The good father: money vs. motherhood...

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Until late in the afternoon the day my wife gave birth to our first child, Mary Lee and I worked together. We painted houses, cleaned carpet, and were the custodians of a church. Being together twenty-four hours a day was sweet. After Heather was born, though, things changed.

A dear friend of ours had been a grad student in astronomy when she met another grad student in astronomy, and they married. Both Rita and her husband, Jimmy, had serious intellectual firepower. You’ll see the humor, then, of what Jimmy said to Rita when they got home from the hospital with their first child. Laying their little baby boy down in his crib, Jimmy turned to Rita and said, "Rita, this little tike is completely helpless. He can't do anything for himself—we'll have to do everything for him."

Jimmy had completed eighteen or so years of education, yet no one had ever taught him that newborns are helpless and need their mother.

What this meant for Mary Lee and me was... 

we couldn't work together any more. God's gift to us of a child had brought the gender-neutral work days of marriage to an end. Simple things like breasts and a hungry baby forced their meaning on our egalitarian feminist utopianism. This left the two of us with the same division of responsibility every generation of fathers and mothers since the days of Adam and Eve has discovered. I was Heather's father, but Mary Lee was Heather's mother. So now, my greatest calling was to make sure no pressures were put on Mary Lee to neglect her newborn child.

I’m ashamed to admit I was the one who put pressure on Mary Lee to neglect our child.

After Heather was born, Mary Lee couldn’t give herself to motherhood and continue to produce half our income, so we were reduced to one income. When we married, we were poor and had few possessions. To eat, we sat cross-legged on the carpet and we slept on a mattress on the floor. By the time Heather was born, we had a little more money, but not much. 

Yet there it was: Heather needed somebody to do everything for her and Mary Lee was her mother.

Still, we needed money. Always more money (or so I thought).

I wasn’t foolish enough to ask Mary Lee to come back to work with me, yet Mary Lee was a good seamstress and she began to supplement our income by making an off-white muslin and lace nightgown. At first, she sold the nightgowns through word-of-mouth orders, but then she began to sell them in an artisan consignment store on State Street. I’ve always loved my wife’s sewing. I loved the nightgowns, but I loved the money Mary Lee got for her nightgowns even more. Pretty soon I was putting pressure on Mary Lee to make more nightgowns and sell them for more money.

Since God is kind, this story has a good ending. God helped me see my sin. It became clear to me that Mary Lee’s work earning money was taking away her freedom to give herself to Heather. In our little home, money and motherhood were in competition and motherhood was losing. Our precious Heather was suffering because her father was greedy.

God gave me the gift of repentance, so I went to my dear wife and said: “Lover, I’m sorry I’ve been putting pressure on you to earn money. Really, what I want more than anything else is for you to give yourself to our children as their mother. So I’m never going to pressure you to make money for us again. And if I ever do, please remind me that it’s my job to provide the money so you can be a mother to our children. OK?”

Say the same to your wife. Now. Homes that are the richer for having two incomes are great for buying an ATV, taking vacations, and getting your kids into and through good colleges, but they’re worthless for protecting the greatest calling known to woman, the motherhood that bestows upon us life and love.

Tim Bayly

Tim serves Clearnote Church, Bloomington, Indiana. He and Mary Lee have five children and big lots of grandchildren.

Want to get in touch? Send Tim an email!