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Thanks to a full slate of charitable commitments, a stay-at-home mom is rarely at home. Tom and Caroline McDonald offer advice — to dad.
BY Tom and Caroline McDonald
My wife has a wonderful heart for service and
gives of her abundant talents wholeheartedly to our parish and the Church
locally. The trouble is, she takes on way too much and seems to have little
left for the family. Am I being selfish
to want this “stay-at-home” mom to do a little more staying at home?
Tom: We have always
chuckled at the notion of the stay-at-home mom. Just because a woman doesn’t
bring home a paycheck doesn’t mean she’s staying at home!
For those of us fortunate enough to
be married to intelligent, talented women who are willing to sacrifice a career
in order to take on the daunting and rewarding task of child rearing, there
remains a constant tension. As rewarding as loving and educating our children
is, a degree of tedium and isolation can creep in. Our wives need an outlet for
their creativity and skills outside the home, in the “adult” world.
I recently spent four days at home
with the kids while Caroline was out of town and quickly realized how necessary
those outlets are. When we guys head off to work each day, using our skills in
a variety of settings with our peers, it can be easy to forget that our
stay-at-home wives may not have this natural outlet. They have a need to seek
out or respond to invitations to plug in to the community. This also serves as
a witness to the children of the need to be a family of missionaries, seeing
ourselves as a domestic church that places itself at the service of the larger
body of Christ.
If we husbands pick up the slack at
home and do our part, we can assist our wives in achieving this balancing act.
Caroline: And with
any balancing act, the more you take on, the harder it is to maintain that
balance. There is an old saying that 10% of the people do 90% of the work — and
that 10% is under a lot of pressure! What often happens is that one volunteer
task leads to another and another, as word gets out that you are a hard worker
who is reliable and does a quality job. Soon you find yourself justifying your
every activity by saying, “If I don’t do it, nobody else will, and the work is
We once heard a very wise priest
give a talk on discernment, and we have never forgotten his urging: A need is
not a call. There will always be pressing needs, and it may seem like no one
else can do it but you. But that doesn’t mean God has singled you out to do it.
Our first obligation is to our families, and, if the family suffers because of
our volunteer work, that is a good clue that it isn’t in God’s plan for us.
Spend time in prayer with your wife
discerning these opportunities. Urge her not to be afraid to have the courage
to speak up and say, “No, it isn’t fair to my family to take on yet another
task.” Certainly encourage her and enable her to find her outlets, but ask her
not to let them become overwhelming.
McDonalds are family-life directors for the Archdiocese of Mobile, Alabama.