Let me begin by saying something that may be obvious. I am a stay-at-home mom, and I know there are millions of us out there. I also know that there are millions of working moms, and I’m not saying that anyone is right or wrong. There is a reason I didn’t title this, “Why You Should Stay at Home with Your Kids”. That is a personal decision, a personal journey, and you should probably seek that for yourself. For better or for worse, this is my stay-at-home story:
People often say to me, “It’s so great that you can stay at home,” or “I wish I could stay at home.” Though I don’t usually ask for clarification, it seems that the implication here is that my husband makes enough money, so I don’t have to work.
That is completely inaccurate. My husband and I made the decision that I would stay at home, and that is why I stay at home. It’s not because my husband makes enough money. In fact, he doesn’t. Simply, we believe that I am supposed to stay at home, so I do.
It may have been easier for us to make this decision for two reasons: 1.) I have never had a full-time job, so the cost of childcare would have almost equaled the paycheck I was making when I was pregnant with our first child. 2.) I am passionate about writing stories, and that kind of job just doesn’t exist in the 9-5 world.
Today, I’ve been a stay-at-home mom for almost 6 years. I did go back to work for a brief time, and I do a little freelance writing every now and then, but I don’t have to do any of that. My main job is Mom.
And do you know what that means? It means that from 9-5, I do the work of guiding big emotions and exploring big imaginations. I wipe small butts and I try to keep small hands from getting into the trash can, the toilet water, or the raw meat thawing in the kitchen sink. I give a lot of hugs, but I also get kicked in the shin a lot. I get to sit with my kids and snuggle, reading books in the morning, but I also get to deal with cranky morning kids who don’t want to let up on their selfish desires.
Sometimes it seems like too much for one person, especially when I have dreams of my own, on top of my own emotions, my own imagination, and my own physical body to keep clean and well.
It’s time like these (and, honestly, these are most of the times) when I wonder why. Why do I stay at home with my kids? Why don’t I go to work? Why don’t I just hire a babysitter or a nanny and take an office somewhere so I can write all day long and grocery shop in peace? Well, first of all, it’s not just me. I’m married, so it’s WE. And WE have 3 children.
Today, I’m listing my reasons. Here they are:
1.) So I can hear everything. This is not about being in charge, but being near. I can hear when my children are having a hard time. I can hear what makes them happy. I can sit with my 3 year-old while he goes to the bathroom and spits out the deepest thoughts of his entire running, jumping, loud-noise making day. I can hug my daughter before nap time. I can enforce the rules of our home without confusing my kids with the rules of daycare. I can know what rules are important for them and what rules really aren’t.
2.) Because I believe that my kids will be better off if they are with me or my husband the majority of the time. Personally, I just couldn’t imagine our kids being in someone else’s care for 8 hours of every weekday. That’s about half of their waking moments.
3.) Mostly, though, when I’m having a rough day and I don’t want to be home anymore, I have landed on this: I want my kids to see what a well-rounded person is. My husband and I are the only people my children know. I know that sounds extreme, and you’re probably thinking, Don’t you ever let your kids out of the house? Yes, we do. We let them socialize all the time- at the playground, at church, at a weekly mom’s group I go to. They are around others quite often, but those people can’t show my kids what it’s like to be human. Only my husband and I can do that. If my kids were in day care, they would be in the care of a professional for most of every day. While I’m sure that most day cares take fine care of children, I believe the best care is that of a parent. When my children have tantrums, when they do something wrong, I can talk to them every time. I can talk to them in a way that they can understand. Or I can talk to them until they understand. When my children need food, I can teach them to make it themselves. I can teach my children through example that people are not perfect because I am not perfect. I throw my own tantrums sometimes, and because I’m home, my kids can see my process. I know that sometimes we just have to forgive each other and move on with life. I can help them understand that it’s okay to be sad and angry and to feel like the world is trampling on them. And I can help them understand what to do with those kinds of feelings. Right now my kids are 5, 3, and 1, so we are in a season of continuing, of repetition. On the days when I’m tired of the same old-same old, I choose to believe that everything will make sense eventually.
A few months ago, my pastor said something like, “We are not suppose to manage our money. We are supposed to steward it,” and without going into a lot of financial stuff right now, I want to turn the table a little bit. When he said that, I instantly thought of my job as a mom. At the time I had been saying to myself, “I don’t know how to manage my kids.”
But we’re not supposed to manage our kids. We’re supposed to steward them. And that starts a whole other journey because I don’t know how to do that either. But I know there’s a lot more grace, a lot more freedom, a lot more reason to stay at home and figure this thing out together than to leave them in the care of someone else.
So maybe I should add this one: I don’t know what I’m doing, so I probably shouldn’t send my kids off into the world just yet.
Again, this is a piece of my stay-at-home story. I’m sure your story looks a little different.
Do you stay at home with your kids? Why or why not? Do you want to stay at home with your kid, but feel like you can’t?