I recently wrote about my decision to stop working and be a full time stay-at-home mom. While I liked my work, it was making family life really stressful. I felt like I was spread too thin, like everything was making me irritable, and that my family was just another item on my to-do list. I knew that quitting my job would help me be a better mom, and so I quit.
But my decision to quit my job has got me thinking about some things.
One is that I knew quitting my job would make me a better mom. That is, it would make me a better mom. Just me. Not everyone else.
I don’t think that all moms need to quit their jobs to be better moms. And I don’t think I am better than other moms for having quit my job. This is just what worked for me.
Some moms work, and it works for them. They love their jobs and getting to practice their professional skills. Working helps them feel balanced and that helps them be a better mom. I know that working moms don’t stop being moms when they drop their kids off at daycare in the morning. They’re still thinking about, worrying about, and loving their kids, even when they're not with them. They are in tune to the needs of their families and keep their households running, all while putting in a full days work outside of the home.
This was a balancing act I was not able to figure out, and my hat goes off to all the moms who do it every day.
Second, staying home full time with my kids is what I feel called to do, but that doesn’t mean that I love it all the time. My children are not little angelic beings and we don’t spend our days reading books under apples trees, or walking hand in hand in fields of flowers. My kids are naughty, they throw tantrums and make messes, and I yell a lot. Sometimes I wish I could go to work for a few hours each day - just to get a little break from them!
Being a stay-at-home mom is hard work, and it implies sacrifice. It can mean putting professional or academic goals on hold for the foreseeable future. Or it can mean giving up a well loved job because the cost of childcare doesn’t make it worth it.
For me, the sacrifice is giving up the extra income my work brought in. It’s giving up some time each day that was something different from changing diapers and calming tantrums. It’s putting personal goals and dreams on the shelf because there’s just not enough time to pursue them right now. It’s giving up my body, in that I’m currently nursing a 20 month old who shows no sign of stopping. It’s giving up my privacy, as in, yup, there’s always someone with me in the bathroom. And it’s giving up control, because I can plan all I want, but those plans are usually thwarted by my beautiful babies.
Some days it's easy to make these sacrifices, and other days I need to remind myself that I chose this, it's what I feel called to. Every time that I slow down and take a deep breath I come to the same conclusion, I am honored to make these sacrifices, even though it's hard.
Finally, while it is a sacrifice to be a stay-at-home mom, I realize that choosing not to work is also a privilege. When I stopped working it meant giving up extra income. But it was just that, extra income. I’m not my family’s primary provider and we can get by without me working.
Some moms are their families’ primary providers, or significant contributors. They may wish they could stay home with their kids, but they can’t because their families’ depend on their income. They go to work day after day, maybe even to jobs they don't like. They do it because it's what their families needs them to do.
That is a type of sacrifice that I am not familiar with, but it’s one that I greatly admire. I may talk lightly about quitting my job, or even joke about being retired at age 30, but it is not lost on me that this is a privilege, one that I will try my hardest to live up to.
All of this was a very long way of saying there’s more than one way to mom.
It's ok if the way I mom looks different from the way you mom. Good moms come in all sorts of beautiful shapes and sizes. But at the heart of every variation there is a common thread; we are all showing up everyday, doing our best for our families.
Whether that’s packing lunches and doing school drop off, or clearing the breakfast dishes to make room for home-school lessons. Whether it’s punching in at work each morning, or keeping the home fires going with a baby strapped to our backs. We’re still the ones kissing foreheads and skinned knees, making dinner and giving baths, reading stories and tucking in. And then, with aching feet, or a sore back, or a fried brain, we’re getting ready to do it all over again tomorrow.
It’s a beautiful thing we do, and it’s beautiful, all the ways we do it.