It is easy to become discouraged by outside influences, as someone who has chosen to stay home, and raise my children. Like when I bump into people from high school who say things like “And what do you… ahem… DO?” Then being faced with an incredulous look when you cheerfully reply with: “I’m a Stay At Home Mom. I homeschool my 4 kids.”
The funny thing is, that given the same question even a year ago,and the response answer then:
“I teach Kindergarten at a local Christian school. They even allow me to bring all of my children along!”
Their response was somehow more positive: “Oh! That’s so great! I always knew you’d be a teacher!” As if teaching Kindergarten was any different than teaching my own children. (Hint: It isn’t, really, just one is more challenging, and fulfilling. Guess which one.)
Yes, I am a Stay At Home Mom, with all of the privileges and challenges that engenders, but I am also a teacher, and, as the cliche goes, a personal assistant, nurse, vet, head gardener, home manager, financial adviser, personal chauffeur, chef,art teacher, maid, stylist, manicurist, janitor, home handy-woman, guidance counselor, music teacher, nutritionist etc. What I do IS my occupation. I AM a Stay At Home Mom. And I get promoted every time one of my children moves up a grade, achieves something new, or when I have a new baby. Each promotion is precious and unique, and with it brings a bevy of new responsibilities and tasks. I am paid in far more than kisses and hugs. I am paid in unique blessings that come every day in the form of surprises and newly met expectations. Each day has its own secrets, but some carry over from day to day, month to month, and hopefully, I will find, from year to year. Here are the ten I could whittle myself down to:
- Money isn’t everything. Yes, people have often said “It is impossible to have a one income home these days! Families simply MUST have both parents working!” No, no they don’t. And before someone speaks of my privilege and luxury, I have news for you, our family of 6 all live on my husband’s low paying day labor job at a local warehouse that carries an hourly wage. He isn’t a manager, or even a supervisor. Yes, we have enough to eat, a home to live in, and a car to drive, one for me and one for him. The key to this delicate financial balancing act? Nothing more than a can do attitude and a bit of elbow grease, oh yeah, and we’re kind of allergic to debt. We don’t do student loans, car payments, cell phones, or cable. We aren’t bored either. We save on food by gardening in the summer, freezing for the winter, and a LOT of from scratch home cookin’. Keeps us busy AND well fed! We also maintain a second home which we rent out for a little income. This was the product of yet MORE hard work, and it is my job to do the “property” management on this little gem.
- Being a Stay At Home Mom IS a full time job, a career path. Just like any other career, I am “promoted” (My latest promotion, Isaiah, was 3 months ago, and he is just learning to sit up!) And just like any other career, I am constantly honing my skills. It takes a lot of ingenuity and hard work to manage laundry for 6 people, in 3 bedrooms, with no closets. It also takes some more ingenuity to work within our limited budget, yet maintain a comfortable standard of living, and furthermore, to contribute what we should to others in need. What requires the most learning and skill development though, is school. I am constantly brushing up on my history, math, teaching phonics, etc. My oldest is going into second grade this year, and it challenges me daily to keep up with her reading progress. No, I am not required by law to take Act 38 credits, but I am required by me, to constantly learn more to better serve my students.
- I am paid. As per the Proverbs 31 model, I am a woman of many pursuits. Yes my children pay me in kisses, hugs, compliments, and unique drawings, and my husband pays me in praise and encouragement. Yet, I am also paid a monetary sum. I have my fingers and toes in a variety of money earning ventures. All that I can do while caring for my children, and putting the priority of my “day job” first. My home is my most important job, and part of maintaining that is earning a little here and there to pay for our trips to the museum, our forays into semi gourmet cooking experiments, and other fun activities and surprise needs.
- I am fulfilled. This is my dream job, and the only assault on my contentment and fulfillment are people who assume I should be doing something more, and tell me so with all of the smug condescension of royalty. Please, educate yourselves. I am doing what any teacher does in their classroom, what any daycare worker does in theirs. Add to that an intensity that comes with proximity to your students, and then I do what other professions cover as well. This IS my job. I am happy doing it, and I can’t imagine anything else. There was a point in my life where I pursued this exact same career path outside my home (worked in daycare, then a school.) but I found that no matter how hard I worked, how passionate I was, I just couldn’t compete with parents for the impact they had on their child’s life. So I realized my true calling was to become a “career” Mom.
- I have impact outside of my home. I know, the majority of my work is physically inside my home. The most inane argument against becoming a Stay At Home Mom I’ve ever heard is “But you won’t impact SOCIETY.” Really? Yes I will. I’m raising children to become a powerful force for good IN our society. I’m teaching them concepts that include civic duties, how worldviews affect our actions, how to care for the poor, the importance of volunteerism, loving others as yourself, and the beauty in our revolutionary founding Father’s ideas for government and society. I’m teaching them to help others, teach others, guide them, and educate them. I’m teaching them how to properly care for and manage resources, and how to avoid the rampant consumerism that impacts later generations. I’m teaching them to live in such a way that considers their neighbor, and treats others as they would wish to be treated, to honor God, and to love their neighbor.
- My kids aren’t weird misfits. At least, not any more than yours are. All children are awkward at this age, socially or not. Why? They are all still learning. Also, my kids, by having a strong home and family life, avoid the culture of bullying, exclusion, and peer pressure that other children encounter in a peer charged school environment. Our culture may accept, tolerate, or even glorify these habits in teenagers, thinking it makes them stronger, but since when have you heard the bullied child say: “I’m glad those kids in my school tormented me daily, it made me that much stronger.” Rarely does this kind of social dysfunction end well. My kids interact with people in a variety of age ranges, they know how to introduce themselves, converse intelligently, learn from someone older than them, and how to put the ipad away and focus on the people in the room. That doesn’t make them perfect, or even experts at socializing. It just means they now value the same things I do, and are socialized by a broader spectrum. Socialization isn’t by definition a peer led process, it is simply a process where a person learns their cultural expectations. Well, my kids know them just as well as other kids do, just my expectations differ a little.
- Being a Stay At Home Mom takes guts. Be prepared to receive a variety of challenges and statements regarding your choice to be a Stay At Home Mom. Anything from you are ruining your kids lives by confining them to home, to ruining yours. It takes guts to stand up to the social bullies at the grocery store.
- Being a Stay At Home Mom has supporters. From the lady at the post office, to the kind woman we met in the library, be prepared to have people encourage you too. Take those nuggets of gold, and tuck them away, you’ll need them later, like when Junior makes a mess with the baby powder and vaseline in the bathroom. It is then you’ll be saying “Thank God for Mrs. Weiss. She said I’m doing a good job. A good job, yes a good job…”
- Being Creative is your secret weapon. One time I saw a really cool recipe for making your own soda. Knowing I wanted a healthy option for my children, but unwilling, and unable, to shell out the big bucks for a storebought version. I went ahead and made the recipe. 10 days of fermenting later, we tried it…
- A sense of humor is invaluable. And that home made soda was terrible. We were able to laugh over this misstep and swear off of it forevermore. Not every day is easy, not every day is hard, but every single day has SOMETHING we can laugh at, enjoy, and be thankful for.