Once upon a time, there was a fair princess who, though she was beautiful (especially in her parents' eyes), was very confused. Her mother, the queen, loved the castle and was content to raise her family within its walls. But everyday rabble-rousers outside the castle banged on the gates and tossed rocks with messages tied round them into the courtyard. The princess would untie the messages and read them:
"The queen is wasting her life, just staying in the castle with you and the young princes."
"Princess, the queen is a coward. Or maybe she's just lazy. Then again, I bet she's not very smart. Because brave, busy and bright queens leave their castles and become part of the real world."
"I can't believe how selfish the queen is. She makes your father, the king, work like a serf to take care of her while she watches Oprah the Great spin tales all day."
The princess, who up until this time had been happy to play in the castle with her brothers and the queen, began to mope. "If the queen would get a job outside the castle, my life would be so much better," she thought. "There would be money for more toys, I could play with other kids all day at Wee Royal Daycare, and the queen could drive me about in a brand-new carriage."
The king noticed the princess pouting, and beckoned her to him. "What's the matter, Child?" he asked as she crawled up in his lap. When the princess told him about her plight, the king realized it was time for a royal chat. He beckoned the princes and the queen, and the entire royal family gathered to hear his words.
"Alas," the king began, "I fear a plague has entered the castle grounds, transported here by the rocks thrown over the castle walls. It is affluenza, a dangerous and fast-growing affliction that brings sorrow to the families it infects."
"Affluenza's victims are stricken with a warped perception of true wealth," the king explained. "Instead of valuing what they have, they want more. They trade their time for things, and then have no time to enjoy the things they've traded for."
"Princess, don't you like to play with the queen and the princes?" he asked. She nodded. "Well, if you spend from 7 a.m. until 6 p.m. everyday in Wee Royal Daycare, you won't have much time to play with the queen. And since Wee Royal Daycare doesn't take princes under 2 years old, you'll be separated from your youngest brother, too." The princess scooted a little closer to the baby prince.
"With the gold the queen made from working outside the castle, we could afford to buy the new carriage," the king acknowledged. "But you wouldn't spend much time in it, except driving back and forth to Wee Royal Daycare. And new carriages cost so much, there wouldn't be much money left over for new toys, either."
"It's nice having the queen around to help you learn and answer questions, isn't it?" the king asked. "At Wee Royal Daycare, there are nice teachers, too. But with one teacher to ten children, they are very busy, and what's important to you and the queen isn't always important to them."
"Tell me what you saw the queen doing today at the castle," the king said.
"Let's see," the princess thought. "She cleaned the castle, bartered with shop owners, washed and mended our clothing. She soothed the baby prince, counseled the teen prince, and helped me with my letters. Then she prepared the feast, and listened to you talk about fighting dragons outside the castle."
"The queen doesn't sound lazy or scared or dumb to me," observed the king.
"She's wonderful," cried the princess, as she threw her arms around the queen.
"Yes, she is," said the king. "And I should have let you know I thought so earlier. Sometimes I get so busy fighting dragons, I forget to say how much I appreciate her creating a safe haven inside the castle."
"Princess, there's a wide, often whimsical world beyond these walls. You have many choices of what you might do with your life when you grow up. But no matter what you do, remember that simply becoming queen of your castle is a noble choice."
Cheryl Gochnauer is queen of her castle in Kansas City, Missouri. You can write her at [email protected], or visit www.homebodies.org to read her column and those of other family-focused authors. Cheryl's books, "So You Want to Be a Stay-at-Home Mom" and "Stay-at-Home Handbook: Advice on Parenting, Finances, Career, Surviving Each Day and Much More", are available at your favorite bookstore or public library. If you'd like an autographed copy, visit this link: http://www.gospelcom.net/homebodies/bookstore/orderSAHH.htm.