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Lynn Schmidt: 'Homemaker' may not be for everyone, but is a noble calling

Lynn Schmidt, St. Louis Post-Dispatch on

Published in Op Eds

While Harrison Butker said quite a few controversial and outrageous things during his commencement address at Benedictine College, extolling the virtues of being a homemaker should not be considered one of them.

On May 11, the placekicker for the Kansas City Chiefs delivered the commencement address at Benedictine College, a private, Catholic liberal arts college in Atchison, Kansas. In his speech, Butker, who is Catholic, encouraged the young women who were about to receive their diplomas to embrace the idea of being a homemaker.

In the aftermath of the speech, the wife-and-mother has been thrust into the culture war. As with most of these assaults, statements are taken out of context and ideas are weaponized. We also tend to miss the nuance of what can be complicated decisions.

Butker told the crowd: “I’m on the stage today and able to be the man I am because I have a wife who leans into her vocation. I’m beyond blessed with the many talents God has given me, but it cannot be overstated that all of my success is made possible because a girl I met in band class back in middle school would convert to the faith, become my wife, and embrace one of the most important titles of all: homemaker.”

If you read or listen to his words carefully, you’ll notice Butker is praising his wife Isabelle and thanking her. He’s not demeaning her or the other women in the auditorium. Rather, he is extolling the virtues of homemaking.

There have been two women who have had the biggest impact on me as a woman and a mother: my mom and my mother’s sister, my Aunt Marge.

My mother, along with my father, worked full-time in order to provide for our family. I have written before that when I left for college, my mother worked three jobs to help pay for my schooling, so I would not need to take out loans for my education.

My mom’s dedication to her family was revealed in the way in which she contributed. My mom provided an example of work ethic and I am genuinely grateful.

When I was in elementary school, too young to stay home alone, I spent summers staying with my aunt and uncle. My Aunt Marge raised four children of her own. She prepared breakfast, lunch, and dinner for all six of them every day.

Their family never ate out and carrying out was an extremely rare occasion. Her house was clean and organized. The boys’ shirts were always ironed and the clean and folded laundry was delivered to beds each week. Aunt Marge was always there when her kids came home from school.

The summer days spent at their home were filled with a combination of structured activity as well as unscheduled play time. I look back on those summers fondly, all because of my Aunt Marge.

Aunt Marge showed me that being a homemaker is something to be proud of and not dismissed. There is real value in caring for a family. It is meaningful labor.

 

Both women were dedicated to their husbands and children and they both worked incredibly hard. While they may have chosen different ways to express their adoration to their families, neither should be judged on just how they did it.

My journey has been a combination of sorts. When people ask, I tell them I have had three careers.

The first is nursing. I earned my bachelors of science in nursing in the 1990s. I worked full time as a registered nurse and was working as a nurse when I met the man who would become my husband.

I consider motherhood as my second career. After we married, we chose to start a family, and eventually welcomed our first daughter who was born with special needs. I continued to work as a nurse per-diem in those early days of our daughter’s development.

My husband and I made the difficult decision to pull our daughter out of public school in the first grade and homeschool her for medical reasons. As my husband worked shifts, I worked when he was off. We also had help from extended family.

I gave birth to another daughter, continued to homeschool our first daughter, and worked part-time as a nurse, all while maintaining our home.

My third career came much later, as I entered graduate school in my 50s and only recently received my masters in political science.

Of the three, being a mother and a homemaker is what I am most proud of.

I share the intimate details of my life as a way to express that a woman’s choice on how she wants to spend her life is deeply personal and has no place in the ongoing cultural skirmishes.

My younger daughter is currently in college and is on her own trajectory. I hope she will find fulfillment and satisfaction in whatever she chooses to do with her life, whether that is through a career, or as a mother, or a homemaker, or some other combination.

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