Almost three and a half years ago, I started my journey as a full-time stay at home mom. I had been working a typical 9-5 office job for the first two years of my children’s lives while my husband finished up a graduate degree. Over the course of those two years, I became rather frantic about finally getting to be home and be a part of every moment of their precious days. But as excited as I was about this much-anticipated transition, I also found myself frustrated and deeply misunderstood.
As the day of my new adventure in mommyhood quickly approached, I was increasingly met with comments like these:
“If staying home makes you happy, that’s great. I’d go insane staying at home all day.”
“Oh, good for you! I’d be bored to death being at home all day. I really need the mental break that going to work gives me.”
“Wow, I’m always ready for Monday. My kids drive me crazy all weekend!”
The first couple of times other mama’s responded to me like this, I mostly shrugged it off as a simple difference in personalities and didn’t think much more of it. But for every three “There’s no way I could handle that!” comment I got, every now and then I heard a, “That’s wonderful! I’m so happy for you and your family. That will be such a blessing to your children.” At the same time, my husband was getting a similar array of feedback at work. As we spoke, we noticed a pattern: almost always, the ones saying, “That’s wonderful. What a great decision for your children!” were in their late forties or older. Alternatively, almost all the “I couldn’t take that!” comments came from a younger crowd, the twenty and thirty-somethings.
Perhaps this was all evidence of a generational shift in values? Maybe women today feel pressured to find their identity outside of the home, therefore downplay or outright deny their or others’ desires to take on the role of stay-at-home mom? Maybe we’ve won our freedom but lost some of our compassion and vision for what it means to be a mommy? I’m really not sure.
What I am sure of is this: Quitting my job was a long, hard decision for me, largely because it was so re-defining of me as a woman, a citizen, a friend. It totally rearranged the way I had always imagined my life playing out and I struggled long and hard with the fear of losing my identity, becoming completely unhirable and being defined solely as “Mama Maid Make-My-Bed.” At the time, I was anxious about the mess-filled, adult-deprived days ahead. I worried that I wouldn’t find the balance of caring for myself and serving my family. And yet, despite all those fears, despite the reality that choosing to transition to staying at home with my children full-time could in fact have meant much more financial and physical stress, I transitioned anyways.
And here’s why I made the choice to stay home: I saw a bigger vision. I saw something worth more than our financial security, worth more than my career aspirations, worth more than my pleasure or personal pursuits.
I saw two little souls, learning and growing every day, and saw what an honor it would be to be the primary influence in that growth. That doesn’t mean that a parent choosing to work does not see that vision, or that a mother who sits in an office every day devalues that goal. The rub for me is when comments like the above mentioned paint a picture of disdain for our children, shedding them in a negative light of annoyance and irritation.
Whether the end choice is to be at home or not – and there are a million reasons that factor into every family’s decision – may we see our children through the eyes of love and respect and a deep appreciation for the gifts that they are, messes and all.