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Confessions of a Stay-at-Home Mom
“Man! And I thought my job was boring.” This is the response
I received from a clerk at Wal-Mart when I mentioned that I stay home with my
The phrase “stay-at-home” mom arouses a variety of
responses. For a young, pregnant woman, it may invoke sweet visions of singing
lullabies as she rocks her baby to sleep with no regard for the clock. For the
budding feminist, it stirs disdain, even disgust, at the effect this position
has on women in the workforce and women’s rights in general. For the longtime
professional, the term stay-at-home mother may provoke confusion or suspicion.
Are these women who don’t have any education or skills? Why are the wasting
their time, money, and risking their careers to wipe noses and change diapers?
Whatever your response is when you hear “stay-at-home mom”,
I am one of their number. And unless you are, or have been, a stay-at-home
parent; you don’t fully understand all that’s involved in the life and mind of
a woman who chooses this path. For most of us, it’s not a conclusion that is
reached without major soul searching. It’s not just a decision based on
emotions or money. There are dozens of factors involved, but whatever reasons
caused us to choose to stay home during our children’s formative years, you can
trust that each woman wholeheartedly believes that this is what is best for her
children and her family as a whole.
Stay-at-home parenting is not as glamorous as those longing
for it hope for- and not as boring as those scorning it assume. I have
discovered that my current chosen career is full of surprises, for those from
both aforementioned points of view. I will allow you a small glimpse into my
life, and share some “confessions” with you.
1. I hold no ill feelings or spite for moms who work, and wish they wouldn’t towards me.
I understand that there are mothers with young children who need to work for financial reasons. I even appreciate that there are other moms who choose to work because they want to, for emotional or personal reasons. I love the diversity of motherhood and value the vast amount of lifestyles we encompass.
I do not look down on mothers who work or talk negatively about them. I just wish that some who are included in those ranks would do the same for me. I know that whichever decision each of us has made about how, when, and where we work has come out of deep reflection and weighing of our options. And I know that, although the conclusions each of us has come to are different, we each feel that we are doing the very best we can for our children, ourselves, and our families. Ultimately I believe that we all have too much in common to battle against each other. We should be one another’s greatest supporters, and avoid the “mommy wars”.
2. This is the hardest job I’ve ever had.
I’ve had my share of jobs in my- so far- short life, the longest was at a non-profit organization where I started as a receptionist and slowly worked my way “up the ladder” over five years. I left my position because we moved from Texas to Wisconsin, and during that same time period had our first daughter. (Had we stayed, I probably would have continued at the organization in some kind of part-time role.) Before I left my position, I assisted in overseeing staff, executed many projects and events, sat in daily intense staff meetings, and worked 60-70 hours a week.
With all that taken into account, being a stay-at-home mom is the hardest job I have ever had: physically, emotionally, spiritually, and intellectually. It daily challenges me in every capacity. My job is twenty-four hours a day, seven days a week, fifty-two weeks a year.
I employ my organizational, managerial, and creative skills each and every day. Sometimes the most challenging part is that staying at home with my children can become monotonous and isolating. It seems some days that it would be much easier to let someone else deal with the daily grind of diapers, meal preparation and clean up, laundry, reading books, coloring, etc; and head to an office. And then it hits me again that it is in the midst of these daily, monotonous tasks that I am forming the foundation of my children’s character and lives. It is through the repetitive diaper changing, face wiping, shoe tying, and song singing that I am forming one of the closest human bonds in existence with my girls. And as difficult and tedious as this job can be, I remember that I wouldn’t trade it for anything.
3. I sometimes let my kids watch TV or a movie so I can have a break or get something done.
Childhood experts recommend absolutely no television for children under the age of two years old. Many celebrities proudly announce that they don’t allow their children to watch any television at all, no matter what their age. When I read that, I realize that if I had a full-time nanny, personal chef, trainer, and assistant; I could play with my children all day and lock away the TV too.
As for experts who advise, “If you’re going to let your children watch television, make sure you sit down and watch it with them.” Wouldn’t that negate the whole reason I turned the TV on? And really, if I have to sit there with my child while they watch a show, I’d rather just turn it off and do something more interactive.
It didn’t take me long into the journey of motherhood to realize the television is a great way for me to get a few minutes to accomplish something without a child hanging on my leg. When Hope was eighteen months old, I could turn on the twenty minute segment of Elmo’s World (at the end of Sesame Street) and have twenty beautiful moments of solitude to wash my face, get dressed, and put on my makeup without a child sitting in my lap.
I still employ the use of TV or videos when I really need a few minutes to clean, make a phone call, or just be alone. And I don’t allow myself to feel guilty about it. A half hour of educational children’s television is not going to damage my daughters’ psyches. And having a few minutes of peace makes me a happier mom. For our family, a little time in front of the tube is a win-win situation.
4. I’m just as busy as you are.
Logically, a stay-at-home mom should have a lot of extra time on her hands. I mean, she’s home all day with her kids, what is there to do? But everything about mothering completely defies logic, staying home being part of parcel of the phenomenon.
Many a stay-at-home mom has grown frustrated with schools, churches, and clubs assuming that she should take more on her plate because “she stays home”. Of course the stay-at-home mom should be the one who picks up the extra day of the carpool group because, after all, she has nothing else to do, right?
It’s the same error in assumption that a dear friend of mine in Houston suffers from. Co-workers and friends assume that she has more time and should take more on her plate than them because she is single. These blind presumptions are wrong, disrespectful, and offensive.
Whatever your age, family situation, or career; we have all been given twenty-four hours in our day. And we each choose how much or how little to attempt to put in those hours. I know of very few people in my social circles who would describe themselves as not busy.
