Working My Way Home

{This article was originally posted as a guest article for Megan @ A Blossoming Homestead.}

Mine was the generation of girls who were told (and believed), "You can do anything a boy can do, only better."  

I was born in the first decade after Roe v. Wade. Though born to Christian parents, the seductive lies of feminism invaded my belief system from an early age. I dreamed career-focused dreams, without for a moment considering that any biological functions or marital desire would -- or should -- affect those dreams. 

Convinced that we were smarter than boys ("girls rule, and boys drool"), we were more cutthroat ("hell hath no fury..."), we were also on the receiving end of affirmative action efforts.  Colleges and businesses wanted us, but (at least in the south) boys still had to hold the door open for us. 

In every area, we girls were the beneficiaries. 

Or so we believed.

After serving in student government and working as an intern for then-Governor Mike Huckabee, I worked for the Arkansas Legislature and shortly after graduation got a job in D.C. as the Associate Director of the Texas Office of State-Federal Relations.

I was well on my way to achieving my political dreams, gaining experience through assisting, which (in my mind, and validated in the lives of those I interacted with) I believed would lead to personally holding elected office. With strong political connections in Arkansas, Texas, and the White House, I had (though I was in my very early twenties) achieved the launching pad for the political career of my choosing.

When I became pregnant, we began weighing our options and the plan that made the most sense to us was for me to keep going great guns with my career, and for Doug to be a stay-home dad. We went through months of thinking that way, but images kept flooding back into my brain.

I could see Angie, my friend and mentor, on the floor with her five young children... snuggling, playing,  nursing, laughing, and overseeing green army men and wooden block towers. I read breastfeeding books and pondered how in the world I would manage that from my office two blocks from the US Capitol, with my husband and baby in the suburbs during 10-hour workdays. Reading Iris Krasnow's book Surrendering to Motherhood: Losing Your Mind, Finding Your Soul gave me much to ponder. While not a Christian book, Krasnow digs into the intersection of the feminist message and the earth-shaking role of mother. She painted the picture for me of her messy dining table, with three kids three and under, and the unabated joy therein.

Somewhere inside of me, these images and messages roiled and rumbled, until one day it all spilled out to Doug in one emotional, heart-felt, impassioned-in-the-same-way-I-had-previously-been-about-politics lump of words.

And he listened.

Praise God, my husband listened to the emotional jumble and heard inside of it the nugget of truth... the God-given desire of a mother to be home with her child, not missing a moment, pouring her heart and soul into this new person.

Because my husband honored this desire of my heart, it changed everything about our lives. No longer would we be able to afford to live in Washington, D.C., and no longer would he pursue a graduate degree in Art.  We took a leap of faith, without a job, without insurance, and moved back to Texas.

Because our son had stayed a week in the NICU that did not accept our insurance, we were financially in debt.

Things were tight, but we knew God would care for us. And He did.

Through God's people, Doug found work. Through his work (at Kohl's), we were able to afford to re-outfit his closet with professional attire (rather than that of a college artist), and he found a job that brought home just enough for us to live on.

We weren't "comfortable":

  • We lived in a one-bedroom apartment in a small, rural town
  • We had one car, so I was in that apartment almost 24/7
  • I was overweight and had almost no clothes that fit (but a nice set of suits a couple sizes smaller)
  • We didn't have money to change any of that

BUT-- we knew we were doing what we were made to do, and we were content.

From Genesis 2 forward, men are created to work, and women are created to be nurturers of life. God designed us to do exactly the thing that didn't make sense to the modern notions of wisdom.  

Though our career plans were big and we were successfully chasing those dreams, God had other plans for us.

And now, eleven and a half years later, we've moved around the world multiple times, and now have 5 boys and a girl (ages 11, 9, 7, 5, 3, and 7 months), who I am privileged to spend my days alongside.

I am still so thankful for the things God did to change our hearts and priorities, and wouldn't change a thing!

Well, I take that back. I would have sold that closet full of suits while they were still in style.

But aside from that, not a thing.


Anonymous said...

