It took me about nine months to tell anyone from my work community. It was nine long months of agonizing whether or not I was making the right choice, questioning what I felt The Lord was leading me to do, and doubting whether or not I could actually go through with it before I said anything. It was one of the most difficult choices I had ever made, but somewhere along the way, after much prayer and reflection, I had gained clarity, and then peace, and finally, excitement.
And so it was on that day that I finally opened my mouth to share with my colleagues that I was letting my business go. What I didn’t expect was the response.
“So, what are you going to do all day?” Their words were harsh and condescending. I lost all of my own words at that moment.
Then came the hit, “Are you just going to stay home all day and be a woman of leisure?” Then came laughs (Did I laugh too?) followed by small talk and a quick goodbye.
A woman of leisure? I couldn’t get that thought out of my mind. Is that really how others would see me? What exactly would I do? I remember looking at my calendar and its empty pages, wondering how the days would fill up. For the first time in years, I had nothing scheduled a year out. Or even six months out. Or even the following month.
The opposition came in waves. From the director who begged me to continue working for her district, making sure to add how much she respected the woman who could balance work and family to the boss who questioned my decision and boasted about his wife who had two kids and was running a school as principal. “Not everyone here understands what you are doing,” I remember my assistant telling me at the time. I have to admit though; in retrospect, I didn’t understand either.
And so, it is here, two years later as I sit among the dirty dishes, the disheveled counter tops, the beeping laundry machine, the homeschool teacher manuals, and the excited children that I have to laugh at the notion of a woman of leisure.
For me, being a stay-at-home mom has been the most challenging work I have ever done. EVER. It has been exhausting, overwhelming, never-ending, trying, and difficult. There are days that I don’t have anything to show for all of my hard work and very rarely do I ever get a five-star on my “evaluations”. There is always something I didn’t get to; there is always a project left halfway done. Or five.
And yet, this role has taught me more about myself as a woman, wife, and mother than any other I have ever embraced. The Lord has used this journey to sanctify me, to grow me, and to teach me what is truly important in my life. My heart has been opened to a simpler lifestyle, one more focused on Him and His purposes for our family. Through it all, I am working unto Him
For you see, raising children for God’s glory is work.
Teaching kids how to respect authority, others, and others’ possessions is work.
Training kids in manners, obedience, and self control is work.
Teaching kids how to dress themselves, manage their time, be responsible, and ultimately be independent is work.
Teaching kids about budgeting, cooking, cleaning, organizing, decorating, and hosting is work.
Keeping a home clean, organized, and cared for is work.
Learning about medical choices, natural remedies, vaccines, and holistic dentistry is work.
Tending to the needs of little ones, changing diapers, nursing, dressing, feeding, potty training, and bathing is work.
Teaching kids how to share, problem solve, handle conflicts and manage their emotions is work.
Teaching children about Jesus, His church, and His promises is work.
Doing these things day-in and day-out takes lots of time, effort, and commitment–more than I ever imagined. And it’s work just like any other work.
And at the end of the day, someone has to do it. Why not me?
Now, please hear my heart. I am not here to compare one mom against the other. I know we are all doing the best in our own walks. But in my experience, I have come to find that it is often the stay-at-home mom who, too, needs encouragement for the choice she has made.
It is the stay-at-home mom, who is not “allowed” to be tired or have a bad day. She’s been home all day long after all.
It is the stay-at-home mom, who often feels the need to say she’ll get back to work soon when asked what she “does.” She’s just free-loading off of her husband. She should be contributing to society. Or something.
It is the stay-at-home mom who gets asked, “What do you do all day? Don’t you get bored?” Tending to little ones isn’t very exciting after all.
It is the stay-at-home mom who isn’t doing “anything” with her degree and is just wasting her education. She’s just a woman of leisure.
It is the stay-at-home mom who is “just a mom,” while the mom who wears many hats is the “super mom.” She’s just at home, you know. What does she know about stress?
