I recently overheard a conversation between two Christian grandmothers who were talking about their daughters’ struggles as working mothers. It went something like this:
Grandma #1: “Well, Kristen really had a hard time for the first week or so after going back to work at the bank. For a while, she would cry after leaving the baby screaming with the sitter. She would text every couple of hours to check on her. Now, she’s a pro. It’s a lot easier now for her to get through her day without constantly thinking about and worrying about the baby.”
Grandma #2: “Yeah, it’s hard for every mom at first, but it’s important for her to get back out there and feel like a real woman again. My daughter found this great Ethiopian woman who kept babies in her home. It was obvious the woman had tons of experience caring for infants, so Janie felt fine leaving the baby with her, but it was hard at first, especially when the baby cried as she was leaving, but she knew it would make little Annie strong and independent in the end, and it would mean she wouldn’t have to give up her career.”
Hearing this dialogue made my heart ache for those sweet babies as well as for our culture as a whole.
I am a stay-at-home-mom. Just saying that out loud would make some women feel uncomfortable. Our society has convinced so many women that being a stay-at-home-mom means you aren’t a real woman—that you aren’t reaching your full potential if you allow yourself to “waste your talents and abilities by keeping yourself locked away from the world at home.” This breaks my heart. I believe there are many misconceptions floating around about the reason someone would choose to stay at home with her children. These misconceptions may be why the stigma exists.
Now, let me just say that I know this probably won’t be a very popular post. I know that if I were to say any of these things on a public talk show, I would probably never be invited back (not that I’d ever be invited to a talk show to start with). I’d be ridiculed and belittled. I’m not saying any of this to be liked. I’m saying it because I think it’s important and I wish more people who believe it would stand up and say so. Also, if you’re going to read this, I hope you’ll take 5 minutes to actually read to the end, because if you’re angered or bothered by my opinion on the subject, the end may offset your desire to throw rotten tomatoes at me.
My husband and I have known since before we were married that I would only work outside the home until we had our own children, and then I would stay at home with them at least until our nest is empty again. We have our reasons for that, which I’ll include in this article. But let’s set the record straight first. I have my list of reasons for being a stay-at-home Mom, but none of the following are on that list:
1. Because we can easily afford it.
While we consider ourselves abundantly blessed by our God, we are not at all wealthy by America’s standards. We live in a smallish three-bedroom house and we drive old cars. We are well aware that we could live in a nicer house in a nicer neighborhood and drive nicer cars and use nicer appliances if we were living on two incomes. But we just knew early on that my staying at home would mean sacrifice. It wouldn’t be easy or convenient. We always knew that, even if it meant living in a one-room apartment, sharing one car, and never eating out, it would be totally worth it if it meant I could stay at home. While we are richly blessed, staying at home isn’t the easiest financial choice. That’s not why we do it.
2. Because I’m lazy.
It’s so ironic to me that people say to me, “You don’t work, right?” It’s a loaded question. I know what they mean, but nothing could be farther from the truth. In actuality, I work constantly. I think people have this idea in their heads that stay-at-home moms sit on the couch and watch TV all day. Maybe it’s like that for some moms—I don’t know—but for me, I’m constantly either feeding my son, changing my son, cleaning my son, playing with my son, reading to my son, etc. The only times I get “a break” are when he’s napping, and those are pretty much my only times to catch up on personal hygiene (yes, I’m actually proud of myself when I get a daily shower), housework, laundry, cooking, writing, or sometimes, if I had a night like last night, collapsing on the couch to re-fuel after being awake all night caring for my child (I’m choosing today to write this blog during nap time instead of catching a nap myself—let me tell you, it hurts. Ha!). So, do we do it because I prefer to spend my day lounging around doing nothing? Nope. Not even close.
3. Because I’m not educated enough to do something else.
While I don’t consider myself particularly smart or talented, I do believe I’m capable of doing a few other things with my life. I obtained a Bachelors degree in English, and went on to teach high school English. I’ve been a newspaper columnist. I’ve worked with special needs adults. In any one of these fields, I could have chosen a career, I think. But nothing in the world could I ever find more fulfilling than investing all of my time, energy, and passion into raising my son and any future siblings he may have.
I don’t need to be successful by the world’s standards to achieve a feeling of self-worth. I also don’t wish I could go back and save all that money spent on my education. If, God forbid, something happened to my husband and I were left alone to provide for our family, I believe I would be able to support us and thus I am grateful for my education and experiences.
I also use lessons learned from my education daily in our home and in my relationships. So I will keep on being grateful for the education—a definite blessing from God.
