Friday, September 9, 2011

The Priority of the Home: Part 4

There is more than enough guilt in motherhood and this blog is, by no means, intended to create more. As moms, we can feel guilty about all sorts of things, big or small:
  • I fuss at my kids too much.
  • I didn't feed my kids a hot breakfast before their standardized testing.
  • My child is the last of his peers to be potty trained.
  • I didn't come up with the most creative/homemade Halloween costume.
  • My kids only speak one language (unless you include whining as a 2nd language).
  • and on, and on, and on...
We can torment ourselves by comparing ourselves to other moms who appear to "have it all together" knowing full-well that we, in fact, DO NOT have it all together. I hope that I share honestly enough on this blog that you realize that I do not have it all together and I do not even desire to portray to others that I do. (Well, I guess some days I'd like everyone to think that, but I know it's not healthy! :-) ) I hope you know that I am deep in the trenches of motherhood trying to be the absolute best mom that I can, but there are many-a-days that I feel absolutely defeated and sorry for my kids that they have me as a mom.We ALL feel that way from time to time.

With that said, it is with great sensitivity that I write this post regarding our decision for me to be a stay-at-home mom. I hope it provides some food for thought. This week I've been sharing some systems that Andy & I have put in place to help us prioritize our home, and I would be remiss if I did not share about this very crucial element.

The decision was mutual. Andy and I both wanted me to stay home to raise our children and maintain our home. When I announced to my fellow teachers that I was going to stop teaching to stay home with Caedmon, another teacher commented (not directly to me), "I wonder how her husband feels about that..." implying that I was no longer going to be "pulling my weight" financially and he must be pretty upset about that. Not so.

There are also people who think that Andy forced me to give up my career (and goals and intelligence) in order to do the "mindless work" of raising children. Equally untrue.

It's not like we arm-wrestled and someone lost. We both wanted this.

There are a two basics reasons (I realize this list is not exhaustive) that women have shared with me as to why they decide to work.
       1- We can't afford it financially for me NOT to work.
This may be true in some cases. You may be going through a season where your husband is unable to work or there are extenuating circumstances. However, in most cases where I've heard this reason, it is simply that the family does not want to decrease their standard of living. They are unwilling to move to a smaller house/apartment, drive cars that aren't quite as nice, take fewer vacations, etc... It is true that, if the wife has a high-paying job, your standard of living can increase. But it is costing you in other areas.

As a wife, it is not your God-given responsibility to provide for your family. That role has been given to your husband (Genesis 3). In Paul's instruction to Timothy regarding men he says,

"If anyone does not provide for his relatives, and expecially for his immediate family, he has denied the faith and is worse than an unbeliever."  1 Timothy 5:8

Wives often feel pressure (whether from their husbands or self-imposed) to help provide for the family's financial needs. By doing that, they are taking on a burden that God did not intend for them to carry. He has equipped our husbands with the strength to carry that load.

I know of lots of wives that are creative in the ways they supplement the family income. Online businesses, part-time contract work with flexible hours, working during school hours, etc... There are ways to make it work.

But ultimately, it is not your job. Godliness with CONTENTMENT is great gain (1 Timothy 6:6). Let's affirm our husbands as wonderful providers for our families by being content with the standard of living his job allows.

Reason #2:

       2- Honestly, I feel like I might go crazy if I spent all day every day with my kids.
Wow. I have so been there. On my darkest days I have had the thought, "I just need to go find a job that will cover the cost of childcare so I don't have to be with them all day!" There is no doubt about it, being a stay-at-home mom is hard work! And it often feels like hard work that is unappreciated, unproductive, and unstimulating. At the end of the day, moms don't have a lot to "show" for our hard work and can thus be less fulfilling than accomplishing something tangible at the job.

