If I’m going to continue in the vein of the home as a business, which is what this series has been doing, I need to consider what a business does, having already touched on how it does it. A business provides some sort of service or product, which in turn brings in a profit for those who own the business. In the modern era, ownership can often be a bit fuzzy, with stockholders being arguably the multidinous owners of a corporation. A family, we’ll say, is a partnership. And the children are the products, not co-owners.
Parenting is much more than the woman being an egg donor and the man being a sperm depositor. Bringing children into the world is a great joy and privilege, but I am very aware that I am much more than my brood capacity. Had I been unable to bear those children, it would not have reduced my value. However, as I was, and did, it’s now my job to prepare those children to be the best possible members of society when they do finally leave home. And because this is a partnership, my husband at my side is working toward the same goal, just in different ways.
I was blessed, with my kids, to be able to stay home with them for much of their young lives. It would have been very difficult not to, and it was certainly challenging to run a business from home while raising babies and toddlers. They learned very quickly that the phone meant they stopped yelling until I was done. It is possible to teach that at a very early age. And it is possible to teach more than you might at first assume, from birth. Having children was a learning experience for me, and it’s never stopped being so. It’s here, that I really wanted to be able to consult with others who had walked this path before me, to ask “how do I deal with… what do I do now…?”
My husband and I were talking about this yesterday. We’re at the point where some of the children are nearing their debut into society as full-fledged adults according to the law, and the only thing we can do, some days, is simply to model how to be an adult. He told me “I can get up, go to work without whining. I can look on the outside like I’m calm when they are throwing a fit. I can be the hardpoint where the buck stops when they are pushing boundaries of rules. I don’t know what else I could do.”
Mostly, it is that last which is hard to do, and important. You can’t let the kids think they are the co-owners (or worse) the owners of the home. They are there to learn, not to say what happens when and where. We can give our children choices in small ways (would you like to do this chore, or that one?) but when we fail them, we let them dictate our lives. Saying no, firmly, often, and meaning it, is the most important lesson as a parent.
It’s also a mistake to make your world revolve around the children. They may be the product, but they are not the sole reason your partnership exists – they are, once grown and gone, not supposed to be the only thing that was holding the two of you together. If they were, you stand the chance of losing one another and being unable to live out your life fulfilled. Unlike animals, humans do not exist to reproduce only. Many invertebrates, for instance, reproduce, and then die. People don’t.
Which is why I said that if I had been unable to have children of my body, I would still have value. A home that is unable to have children in it is not a cold, empty one, nor is one that has become what is termed an empty nest. There are still occupants in the nest, and they have more time for billing and cooing (yes, I am looking forward to that phase in my life!) but their focus has switched from a production mode, to a service mode.
Life is for service. I was raised with that as an underlying chorus, sometimes spoken, but always understood. Life is not simply to enjoy, and then be done with at the end like an empty wineglass shattered into the stones. Some of this is based in my belief system, but no matter what yours is, it is inescapable that we are not meant to be alone. Human nature, whether created or happenstance, does exist, and it dictates that when we please others, we are pleased. I write this blog to offer something to my readers, and it fulfills me. I weave stories with my books, and it makes me happy, but the happiest is when I hear from readers that my work gave them a few hours surcease from pain, through escaping into a world not their own.
Each of us serves in a different way, and there are so many out there I cannot possibly name them all. It’s more than the obvious of volunteering in a church/food bank/homeless shelter. It might be taking the grandchildren for a few hours to give a new home room to renew a partnership. Or listening to a friend’s troubles and encouraging them to keep on going with life.
It’s not a perfect metaphor, but as the home executive (while my husband is the CEO, but that’s a blog for another day), it gives me a map for my life. Switching from service-based, to product-based, back to service-based means that I never have a point in my life where I am aimless and worthless. I can’t speak for my husband, his role is different than mine, but he also needs the purpose in life. It’s easy to lose sight of these things when you are buried under a mountain of diapers, laundry, and screaming babies. The gentle tug of a toddler on your arm may remind you, and your heart wells up while you cuddle them. But it can also be easy to lose sight of when you are busy filling up an empty home with pointless activities to replace the busy patter of little feet. We all have things we can do, we’re all valuable to the home and ultimately the web of homes that make up society.