Last spring, my friend Sarah, who writes the wonderful blog www.memoriesoncloverlane.com asked me to share my story of being a stay-at-home mom. She wanted me to share the reasons why I chose to leave my career as a lawyer to stay at home with my babies and how I maintained my resolve despite the negativity I may or may not have encountered along the way. You know, “you’re wasting your degree” and that kind of thing. I thought I would share that story, in full, here today. You can read a whole series of similar stories in Sarah’s blog series: Coming Home: the gift of everyday.
* * * * * * * *
Today is the first warm day of March and I eat scrambled eggs outside in the morning sun while my two little boys (ages 4 and 1.5) walk around the front of our property, exploring spring mud, scattering bird seed and discovering the first of the season’s crocuses. How many questions do my babes ask me before I have finished my eggs? I lose count.
“Are there lawnmowers in heaven, mommy?”
“Why is mud called mud?”
“Is today spring mommy and is tomorrow going to be June???”
Their little minds are hungry and I teach them from the minute their eyes open with morning’s dawn until I sing them to sleep at night. This morning in particular their faces are full of delight and the coffee is hot and black in my cup that overflows with blessing and contentment. Soon the spell will break of course, someone will start to whine or fall in a puddle and need a change of clothes. The laundry pile I left overflowing inside will call my name and there will be dishes to do and floors to clean. But the real work of mothering has already begun. This loving and teaching and exploring together and I am home, here, a part of it.
My toddler runs up to me and I hand him a fork full of fresh warm eggs. I am his provider, his teacher, his friend and above all, his mother. Mother! What a blessing that God has shown me this favor.
I always knew I would stay at home with my children. But I also knew that I would have a career. I just knew that I wouldn’t do both of those things at the same time. For me, it would have felt like trying to celebrate Easter and Christmas on the same day.
In the years before I taught my boys about mud and mowers and scrambled eggs, I wore pretty suits and 3 inch heels and went to court and was a successful attorney. I worked really hard in school for 20 years (God was preparing me, even then, for the hard work of mothering). I went through all those years of school and even sat for the bar exam knowing that one day I would be a stay at home mom. I have just taken life slowly, one season at a time.
I offer this as encouragement to anyone who has invested extensive time and money (oh the money!) on education and formal degrees. You can have a doctorate or a bachelors or a masters or any degree under the sun and put it to work in your daily life as a mother. You do not walk away from that degree or career experience when you become a mother. I know the world tells you otherwise, and it is such a pity. Yes, it will be a different kind of work and it will be an income of an entirely different variety, but motherhood can be the next season along the same path you have always been walking. It is not a matter of walking one path and then dropping off all you have accomplished to jump on another path and start all over. There is no such thing as a “wasted degree.” I am still a lawyer, I just don’t practice law right now. You can still be a teacher, a counselor, a nurse, a doctor, an engineer. No one can take that from you. Don’t let them.
You will run into people who disagree with your choice. I certainly did. But by the time I was making known my plan to leave my job to stay home, I could feel my first baby kicking inside my tummy and all other thoughts and cares just faded to the background. I have a very vivid memory of sitting in my boss’s office talking to him about my plans to stay home. I was nervous and had been dreading that conversation. But as I was sitting in that chair my little one started kicking and wiggling inside me and I knew we were in it together.
In deed, after my first was born my whole world was turned on its head. Having your first baby (any baby, really, but particularly your first) is like experiencing life with all of your senses in overdrive. You are awash in hormones, love, perplexity, and tears. I couldn’t stand to be apart from my baby. It felt unnatural and went against my maternal instincts. My first baby was also a “high needs baby,” colicky, cried constantly unless held or nursed and would only stay asleep with loud white noise like the vacuum cleaner or dryer. We went through all of those days together. He needed me.
Today, four years later, staying home with my children means:
I am the one who lays my baby in his crib for a mid-day nap. I choose the lullaby he hears, which blanket will cover him.
I bandage the cut and dry the tears. I know which song soothes his anxieties and I sing it six times over.
I am the one to notice when a fever starts to run or to give Motrin when I sense teething.
I am able to answer the important question that comes out of nowhere at 2:15 on a Tuesday: “Mommy, what is Jesus doing in heaven right now?”
My primary goal the first 18 months of baby’s life is to allow baby to bond deeply with me, so that I start off a step ahead when the toddler years hit and the important training begins.
My husband and I did make changes financially as our household income was cut in half when I stopped working to stay home. We downsized our house and eventually became a one car family. It has all been more than worth it. My husband and I have thankfully always been on the same page on this issue. I don’t remember it exactly but I am sure we talked about it as early as our dating years. If you are single and reading this, I encourage you to wait prayerfully on God’s best in a husband for you. If you are already married and wanting to stay home but your husband is opposed to it for financial or other reasons, I encourage you to pray-that God would give your husband a sense of peace, of financial security and ultimately a changed heart. Don’t despair, prayer is powerful and God loves you, beloved one.
