In praise of the working Mom and in defense of the stay-at-home Mom

I’ve had a job since I was 16. I’ve been a candy girl at a movie theater, a waitress on a boat, a balloon deliverer, a research engineer and a teacher. I worked for just under 10 years and I remember how hard it was to make the transition to being a stay-at-home mom. Staying at home doesn’t give you the  positive feed back you get at work, it can be emotionally and physically draining without being intellectually stimulating and with little sleep in the beginning it is often hard to differentiate day from night. But I’ve grown to love it so much in these past 8 years that it is hard to picture a different way of life. A month ago I was presented with an opportunity to work full-time. It took a little shuffling since my youngest is in prek only 3 half days (7.5 hours a week), but we figured it out with a friend babysitting, my husband going in later and her coming to the school I was working at two full days.  I thought this was an amazing opportunity to make money to help fund our adoption. It was working with kids and not really having any responsibilities to bring home. I prayed, my husband prayed, we were set.

I was super excited the first day. I got up early, ran, showered, put on nice clothes and make-up (usually something I only do 4-5 times a year). I was a kindergarten aide. The teacher was amazing and the kids were adorable. I gave it my all. Literally I tried to meet the needs of all the kids I could, I tried to be proactive helping the teacher and to be friendly and chatty with the staff I had never met before. Not to be too proud, but I think I did a good job.

It was time to go home. My youngest was okay with her first day of full day school ever, and my oldest enjoyed having us both at school. But after taking them to gymnastics and then home to make dinner I crashed. My husband did the dishes and put the girls to bed – I was already asleep… it was 7:30PM. I woke up at 4:30 in the morning realizing just can’t do it. My family lives in a stay-at-home world where I take care of lots of things… not just food shopping, dishes, and laundry, but gifts for the family, special traditions, crafts for the kids, after school activities, volunteering for the church, adoption paper work, all of the doctor’s appointments, girl scout coleading, birthday party planning, kilt making for international night, science explorer teaching, and tutoring. I couldn’t do it. The next day I let them know and stayed on for a month while they found someone else. In that time it definitely got easier, we ate out a lot, I didn’t play outside with them as much, but all of our needs were met. My hubby did so much more and received so much less attention from me, but we were all in it together. Failing isn’t something I’m use to doing, and I wasn’t going to let this one pass me by without learning from it.

What I’ve learned:
I am incredibly thankful for the opportunity to stay at home. I have time to go to Bible Study, see my friends, live in community with other women, I can learn new things to help our family like how to make stuff from scratch and homemade presents for our family and friends, in this time I’ve learned how to create websites, use computer photo editing, and become an amateur photographer, and run a marathon. I am available to help my friends out with watching their kids and even to get to do this blog. But my favorite part is that I get to spend so much time with my family. I’m here for my kids all the time, I get done a lot of the day-to-day stuff when they are at school so I can be fully charged and available when they are home. My husband has a pretty demanding job, but since I have time at home to get things done it isn’t stressful when he comes home. I can have a great quiet time with God everyday because I have the time. I am so thankful. I’ve had these things for so long that I don’t think I truly appreciated them. The first day without work my daughter and I played Polly pockets, Barbie, went to the park and made muffins… just before lunch. I feel truly blessed to have this time, and I know that it won’t last forever, but now as cliché as it sounds… each day of it feels like a gift.

Please know that I don’t mean that if you work outside the home that it means you don’t do these things. In that time of working I met women who taught and had young children, they were super productive at work getting all their planning done while they were at school so that they were fully present with their kids at home. For that month I got a glimpse of how incredibly hard it must be to get things done like grocery shopping and changing over clothes from one season to the next, and cleaning and cooking and everything else that is on their plate. Then as I went to bed early every night I realized that moms who work full-time give up their free time – all of it or at least most of it. No matter what lunches need to get made, laundry needs to get done, homework needs help, husbands need attention, activities need to be planned. But the long distance run to clear your head, or the guilty pleasure of watching a TV show that you know isn’t really beneficial, or the extra hour of reading a good book, or a coffee with a good friend that turns into an afternoon with that friend laughing… those don’t  always have to get done and I’m starting to realize that as a stay-at-home mom I get to indulge in these things. I think sometimes stay-at-home moms think that there is no way that working moms can’t do it all… but I’ve realize they do but they make wise choices about where to spend their time and they sacrifice a whole lot of their alone time to get it all done.

We are all different and all have a unique set of circumstances that dictate how we are making it day-to-day… maybe we have help from a parent, or maybe we have flexible hours, or maybe we have to stay at home for little ones or to home school, or to keep it all running smoothly, but what I’ve learned most is that we all are just trying to do the best we can with the circumstances that we have. It’s taken awhile, but I’m finally giving myself grace in my failure of not  being able to work in knowing that right now this is what’s working best for our family. I hope and pray that you are able to give yourself grace too. God didn’t create Mom guilt… that’s from somewhere else. We feel guilty for staying at home, should we be working and contributing more monetarily? We feel guilty for working, should we be at home more? Neither question is beneficial. If only you could see all that you do through the eyes of another on the other side of the fence you’d see that all that you do is amazing.

Then I found this amazing video about the job of a mom – working or staying at home that shows the importance of our job. Thanks Lisa-Jo Baker.

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2 Responses to “In praise of the working Mom and in defense of the stay-at-home Mom”

  1. Erin October 15, 2013 at 8:29 am # Reply

    Thank you thank you thank you for writing this! I am a working mom who has been trying to put my thoughts into words for so long and you just nailed it.

    • Kelly October 17, 2013 at 2:43 pm # Reply

      Hi Erin – it’s very rare that I’m able to put my thoughts into words, but I remember being completely overwhelmed with emotion after that month of working and needing to write. One thing that I didn’t talk about but I’ve been thinking about lately is that by women working, women staying home, and women having every possible combination of both, we have given our daughters an amazing gift. They can do it anyway they want. I grew up thinking I would never want to stay home – I thought I was going to be an engineer that made a difference… and things changed. But because our society embraces both I could choose a different way. I hope that you are supported in your role, and know that almost all moms know that both ways are hard. I hope that you are refreshed and filled in some way, that there is some ounce of rejuvenating free time for you. Thank you for commenting.

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