"What do you do all day?" she asked me.
In my stunned, swirling head, I searched for an answer,
"I...um...well...I...um...you would be surprised how quickly the days fill up."
She realized the insensitivity of her question and back-pedaled a bit, but she had already tipped her hand. Even though she has a child the same age as mine, she wanted to know how someone could just sit at home all day with their kid. It was a judgment, and an unkind one at that.
Fast forward a few weeks.
Her: "Your daughter is in half day preschool twice a week? That wouldn't really work for a working mom, but good for you! So what are you going to do with all that extra time?!"
Me: (sheepishly) "I...um...
Her face said what her words did not: "Isn't that what you already do all the time anyway?"
I felt pressured. Like I somehow needed to explain myself. Like I was being looked down on. Like at the first sign of my child's independence I should immediately re-join the workforce.
Now, I am still relatively new at this stay-at-home-mom gig. (The title of "stay-at-home-parent" is a terrible one, but it is widely accepted, so I will use it here and save that rant for another day.) I think I feel like anyone would two years into a new job: I have a pretty good idea of what I need to do and what works or doesn't work. But I also know that there is still a lot I need to learn. One of the things I had not encountered in my learning curve yet was that I may, at any moment, need to defend to someone why I do what I do because it is on some level inconceivable to them.
There are so many reasons I choose to be a stay at home mom. Here are a few:
It's how I'm wired
Relationships are my highest value. I am a person who prefers a small number of deep relationships rather than a wide pool of acquaintances. If I had no other responsibilities or demands on my time, I would rather spend time with one of "my people" than do just about anything else in life. So, if I have the opportunity to invest in and interact with my own child, you can bet I'm going to do just that. Simply put, relationships are my bottom line. My personality type will do just about anything to be sure our values are not compromised, and we constantly re-evaluate whether our life reflects those values (also, this is exhausting.) So, for me personally, spending 95% of my time with my family just makes sense.
I'll never regret spending time with my child
I know we should never say never. But, I can't conceive of a scenario in which I would look back on my life and say that I wish I'd spent less time with my child(ren). Particularly during the very early years. I also have never met anyone with grown children who has this regret. That speaks volumes to me.
Of course there are days that I am pulling my hair out in frustration and need space from my child; but, when I get to spend the bulk of my days pouring love into her and teaching her values like kindness and empathy, I know I am exactly where I want to be.
Andrew Peterson has a touching song called Planting Trees that so beautifully depicts his wife's work in one of its verses:
She rises up as morning breaks
She moves among these rooms alone
Before we wake
And her heart is so full; it overflows
She waters us with love and the children grow
THAT is what I want to do. I want to water my family with love at every opportunity. I want to give myself away in a deep and lasting way. I want to make memories of napping together, taking walks together, and learning about life from the inside out.
Not everyone who wants to "stay at home" with their children can. Lots of moms and dads out there would love to be with their children full time but the realities of life demand that they work outside of the home. I know full well that I am lucky to even have this option and I do not take it for granted.
And while it is a privilege, it is also a sacrifice. Because of my choice I forfeit things like interacting and forming relationships with co-workers, keeping current on the latest computer skills and technology, building my resume, and of course a paycheck.
It challenges me
One of the key factors in happiness is whether or not we are challenged and given the opportunity to grow. Being a stay at home mom, I am regularly brought to the end of myself in ways I had never imagined. I am regularly pushed to my limit in areas like patience and self control. My character is being stretched and my rough edges are being exposed as I grapple with how to best raise this little life I have been entrusted with. My daughter teaches me just as much about life and love as I teach her, if not more.
Of course staying at home is not for every parent. "Working" parents have their own set of reasons for working outside of the home that are just as valid as mine. We are all doing what we think is best for ourselves and our families. No judgment. I personally do not know anyone who is not trying to take the best care they can of their children and raise them well. None of us make these decisions lightly. Let's all give each other grace, and encourage each other wherever life has us. These are just my reasons for doing what I do.
Now. All that said, I could end up looking for a job tomorrow if something changes. None of us know what tomorrow holds. But for right now, for today, I am content. This is what is right for me and my family. I enjoy it and am grateful for it. Which I think is all any of us can ask for from life.
What about you? What leads you to do what you do and how can we show grace and give space to those who are different than we are?