Motherhood is a sacred vocation. A blessing. I believe it is the hardest work one can do, but also the most rewarding. The most important. Our modern culture has seen fit to strip it of it’s value, but on this beautiful spring day, I know the truth. I am living it. I am sharing it with you. It is in my heart, warm, like the sun coming up over the horizon. And I promise you this, it is a blessing, good and true, to be home.
Perfectly said! And thank you for letting us take a peek inside your world with your beautiful pictures. I always feel like I’ve been transported back in time when I see how you’ve captured your boys!
Beautiful, beautiful words that I absolutely needed to hear today. My five month old is also a high need baby, born two months prematurely. Some days I feel beyond stretched. While I know deep in my heart that there is nowhere else I need to be right now, when he won’t sleep or has been screaming or crying for hours, the days can be long and tough. I know I am blessed beyond belief to be able to stay home with him. As a first-time mom, my eyes have been opened to how very challenging this vocation can be at times. I appreciate your words, which illuminate what a gift it is to be able to stay home and helped me to put into perspective the amazing opportunity I have in front of me to mold my child. Thank you!
I loved this post; I don’t think I read it back in the spring… It was the affirmation I really needed today; as I too, have given up my career to be with my two boys. I was hurt at first when people close to me thought that I was wasting my graduate degree by staying home with my boys. It’s funny how God can change your mind and heart to what is really important. I feel like He led me to your blog to inspire me as I feel like God is leading me in a direction I never expected (homeschooling). Even though I have a preschooler and a baby I know I need to be in prayer for what lies ahead because there are so many unknowns and I don’t know if I can measure up. Thank you so much for sharing your heart. I think I “liked” every photography post you put on facebook this summer, oohing and aaahing with each photo. I don’t know you Erin, but I feel I should tell you I pray for you and thank God that you are here in this space. Thanks for being you.
I encourage you to wait prayerfully in God’s best in a husband for you. I am absorbing these words. I am letting them sink into me. I have never heard someone use words in this way. I can’t quite express my reaction to hearing what I normally hear as ‘why are you not married yet?’ compared to how you have said it. Sorry if I’m not making sense, it’s making sense in my head. It’s 3.45 in the morning and I can’t sleep I am reading your blog and finding comfort even though I am not in the stay at home mother situation. You have such a beautiful way with words and I thank you sincerely for sharing them. I’m in Ireland by the way. Take Care, Miriam.
What a beautiful post. What a privilege being a mother is. I’m so blessed by your words honoring this blessing. I’m a Nana now, but oh how grateful I am for the years at home with my three daughters. So rich, so rewarding.
Your words always echo throughout my week. I seldom comment, but I stop in daily to see if you have posted….I look so forward to your posts. Every post, each and every single one, offer a perspective that teaches me. And I absorb it. Thank you for such a tender, heartfelt, and honest post. Near and far you touch people with your words of truth, encouragement, and faith. Thank you.
Thank you for your words – your blog is one of my favorites! This post was a bit difficult for me because I am on the other side of the fence – I am a working mother of 3 young boys and when I read things like this I begin to question everything. I often feel alone because most of my friends are stay-at-home mothers. Those of my friends who work wish they didn’t. I often feel torn. I am a very faithful person and I believe God has a plan for me both as a mother and as a professional, yet I sometimes am not clear of what that plan is. My husband and I never planned on me staying home with my children and I always had a very strong desire to work. But when I read things like this, I wonder why. I question myself as a person – why do I allow somebody else to lay my children down for their naps or answer their questions when I am gone (although it is my family who watches them!)? I often wonder what is wrong with me that I leave my children during the day and feel ok with it. I wonder if I am less than for not dropping everything and staying home with them to ensure I am there for every moment. A guilt often creeps up inside of me because I worry that I am doing something wrong that I didn’t even know I was doing and it all becomes very confusing. Every day, however, I pray that God shows me the path HE needs me to be on. I try to remind myself that even as mothers, we have all been created different and as long as I stay faithful, He will show me where He needs me to be. Most of all, I pray that He will continue to guide us all as mothers and keep us open-minded to the fact that although we may be on different paths, at the end of the day, the most important thing is that our children know they are loved!
Terri- I’m also in your position. I am a working mother of two. I have a six-year old boy and a two-year old girl, and I also feel sometimes as though I’ve almost given them away to someone else when I think of them at daycare. Someone else laying them down for afternoon nap, someone else choosing their morning snack, rocking them and hugging them when they’re feeling down. But I think that it just makes the time that we DO get to spend with them more valuable. It encourages me to make the most of the evenings and weekends – to take them for long walks in the park, to make picnic lunches, to go fishing…
I also have some fear that if I did choose to stay home for now, it would be difficult to re-enter the work world after they’re both in school. I think that being away from our kids for some time does help us to value the time that we are with them. Financially, I don’t believe my family could make it on one income without moving, and we farm, so moving isn’t a choice we’re prepared to make. I think that wherever we are, is where we’re supposed to be at the moment. Bless you.