While I am currently still a working mama, my schedule affords months on end of being at home with my children. My very diverse friends in a Facebook group are discussing this post, and I wanted to chime in with some hope and a rosy (and sometimes bloody!) picture of motherhood.
For years, I lived inside infertility. My heart yearned and ached for a child without ever knowing precisely what motherhood was like from the inside. But, oh that ache was spot on. And whether a mama is able to stay home with her little ones or is a part from them through the day, shaping children is an art full of beauty and satisfaction like nothing else.
Below are the reasons Lisa Hefferman cited for regretting staying at home with her children. I’ve offered my own thoughts about each one.
- I let down those who went before me
No, Mama! The feminist movement was about choice; they are glad you had choice. If you let down specific people like your mother or grandmother telling you to not stay home, well, it’s sad that they did not pass on a heritage of cultivating families and shaping children. It’s sad that your relationship with them isn’t such that they’re proud of you for being a person of strong fiber, that they love you just because you are. That should be enough. And that reflects them, not you. Besides, the past is done. The future is what you are home for!
- I used my driver’s license far more than my degrees
Life is not static. We grow, change, move. Education ought to shape our thinking and, perhaps, offer job opportunities. But mostly, it serves a minimal function in the scheme of all life. Your degree gave you a particular context that no doubt shaped you, and for that you can be grateful. But when that part of life ends (whether for a season or for good), you are not without benefit from the experiences and paradigms education gave.
- My kids think I did nothing
If you want your children to know what you are doing, then tell them. As you rebuke them, encourage them, redirect them, instruct them, listen to them, deny them, allow them, love them – tell them what you are doing. Tell them why. Tell them how. Tell them everything. As you live your life, live it openly. Share your victories, your failures, your hope, your fears, your prayers, your joy, your sorrows, your heart. Tell them what you want them to know.
Yes, you are cooking, cleaning, wiping noses, coordinating appointments, fetching dry cleaning, and choosing the best toilet paper. But, hopefully, you are seeking to shepherd your children in all of it! Hopefully, you are training them every minute to be obedient, submissive, gentle, kind, compassionate, faithful, joyful, serving, wise, insightful, repentant, grateful, hard working, humble, passionate, peaceful, patient, loyal, and loving.
My best friend has four children and said some days she just wants to tell people her job is clearing counters. Her husband entreated her to not diminish her work. He emphasized that she is shaping the next generation. And of course she is! While her children may not realize it now (though I know them and suspect they do), she is molding them into who they will be and one day, they will realize that parents influence children. Every expectation of answering, “Yes, Mommy,” every rehearsal of how to wash hands, brush teeth, clear the table, change the trash, fold the wash, every request to share or try that again, every instruction to ask sister for forgiveness, every card colored for a sick friend, every fort built out of old towels, every hug, every prayer, every Bible study, every apology, every tear, every redo – they are all wetting the clay, smoothing the edges, and bringing out something beautiful.
- My world narrowed
I can see this – depending on the location and the technology available and just the time, yes, a mom’s world can be narrowed from what it was. But, it is also widened to so much more! Our children’s eyes are a window to a world we have forgotten – to a world where even the most unlovely creature is valuable. Our children show what we most need to work on and expand. Yes, our social interactions and the diversity we previously enjoyed may grow slim, but a depth beyond is suddenly plentiful.
And, if that’s not enough (and sometimes on a Thursday at 2pm, it’s not!), with some effort, we can find diversity in other places – even if it’s just Facebook. Though that may lead into needing to learn limits, too…Hence:
- I got sucked into a mountain of volunteer work
To be honest, I have no idea how a mom could have time for volunteer work. But this may just be one of my own limitations as a mom of twin toddlers. Our serving is currently limited finger painting cards for the post and helping the elderly unload their Costco baskets. Looking to my friends of older children, I see that the answer is twofold. First, saying no is a powerful lesson all women should learn. When I first started my career, I realized quickly that when I shared why I was declining something, people were eager to “help” make a way for me to be able to help them. So, my response became, “No, but thank you for asking.” This was pretty freeing. The other part of the solution is to make sure the whole family is serving – use it as an enriching time of sharing the joy of serving with your children. Say no to coordinating vendors for the junior league fundraiser, but say yes to sorting donations at the local mission. Say no to creating a database, but yes to making cookies and cards and visiting the local nursing home. Yes, it requires some finesse to say no and energy to go outside the home. But the reward of teaching our children to serve joyfully will last generations.
- I worried more
I’m sorry. This is probably a challenge for all mamas – working or not. I don’t know how to address this without the Lord because I don’t know another trustworthy person who will not fail us. But even mamas who love the Lord find this creeping up. I think the answer lies in going to the throne and constantly giving up our worries and our children to the One who can change and allow and disallow and protect.
As for microfocusing on our children – that’s another challenge. We need to tend to and shape our children but not in a way that loses site of our life’s work. I’m guessing this is probably more of an ebb and flow process than a checklist. So far, it’s been my husband who has calibrated this for me.
- With my husband I slipped into a more traditional marriage
Marriages should grow since life has different seasons. I’m not sure how satisfying an unconventional marriage can truly be (or I guess what somebody might mean by “nontraditional”), but a traditional marriage offers great joy. Having defined roles and expectations is always a part of a successful marriage. Choose your mate well. Pray for maturing and unity in the marriage. Strive to put your husband above your children. Instead of worrying about the aging of a young marriage, find simple ways to respect and enjoy your husband every day.
- I became outdated
Oh well. Technology is a means to an end and there is always another way to the end. (Besides, you have that degree showing you are capable of learning, so you can always learn new technologies later.) As for snide, eye-rolling youngsters, well, shame on them for having a deficient character. Perhaps a gentle word from you, wise mama, could offer a chance for them to grow.
- I lowered my sights and lost confidence
Oh, Mama! I feel the older women in your life failed you to not share the high calling of building the future. Yes, choosing to stay home does usually mean releasing career ambitions – but it should be replaced with eternal ambitions! Will confidence falter? ABSOLUTELY! You wrangled the shark floor of Wall Street and now a tantruming two year old is about to do you in. But, back to basics. What’s the overriding goal of being home? What’s your source for strength? What’s your strength for confidence? Having children will expose the false sources and point you to truth if you will let them.
Seeing this blogger’s recent post makes me sad that she has regrets because it means she missed it. Her husband missed it. Her kids missed it. Probably her grandchildren will miss it. It’s not that staying home is where the value lies, but this mama sadly doesn’t see that the depth of joy being at home offers is so much greater than the regrets she lists.