I’m inspired to write on this topic, after reading an interesting chain of comments lamenting that life today does not afford women to stay home and raise their children. A number of life circumstances were shared from the hearts of those who truly believed that they had been or were sacrificing in order to just get by in raising their children. I heard the sincerity in their feelings about life’s difficulties. They felt they had little or no support.
Rather coincidentally, a few weeks ago, I listened to a podcast that was geared toward ‘sacrifice’ and what that meant from a philosophical and financial perspective. I feel that this topic is one I was supposed to contemplate, and after doing so, I’d like to share some of my thoughts with you.
In a religious context, sacrifice means to make something sacred through an offering to God. To me, each and every moment of life is given by God’s grace, so to sacrifice to God is a personal commitment that can be seen as a virtue.
Sacrifice - to give something up is the usual meaning (often suggested for the ‘greater good’). Those in the military, who gave by serving their country and lost their lives or limbs in that service is a true sacrifice.
Too often the word is misused. People seem to wear sacrifice, almost as a badge of honor and virtue these days. Whereas, I do not believe some ‘sacrifice’ in the usual sense is really a virtue or quite often, even sacrifice.
Let’s take a couple examples of what we typically call ‘sacrifice’ that I once fell prey to myself.
I was a ‘stay-at-home’ mom, as were my mother and grandmothers before me. I learned from a young age that moms cared for their children and the home and dads worked to support the family, providing shelter, food, clothing and protection. Men were not expected to contribute in the duties of the home and child care and women were not expected to financially provide for the family's needs. I know that sounds old fashioned today. Yet in the chain of comments I read just yesterday, the women were yearning for what I and prior generations have had. The woman posting also did not recognize that staying at home to raise your children is still an option and choice made today by millions of women.
Given this great gift, and while I loved it, I still complained at times to others that I was sacrificing my interests, exotic vacations, more and nicer clothes, etc. for the benefit of my children and family. I envied the stylishness, daily Starbucks and more traveled women who worked. I thought I was making a sacrifice, and it actually was an investment in my family.
Parents can often be heard saying that they sacrificed nice vacations or a bigger house or newer cars to send their children to college or private schools.
While these actions are often interpreted as true sacrifice, I suggest that the parents traded high value items for more, not less - serving their own higher values. The parents valued more highly their children’s success than what they were giving up.
When I give a homeless person money, thereby rendering me with less money, I still have the greater value of feeling that I helped someone in need. It is true with all that is freely given to others, that more abundance will come our way. Creating value through our actions yields joy, fulfillment and quality of life.
I received far greater joy and benefit from having been an at-home-mom than I would have from nail polish or stylish clothes, Starbucks vanilla lates and exotic vacations. In my case, my entire family benefitted from my being home. I enjoyed teaching and spending time with my children, and I liked keeping a nice, clean home. I wanted us to eat well and so grocery shopping and cooking, cleaning were a part of the whole package of life. I certainly didn’t like all aspects of my role in life, but I didn’t sacrifice. I was blessed with the gift of family life for which I am grateful!
I’d also like to mention something about the support that those in the aforementioned chain of comments felt they lacked. Support in the past and still in many places in this country does not necessarily come from the government nor employers. I’ve witnessed first-hand how neighbors that are bound by geography and strong Christian values come to each other’s support. I did not have strong ties in our church when raising our children, but luckily we had family close by to help out. In my son’s neighborhood, whether it was Covid quarantine, newborn babies, car pools for school, support in the way of prepared, delivered dinners, unexpected needs for someone to watch another's children or any other means of general support needed, those neighbors stepped up and covered each others’ backs. They are a community that lives and prays together. They exhibit love in their daily actions. It has been a heart-warming experience to see these 30 and 40 somethings caring for and loving their neighbors - as they say, it takes a village to raise a child. That village has many children and is alive and strong!
While family life looks different for each person, and women fought hard to be able to work if that is what they choose to do, I understand much better now, how our choices truly impact and benefit us more than we often realize.
One of life’s greatest blessings is our family. If parents raise children to be good citizens, kind, compassionate, confident, caring, industrious and happy, then they become adults with those values. I’ve seen those adults in action in my son’s neighborhood. What an important and beautiful gift to give society!
May these thoughts bring you to deeper reflection on your lives, recognizing your many blessings.
Health, Happiness and Love,