About five years ago, when my husband and I were hosting a gathering from our parish, a member of the group made a comment that caused me to flush with humiliation and anger. "I don't think I could quit my job to stay home and take care of my kids," said the woman, who worked full time for a non-profit agency that
financed low-income housing and who was the mother of two young children under the age of 4.
In her statement was the implicit message, at least to me at the time, that her job helping others was more important than her job as a mother. I felt humiliated because she seemed to be degrading, in front of my closest friends, my choice to rearrange my life to be an at-home mother. And I was angry because I wanted to defend my choices and argue with her that my choices were the better ones.
After I calmed down that evening, I discovered that my humiliation and anger stemmed really from my own self-doubt about the worth of my role as a parent. First, society had been telling me for years that I should not be an at-home parent because I wouldn't be able to achieve the material trappings of the traditional suburban life; now, a peer from church was suggesting that my choice to be an at-home mother paled in significance to ministry to needy persons.
A couple of years later, as I sat in a small prayer group, I felt tongue-tied as others prayed for different economic and international concerns in which they were involved. My prayers about the struggles that my husband and I were having with a child's behavior problems, once again, seemed to pale in comparison to these shattering visions of political and economic injustices. It has been at these times that I doubt whether the energy given to maintaining the daily routine of a family just doesn't stack up to the urgent issues of AIDS, homelessness, or political crises.