And so I have had to ask myself, what is it about full-time motherhood that we have completely disregarded as a society?
For if we compare a stay-at-home mom’s “work” to that of another, she goes head to head with the best in her fields. Just like the preschool teacher or daycare provider, she awakens early, seven days a week, greeting little ones with a smile and a hug. She prepares snacks, feeds lunches, changes diapers, and changes the children when they are soiled. She prepares activities of exploration to help them better understand their growing world. She teaches them about sharing, how to take turns, how to hold a fork, and how to drink from a cup. She gives hugs, sings songs, and kisses boo-boos, offering comfort and reassurance when needed.
Just like the chef or the restaurant server, she sets the table for her guests and prepares an inviting ambiance. She studies recipes, plans meals, and creates new dishes from nourishing foods. She chops onions, dices tomatoes, minces garlic, sautees vegetables and roasts chicken.
Just like the teacher, the chauffeur, the nurse, house cleaner, bookkeeper, decorator, gardener, etc. she does her work heartily. And she does it with love for those entrusted in her care.
What is it about her work that is less valuable? What is it about her work that makes it inferior or wasteful? Leisurely even?
Is it because she doesn’t get paid with money?
Do we truly believe that something is only valuable if it can be exchanged for dollar bills and coins? Do we believe that just because someone does something for money they are better suited for a job? Do we really believe that we cannot find fulfillment in work without pay?
Our society tends to tell us so. It tells us to be “all that we can be” . . . as long as it is outside of the home. Our worth is measured in money and power.
But what about the things that money can’t buy?
The soft sound of a mother’s voice as she sings to her infant while she changes her diaper . . . all day long.
The hundreds of kisses she plants on her son’s forehead and cheeks as she wears him against her chest throughout the day.
The memories spent snuggling on the family couch, reading stories about stuffed bunnies and Swiss heroes.
The words of encouragement the mother gives her daughter as she fearfully looks down the large yellow slide and finally pushes forward.
The breakfast and lunch prayers, mid-day devotionals, the daily opportunities to share Jesus with her little ones.
The trips to the homes of others, sharing meals and cards, sharing ministry together as a family.
The presence of a mother at a school event, a field trip, an awards ceremony.
The influence and care that only a mother can provide for her children.
What about those moments? Those moments that turn into hours that turn into days that turn into the precious years we have with our children when they are young? What are those worth?
I have come to believe that they are worth far more than I ever gave them credit for.
I have learned that the old adage, “You don’t know what someone’s life is like until you have walked in their shoes,” is so very true.
I have walked in full-time heels and in part-time flats, but it wasn’t until I walked with bare feet that I realized how much of my children’s lives I was missing. I never knew what it meant to be a stay-at-home mom until I was one. . . full time.
There are days that I look back on my career days as the time “when I was important.” There are days that I feel that others don’t take me as seriously because I’m “just a mom” and nothing else. There are days that I feel like I have to explain myself to new acquaintances, explain that I once held a worthy position and that I am capable of doing so much more.
But then I realize that I already do. I am already doing the “more” that truly matters in my life right now. I can’t be in two places at one time, so for now, I choose to be content in my home.
My home is where I work. I teach. I play. I love. I share. I disciple. I grow. I encourage. I write.
It is where I work.
And I do it all for His glory.
So, why not me? Why not me? It is my honor. . .
As I look back on that day when I was called a “woman of leisure”, I realize that I came face to face with my own thoughts on motherhood, my own questions, my own insecurities. I didn’t know what my life would be like and what would go on the empty boxes of my monthly calendars. I’ve come to find that my days are just as full, my responsibilities just as plentiful; it is my focus that has changed, and I now find much joy in that.
I have learned that despite our titles and compensation, we are all working mothers, doing the very best for our families and children.
May we each find fulfillment and purpose in our walks and in the work that we do, ultimately lifting it up for His glory.