4. Because I’m paranoid about my child being exposed to THE ELEMENTS.
While I do try to reasonably protect my child from unnecessary illness, I’m not so paranoid that I’m afraid for him to be anywhere besides the safe confines of our home. I’m sure there are all kinds of germs all over the place in my house. If only I were a good enough housekeeper that I would never doubt that my son was perfectly free from any harmful bacteria after licking my kitchen floor. But we actually live in this house. Our reasons for keeping me at home have nothing to do with my fear of allowing my son to leave the house and be around other people, which brings me to the next false reason for staying at home:
5. Because I don’t trust anyone enough to ever leave my child with her.
I trust several people in this area who I know would make great date-night babysitters for my son—people who will love him and protect him and cuddle with him and laugh with him—and I plan to take advantage of them very soon for said date nights (my son is only 4 months old, after all—we’ll get there!). There’s a difference, however, between date night sitters and all-day every day sitters. Although I trust several women to babysit my child, none of those women is my son’s mother. No one else on this green earth knows him and wraps her life around around his needs like I do. I didn’t have a child so that I could give him to someone else to raise during the majority of his awake time. That’s my responsibility, my privilege, my joy. Trust another to do a great job? Yes. Abdicate and let another do MY job? No. Now for the 5 reasons I do choose to stay at home with my son:
1. Because I believe it’s Biblical.
Bringing up children in the Lord is more than a part-time job. I believe the Bible teaches this. Titus 2: 3-5 says,
“…the older women likewise, that they be reverent in behavior, not slanderers, not given to much wine, teachers of good things, that they admonish the young women to love their husbands, to love their children, to be discreet, chaste, homemakers, good, obedient to their own husbands, that the word of God may not be blasphemed.”
In other words, if I’m unloving, indiscreet, unchaste, disobedient to my husband…and if I’m not a homemaker, I, by my own actions, may cause the Word to be blasphemed. Directly or indirectly, I partake in this sad and sinful scenario. Other versions of this text use the words “working at home,” “keepers at home,” and “busy at home,” in the place of “homemaker.” But, according to the Liddell-Scott-Jones Greek Lexicon, in the original Greek in which this passage was written, the word is “oikourous,” which, translated, literally means “keeper of the home, mistress of the house, housekeeper, stay-at-home a domestic.” This word was even sometimes used to contemptuously describe a cowardly man who stayed at home instead of going to war with the other men. But in reference to women, it was “used in praise of a good wife.”
In Deuteronomy 6: 4-7, God instructs His people in how they are to raise their children:
“Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one. You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might. And these words that I command you today shall be on your heart. You shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, and when you walk by the way, and when you lie down, and when you rise.”
Is there any time of the day that we aren’t sitting, walking, lying down, or getting up? Is God saying that every word we speak to our children is to be a Bible lesson with no time for fairy tales or nursery rhymes? Of course not. He is, however, saying that teaching your children about the Word is to be a daily, all-day long effort. Just as we are to be a people who “prays without ceasing” (I Thessalonians 5:17), we are to teach our children about God without ceasing, constantly taking advantage of every opportunity to show them how to love and obey Him in everything.
So many households today look something like this: both parents work a secular job all day or most of the day while a sitter/daycare/public school cares for the children without any thought or mention of the Lord; then when everyone’s finally home, there’s just enough time for dinner and a bath before going to bed and starting over with the same routine the next day. I just don’t see how either of these passages I’ve mentioned can be truly applied and executed with that kind of frenzied, spiritually lacking routine.
2. Because I’m forced (in a good way) to depend on my husband and respect him in his God-given role.
I Timothy 5:8 says,
“But if anyone does not provide for his relatives, and especially for members of his household, he has denied the faith and is worse than an unbeliever.”
Transitioning from living on my own and earning my own wage to living in a one-income household, I’ve had to learn to humbly lean on and depend on my husband who obeys God by working hard to provide for us financially.
That means we share a family budget, and, with the delegated authority he lovingly gives me, I try to respectfully use the money my husband earns for the physical, spiritual, and emotional well-being of our family. There’s no such thing as his money and my money. We share everything, keep no secrets, and I reverence him as the provider and spiritual leader of our home.
3. Because I will never get this time back.
Despite this devastating heartbreaking lump in my throat and sick feeling in the pit of my stomach when I think of it, my sweet baby won’t be a baby long. I know that in the blink of an eye, these chaotic days of diaper changing, frequent feedings, rocking and singing and cuddling will be a vague bittersweet memory. I have heard and fear it is true that it will only feel like a few days between teaching him his ABC’s and bidding him farewell as I drive away, leaving him to spread his wings for college and beyond. There will be a last time he nurses. There will be a last time I sing “Baby Mine” to him as he falls asleep in my arms. There will be a last time he wants to hold my hand while we walk. There will come a day when I’m no longer the only woman that matters in his life.
