On Sunday I worked in the nursery with a dear older lady. She's the kind that has all kind of out-dated opinions about everything and is so sweet to share them. I had to stop her several times from giving some of the babies things like water or snacks when their parents hadn't given us the okay. We were working on the infant side, and typically moms tell you what to give their babies, if they want them to have anything. Absence of permission does not mean a green light in the infant world...but I digress.
I work with her once every couple of months, and we always have the same conversations whenever we work together. It's fine. She always tells me how she had to go back to work when her son was one month old. And then she said something that always always makes me feel icky.
"Being a stay-at-home mom is such a gift."
I hate it when people say that. It makes me feel almost defensive, even though I know they believe they are validating me when they say it. But they are implying that the only reason someone chooses to be a stay-at-home-mom is because their husband brings home serious bacon and they can afford to do so. As if staying at home with your children is a luxury. I feel misrepresented. Or that I'm misrepresenting our financial status. I feel icky.
I know there is a passive-aggressive, sometimes silent, sometimes outspoken war between stay-at-home moms and working moms. Each judging the other side over the choices they've made on how to raise their babies. And I feel like I've come a long way in the past three years on how I view working moms. I know you can't put working moms in a box, saying that they would rather work than raise their kids. Yes, there are moms out there who don't enjoy the day-to-day tedious tasks of raising kids so they work instead. But there are some who need to in order to make sure their kids have food. There are single moms who literally have no choice. There are some who feel that they are doing the best for their kids by putting some distance between them, in an absence-makes-the-heart-grow-fonder fashion. Working moms work for a myriad of reasons.
But maybe I feel put in a box when people find out I'm a stay-at-home mom. When they say things like, "Oh it's such a gift" or "That's wonderful that you're able to do that. We couldn't" it makes me want to say, that it's not a gift for us; it's a sacrifice. We are not upper middle class. I'm not sure we're even middle middle class. But I stay at home, because I want to raise my kids. And because of that choice, we can't live like the rest of America. There are many, many things that we have to do without. And one of the biggest battles I face as a stay-at-home mom is the battle with jealousy. Right behind our town home is a beautiful neighborhood. I've walked in there many times, fighting away a pity party as I realize that we will probably never live in a house like that, because we've chosen to live on one income. Most days I feel fear welling up in my belly as I look at our old cars, knowing that we don't have the money to make car payments should one of them conk out on us. I have to consciously, physically force myself to pray and remind myself that God truly does take care of us.
I love staying at home with my girls. I do not have any desire to re-enter the workforce anytime soon. I hope that's not what you're reading. I guess I just want to present the side that says stay-at-home moms are home for a myriad of reasons too. You can't assume that stay-at-home moms are living quite comfortably financially just because they stay at home. And if they aren't comfortable financially, then you can almost safely assume that they are aware of the sacrifice they are making to stay at home.
I know people say things like that to me to validate themselves, really. They probably assume I'm judging them the minute I find out they did not stay at home. Maybe when it comes up, I should change my answer from "I'm a stay at home mom" to "I'm a stay at home mom, and I'm not judging you for your choices." I usually just nod and smile when they say that staying at home is a gift. But I always feel like they have a wrong view of me, and I don't like that. Maybe I should say, "I'm living how God has called us to live, and I fully support you in your effort to do the same."
If you are a working mom, good for you. May God give you wisdom as you balance work with child-rearing.
If you are a stay-at-home mom, good for you. May God give you grace to give to working moms.
If you are a working mom who wishes she were a stay-at-home mom, I hope you've looked into it carefully. Staying at home can be a difficult, painful sacrifice, but there are resources out there to help you cut corners and figure out how to make it work. Don't give up on that dream simply because you think it's financially impossible. Only come to that conclusion after you have done some serious math.