Part of me had always imagined that I would stay home, but when I was forced to choose, it was actually much more difficult then I ever thought it would be.
Lately I've had a surprising amount of conversations with other women about how I chose to be a stay-at-home mom. What was my thought process? How did I come to my decision?
And really, what they were asking was, how can someone who has a thriving, fulfilling career, and a promising future in it, give it all up to stay home with their child? Won't they be unsatisfied being home all day? Why would a woman devote the most prime 25 years of her life to staying at home and raising children?
And it's a valid question.
The lie the world has fed us is that we cannot be fulfilled by merely raising children and caring for a home. But to be fulfilled and satisfied in this life we need higher job titles, awards filling our shelves, thick portfolios and fat resumes. And in these modern days, we're often told women are finally liberated from being expected to be the primary caretaker in raising our children so we can focus on doing just that. While I appreciate much of the progress the world has made in women's rights, we still seem to often be ensnared to the belief that family cannot and should not be enough for a driven, successful and talented woman - which hinders us in feeling affirmed in the decision to not work and instead raise our family and care for a home.
As I've spent more time in this role, I've found that homemaking is full of opportunity, fulfillment and satisfaction - as much as any profession I've ever had. I would argue that there is much learning, talent and growth in motherhood and homemaking. It is a skill to raise a child well, just as it is a skill to write a brief or give a presentation. If there's one thing all mothers know it's that we cannot expect to get it all right when we first start out, it takes time and effort to know how to grow, develop and instruct a child. Just like one would grow and improve during their professional career. As we all know, strong character in our children doesn't just happen, it is grown and nurtured over many years by those around them who love them and spend the most time around them, investing in them.
It may sound like a stretch, like I'm just putting meaning to mundane, everyday tasks, but I truly believe a mother who stays at home is developing and producing a lifestyle for her family. And to do this well, it takes talent, time and thoughtfulness. She is improving and honing her skills on a daily basis, making wise investments with her family's time, money and resources; developing skills in cooking, psychology, cleaning, medicine, creativity, teaching, purchasing and other administrative affairs of the home. The opportunities for growth and advancement abound - just as in any career path laid out in a professional setting.
Of course, it is different being at home, than being at work. And I frequently hear women tell me, "I just think I'd be bored! I'd go crazy without adult interaction! I need more mental stimulation than the ABC's and 123's!" And I get it. I feared for that too. I thrive on adult interaction and social situations. I enjoy problem solving and high level thinking. I like physical, tangible results from the efforts of my day - to see how I made a difference, and be told, "job well done." I won't sugar coat it, as a stay-at-home mom, there are days that are monotonous, boring and very, very lonely. The affirmation is scarce, the progress slow, and the execution repetitive. But all jobs have more difficult days and parts than others.
I truly believe that for many women, all it can take is a perspective shift to be fulfilled by staying-at-home. Of course, it takes effort on my part to keep it interesting and choose growth over languidness. It can be easy to fall into a consistent state of status quo when there is no manager looking over my shoulder. But I've found that with a certain amount of gumption and self-motivation, as well as the support of other driven mothers, my role as a homemaker is just as challenging and stimulating as any professional career. While I don't work for the lure of a paycheck or promotion, I find that I have just as many incentives and opportunities for growth as any corporate career. But it does take a certain amount of patience and humility to recognize that the tangible affirmation and progress so many of us seek will not be available on a daily basis. The reality is, the value and reward a mother reaps by staying home with her children likely won't be realized until years later.
Of course, there are situations that demand a mother works, and I know many wonderful mothers that do - some by choice and some by necessity. Some full-time, some part-time, some from home and some in the office, and my goal here is not to bring them down or demean their motherhood and lifestyle. I do support women that work and I do not think it is inherently wrong for a mother to work at all! In fact, the amount of time I spend here each week could be considered a part-time job. A mother is still her own person, own woman, outside of her husband and children and I believe there are situations, reasons and benefits that make it appropriate for a mother to work in addition to raising her children.
But I do hope to show that homemaking should be considered a viable career for all women, even for a woman who thinks she'd never thrive well at home during the day. I think many people believe that women that chose to stay-at-home do so because they didn't like their job and wanted a way out. And while that may be true in some cases, it was not in mine. But instead because my husband and I felt it was in the best interest of our children, and by me staying at home I could provide a lifestyle that is far better than any additional income I could bring in.
It seems that often the importance and value of the stay-at-home mom has been passed over in light of the much more shiny, alluring and publicly affirmed role of climbing the corporate ladder. Being a full-time homemaker is in fact just as challenging and rewarding. A stay-at-home mom plays the primary role in developing minds, raising bodies and teaching virtues, character and discipline. She invests her life to shaping her children into healthy, moral, well-adjusted, educated, involved and productive citizens that contribute to society - and that is an accomplishment far more challenging and rewarding than any 40 years in a corporate career could ever complete.
I am not saying you can't do these things while still having a second role in the workforce. But it's been proven over and over again that no one can have it all, and certain things are traded off when a person is juggling motherhood and a career. And each family must weigh the pros and cons of their lifestyle decision. My hope and prayer is that each mother and father chooses not what is in the best interest of themselves, but what is in the best interest of their entire family. To abandon their personal rights, desires and convenience, and choose the path that is best for the family as a whole. And that may look like the mother working, and that may not. I only hope that the option of being a full-time homemaker is carefully considered before being abandoned in light of a more instant gratification.
Personal ambition and public success are natural things to be desired, but if I may be so bold, it seems it is easy to find a woman who has regretted trying to juggle both a family and a high-pressure career and admits that they didn't do either well. But it is difficult for me to find anyone whom admits to regretting spending their prime years primarily at home, investing in the lives of their children.
There is significance, worth and fulfillment in homemaking. And being a mother has brought me more value, wonder and joy beyond any profession I could imagine.
Motherhood is and always will be my greatest accomplishment in life.
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