- Image by andrewmalone via Flickr
No one wants to say it out loud, but those of us at home feel it and hear it.
Like the bubbly blond in “Singing in the rain“, we want to say, “What do you think I am, dumb or something?”
A blogging friend of mine, Amy Storms, wrote an article about how she felt when someone responded vocally to her choice as a stay-at-home-mom. She wanted to punch that person. I’ve felt it too.
In various T.V. shows or articles, the mention of stay-at-home accompanies the expression, “it’s the toughest job on the planet”, but the tone always indicates a follow-up comment, “and I’d never do it.”
I’ll be honest, I never thought I would stay-at-home, until my kiddos were born. I’m not knocking my mom’s parenting style, just giving background to my story.
In my early years, my parents found a babysitter for me and my brother. We’d go to school and at the end of the school day, we’d walk the block to our babysitters until mom or dad picked us up at night.
By the age of eight, my parents felt I had matured enough to stay home by myself, while my younger brother walked to the babysitter. At the time, society called me a latch-key-kid.
I had a key to our house. I walked myself home and remained until my parents came at night. I watched T.V., nibbled on any food in the house, and sang while looking in the mirror, imagining myself as a music star. I also felt very lonely.
Many of my early lessons about people came from fictional T.V. shows. I developed a fear of others, because as a young child I became aware of my limitations. Locking the door and hiding from the world will do that to you. While I had a strong mind and got good grades, I lacked adult connections and guidance.
By the time my mother was able to stay at home with me, during my teen years, I had already developed certain patterns for how I dealt with life. I didn’t consult her opinions. She was there, but I hadn’t learned how seek her help.
Leaping ahead, my husband and I married in my late twenties. I already had a career for which I had earned a Master’s degree. We happily used our two incomes and enjoyed our couple time. Then came kiddo number one.
My work enabled me to bring her along, and she rolled around on my office floor. As she began to walk and get into things, I hired a homeschooled teenager to watch her nearby. But, she felt lonely because the teen watched and didn’t play. My daughter begged me to put her into preschool. Begged me. She said, “Please mom, I want to play with the other children!”
I had never heard of such a thing before that moment.
Then came child number two. The energetic one. The one who cried every time my office phone rang. She required more personal attention. She deserved personal attention. In the math of our household, my income brought in less than my husband, so I made the sacrifice.
That’s how I see it. I made a sacrifice for my kids. I liked the pluses and instant gratification I received in the work place. Working project to project, we see success or failure instantly. Getting a pay raise because of strong productivity might as well be our personal trophy for work done well. We hear kudos from our fellow employees. We gain confidence each time things work correctly.
Did I mention I was a pastor at the time? A youth pastor.
I adore telling people about Jesus and helping make an eternal difference. But a friend of mine gave me valuable perspective when my first child was born. He called me up and said, “Congratulations on your new ministry.”
That’s how I view my kids. They are my ministry.
In simple terms, they are the only ministry I alone can do. In work, employees come and go. One accountant quits, another is found. Even in ministry, one pastor leaves, another comes in. No one is irreplaceable. No one but parents.
My children trust me as their mom and no one else. I know this because I lost my father in a car accident and many men wanted to aid our family. Many took me and my brother under their wing. But none could replace my dad.
As a parent, I’m irreplaceable, and I answer to God for my choices.
“Fathers,do not exasperate your children; instead, bring them up in the training and instruction of the Lord.” Ephesians 6:4 (I know it says fathers, but moms we aren’t off the hook. At the time, women didn’t read.)
So, here I sit at my computer seeking ways to strengthen and use the brain I’ve been given while hearing my girls play in our living room. I’m here. I’ll stop typing when they need me. I play with them. We talk about all aspects of life.
It is a hard job, but like Tom Hanks said in A League of Their Own, “It’s the hard that makes it great. If it was easy everyone would do it.”
Why is it hard?
1. I get no pay raise, even though I see success.
2. It requires me to use skills, which don’t come naturally: cleaning, cooking, peace making, society building (aka friend connector for my kids).
3. Rarely is the expression “Thank you” used honestly. (except on Mother’s Day or my birthday)
4. I often feel unheard and undervalued.
Why do it?
1. It matters, on the micro and macro level.
2. It shapes them.
3. They need me.
4. It reveals the depth of my love through my actions.
If you can’t or aren’t staying at home, I pass no judgement. This is my story, for better or worse. In spite of my presence, things can still go wrong, and I wonder what will get thrown back at me when they become adults. But I can’t go there now, I have to be here.
I believe love isn’t just a word or a feeling, it’s an action we live. While I know many parents express their love in multiple ways, this is how I live my love.
My choice today:
Actively love my family.
How about you? How do you live your love?