Shepherdess: Mother, an Executive

"Next to God, the mother's power for good is the strongest known on earth"

Ann Gimbel is a homemaker and mother residing in Alberta, Canada.


Dear Shepherdess: Happy Mother's Day! I found this spicy article in the "Helpmeet's Nook" * several years ago that I thought you would enjoy:

"A few months ago, when I was picking up the children at school, another mother I know rushed up to me. Emily was fuming with indignation. 'Do you know what you and I are?' she demanded. Before I could answer—and I didn't really have one handy—she blurted out the reason for her question. It seemed that she had just entered the county clerk's office to renew her driver's license. Asked by the woman recorder to state her 'occupation' Emily hesitated, uncertain how to classify herself.

"'What I mean,' explained the recorder, 'is—do you have a job or are you just a . . . ?'

'"Of course I have a job,' snapped Emily. Tm a MOTHER.'

"The recorder smiled indulgently. Then she wrote: 'Occupation: House wife.'

'"Oh, now!' protested Emily, 'I'd rather be listed as a mother.' "'We don't list "mother" as an occupation. "Housewife" covers it,' said the recorder.

"I forgot all about her story until one day I found myself in the same situation, this time in our town hall. The clerk was obviously a CAREER woman, poised, efficient, and possessed of a high-sounding title—'Officiating Interrogator' or 'Town Registrar.'

"'And what is your occupation?' she probed.

"What made me say it, I do not know. The words just simply popped out. 'I am a research associate in the field of child development and human relations.

' "The clerk paused, ballpoint pen fro zen in midair, and looked up, as though she had not heard right. I repeated the title slowly, emphasizing the most significant words. Then I stared with wonder as my pompous announcement was written in bold black ink on the official questionnaire.

"'Might I ask,' said the clerk with a new interest, 'just what do you do in your field?'

"Coolly, without any trace of fluster in my voice, I heard myself reply, 'I have a continuing program of research [what mother doesn't?] in the laboratory and in the field [normally, I would have said indoors and out]. I'm working for my Master's [the whole family] and already have four credits [all daughters]. Of course, the job is one of the most demanding of the humanities [any mother care to disagree?] and I often work a 14-hour day [24 is more like it]. But the job is more challenging than most of the run-of-the-mill careers and the rewards are in satisfaction rather than money.'

"There was an increasing note of respect in the clerk's voice as she completed the form, stood up and personally ushered me to the door.

"As I drove into our driveway, buoyed up by my glamorous new career, I was greeted by my 'lab' assistants ages 13, 7, and 3. And upstairs I could hear our new experimental model (six months). I felt triumphant. I had scored a beat on bureaucracy. And I had gone down on the official records as someone more distinguished and indispensable to man kind than 'just a mother.'

"Home—what a glorious career! Especially when there's a title on the door!"

How rewarding to know, "Next to God, the mother's power for good is the strongest known on earth." —The Adventist Home, p. 240. With love, Kay.


THOUGH I am at present a full-time student enrolled in a two-year nursing program at Mount Royal College, have acted as public relations officer for the Health Education Center and been a member of its program committee, and have been office manager and receptionist for my husband's medical practice, I feel that my position as homemaker is the most important post I will ever fill. We have five teen-age children and live on forty acres on the outskirts of a large northwestern city. To meet the needs of our family and to be a satisfying companion to a busy man, to see that the plumbing works, the furnaces give heat, the cat doesn't have kittens, and that there is someone to buy this year's crop of hay has been and is an executive position. I therefore presume to suggest that the tools of the modern-day executive can be learned by the homemaker to make her more skillful in her tasks.

Time, the twenty-four hours in a day that are parceled out to the woman living in a home without children and with the same careful hand to the woman who manages full-time employment and a houseful of children, is the homemaker's greatest ally and tyrant. To re veal how time is actually used, carefully log the minute-by-minute use of a twenty-four-hour day. You'll have to carry your pencil and paper with you and keep an eye on the minute hand of your watch, because even the interruptions of the milkman, the newsboy, and the neighbor who comes to borrow sugar and stays to talk about her latest African violet acquisition will take up minutes formerly discounted.

Now, with the evidence before you, cross off those items on your list that seemed to have been a poor use of time. Log the next day's twenty-four hours and be aware of the pitfalls that yesterday's log painfully pointed out. The needs of the baby can't be interrupted at feeding and diaper-changing times. Neither can the onward push to get lunch pails filled for the school youngsters' eight o'clock bus schedule be tampered with. The obvious weekly or biweekly wash, the cleaning, the sham pooing of the toddler's hair, the time for listening to the exciting events of your 10-year-old's day at school are times that can be savored best or accomplished quickest without interruption.

Try to set aside time for the splendor of an uninterrupted supper by candle light when dad is able to join the family. Make opportunity for quiet chats with the children and dad when important family plans for outings can be dis cussed or the allowance can be reevaluated. Above all, make plans to have quiet time set aside for you and your husband to share the joys of the family's expanding needs, their problems with interpersonal relationships or discipline tactics. An important need in the running of a household is for husband and wife to have the same focus.

