Few whom I’ve met directly say being a stay-at-home mom is a lesser vocation. Many misguidedly try to bolster the view of motherhood by empathizing with how repetitive and hectic housework and kids can be. “How hard, whew, how tiring, I feel ya, I can’t imagine, I bet you’re exhausted. I couldn’t do that.” But what they mean is they wouldn’t do that. Being at home, to some, is the kind of day labor reserved for those without a brain or other options, difficult only because of its mundane repetition and noisyness. Not hard because of mental challenge and personal growth; not the “worthy” kind of exertion. Many women, both those who have escaped to an outside career and those who are begrudgingly tied to the house, are longing for something more meaningful and struggle to see the glory in the dirty work. Here are some fundamentals that helped me:
My mindset shifted when an older woman admonished me to view my endeavors as a career. We are not lacking a career, this is our career. We sell ourselves short, treating it rather like a job. Doing the bare minimum, longing for something greater, never going beyond the task directly in front of us, viewing it as temporary work until we graduate to something of importance. What if we viewed our children as a career? How much more would we find to do? How much better would we do even the smaller tasks? What kind of initiative would we take?
Career advancement requires training, perfection of skills, and that goes for the career of motherhood as well. Let’s learn from the older and wiser, in whatever form. Unless we’re doing everything perfectly, there is always room for more guidance.
Speaking of training: our children need training. Therefore, we need training so we are practicing what we preach; so that we don’t poison our children with the spiritually fatal effects of hypocrisy. Parenting is not potty-training. It’s not even midnight feedings or menu planning. It’s loving the Lord God with all our heart, soul, strength, keeping his commands and speaking of him to our children as we sit, walk, and wake. The amount of emotional and spiritual strength which this takes-that’s one of the hardest parts of parenting. Someone else can change our child’s diaper and occupy them for eight hours and organize their laundry better than us, but only we can demonstrate God’s love through our presence, guidance, and love, only we can teach them His nature and His word by embracing our motherhood and their childhood. This does not come naturally; this kind of parenting requires the wisdom of God and more experienced women, so don’t be afraid of feelings of inadequate.
Let’s also not underestimate the importance of the little years; the years of foundational work where children learn habits, character, learn of God’s creation, his love, the beauty of family and structure. Infancy and toddlerhood is confusing, exhausting, difficult, easy to disregard, and also incredibly pivotal.
Most of the battle is getting off the fence and jumping into acceptance of raising our children at home. As long as we’re straddling that fence and our heart is divided, we’ll never find the fulfillment (I should know-I couldn’t have written this even two years ago). Parenting is sacrifice, but isn’t every other career? When our heart is in it, sacrifice isn’t a burden. What’s holding you back from embracing this career? Why are you drawn to exchanging “something that is unique to you for something someone else can do”? Do some soul searching, and lay it out to God as often as possible until you get to the root.
There’s an assumption that only college or a career can provide stimulation or flourishing, yet what is life but learning, growing, and meeting challenges? That internal wick waiting to be ignited was placed within us by God. And the necessity and responsibility of mothers within a family was also created by God. Is it possible these two are not opposed; that they could even go hand-in-hand? Professional men and women take classes, attend seminars, go through training, learn and develop skills, mentor others, take on projects, read books, and admire some of the best in their fields. Don’t think motherhood must be anything less. Grow yourself and your skills which relate to motherhood. And then grow yourself and skills which relate to your faith. And then life. Just grow, always. Read the classics, go through Harvard’s five foot bookshelf or Mortimer Adler’s booklist. Master the Bible. Find worthy podcasts. Teach yourself a skill, then teach the children. Learn! Why should the acquisition of education be exclusive to university students? Does learning end after graduation? No, someone won’t hand us a syllabus or deadline, but consequently we’ll develop self-discipline. I don’t know about you, but I’d love to be a disciplined person someday so I’m trying to practice now.
It is possible to waste it. And it’s probable many will waste it because of distractions. You know what’s hard about being a stay-at-home mom besides the spiritual effort? The aforementioned self-discipline. Let’s not write it off as “not being cut out” for that type of work, instead let’s develop ourselves. Accept the challenge. That was me-I have poor, if any, executive functioning skills, I didn’t know how to cook or manage a household, I was not a kid person, basically anything a stay-at-home mom should be, I wasn’t. And I kicked against the goad for several years before relenting. No, it is not natural for me to do anything our family is doing. It took a lot of grace and a lot of work. I think we pay too much attention to whether or not something comes easily too us, abandoning it if it doesn’t. Also, call me crazy, but try banning screens. They could be one of the greatest obstacles between us and discipline. Distraction entices, whether in the form of screens or in the form of activities and busyness that ultimately only amount to filler. Who, what type of person, do we want to be when we’re old? And what do we want our children to remember about their childhood? Now let’s act accordingly. And then of course repent often because we’re going to fail.
Wake up with intention, wake up on purpose. Create our atmosphere, center our attention on God, then on our children.
By God’s abundant mercy, may we be present each day. May we truly be blessings to our households, may we live in such a way that our hearts won’t sting with regret and tears won’t roll when our hair is white and our hands shake and our grandchildren are growing and time is slipping and the important things in life seem so much clearer than ever before.