event that marriage does not materialize. It is so hard to want to protect our precious little ones from the things of this world...and yet know we must prepare them for battle at the same time. Unfortunately, for girls, this can mean teaching them to work outside the home when necessary regardless of how tired they may become.