When I was maybe 8 or 10 years old, I remember hearing a phrase for the first time and having no idea what it meant. So I came home to my mother and asked what a "latch-key kid" was, and she explained that it was a term for a child who came home from school to an empty house, usually because both parents worked or because the child had parents who were divorced, so the mother had to work. I remember being sad when she told me that, because as poor as we were, I cherished being able to come home from school to a waiting mother, a mother who wanted to hear all about my day and what I had learned and achieved. I was sad to think that there were children who did not have that.
Mama was always there for us. It was important to her that she be home to greet us, to make our meals and just take care of us. We were the world to her. We could barely afford the basic necessities, much less the luxuries of life, so when my youngest sister was old enough to start school, she got a job cleaning so that she could still be home when we got there. She spent countless hours vacuuming, washing windows and cleaning toilets, and every dime she made was saved up to spend on gifts for us for birthdays and Christmas. I don't recall a single time where she spent that money on herself.
At 13, after four years of seeing that vile, heartless enemy named "cancer" ravage her body, my mother died, leaving me and my four sisters without a parent in our lives. Yet so powerful was her influence for good over me that, despite going to four different high schools and living in a couple of dozen children's homes and foster homes and shelters, I managed to stay out of jail, I never used drugs, never drank alcohol and never smoked. This was due almost solely to the fact that I would have considered it a betrayal of my mother's memory and a stain upon her good name.
At 19 years old, in defiance of many stupid decisions I'd made through previous years, I made the wisest decision of my life when I married my wife, a woman with many of the same qualities my mother possessed. Easily one of the most intelligent people I've ever met, she has an incredible well of inner strength that is hidden to most because of her kind, humble nature. She is slow to anger and unbelievably patient (though she would laugh at this claim and argue otherwise, the fact that she has home-schooled our eight children over the last decade and a half, and not only are all my children still alive, they are also very intelligent and well-adjusted). Like my mother, she works herself to the point of exhaustion, but never for her own benefit. Her life is dedicated to the service of others.
When I look at my wife, and contemplate the life of my mother, I am humbled and awed by the wisdom of a loving God that would put such sublime creatures on this Earth to temper the aggression and hardness of men. Though some elements of our society try to blur or dismiss the fact that God gave each gender natural traits, the simple fact is that where men are crude, women are refined; where men are aggressive and ambitious, women are nurturing and compassionate. By nature, women tend to be peacemakers, loving, kind and builders of consensus. Only a fool would encourage a woman to be more like a man. The world needs the traits of both to achieve a balance, a harmony which takes the stronger qualities of each to temper the less desirable qualities.
There was a tempest in a teapot recently when Ann Romney, wife of presidential candidate Mitt Romney, was accused of having "never worked a day in her life" because she was a stay at home mom. It is hard to quantify just how foolish that statement was, for anyone who has ever had to raise children knows that it is far more challenging to raise children than it is to work for pay. As a mother, you have "employees" who often don't follow instructions, who argue with you constantly, destroy things, give you cause to worry about their safety and welfare, and cost you an enormous amount of money without making any money for you, and you can't fire them! And that is not work?
Years ago, I grew increasingly irritated when filling out forms for government or insurance or whatever, when some bureaucrat would look over them, see my wife's name and occupation of "homemaker," and say something like "So, your wife doesn't work?" With a tight smile, I'd retort "Sweetheart, she works a lot harder than you for a lot less pay." To avoid confrontation, I began listing as my wife's occupation a more fitting description of what she does on a daily basis, something that encompassed her home-schooling efforts, her maintaining the house and the constant juggling of the kids' needs and schedules ... "Operations Director, DeBroux Institute." I started chuckling at the responses I'd get, which was usually raised eyebrows and an awestruck reply of "Your wife does THAT? Wow, that sounds really important," to which I'd knowingly acknowledge, "Dear, you have no idea ..."
So, to the mothers of the world, I offer my sincerest gratitude for the work that you do, and my knowledge that no work you do outside the home will ever be as important as the work you do within the home. You are the nurturers of the rising generations. You are the givers of knowledge, the character-builders. You are the matrons of civilization, passing along to your children the good that makes life worthwhile; without you and your sweet spirits, the world would be a darker place indeed.
Finally, I offer a word of gratitude for my own wife and the mother of my eight children. I was there for the birth of all eight of my children, and delivered four of them myself. I saw the brutal toll that childbirth takes on a woman's body, and I wondered why any woman would choose to go through that. Then I saw that precious newborn child, so tiny and frail, as it rested upon her chest, seeking life-sustaining nourishment. I watched as she held that child close to her and wept for joy. Now, for the last 20 years, I've watched as she's guided each of these children along life's rocky path, gently directing them away from danger and towards self-reliance and happiness. And with each step, I've knelt in prayer, and thanked a loving God for sending such an angelic creature to be my eternal companion, and the mother of my children.
Louis DeBroux is a Taylorsville resident, married, with eight children. He is chairman of the Bartow County Republican Party. He owns Gatekeeper data backup and recovery. He can be emailed at firstname.lastname@example.org.