Wednesday, August 1, 2012

The Question

The question comes in several forms, usually precipitated by a nervous smile or inquiring raised brow. It goes something like this: "So, how do you like staying home?"

It always takes me aback for a second, for a number of reasons. Although I know what the asker means, it's the implications that make me wonder. The idea that I have sacrificed something, or that I secretly hate it and long to be elsewhere.

"I wanted to ask you when we were completely alone and not in front of anyone so you could tell the truth," whispered one inquisitive soul, as if there was a conspiracy.


Well, I'll tell you the truth. In my mind, being a full time homemaker was, is, and always will be the gold standard of careers. I can't believe I was naive enough to think that everyone else believed this, too. I know an army of women who never in their lives held a job outside the home. Some of these women even spent the first few childless years of their marriage at home full time. It's not like I'm breaking any new ground. But it's a fair question because I did work outside the home before little Mister arrived on the scene.

Here is what I tell those whom ask. It is absolutely the hardest job I ever had, and there are moments just about every day where I long for the luxury of legally mandated bathroom breaks and thirty minute lunches. It is a 24 hour boot camp that uses every skill I have ever acquired, and seems to highlight the ones I never perfected. It is also the most rewarding job ever, and an absolute privilege to invest one hundred percent of my time and energy into my family. It is the best investment I will ever make. I am also painfully aware that not every mother can afford to stay home with her family; the changing economic-based societal choices of the past 30 years have priced some families out of this option. Yet, I wish that every mother who wanted to stay home could do just that. No one will hand you a gold paperweight after twenty years for your service, but I do believe the reward to be immeasurable for all around. In other words, I love being home.

The reactions are varied. Grandmothers are the most sympathetic, often expressing wishes that their own daughters would stay home, could stay at home. As I told one grandmother, "It is the only way I can do this."
No, she said, it is the only way to do this.

Some mothers tell me how they tried to stay at home but just were not good at it. They were "bad" stay at home mothers. These ladies are usually of an outgoing personality type that I could never be in a million years, exuding boundless energy, and so a part of me can imagine that they struggled with the high demand and sometimes confining world of full 24-hour childcare.

Finally, but more rarely, I get the ladies who are flat out baffled that staying at home with one's family is even an option. "You mean, you don't have to work?" Of course, what she means is that it's her experience  that not everyone has to work in a job outside of their home and pay for child care. It's this reaction that I find the hardest to comprehend, and yet I know it is the reality for many families. But this question was asked to me recently by a neighbor who lives in a custom built luxury home, and whose husband works in the oil industry. I have been a guest in her home and know that times are not tough for her family by any standard. She and her husband have one child. Still, the idea of not having to work is, for her, unbelievable. I'd ask her why she thinks she has to work, but I have a feeling that I already know the answer.

Perhaps I'll do a follow up post on the economics of staying home. It's a subject worthy of a little discussion, one I've been thinking about, but don't have a lot of experience in as of yet. It's not a discussion I can have right this very minute anyway, because my family needs me. Yes, it feels good to say that. 

18 comments:

  1. What a wonderful post. I spent 15 beautiful years as a SAHM, then as my children have hit the teenage years the cost of college has made me have to go back to work. I thankfully have a work at home job, but my husband and I look forward to the day our last child graduates from college and I can stop working again.

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  2. I am also a stay-at-home mom. A question I have gotten in the past is "What do you do all day?" I have to laugh! I had one lady over one time and she said, "Wow... your home is so clean and you are so organized! You don't work, do you?" Again, I have to just take a deep breath and smile. Don't people realize that it takes WORK to clean and maintain an organized home? I believe our society has brainwashed women into believing that any work done inside the home, whether it's housekeeping or raising children, is not considered "real work". Thank you for your insights, Monica!! I hope you do a follow-up post!

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    1. I am floored that anyone would ask you what you did all day. It seems to me that what a sahm does all day is a list even longer than a list of things she would like to do if she had any free time!

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    2. I've had similar only it's the less direct version. Someone once said 'well you must be bored at home... '.

      Bored!! I'm never bored. ;-).

      Julie
      x

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  3. Been on both sides of the fence and I know this is where the LoRd wanted me and that was at a stay at home momma... In the flesh and world it was outside the home and when I did that for a few years I missed things and moment when my babies were lil.. I didnt have to work.. my husband said if I did it was my choice but that I didnt need to. I made wonderful friendships and learned much but being home is better for me :)

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  4. I felt like sacrificing something was what I did when I worked outside the home! I always have preferred being home.

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  5. Isn't it interesting that if you don't leave the house to work..you are seen to be "not working??" If that's the case, then I have been "not working" for 19 and a half years! I wonder WHAT i've been doing then?? LOL! Amazingly enough my "not working" has educated one daughter, who is going off to study next year..and I am still "not working" at educating/raising my other two children (16 and 13)

    MY "not working" at home has taught me so much more about myself that if I'd been leaving the house each day "to work" ..I know where I am more valued and it's NOT "working" outside the home!

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    1. That's a good point, Julia, about being valued more at home. I'm certain that no employer ever valued me like my husband values me. To date though, no one has accused me of "not working" and a few people have made supportive comments about how much harder I likely work now.

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  6. I was a typical "independent" woman when I was 18 years old. Even when I got back into church out here in the PNW, I worked outside the home. My husband and I were pricked by the specific reading of Titus 2; after studying & praying, we agreed that I needed to be home, even though we were/still are childless. We've not regretted it once!

