As major conferences are held at the United Nations, men and women from all over the world come to New York City to support a particular cause or share their grievances with those who will listen. Many plan what are called “side events” and these side events are calendared and publicized with the hopes that conference participants will attend.
In 2007 I was attending The Conference, Commission on the Status of Women, and I attended one such side event that was taking place.
Five beautiful women, all from Sweden, had traveled to New York City to ask that their roles as “mother” and their desire to be a “stay-at-home mother” be acknowledged as a meaningful, respectable and even crucial role in society.
Their grievance was that unless Swedish women are working outside the home they are looked down upon as non-contributors of society…even parasites of those willing to work for the betterment of Sweden and its economy.
One woman shared with us the statistics of Sweden’s growth and envied economy. But she said that the statistics that are not so commonly shared are the statistics of child suicide and the rampant depression in the women who are told that they can and should “do it all.” …Be a contributing member of society and a woman who can keep a household and family running in organized and top order. She said that government call centers have been provided for children who are home and feeling depressed. But these call centers are not statistically diminishing the suicide rate.
As these five young women spoke out about their frustrations and their desire to be considered contributing members of society as they stay home to care for their children, my heart ached for them and the children of such a culture.
In more recent years I spoke with a Swedish woman who did not have the same impression of her country. She felt that her government did encourage women to stay at home at least during the first years of their children’s lives. She was an older woman, more a grandmother’s age. And I wondered where the truth actually lies.
I recently read an article by Julie B. Beck where she referred to a mother’s role as being compared with a “Lioness at the gate of the home….she guards that gate, and things matter to that family if they matter to her.” I have thought about that analogy numberless times, and as I have reflected upon the years when my five active children were in the home, I can see that her comparison is extremely insightful. My thoughts have turned to the numerous times with each of my children when if I had not been available or vigilant or willing to “snarl and claw” my children could have been “carried away” by the influences that exist to destroy their productive lives. Anyone having had teenage children will know exactly what I’m talking about…. teenagers living in our society need I lioness standing guard, not a pussy cat, or worse yet a distracted pussy cat.
Those who attended the UN side event were as frustrated with the situation as the five women living it in their home country. The debate and conversation was spirited and supportive of their plight.
At one point I spoke saying, “We can have it all…and we can do it all. After all, we are women. However, there is a time and a season to all things. There is a season for us to get our education and develop talents and skills. And there is a season to have children and love and support and teach and guide them until they can travel through life on their own. And there is a time and season for a career and self-indulgence. But these seasons of our lives do not run concurrently. Most of the time they come in consequential order and spacing. That is the only way we can have it all and take care of that which is most important for the season of our lives we are in. It’s when we try to do things out of season that our efforts are frustrated and we experience failure.” Neither my thoughts nor words were original. I do not take credit for them. They are found in Ecclesiastes Chapter 3. And the entire room erupted in applause and a standing ovation. The truth rings true to those that “hear.”