A few weeks back, I went into the hospital for a minor outpatient procedure. Getting through patient registration was a hassle. Anyone that has ever been to the doctor knows what I mean- sign here, sign there, give us your first born- all the usual.
I could tell the patient representative assigned to me could have done her job with her eyes closed. As she went through the required medical interrogation, she asked me where I was employed. I shrugged my shoulders and replied, “Oh, I don’t work. I am just a mom.”
Her response, quit blunt but laced with love, left me speechless and somewhat ashamed of my dismissive answer.
“Baby, you aren’t just a mom. You are the mom. It is a very important job.”
She never looked up from her computer but the words of wisdom spoken to me came from a place of understanding and strength only a mamma could muster.
We finished with my paperwork and she escorted me back to the patient waiting room. Her words, however, did not leave me.
Why did I feel that my current title of stay-at-home mother was not enough? Anytime I was asked where I worked, I typically answered with that same dismissive manner- as if my job was not important or worthy to be considered “important.”
I grew up in a single parent home. My father left when I was two and my mother was the sole financial provider for our family. It took a toll on her. She constantly drilled in my head the need for self-sufficiency. She wanted me to be strong and independent and never have to depend on anyone to help me.
As I got older, I embraced that mentality. Not to say I did not stumble a few times, but ultimately, if I set my mind to something I achieved it. I earned a degree in Forensics and pursued, while having two small children, a Master’s degree in my field.
I pumped breast milk for my newborn in the employee bathroom on my breaks, studied and wrote research papers after the children were tucked in for bed and climbed the career ladder zealously in my 20’s. I had a promising future but my personal life was struggling. I was exhausted all the time. I could not find a balance between family life and work life.
I considered leaving my job often, but the nagging voice in my head always won. “Why would you work so hard only to quit it all and stay at home?”
During a visit with my mother, I shared my struggles and the guilt that stayed with me every day I dropped my children off at daycare or had to leave them with a sitter even when they were sick because I had deadlines to meet. I figured she would give me the pep talk about how great it was to be independent and how I was showing my children to be the same way.
Yet, she did not.
Instead, my mother confessed the same feelings of guilt because she always had to work. For the first time, I heard her regrets. “Sarah, I never had the choice to be with my kids. It was all I could do to put food on the table. If you want to be home and can, then do it. Your children are only young once. You got your whole life to work. Enjoy being a mom.”
Her openness changed my perspective on motherhood that day. She wasn’t saying that being at home was the only way, but, in my case, it was an option. There is a balance and we all must learn that for ourselves. For me, personally, I wanted to be at home but felt like I needed to hold the line for all women out there. I equated working outside the home as the only true measure of success.
Somewhere between the “I am woman, hear me roar” speeches, many of us have forgotten the importance of the role of motherhood. I am included in the latter statement! Getting a warm, healthy (sometimes) meal on the table is no longer enough. Many women have bought into the lie that we must ALL be inventors, doctors, lawyers, power-houses to have any real value. Down the line, making sure the clothes are washed and the baths are taken denotes a lack of importance in the role of homemaker. But just wait until your family does not have any clean undies- then mom, you are the most important person in the universe!
It would be a few years before I completely let go of the reigns and came home. As my husband said, I had to take baby steps. Eventually, I stopped working outside the home and now I homeschool our children. This whole stay-at-home-mom-thing is not as easy as I thought. Some days I find it more challenging to work with these mini adults than some professionals in the work force.
Yes, sometimes I miss work. I miss being part of a team (a team that actually has other adults on it). I miss being part of a job that makes the world a better, safer place. I miss the person I am outside the children. On the days I question if I made the right decision to come home, I look around at the two balls of energy that I have the honor of taking care of and realized that I gained much more than I could have ever wanted.
On bad days, when I am feeling alone on this motherhood journey, I remind myself of a few things:
- I do have a team surrounding me. Outside of my own family, I have other moms in the same situation. Instead of them wearing professional attire, they are usually in yoga pants and chasing their own children around on the playground. The mom team I share my days with now are there for me when I simply need to vent or seat in a moment of grand silence because I have used all my words talking to my children.
- I am making the world better. Each day with my children I have the opportunity to instill value and worth. I am building future leaders that will have compassion and love for others. Each time I share our faith, I am laying that foundation for them to go out into this big world and plant a seed of life in others. I am building world changers.
- Each day when I look in the mirror, I do not see the same woman and that is okay. I see a woman that has changed and learned that life is not just about what I get but what I give. When I see the relationships that have formed between my children and the richness of our conversations, I know that life will never be the same for me. I will never be the same. For that, I am grateful. Motherhood taught me that I can take many forms and still find value in each role.
Now, when someone asks me what I do for my occupation, I simply reply, “I get to stay home with my children. I am a mom.”