    HOWEVER, there are ALWAYS the questions at every family reunion, "Are you still not working?" Or, "You should help your husband so he doesn't have to work so hard." OH MY! Oh well, I simply seek to smile and say that we have agreed the best place for me is to be at home. Then it's followed up with, "What do you do?" I get to tell them what activities I am able to accomplish...

    This subject is so controversial, even amongst like-minded Christians. Yet, I have seen nothing but the blessing of the Lord in my being a keeper...at home. I have a better walk with Christ because of it, a better relationship with Dear because of it, and more opportunities to talk about God because of it! Thank you for this post, and I look forward to any others you have!

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  7. Even though I'm working part-time and my kids are grown (but still here), I've always considered myself a "housewife" and I really do like that term. I wouldn't use it on anyone else because some people don't like it for whatever reason (and that's OK), but I do. I always thought it was funny when people said, "Oh you GET to stay home - must be nice." I realize we're all singing to the choir here, and after raising my kids around many who did and didn't work, I see many happy, successful, well-educated children coming from all kinds of parents, working or stay-at-home.

    You hit the nail on the head with, 'It is the only way I can do this.' As a latch key kid myself, I maybe had a stronger urge to stay home, but my mom is one of the people I admire most and she didn't have the choice to work or not. My heart goes out to those who want to be home and for whatever reason, truly can't. Great post - as always. ♥

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    1. That reminds me of another point, Beth. Once you are a mother, you work 24 hours a day whether you work at home, outside the home, part time, or whatever. As far as I can tell, there is never a time when you aren't thinking about or doing something for your family in some way. Also, I agree that smart and successful children with good character can come from all types of backgrounds. ~Monica

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  8. My MIL thought I should put my kids in daycare and get a job.

    There are some people who really do have to work for economic reasons. And there are some who make the choice to work for economic reasons. They only 'have' to to maintain a certain lifestyle they want. So sometimes when I hear about how some would like to stay at home but they "can't" it just sort of rubs me wrong. Because it's not a necessity of food and shelter as it is for some others. And it fine if what they want is to work for a bigger house and nicer things and other things. Just don't make it sound like your family couldn't make it on one income when in some instances, they really could.

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  9. I've raised 5 children, my youngest is 22. I wouldn't trade one single day of staying home with them for all the money in the world. I was home when they left for school and home when they returned. When the school called to tell me a son or two of fine was misbehaving I was able to spend and embarrassing day with them in class!. I loved every minute of it. We may have gone with out things, but then it is just things. I can buy them someday but I can't relive my children's childhood! Everyone gets to decide but my now that my babies are all grown I know I gave them MY best.

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  10. Loved this! I'm one of those "outgoing personality types" that you mention, although I'm not so sure about the boundless energy part! I knew that with all of my heart I wanted to be a stay at home mom, but I also knew that it was going to be a struggle for me. And it was. The first year I didn't want to miss out on my son's life one little bit (and had a hard time having anyone even babysit him for a couple of hours!) but at the same time I missed the work force, the connection with other people and struggled with it all. But 4 yrs. later I'm loving it. Yes, I have days where I think it would be tempting to go back to my old job, but I also love being here with my kiddos and not missing out on a thing of their life. I love trying to make our house a haven for my little family. I love being a stay at home mom. Do I have days where I question my sanity, want to scream because I stepped on a Lego for the 4th time and it hurt like crazy, and long for some peace and quite and sleep? You bet! But I do love being a stay at home mom.

    I honestly think our society has influenced us to the point that we sometimes find it hard to believe there is even value in staying at home. And I'm speaking out of a conservative Mennonite experience. That is sad to me. What better job is there than to invest in the lives of our children- something that has eternal, lasting value.

    Enough of my rambling...thanks again for this post. I was blessed!

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    1. Thanks for your thoughtful comment, Lydia! If my feelings on staying could be summarized and tied up with a bow, it would read a lot like your comment. For an introvert like myself, I thought it would be a piece of cake to be at home, but I do sometimes long for people around me to share spontaneous thoughts with on a whim. Those moments are fleeting when you are reminded that this is a one-time opportunity and nothing beats working for your family. :)

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  11. Oh, my gosh! Melt my heart with those precious baby feet, why don't you!!! I want to kiss them and play "This Little Piggy..." with them! This is one of your best posts ever! You already know exactly how I feel about having been privileged to stay home with all my three!

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  12. The appealng thing to me about working outside the home was the interaction with people. That is probably because I am more a people person than others. now that I stay at home I do tend to miss adult interaction but try to make sure that I get some that atleast once a week. Sometimes it is simply by reading a few blogs, other times by going out and about visiting friends. Church is always a good source too. Since i never made very much money working away from home I don't really
    miss the $ and 'independence' it provided!!

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  13. Love those piggies!

    I think our society is coming around to approving SAHMs, again. I say that because people I work with are expressing their desire to stay home with their kids ... or wishing they had longer maternity leaves (I work at a public school). They see first hand what kids being raised by "other than family" looks like and they don't want that for their children. Who can blame them? The majority of the children in our schools today do not have the social graces that should have been taught to them by their parents. Actually, I'm being polite. They have no manners, no tact no stick to it drive, no ambition. Not all of them, but a great deal more than there used to be. Their parents were raised in day care, too ... and it shows.

    I didn't "have" to work, but we could have no extras. It was tight, but I loved my children too much to give them over to someone else to raise. When I did work, my husband was home to care for the children. When they were all old enough to be in school, THEN I went to work full time at school and loved it! I've seen a lot over the last 20+ years...

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