I was reading this wonderful article and decided I’d like to write on the subject as well, since it helped me realize something important.
I have the opportunity to stay at home with my son, which is a blessing that not many have in our society and economy.
Most of the people I interact with are religious and have been nothing but supportive and encouraging of our lifestyle and of my choice to stay home. However, I have run into a few comments that may have meant nothing, yet gave me an impression, and I also am aware that not everyone in the world sees the “stay-at-home” mom choice as an admirable “career.” Though I may not be able to think of people I know personally with that view, I’d still like to write about it, if just to encourage others who are in my position.
As of this moment, I am only parenting one child (though that will change around July). And my son is just about 15 months. The first few/several months are an obvious adjustment and they are difficult and much work, but once Isaac became mobile and began finding his own routine and could entertain himself, my job became much easier. Cleaning the house was doable, cooking became simpler, life kind of returned to a new, more predictable normal.
In my moments of doubt, I felt guilty for having it “easy” and when I did become overwhelmed, I discouraged myself further by thinking of the women with two, three, six children who still manage their households and homeschool and look great and always have energy and are super happy.
Or I would compare myself to moms who work outside of the home as well and deal with even more demands than I do.
Do those other situations make my situation, or being a stay-at-home mom (even to a small number of children) a lesser responsibility?
I realized the other day that what makes this lifestyle choice important is not how stressful or difficult it is. There will always be other jobs or family situations that are more demanding and stressful and exhausting, but that criteria alone does not decide how valuable a job is (ex: drug dealing: probably very worrisome and stressful with high-risks and possible death involved, yet still somehow pretty low on the impressive-job scale). Sometimes my days are easygoing and nice and (almost) everything goes according to plan (at least to my standards, but you might get a different opinion if you ask my husband ;)). Sometimes I want to pull my hair out and Isaac isn’t the only one crying and wanting a nap. Before I go any further, I have absolutely no doubt that as Isaac grows older, this job really will become tricky and difficult. Once discipline becomes more serious and especially when homeschooling begins, once I’m raising a toddler as well as a newborn, once our children develop interests and language and then of course, when they enter teenage territory…I have no doubt that I’ll feel very confident in the fact that being a stay-at-home mom is a challenge.
But there is something special about being with your young children each day, even before they can speak (coherently) and just as you’re beginning to start a family. I’m a firm believer in foundations, and children need a foundation of love and consistency in those first years. I may not see the rewards right away, but i know that Isaac is benefiting from my presence and my availability and care.
Days that go well shouldn’t be a source of guilt, and days that don’t go well shouldn’t be a source of guilt either.
I’ve felt as though some have tried to make me feel guilty for being able to “have so much time to read and figure out how I want to parent” when they had to leave and work to provide for their families and didn’t get to make decisions. It sometimes seems like having the freedom to make choices for my family is something that ranks close to laziness on the good-parent scale.
What I wish is that there would be less judgment – judgment of others and judgment of ourselves. Just because I believe in the choice we made as a family and because I think it is so important and because I’ve made some unusual parenting choices does not mean that I think it makes me a better parent, or that I look down on those who choose otherwise or that I don’t understand that we don’t live in a perfect world. Not everyone wants to, or can stay at home. Not everyone wants to raise their children the way I am.
But I think there needs to be a respect for the decisions of others. I know several amazing working mothers, and stay-at-home moms and single moms and married-forever-with-a-dozen-children mothers. No matter what kind of mom you are, you’re going to have an impact on your children and you’re going to raise them in the way you think is right and that is important.
Everything in this world relies on family. Government, any sort of advancement in society or technology, religion, future generations, morality, everything evolves based on the effort of parents to love, guide and bring up their children.
Ultimately, I think we can be our own harshest critic. Yes, there are people that demean motherhood or homemaking or underestimate it’s importance, but how we react to those judgments depends on our own confidence in our choices.
I’m not demanding that mothers be lifted onto a pedestal. I am saying that if you’re like me, and you have doubts or guilt or you feel like you don’t know what you’re doing and you don’t feel like much of anything special and you wonder if what you’re doing is reeeally that important, or if you make mistakes sometimes and you compare yourself to others in different situations, then maybe you could benefit from knowing that your children need you, no matter how old they are, and knowing that whatever it is that you’re doing for their benefit, will pay off.
And from a spiritual aspect, there is simply no shame and no guilt in staying home with your children. Purposeful motherhood is a praised Biblical thing and children are lifted up in the Bible. God knows how precious a young soul is and He knows the importance of family.
That is something we could all do well to meditate on.
I may never have daughters, but a significant reason for wanting one is for the opportunity to teach her things that I wasn’t taught. I wasn’t brought up knowing the value of motherhood, of staying at home or raising children. I didn’t learn to cook or iron until I was married. I didn’t start reading about the wife’s role until my engagement. I still don’t always know what I’m doing with Isaac- mothering isn’t always natural to me. I would love the opportunity to raise a daughter that values working at home and taking care of a family. I would love to give my daughter a confidence in making the decisions she thinks best for her family, even if that means she doesn’t pursue extra schooling or doesn’t have a degree in some profession. If “homemaking is a dwindling career”, I would love to instill the importance of such in our future generation- just one daughter at a time.
Okay, back to the main topic ;)
If there are things we’re lacking, or if maybe somehow our priorities have flip-flopped, then we can always make those changes. Sometimes working mothers get criticism because their attention and devotion is inevitably divided, but I think it’s a joke or a lie if you think stay-at-home moms can’t or won’t get distracted as well, whether it’s housework or community service, or involvement with other women, spiritual activities or even their own personal pursuits.
It’s something that every parent should be mindful of.
Sometimes Isaac is so naturally independent that I find other things to dedicate my time to; cooking, cleaning, reading, writing, art…Facebook. ;)
Guilt can be overwhelming and disabling, but in moderation, it can be a motivator. So while I don’t like unnecessary guilt and I don’t think we should be hard on ourselves, I do think that we should all open our eyes to what is really important as parents, and make any changes that we may need.
“Behold, children are a heritage from the Lord, the fruit of the womb a reward. Like arrows in the hand of a warrior are the children of one’s youth. Blessed is the man who fills his quiver with them! He shall not be put to shame when he speaks with his enemies in the gate.” – Psalm 127:3-5
“Train up a child in the way he should go; even when he is old he will not depart from it.” – Proverbs 22:6
“But when Jesus saw it, he was indignant and said to them, “Let the children come to me; do not hinder them, for to such belongs the kingdom of God.” – Mark 10:14
“Fathers, do not provoke your children to anger, but bring them up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord.” – Ephesians 6:4
“She looks well to the ways of her household
and does not eat the bread of idleness.
Her children rise up and call her blessed;
her husband also, and he praises her” – Proverbs 31:27, 28