A bird cannot fly in your hand

“A bird cannot fly in your hand. You’ll never be free if you don’t understand, that a bird cannot fly in your hand”

Erasmo Switzer (Obscure musician I met in 1976 while hitch hiking near Chillicothe, Ohio)



Barbara Rainey writes about facing life once her last daughter flew the coup. Cane Caldo wrote, at Dalrock,  about women needing children. I will not attempt a paraphrase, but I agreed with what he said.

Inadvertently Barbara illustrates this. What I am saying she illustrates is not what she is intending to illustrate, but rather I am suggesting her words are proof text for Cane’s point.

I felt as if I had been fired from my job. Downsized and shown the door! Who was I now? What was my purpose?

Even though we had talked a great deal about this transition in advance, I discovered I needed my husband to help me evaluate this new season of life. Even though the change was also drastic for him, for me it was much more.

So, simply put she says she needed kids around to ground her purpose in life. But that was not exactly what Cane was getting at in a complete sense. Canes point gets a little clearer once you read this:

When I was going through this process, I needed a lot of talk time with Dennis. One day I’d wake up feeling excited about my new freedom; then I’d find myself sad all over again at the loss. It was unpredictable. Few of our discussions ended with clear direction.

She needed a lot of talk time. But none of it yielded anything. Nothing. No thing.

After all that talk therapy though she celebrates,

But there’s no other way that God’s purposes for you and God’s purposes for your spouse can become God’s purposes for us unless you’re walking through this together. God has more planned for your lives beyond the years of raising children. And that can be exciting!

What is it?….., The plan? The outcome? But she said there was no outcome. I’m confused.

As a man reading this, I am not sure what she said, but whatever it was she ended up excited about it. Excited is good right?

The insidious part is very subtle. She has just offered fodder for those who would say “a woman is far more than just a mother”. She has offered the “encouragement” that there is more to life than being a mother. Just hang in there gals, and then you get to talk talk talk about your purpose other than mothering and find that your new purpose and the path to and through it will be a new and untapped well spring of empathy. For there is no other reason under the sun for talk talk talking to no practical end besides experiencing empathy.

She did not stop being a mother when they left. Nothing supplanted that in Gods plan. There needn’t be big bold exciting things on the horizon, world changing things. Its just not necessary for God’s plans to be perceived that way.


17 thoughts on “A bird cannot fly in your hand

  1. Okay, friend. I have to register a little bit of disagreement with you here, but just a little. Once your children “fly the coop”, and particularly if they marry, you do have to consider what you are besides a mother. You simply must. You don’t have to be doing world changing things, but you do need to find something else to do.

    When our 3 older children were on the brink of being teenagers and I decided I should go back to work my husband said, “No. You can just have more of my babies and you’ll have plenty to keep you busy.” So I did. Now my calendar is full for the next 13 years again, but when that time ends, I won’t have the option of popping out new babies to stretch the years of mothering. Assuming I am healthy and reasonably energetic, I will need to prayerfully consider how to fill my days.

    The thing that struck me about this was that Mrs. Rainey demonstrates how prone we women are to discontentment. Of all women, this is one who should be able to see a path even as she misses her time with her children. After all, Titus 2 is what she does, right? They have a worldwide ministry ostensibly dedicated to it in one way or another. Why so much angst?

  2. I’ll agree with Elspeth, but take it one step further. Long before the kids fly the coop, a woman needs to be settled into the role of wife first, mother second.

    among other things, the church and culture have undercut marriage but putting the children at the forefront. You don’t leave your parents to cleave to your children.

  3. Not really a disagreement. Of course women should find something to do. That’s a correct statement, something to do….with extra time etc.

    You get to the main point when you mention discontentment, living in the head so to speak, see, Titus 2 was part of what I’m saying, she is still a mother, that her kids moved out, mothering is still there in terms of mentoring or whatever. I sense her angst was about things she would consider more profound. Its not unlike the secular woman (and man) who would say when asked of retirement, they “want to travel”.

  4. An excellent point on cleaving to kids.

    But Elspeth and I are on the same page on the other, I think, more than it initially would appear.

    Lots of mama widowers I know out there

  5. Long before the kids fly the coop, a woman needs to be settled into the role of wife first, mother second.

    Very true. This is something we set a pattern with early on. Our kids know that I am SAM’s wife first and foremost. Don’t test it.

    Which underscores even more javaloco, my initial comment. If my husband had as big and wide-reaching mission as hers I can’t imagine not knowing what I should be doing next because my husband wouldn’t hesitate to tell me.

  6. I should add that I don’t necessarily think that Family Life is strengthening Christian marriage as much as they’d like to believe. Apologizing for Voddie Baucham is a serious red flag on the question of their credibility.