To eliminate time wasters identify them. Label which ones are recurrent, and deal with them. Prune away the activities that do not seem to add to your over-all family enjoyment. I don't mean by this that time for personal enjoyment should be lopped off. Spare yourself an afternoon or an evening for sewing that scrumptious new hostess gown. Allotment of time exclusive of interruption may be hard for the mother of young children. Often their early bedtime can give quiet hours for special, big projects. When the family is older and the teens' bedtime is closer to mom's and dad's, rising an hour or two before the family comes to life can put you well into the chapters of a good book or bring you quiet refreshment from prayer and Bible study.

If you are human—and I suspect even the paragon of perfection down the street, with every hair in place and the latest fashions crisply covered with a bright apron, has her times—you won't shine in every area of homemaking. Concentrate on what you can do well. It is human to excel in some areas and to fall miserably flat in others. If the household or family suffers as a result of too much "humanity" even a mother-in-law might welcome a candid call for help with her patching skills or ability to direct in making pie or bread. As the children develop their own personal strong points put them to work doing the tasks that they shine at.

In our family we have a girl that just naturally thinks organization. To ask her to tidy up the family room or the basement toy room or the garage is a challenge she loves to accept. In no time she has the toys sorted, the bikes in order, the outside tools for gardening hanging from their hooks. Her skill in organizing her own drawer was passed down to her younger sister, who now carefully segregates each of her clothing items.

Our eldest daughter improvised a game that kept all the children spell bound. Whenever time lagged she was thrilled to gather her younger brothers and sisters around her and play "her game." Whenever there was a heavy box of groceries or a man-sized job of yard work, our eldest son never failed to be the "man" of the house in his dad's absence. His younger brother learned how to be adept with a screwdriver, hammer, and nails. Small repair jobs were his domain. Our youngest developed a love for horses. There wasn't anyone else who could groom and care for the feeding of the horses like she could.

Together the family's strengths will knit a tight family unit, whereas concentration on each one's weak points can only shatter unity. If mom and dad expect the best of themselves in their tasks about the home, the children will have a standard toward which to reach.

When a child reaches for excellence he should be rewarded with praise. Recognition of one's accomplishments makes that individual sure of what he has to offer.

Parents will be most effective with their children if they learn early not to show favoritism. When we needed to spend more time with one of our children, we tried to even the score down the line when demands weren't so great.

As the family grows in size or gets older, priorities for the family change. Husbands and wives should sit down frequently and reassess their priorities. If the pressures for priority change come from within the family or one or the other of the chief executives of the family says he doesn't have time for important family matters, then you may guess that you've failed to establish priorities.

My neighbor Mabel's words come to mind. She stated that they had never had more money and more fun using it than when they strictly adhered to a budget. Together the family made plans for how the money set aside for recreation was to be used. They decided on a family project. The father, an accountant, was handy with tools. With his two young boys by his side he designed a self-propelled paddle wheel-type boat that the children could enjoy during vacations at the lake.

This same wise mother developed the lovely habit of listening to her children. I found her on her stomach playing cars one afternoon as she "listened" to her boy at his play. Maybe there were fingermarks on the cupboards that needed wiping off and a dozen women's groups that beckoned. Never mind. Her priority was to have time to listen to her children. She did it well.

Decisions and their making shape the destiny of a family. To know when and how to make a decision is a skill that a homemaker can learn. How well I re member the atmosphere that pervaded the home of one family I knew. There were few rules. But the rules that stood meant much to each child. The freedom that was immediately felt as one walked into this charming home was the relax ation that each child and the parents felt as they worked within the frame work of those policies.

In another home where the rules were many and stringent, the tension the children were under to live up to those rules was picked up by anyone who chanced to visit there. Make no policy unless it is absolutely necessary. A few good rules will solve many problems. To be good rules, they should be made to cover far-reaching future problems. Let the children know what the reasons are for a particular rule—what behavior it is meant to encourage. Be governed by principle, not by what will make you popular with your children or the children down the street. Once the decision is made to lay down a policy, set it into action immediately. Then personally check to see that it is followed.

A home that is conducted with order and planning will allow common people to prepare for and perform uncommon tasks. Children and parents will stretch to grow to their highest capabilities. The mother who is aware that she is part of the team that fulfills the needs of society will also be aware of a sense of personal achievement. In becoming a more effective homemaker she will provide for her own personal needs.


Prayers from the Parsonage


Her husband is the pastor of the largest congregation in town. Though we have not been introduced, I have seen her several times. Perhaps she thinks about me, even as I speculate about her.

Does she feel pressured to live up to others' expectations? Is she ever resentful of the demands on her husband or of his fragmented time at home? At times does she also wish for someone near enough to visit when she needs to talk with a friend?

If she heard my name, would she respond, "Oh, yes, her husband pastors that little group in the white church on the corner . . ."? If only we could get acquainted, not as the wives of Pastors So-and-so, but as two women who have a common bond! We both love You. Please help us to bridge the gap that our different religions create. If we could meet and learn to know each other, we might become friends.

Help me to make the first move.

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Ann Gimbel is a homemaker and mother residing in Alberta, Canada.

May 1977

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