To Be or Not To Be a Stay-At-Home Mom?

Having the opportunity to be a mother is a great privilege. Since the age of sixteen when some health issues arose, I always doubted that I would be able to have a family. The doctors told me it could be a difficult road for me.

But, if I fast forward to today, I find myself in a house that definitely shows signs that it is greatly inhabited by kids.

As I sit at my desk and look around the room, there are immediate, noticeable signs:

A permanent handprint stains the light tan paint near a light switch.
My bed’s baseboard has two parallel scratch marks that trace the wheels of one of Oliver’s toy cars during a heated race.
My end table is dominated by a toy cash register that Ava also transforms into a phone.
A coffee table has what appear to be permanent sticky finger prints that glisten in the sun.
A pink crooked, hand-made streamer hangs near my desk as a reminder of Oliver’s first self-planned hosting engagement – a Back to School Hot Dog party.
Ava’s high chair beckons me from the corner of the room as it drowns in a coat of chocolate pudding left over from her first, self-fed pudding experience.

I AM a mom.

I am a working mom.

I’ve never counted how many hours I work per a week, but one time I was reflecting on my current work load, and I said to Nick, “I bet I work at least 20 hours a week.”

It’s always been difficult to count since I don’t hold strict office hours.

He looked at me, in disbelief, and said, “I KNOW you work 40 hours a week.” I thought about it, and it was true.

I always thought I’d follow in the tradition of my grandmothers and my mother and be a stay-at-home mom. They devoted one hundred percent of their time to their children, and we’ve all been thankful for that investment.

But, now that it’s my turn to be a mom, I know that I am wired different. Or, maybe I’m not.

My grandmother talks about being a stay-at-home mom in the 1950s. She said that those years were very difficult for her as she went in and out of depression and feeling useless. After my mother went to high school, my grandmother re-entered the job force, got her Master’s in Counseling and became a principal of a high school for pregnant teenage mothers.

She once told me, “I shouldn’t have waited so long to re-enter the work force. I think I would have been a better mother if I would have given myself an outlet; a purpose.” I feel the same is true for me.

I am so glad that she did make a difference in my mother’s life and the lives of all of those struggling young mothers.

She is famous in Niagara Falls, NY. She can’t go through a grocery store without being stopped several times by former students who thank her in the bread aisle for heading up a program that gave them the support they needed during those difficult years and gave them a new start and vision for life.

I’ve always felt guilty for needing an outlet. I’ve always admired those mothers who have so much energy to do crafts, arrange play dates every day, and dedicate every thought and every moment to their children.

I’ve dealt with extreme guilt for feeling that I just cannot stay home, focused on my children, all day, every day. I need to feel like I’m contributing to a greater purpose outside of my family. I need to feel like I’m following one great dream that intertwines two strands: family and the world.

I know I love my kids immensely. I know they love me. I know that I would give up anything, if I had to, for the health and success of my children. I know that they are my number one priority.

But, I, like my grandmother, have to say that I am a better mother to my kids, and more energetic about my role as a mother, when I am allowed to truly be the person God created me to be; to pursue the dreams He has given me.

I love the fact that I have the freedom to be me. I still feel a tinge of guilt in writing this, and already envision stay-at-home moms scolding me in their minds.

You know what? I am finally ok with that.

So, for those moms out there who are like me: Be free! For those of you who feel like you were created to be stay-at-home-moms: Don't let working moms intimidate you. Be free!

I think that sometimes when we love ourselves enough to stand up and do what we, as individuals, need and are gifted to do, our kids also learn to love themselves more.

Someday, they will also have the courage to dream bigger.
To discover who they really are and what makes them “tick.”
To value themselves and stand by their values and dreams no matter what the cultural norms say.

I am here for my kids. I spend time with them. I know them.

But, I also finally truly know and accept me.