I don’t want to miss a single thing. I want to be there for his first words, his first steps, and every other new discovery. I don’t want to ever look back and feel that I’ve squandered—lost—this precious, special time. And by the way, children spell love “T-I-M-E.” I want my son (and subsequent children) to look back when they’re grown and remember that their mother made it a priority to spend lots of real, quality, cell-phone free TIME with them every single day because they were the most important priority in her life besides the Lord and her husband.
Time management is hard even if you don’t have an outside-the-home job. I do my best with the housework, but at the end of the day, if I’ve given my all to love and care for my son and there’s still a pile of laundry and a load of dishes waiting to be done, I try not to be to hard on myself, because, as my mother used to sing to me:
“The cleaning and scrubbing can wait till tomorrow
But children grow up as I’ve learned to my sorrow.
So quiet down cobwebs; Dust go to sleep!
I’m rocking my baby and babies don’t keep.”
4. Because the rewards are endless.
Listen, y’all. I love being a mom. I mean I really, REALLY love it. We wouldn’t have decided to have a child if I didn’t expect to love this life. But we believed what God said said in Psalm 127 when he called children a “heritage of the Lord” and a “reward.” And, indeed “reward” is the perfect word for it because the rewards of parenthood truly are endless. Watching my son grow and learn and explore and love me in return has filled my heart with more joy than I ever imagined possible, and I know the swellings of pride and joy I feel in my heart will only grow as we continue raise this amazing child, and (Lord willing) his siblings to come.
Being a mom is a job. An exhausting, 24/7, no-breaks, all-encompassing career with no check at the end of the week. But the honest truth is, even if God hadn’t expressed his desire for women to stay home with their children, I still wouldn’t trade this job for anyone else’s in the world. My heart is with my family, and I’m so so thankful I get to stay where my heart is. I’m so happy I get to be the one who will have watched my son grow and develop and flourish in knowledge and understanding. I’m humbled and terrified and excited about the opportunity to shape his worldview, encourage his passions, embolden his strengths.
Like nothing else ever has, being a mom has given me an overwhelming sense of responsibility, empowerment, and humility all rolled into one big sappy emotion that makes me cry when I pray with my son, when I read to my son, when I watch my husband play with my son, when I watch Disney movies, etc… (I don’t think there’s medication for that kind of emotion.) As a breastfeeding, baby-wearing, stay-at-home mom, I’ve never in my life felt more like a “real woman” than I do now.
There’s no salary in this career path, but the perks and bonuses are out of this world (literally).
5. Because I’m guilt-free about the time I spend with my family.
I’m doing my best to live right now in such a way that when I’m 80 (if I live that long), and looking back on my life, I will have no regrets about failing to savor each moment of my kids’ childhood.
I will long to go back to this time, yes, but hopefully not regret wasting it, because it will have been savored, it will have been appreciated, it will have been cherished. I hope to know in my heart that, while my journey as a mother was strewn with various mistakes (I’m already there now), I did my best to be there for my children in every possible way.
Before you stop reading, let me just say that I know and respect lots of moms who are not stay-at-home moms. I literally grieve inside for the mothers who work outside of the home because they have no other choice. I understand that there are circumstances for some that inescapably mean that, in order to get food on the table, they cannot stay home with their children. I am truly sorrowful for your plight and can imagine the sadness you feel being away from your kids every day. This post is not for you. I also understand that there are lots of Christian moms out there who simply were not raised by stay-at-home moms and may not have thought about the importance of it. You may never have sat down and evaluated which material things you might have to sacrifice in order to make this work. You may have even told yourself that you “have to work” because you “can’t live on one income” while, in reality, you could be living in a smaller house, sharing a car, or making other small sacrifices (small in the grand eternal scheme of things, anyway) that could make this idea a reality for your family. This post is for you.
I’m not writing this to be harsh or judgmental in any way. I’m writing it to give you a little food for thought and to encourage you moms to reject the stigmas, as I have done. I have decided to ignore the labels and stereotypes the world gives stay-at-home moms and that decision has been incredibly freeing and joyful on so many levels.
In terms of eternity, it doesn’t really matter if your family is gluten-free. One day, it won’t really matter if you were into breastfeeding or Babywise or co-sleeping or baby-wearing or cloth-diapering, or baby-led weaning. What will matter is that your family is in heaven.
Kick the labels to the curb. Love your God. Love your family.
…And if you’re in my station of life, do what I’m about to do—go squeeze that baby. 🙂