There are no free minutes in my days. Even I don’t understand how my day is spent literally rushing from task to task until I drop on the couch each night when the kids are in bed. And even then my day is not done! It’s only at that point that I can find the quiet and focus to spend time working on tasks I enjoy- such as writing this.
5. My favorite time of the day is when my kids are in bed each night.
It’s embarrassing how happy it makes me when my family is all in bed each evening. As I update my status on Facebook and Twitter, every night I want to type, “Yay! The family is in bed! Peace at last.” But I realize that writing this every night would send the message that I don’t like having my husband or children around and that I live for the moment they are out of my hair. And that is not the truth at all! …At least not totally.
However, after a day of constant noise, activity, and being needed; I do relish the moment that both my children are in bed for the night. When I finally sit down on the couch and know that my duties for that day have come to an end, I feel such a sense of relief and peace that it’s hard to bring it to an end by putting myself to bed!
6. I take my job seriously.
There may be some stay-at-home parents out there who take these few years home with their children as a kind of vacation from work and grow lazy and sloppy in their habits (and appearance); but those I associate with are not among this breed.
I refuse to wear a uniform of pajamas or sweats each day. I do not spend my days on the couch watching soap operas. I do not channel all my energy and livelihood into my children and forget about my own self-worth.
I see my position at home with my children as my current profession. And just as any other job I have been hired to do, I fill this role with energy, passion, and discipline. We keep to a pretty regular routine, or schedule, each day. I get up early, get dressed, and put makeup, perfume, and jewelry on every morning. This is not for my children’s sake or for anyone else who may see me. I do this because I am worth putting some effort into and it makes me feel better about myself when I face the day physically prepared for it.
There is a lot of scrutiny and a plethora of opinions when it comes to raising children today, and I do my best to stay informed on the most current information. If my children are my job, then I want to remain relevant and up to date on how to best fill this position. I read, study, and digest as much knowledge and advice as I can when it comes to my kids. I hold on to the bits and pieces that work for our family, and I store the rest away in the recesses of my mind as valuable insights and opinions. Parenting is a job description that is constantly morphing and adapting as our children grow and change. It takes continual personal growth.
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7. I admit that I have stayed in the bathroom longer than I needed to just so I can be alone for a few minutes.
And really, what mom hasn’t done this? When I am alone with my children during the day, they follow me everywhere, from room to room, and that includes the bathroom. And truthfully, how can I lock out a three year old and a one year old, especially when the elder has been known to bully the younger?
That’s why, when my husband is home and I need a moment in the bathroom, I shut the door (and sometimes even lock it). And yes, I will stay in the bathroom longer than I actually need to. I pull out a magazine and sit and read for a few minutes as I enjoy the sounds of my children yelling, “Daddy! Dada!” in the living room.
8. I am not idly sitting around, letting my skills waste away.
I know one of the major problems adversaries have with stay-at-home moms is that they are losing valuable ground in the workplace, will have a harder time staying competitive skill and pay-wise when they head back to work, and that they are at a major disadvantage in the case of a divorce. But to assume all of this is to assume all stay-at-home moms are doing nothing more with their time than taking care of their home and children.
While this is true for some, there are a huge number of stay-at-home parents who work part-time, work from home, or volunteer. Speaking for myself, I volunteer several hours a week to my church for administrative tasks. This allows me to keep many of my computer skills sharp. I also, obviously, am writing on a regular basis. The time I spend in pursuits other than my family I feel is time well spent. I stay relevant professionally and constantly remind myself that I’m more than just “mom”; I’m still Sarah, a person who deserves time and respect.
9. When my husband has to stay home with the children and has a hard time, I secretly feel a certain sense of justice.
Like most moms, I probably don’t get enough time off on my own, or out with my friends; but I do make it a point to schedule these moments in semi-regularly. And it seems that about half the time that I do finally get out of the house without one or both children attached to me, my husband will call moaning that this one is crabby or the other one is sick or both of them are wreaking havoc on the house and one another.
I used to feel guilty after these calls, but at some unknown point, that guilt passed away and was reborn as vindication. And although I still feel empathy for my husband when he’s alone with the girls and has a hard day, because I know how he feels; I ultimately think, “Now you know how I feel!”
10. I feel guilty too.
Much has been written, filmed, and discussed about the guilt that working moms feel for leaving their children while they go to work. Whether it’s part-time or full-time, working in a home office or working downtown; it’s understandable why a mother would feel guilty leaving her child and I sympathize with those who make the decision with a heart torn in two. And why mothers more than fathers? That is something the world’s greatest minds may never understand. Guilt seems to be built into a mother’s hard drive.
But as long as I’m confessing, it may surprise you to find out that I feel guilty too. Even though I’ve made the tough and sacrificial decision to stay home with my girls, I feel guilty for not spending enough quality time with them. An entire day can go by during which I don’t spend one moment actually engaged with my children, all my time can be used up in errands and volunteer work and cleaning and meals.
I feel guilty when my daughter says, “Mama,” for the three hundred sixty-seventh time in one hour and I respond with an aggravated, “What?!?!” I feel guilty when my children want to play with me or bake cookies or read another book, and I just don’t want to anymore. I even feel guilty when relief washes over me after my children are in bed each night.
It seems that when it comes to motherhood, guilt is no respecter of persons.
In the end, stay-at-home moms are sometimes unappreciated, often looked down upon, and generally misunderstood. But all moms deserve to be respected and revered, no matter what career decision they have made. We are all part of this astounding group of women who have chosen to create life and raise the next generation. Let’s honor and support one another, despite the differences in how we mother. The issues that divide us are small in comparison to the bond that we share. Think of the force mothers would be if they joined together. Baha'u'llah, and Iranian theologian and philosopher said, “So powerful is the light of unity that it can illuminate the whole earth.”
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