A couple years ago, I participated in a round table on vocational calling as an academic spouse. After I enthusiastically shared the joy I have in following my mom’s example to stay home and raise my children myself, an older woman (with a successful academic career) retorted, “Well, I never could have stayed home. My kids would have hated me, and I would have hated them.” These words have stayed with me ever since.
To be fair, I don’t think this woman really hates spending time with her kids in limited amounts. I suspect that my praise of full-time motherhood put her on the defensive, though I certainly hadn’t intended to attack working moms. And I don’t think all working moms would talk this way about their kids. But this woman’s vehemently negative response did have me wondering why she had kids in the first place, exactly how much time she can spend with them before they start hating each other, and what effect this attitude had on their household in the early years. Did the kids feel that they were in the way of her career? Did they feel loved during the few hours that they did spend together? Does she hate spending unlimited time with her husband, too? Does she ever hate her colleagues or students (with whom she certainly spends more time in a day than she does with her children)?
Hate is a strong word. Ephesians 6:4 gives pretty clear direction to parents: “Fathers, do not provoke your children to anger, but bring them up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord.” As a stay-at-home mom, I’m perhaps even more likely than the mom I met at the round table to be rubbed the wrong way by my kids on a daily basis. I need to check my attitude about them constantly. In my own heart, using the word “hate” about my kids, even when they’re not around, would set me on a path of provoking them to anger and hurt. I’ve resolved never to use that word about them, no matter how frustrated I am. Let’s be careful about the words that we use (or even allow ourselves to think) about our children! And on Wednesday I’ll try to touch on proactive ways I enjoy my kids when we’re having extended face time.