    But since they have built such a mega ministry I’d think the wife of a man who leads something of that magnitude would be able to find something constructive to do. That was my point.

    Speaking of doing something constructive, I should unplug from Empath’s comedy improv hour (yeah, I’m laughing at the comments you’re dropping here and there). Gotta finish dinner.

  7. I imagine when my son moves out on his own I will subsequently experience something of a gap in my life. Currently I have him with me about half time due to joint custody. When the time arrives for me to only have his company during adult visits, I’m sure I will undergo some sort of uncomfortable emotional adjustment.

  8. I refrained myself from commenting several ‘Are we there yet’ laughs after reading your words on the recent ketchup journey Empathologism!
    Elspeth you mentioned not responding at the drop of a hat or something like this – how do you reign it in? I’m thinking I ought to read more and participate far far less but it’s very difficult to choose how to go about it 🙂 I’m asking you because I find your comments here there and anywhere I’ve come across you to be worthwhile. Any suggestions?

  9. Empath:
    I’m skeptical about any woman who says anything like this. With the rates of abortion, kids in daycares, and divorces what they are; whenever I hear a female emoting over children, I arch my eyebrows. I don’t think women especially think they need children any more than they think they need a man. In fact a recent study about declining birthrates and increasing female refusal to bear children seems to support this.

    Whatever serves their own selfish ends is all that matters to them. The very fact that 1/3 of them visit abortion mills without the slightest remorse shows that even the so-called ‘maternal instinct’ means nothing to them.

  10. Elspeth you mentioned not responding at the drop of a hat or something like this – how do you reign it in?

    It is not easy, Hannah. Well it has gotten easier the more I practice it but I still find myself typing a comments on a blog only to delete the whole thing and remain silent.

    Unless I feel very strongly about an issue (such as the subject of submission at Dalrock’s) or feel very comfortable bantering with a particular blogger or putting my feet up on the table (such as here), I keep my comments few and far between.

    The way you reign it in is to simply reign it in. I also file certain ideas away in drafts on my own blog so that I can revisit the subject more thoughtfully at a later date if I find it a topic that I cannot shake from my mental Rolodex.

    For the record, your comments are often far more constructive and edifying than anything I have to offer. I don’t know you of course, but you seem the picture of blog commenting restraint to me.

  11. Elspeth and Empathalogism, I appreciate your kind words.

    “The way you reign it in is to simply reign it in.”
    This reminds me of a time last Summer when I talked to a beautiful Titus 2 woman in our homeschooling group about being convicted in regards to wearing swimsuits.
    I asked her how do I find modest swimwear for the beach? She just looked at me and smiled and then said she was sure I already knew the answer 🙂

    “I also file certain ideas away in drafts on my own blog so that I can revisit the subject more thoughtfully at a later date if I find it a topic that I cannot shake from my mental Rolodex.”

    I’ve got a dozen or so of these drafts in my ‘potential blog’. The thing is I am just not convinced that it’s a good idea for me to go ahead with it for several reasons – not least of all TIME!
    How much time does it take to maintain/moderate a blog? I can get tunnel vision and not really sure that I’d be capable of still keeping my house and children in order or if I’d let things slide in all directions…. my man is ok with me being here as long as it’s not at the expense of our household!
    I hope you don’t mind me using here as a questions and answers spot – would a blog be best anonymous? Thanks in advance 🙂

    “I don’t know you of course”
    It’s funny how we’re unlikely to ever actually meet IRL and yet it can still seem as though we do know each other!
    Of all the people I’ve ‘met’ on the internet Elspeth – you come across as the most genuine, warm and truthful.
    It is a joy to read your comments – and I imagine you as a wise and lovely big sister 🙂
    I hope that’s ok! I’ve also found an online father figure who, despite having a truly horrifying head, reminds me of my own father in many ways 🙂

  12. @ Hannah:

    My blog takes up about an hour and a half a day, and on the weekends I mostly ignore it. After my quiet time in the morning (5:30), I check my email real quick and sometimes respond to comments before I head out for my walk at 6:15. Then I leave it alone until we finish our morning lessons around 10:30.

    Like most anyone else, I occasionally spend a little more time online than I should if I get tangled up in an especially interesting blog convo, but my blog is so slow that it rarely calls me to moderate very much. It is by design that I am only posting on Mondays. I can keep up with that.

    I use timers to keep me moving in a productive direction throughout the day. Timers and lists. Without them, I’m worth far less, and that was true before I ever knew the blogosphere existed.

    It is a joy to read your comments – and I imagine you as a wise and lovely big sister.

    I don’t mind being a big sister. Especially since I’ve only ever been a little sister. 🙂 .

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