Both my Mom and my mother-in-law worked (at times) "outside the home." And there's nothing wrong with that. But it was how they approached their work at home...(and let's face it, no matter what...most moms do the bulk of the "at home" stuff, no matter what goes on "outside the home." Can I get an AMEN?) that shaped who I am and the way I think.
My Mom was awesome. She was on FYYY-AHHH all the time. She moved at the speed of light and had her hands in tons of projects all the time. I don't remember her ever staying home with us when we were little. I know she did, because there's a picture of her with the ironing board set up in her living room...and she's ironing in full make-up, done-up hair and nice clothes. She looked beautiful, but that whole image was definitely not her scene.
Not at all.
She was dying on the inside because that was not her bent.
But she loved us and loved my Dad, and she worked hard "outside the home" so that we could have the things we needed...not just clothes and shoes, but also things like braces for all 4 of us. Our teeth were jacked UP. She took my sisters and I to musicals and movies occasionally. She and my Dad exposed us to many things as we traveled across the country. As my Dad was transferred from one base to another, they turned the move into a vacation...making sure we saw all the sights along the way. My Mom taught me to cook. Or maybe I taught myself. She would leave things out and ask me to prepare it for dinner...so that it would be ready when she and my Dad got home from work.
My mother-in-law, on the other hand, she was "mother-ISH." If you are an "Everybody Loves Raymond" fan, you will recognize this term from an episode (The Visit). Debra is frustrated with her own mom for not being more like her mother-in-law. Debra said that she wanted her mom to be more involved and help with the kids. She said, "she should know...she's a mother." And, "Marie," the mother-in-law says, "yes, dear, but she's not motherISH. She's not the kind of mother we are...I'd like to think that whatever it is you didn't get from her, whatever it is you learned about what it really means to be a mother, that maybe you got that from me. It's funny, isn't it? How life gives you what you need."
I learned about being motherISH from my mother-in-law. Where my own mom couldn't wait to get out the door in the mornings, my mother-in-law relished in the time she could spend at home. Even when she worked "outside the home," she worked hard "inside the home" to create an atmosphere of love and acceptance for her family. She wanted to make her home a comfortable and inviting place for her family, and also for her friends. She would get up at the crack of dawn and make sure everyone was fed and nourished before they left for school and work. She did more in the mornings before she left for work...than I would typically do in a day. And she always had a hot dinner on the table in the evenings.
As a mother, she was involved in the lives of her 3 sons. She knew their friends. She knew if there was a need, and did her best to meet that need in the most discreet way possible. When Jim and I started dating, she made every effort to get to know me. She brought me into her family and loved me just the way I was...a city girl with basically no clue about life or the skills needed to function. I'm sure their self-sufficient, hard-working, country family wondered how I had gotten through life up until that point.
My mother-in-law knew what made her boys tick. She encouraged them in their strengths...and helped them work on and be aware of their weaknesses. She taught them to work hard and be independent, but she also told them to look out for the ones less fortunate...for the downtrodden...to bless the ones who had a need. She paid attention to what they liked and what they needed. In a world where most boys don't talk to their parents, she had a way of getting her boys to share their deepest concerns and dreams. She was their strongest supporter, their fiercest defender, and their most dedicated prayer warrior. Where their dad was loud and gruff, she was kind and gentle...but she was also a force to be reckoned with...if needed. On more than one occasion, she stood in the gap for them.
Nobody puts baby in a corner.
She taught me to love my husband and to love my home...to work hard at the important things and to let everything else go. She taught me about being a mom...about unconditional love and sacrifice and how to cope with the highs and lows that come with marriage...and parenting. She taught me to be generous...and thankful.
Everyone wants to come to my mother-in-law's house. She typically keeps their door unlocked until right before they go to bed at night. The door is at the end of a lonnnnnng room. She will be sitting in her "truth chairs" in front of her big window at the far end of the room...we call it that because all of her friends come in and sit there with her and drink coffee...and they spill their guts to her. Truth chairs.
My mother-in-law can hear someone turn the door handle, and she will jump up and immediately start the coffee. She has made her home welcoming, and even tho she is seriously lacking in the housekeeping department (she will readily admit this), people flock to her house. She is a great friend. She is intentional. She is interested. She is motherISH.
Like I want to be.
"She watches over the activities of her household and is never idle. Her sons rise up and call her blessed..." Proverbs 31:27-28