My family teases me because I am an ardent fan of the TLC reality series Little People Big World. It's about a husband and wife, Matt and Amy Roloff, who are dwarfs, and their kids (one who is a dwarf and three who aren't.) It's set on their deliciously beautiful farm in Oregon. I've loved watching it for years because it celebrates overcoming challenges, working together, family values and living a BIG life. Let's face it, there aren't a lot of shows on t.v. that fit that bill.
In fact, it's the only show that actually changed my life. I know, I know...commence eye rolling. The thing is, the mom, Amy, is THRILLED to be a mother. No, really. She is thrilled. I started watching when I had (plural) kids in diapers and was feeling overwhelmed by my duties as a wife and mother. I often felt sorry for myself and nursed a huge chip on my shoulder. Too many times I lamented to anyone who would listen, about how exhausted I was. I survived the day so I could make it to bed time and finally have some time for myself.
Lots of times that time included watching LPBW. As I watched Amy raise her kids over the years, I noticed that the sparkle in her eye came from being a mother. It was obvious her greatest accomplishment as a human being was that she screamed at soccer games and flipped pancakes and took hundreds of pictures and hemmed pants and took road trips and counseled and immersed herself body and spirit in the lives of her kids. My Grinchy heart melted. She helped me see that my biggest treasures were right in front of me and some of them happened to be standing in crappy diapers. And that was okay. In fact, that was great. In fact, changing that butt bomb and a million other things were the reason I was here.
This attitude I learned from Amy is summed up nicely with this thought, "Motherhood is not a hobby...it is a calling. It's not something to do if you can squeeze the time in, It's what God gave you time for." -quoted by Neil Anderson.
I'm not perfect. I still get tired and overwhelmed and whiny. But I never doubt the opportunity I have to mother these kids is priceless. Much of that assurance, I got from watching Amy.
So now on to why I'm so riled up over an episode of LPBW I recently watched. It's no secret that Matt and Amy have "relationship challenges". Actually, from what we see on t.v. they bicker and struggle a LOT. So much I want to knock their heads together and say, "Get it together, you ding dongs!" Who knows, an outsider watching me fight with my husband might say the same thing. I know it feels easy to solve OTHER people's problems.
The episode in question featured their son Zachary issuing a challenge for them to tie a rope to each of their waists, connecting them chain gang style, so that they would be forced to spend 24 hours working together and cooperating. The challenge began with an agreement to spend the first half of the day on Amy's stuff and then the afternoon on Matt's things he needed to do. Amy's day started out much like my days do. Cleaning up after people, throwing in a load of laundry, washing dishes, watering and a plant that's on its last gasping breath of life, taking out trash, setting out things to prep for dinner etc. She ran around like a chicken with her head cut off. Like all busy moms do.
From my experience, daily mom activities often get mixed up and derailed. For example, when I go to take the trash out and find the dog has peed in the hallway, I stop and clean it up. And then after I clean that up I remember I was actually just trying to clear off the counters, but there was no more room in the trash for the used paper plates and that's why I had to take out the trash and that's when I found the dog pee. And that's why someone looking in from the outside might think I'm a hot mess.
Matt thought Amy was worse. He watched her buzz around and do what we moms do. He was disgusted. He commented again and again about her poor use of time and lack of organization. How her time could better be spent out of kitchen - out of the house. He thought he knew better. He thought all that she was working on could and should be hired out. Later in the day when she began making a dinner of delicious veggies he turned up his nose and criticized her meal choice. Half way through her preparation, he demanded they leave and go out to eat something he wanted to eat. My jaw hit the ground.
His behavior was one of the worst messages I've seen on t.v. And it is SAD that I'm not exaggerating. As he watched her labor for the family, this is what he should have said. "Thank you, Amy for all that you do around here. I know it must not be easy to pick up after people who leave their messes. Thank you for the clean clothes on my back. Thank you for your desire to gather us around the table to talk and enjoy a healthy meal. Thank you for prioritizing time spent in this house so that when one of our children log off of the Xbox or their Iphones and wander through the kitchen for a snack, you are there at the crossroads to talk, and check in with them. Thank you for making this house a home with your love, your presence, your food, and the work of your hands. You are my greatest treasure. May I give you a kiss?"
As much as I mourn the fact that he didn't uplift, encourage and praise his wife for the little and big things she does to serve her family, I am volcanic about the ripple effect. How many mothers or wives were watching and felt the sting of his words? How many of us felt a devaluation of our life's work? How many battles do we fight that try to beat into us that being a mom and wife isn't a real job? How many television shows tell us to be truly powerful we must seduce, deceive, fight and scrape, put off a godly life, demean ourselves and toss away anything ladylike? How many shows devalue qualities such as patience, tenderness, femininity and old-fashioned work? These messages scream in my face at every turn and I can't help but to scream back.
It is good and lovely and virtuous to honor and hold dear my role as a wife and mother. The work of my hands and the fruit of my loins are known by God and they mean something. I do not need any worldly power, because as the poet William Ross Wallace said, "The hand that rocks the cradle is the hand that rules the world".
So please, Matt. If your wife values time spent in her home taking care of the family in the way that she sees fit, let her. In fact, praise her. She does not spend every minute in a way that you would, but isn't that great? Isn't it wonderful that the sexes are driven to care for their families in such different ways? You are a giant among men with your abilities and imagination. You have built a monument of beautiful success your family will always enjoy. But so has Amy. In pondering all of the big things you have done, consider these words from a wise man, "No success will compensate for failure in the home." - David MacKay.
And you might be fed up with the way Amy does or doesn't value your life's work. And I know it takes two to tango. And I know it's a t.v. show that may edit words out of context. And I know I'm writing a blog post to a celebrity who will never read it. But I had to say what I said, because for all of the power and ability you have to spread a message, most of which has been wonderful and inspiring, this time you blew it big time.