“So, what do you do all day?”

Stay-at-home-moms have been fielding this question for decades, and articles answering it have been put out by writers a lot craftier than I.

But things get really tricky when you are a non-homeschooling SAHM of older children. 

Your PTA days are over. Your kids dress themselves and direct themselves and possibly even drive themselves. Supposedly, they don’t “need you” much anymore.

I spend my days getting my little family (husband, tween daughter, and teen daughter) out the door and then welcoming them back when they get home. I cook and clean. I manage our family’s schedule, including my girls’ 12 dance classes a week and their heavy involvement in the school band program. I do a little legal document prep for my attorney husband. I serve on the worship team at church and facilitate a weekly women’s Bible study. I’m a band mom. I volunteer at school. I sometimes work as a catering assistant to fund dance costumes. 

And I am beyond grateful to have even the option of spending my time like this. 

I know so many moms would love to have the privilege of having this choice. I know most two-income families are not buying “extras” with those incomes as they’re making ends meet. I also know many moms do important away-from-home work they love and cannot imagine being happy without. 

And to all the homeschooling and employed moms out there: I truly don’t know how you do it.

But given the choice, why do I “stay home” in the first place? I do it—still—because for us, I believe this is the most important time for me to be available for my daughters. They don’t need naptime or their diapers changed anymore. Which is fabulous. But they often need their hearts healed or their minds redirected. Which is hard and important. 

My brother, who is many years behind me in the parenting game, recently asked, “Now that you’re this far along, if you had to choose when you would be home for your girls, what age would you choose?” 

“Now,” I told him. “Absolutely now.” 

I’ve seen the truth of a very wise thing my mother-in-law told me when I was a young bride. She worked in the family business, but her office was in the garage attached to their house, so she was available at any time for my husband all through his growing-up years. She told me how thankful she was for that option as a working mom and that it was nonnegotiable for her, even when— especially when—her only child was an adolescent. “People say your kids don’t need you as much when they’re bigger. But their problems are bigger, too.” 

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I want my husband and daughters to be able to do well in work and school and at their passions. I want them to be able to love well. I want them to be able to serve well. I want them to be able to pursue God well. I want them to use their talents and pour out well onto other people and onto the things that matter to them. But in order for them to pour out anything good, they have to be filled up with something good. And that filling up takes time and work and attention. 

My daughters have told me, “I’m so glad I have a mom I can count on to make me feel better when I’m upset.” I’m grateful they can say that, because this didn’t just happen all at once. It happened over the course of hundred moments spread out over what’s now more than a decade of on-the-job training as a mother. 

And that’s why I still stay home.

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Now if you’ll excuse me, there are 200 middle- and high-school band students who need measuring for uniforms, and if ever there was ever a job only a volunteer band mom with time to donate during the school day can do, this is it. 

If anyone needs me, I’ll be strapping a tape measure around the waist of a 6-foot-tall tuba player. Because that, sometimes, is what I do all day while I’m still staying home.

Elizabeth Spencer

Elizabeth Spencer is mom to two daughters (one teen and one young adult) who regularly dispense love, affection, and brutally honest fashion advice. She writes about faith, food, and family (with some occasional funny thrown in) at Guilty Chocoholic Mama and avoids working on her 100-year-old farmhouse by spending time on Facebook and Twitter.