Logically thinking, however, the person who spends the most waking hours with our child is going to have one of the greatest influences on that child. That is why those first 5 years of a child's life are so incredibly crucial. My children are learning what it means to be a "Wood" right now. No one else can teach them that. Yes, someone else could change their diapers or potty train them or teach them their letters. But I don't want ANYONE else teaching them about character and integrity. We forget that they are learning those lessons every single day, whether we are intentional about it or not.

For those women with huge career aspirations, let's say you have from age 25-65 to work in the corporate world. That is 40 years! Rest assured, you can put a parenthetical clause in your career to raise your children for ten or twenty years and you will have far more reaching results than if you solely focus on your career. We get ONE shot with raising our kids. There are no re-do's or rewinds. If we wasted today, that's too bad. We can try to do better tomorrow, but this one is gone. I realize all too clearly that Sammy and Caedmon will only be 2 and 4 years old one time.

The reality is that pursuing our own dreams and career aspirations while we have children at home can, for some women, be a selfish escape from our responsibilities. Like it or not, Scripture is clear that women are to be homeward focused. (1 Timothy 5:14, Titus 2:4) What a PRIVILEGE and HIGH-CALLING that God would entrust us with such an important task! I am not using these verses to say that the Bible teaches that it is a sin for a woman to have a job. You could definitely make the argument that a woman can be homeward focused and still have a career. I'm just saying that it's tricky...that's an awfully big load to carry.

While playing trains and building towers and cleaning sticky fingers and runny noses may not be the most mentally stimulating environment, it is growing our character. God has used motherhood more than any other role in my life to shape me into His likeness. By leaning into the trials instead of finding a way to avoid them, God reveals in me heart attitudes and sinfulness that I never knew was there...sins that I probably would never see if I was only interacting with adults throughout the day.

There are many days where I feel completely spent emotionally and the thought of getting a job sounds great. But I know in my heart that doing that would not be what is best for me (in my character development), it would not be best for my children, and it would not be best for our home.

Concluding thoughts:

Let me be clear:

Just because you have a job DOES NOT make you a horrible mother. You may be doing an absolutely fantastic job at motherhood, and I have no doubt that you are trying your very best. 

AND (equally important)

Just because you are a stay-at-home mom DOES NOT make you an awesome mother. It is possible to be physically present but mentally or emotionally unengaged.

The point of this post is to encourage you to honestly access you "homeward focus". If you do have a job, why? What are the real motivations? Is it because you are discontent with a lower standard of living? Is it because the Character School of Motherhood is a course you'd like to speed past with just the Cliff Notes? Is it because having a "real job" makes you feel more significant? Is it because you've just never considered a different option?

As I go to push "Publish" and launch this post into the Cyber World, I cringe at the thought that some of you reading this may feel judged or misunderstood or guilty. PLEASE KNOW that that is not my heart. I am compelled to write this because of a young mom that my mom was talking with several years ago. My mom gently shared with her many of the ideas written in this post and that young mom wept as she saw motherhood through a new lens. She decided to quit her job in order to focus more of her time on her child. It was a gut-wrenching decision for her, but one that she has never regretted.

Maybe there is a mom out there reading this and it will set her free to make some adjustments to be more homeward focused. If so, this post if for you.


Anonymous said...

Preach on Stacie! I have never regretted staying home with my two girls (now 22 and 15). I was a school teacher myself prior to starting a family. Look at children today and you'll see an entire generation with no foundation at home. I could preach a sermon myself on this topic! I have and continue to be blessed by being a stay at home mom. The rewards are eternal! Caedmon and Sammy are blessed! Lisa

Wendy said...

Wow. Stunningly good post. Just priceless. Thank you!

Mary Lu said...

Working on Dave's plan, seeing light at the end of the tunnel. We had snow here last February and schools were closed for 4 days. I was amazed at the remarks from other moms. "I'm ready for the snow to stop so my kid can go to school"; "I can't spend one more day inside with them"; "I need time alone from them". Spending time with my kids never gets old, I envy those who are able to pull it off.

I've enjoyed reading this whole series :)