I love this post, Jess! So true! Thanks for sharing your story and inspiring others to go against the grain.

My story is very similar and I'm so thankful that by His grace, I can be home with my precious children.

We are expecting our third by the way!

Rachel B

fourshoves said...

I can so relate, was right there with you believing the feminists lies and following hard after a career until God brought three older women into my life that exposed the lies and showed me the joy in doing things God's way. Now as an "older'" mother in my 40's (I have teens & toddlers now) with an appreciation for how quickly time flies, I really enjoy being a mom.

Kondwani said...

Did you ever, even for a moment, look back and wish that your choices had been different? Were you always 100% confident in God's guidance and your most important role being in the home? Were there people around you who would tempt you to doubt? How did you address any inner turmoil? How did you respond to unhelpful comments/suggestions/questions? I just wonder...!

Jess Connell said...

I have so many thoughts.

First- No, I haven't ever that I can think of (even once) looked back and wished that my choices had been different. I was 100% confident. BUT-- I'm an all-in, all-passion, heart-mind-soul-strength, 100% kind of gal. That's who I am. I learned early on that I can't go back and change anything so I don't look at life that way. I honestly don't. I just choose not to live regretfully, if that makes sense. (?)

I also think this blog has been a continual effort of "reminding" myself of the importance of these things.

Yes, there have been (thankfully only a few) people who have spoken horrible things to me. Unhelpful. Rude. Complete derision & an indication that there was nothing of value in my role at home. Abhorrence for the number of children we have. Sometimes subtle, and sometimes behind my back, but I have received these things outright too.

When those things were spoken to me, I rumbled & roiled inside and came to rest in the same place I always have- that I know this is valuable. This is what matters. And, and I think this is important for all of us to remember, this is the only season I get to do this in.

I can't decide to have babies when I'm 65, but if I want to, I could go back to graduate school at that age. I can find a career anytime, and switch to a new one anytime. For all the economic & job woes we hear about in society, as women, we have all sorts of options available to us if and when we want them.

But the truth ALSO is that, right here & now, I don't live with mommy guilt. I don't have some inner turmoil over what I'm missing out on with my kids. We are at rest. We enjoy life together, and we take the days as they come.

That doesn't mean I don't have hard days, and that doesn't mean I don't feel like this ABSOLUTELY. TAKES. EVERYTHING. I HAVE. TO GIVE. It does. It is the most demanding thing I've ever done... way way way way harder than sitting in an office, checking up on emails, completing a few personnel reviews, having a lunch at my desk or with co-workers, editing newsletters, compiling briefings for the congressional delegation, changing the policy manual to reflect the latest update, debriefing w/ state reps about the committee meeting, etc., etc., etc.

But that's what makes it worth it, really. No career could have all of this- spending time with people I love, getting to shape their hearts and minds in ways that will play out for eternity.

Who else gets to do this, to this degree? It is a gift. Truly.

As for specifically how I responded, I spoke truth back. I told her that while she said "anyone could do what I do" that "in reality, no one else can do what I do. No one else can love Ethan, Baxter, Maranatha, Silas, Moses, & Theo the way I do. No one else can teach and train and disciple and discipline them with the joy and vigor and heart that I do." There are kids all over the world whose lives are playing out with all kinds of labels, diagnoses, disfunction, hurt, and heartache for want of a loving, engaged, intentional mother.

The truth is that ANYONE can be hired to fill a role in a job. Truly. They'll serve you with your termination notice on Friday and have someone else there starting Monday. If you put in your 2 weeks' notice, they do a round of interviews, and find your replacement. It doesn't matter how significant you are... even the President of the United States walks out of the oval office in the morning, and the new one walks in that afternoon.

But a mother? There is no job that compares. There is no one else who can do it.

This. This is what I counsel my own heart with, and this is what I say to anyone cruel and cutting enough to criticize someone pouring her heart into such a non-stop, all-too-often-thankless, tiring, heart-requiring, mentally-strenuous, soul-impacting, eternally-significant job as that of mother.

I hope it encourages you. I needed this pep-talk, myself. So thanks for asking.