Stay at Home Mommies- Get it Right!
If you’ve stumbled upon my blog, let me make one thing clear before I carry on. I’m no feminist. You won’t find any “women can do anything men can do” messages here. Nope. Nadda. I believe feminism is a destroyer. A destroyer of women. A destroyer of men. Of marriages. Of families. Of society. In fact, if you want a decent understanding of my beliefs on feminism, check out this blog post from Matt Walsh (whom echoes many of my own understandings on family): http://themattwalshblog.com/2014/04/22/christian-women-feminism-is-not-your-friend/
But I digress. The focus of this post is this:
When (and for how long) should moms leave the workforce and focus on motherhood?
Notice I did not say “SHOULD THEY”, I said “WHEN”. Because I believe mothers SHOULD (if they can-and they can-almost always) put aside their work-world ambitions and devote their talents (because they have talents that fathers do not-and vice versa) to parenting their children. Fathers and mothers are NOT equal (if we believe equal means same). Women, as mothers, have certain skills that are innate. And men, as fathers, have different skills to offer to parenting, that are innate. Now, has society tried to downplay these unique skills? Yes. Has feminism tried to take away our women’s pride in our unique skills as mother? Absolutely.
But I digress. The focus of this post is this:
Women SHOULD stay at home with their children. And they should NOT do it when their children are babies or toddlers. Because anyone can love your little bundle of joy. Anyone can provide his/her very basic baby needs (bottle, diaper, sleep, repeat). Sure, you should be there to help provide those basic needs. You should forge that unique mother/child bond, just like dad should develop that father/child relationship. But others can help. A grandparent (which I would argue to be the best option- assuming you have good parents), a quality daycare, a reliable sitter down the street- can all help provide your child’s needs while you work. And you should work. When they are young. For several reasons-
- To earn some money (which you should save for the future when you’ll be staying at home)
- To foster healthy, adult relationships (so you aren’t just a diaper changing, milk dispenser in stretched out sweatpants)
- To avoid parenting burn out (because you’ll need a reserve of energy for future use-a lot of reserve energy).
A few years back I was faced with a very hard reality. My kid had no recollection I stayed at home with him from roughly birth to age 5. He had no idea I let my body go, I ate too much ice cream, I fought with my husband (because I was jealous that he got to talk to adults while I mastered baby garble)- all in the name of being a good, stay-at-home mom who wasn’t going to let anyone else take on my role. Ever. Nobody else was going to give my kid a bottle (gasp-nipple confusion would ruin him, right?). Nobody else was going to dress him, diaper him, feed him, hold him or stare at him endlessly so he never would forget my face. And now, ten years later, I just heard him remark in shock, “You stayed home with me when I was a baby?!”
And so it hit me. Why did I do that? Why did we struggle financially, I struggled emotionally and I gave up a career so he could one day forget I did all that? And now here I am, working full time (teaching) and things are getting HARDER, not easier! He’s mobile, he wants to go to friends’ houses, he’s in sports, he has piano lessons, field trips, homework (endless homework), projects and (ughh) I’m supposed to fit in discussions about puberty, peer pressure, religion, goal setting, money management, good choices, etc., etc., etc.! I’m exhausted! I can’t do it! I should just buy him an xbox so he’s quiet and let’s me grade papers! Because my career is important, I already gave it up, once. For him.
STOP! Mothers-we got it wrong! If I can teach anyone, anything, before it’s too late- work when they are babies, stay home when they are tweens and teens!
That’s when you’ll have the greatest impact. That’s when they need you most (oh they won’t say it, but they will). That’s the time when memories are truly made, and you have the power to influence them for life. They really will not care that you saw their first step, or witnessed their first bite of squash, or breast fed them ’til they were 3 (in fact, that last one is bound to gross them out). But, they will benefit beyond measure when you are there to comfort them through their first break up, sit with them during their first driving lesson, walk with them as they open up about peer pressures and college decisions. That’s when parenting becomes most important! Yet, most mothers feel that’s when they should reenter the workforce, cut the apron strings, throw money at them and start living a more me-filled life. NO. We’ve got it backward folks!
We need to keep the end in mind. Always.
Parenting isn’t about those first few years. Oh sure, they will tell you how important it is for brain development that you breast feed or choose the right formula, and buy the right toys, and give them the perfect balance of carbs versus protein, and put them in the right shoes. But the first few years mean nothing. You’re both in survival mode. And rightly so. It’s new to both of you. But later, like 10 or 15 years later, the real fun begins. And you ought to give yourself the chance to enjoy (used lightly) every minute of it. And you ought to give them the chance to learn with your guidance, not another parent, or (oh pa-leez) their friends’ help.
I know not all moms can choose to stay at home. I know we all have unique, crazy situations to contend with. But I also know more moms can (and should) stay at home. Not forever. Not at first. But, if you can (even if it means putting the brakes on the new house or big promotion), then choose that time wisely. When do you think your unique talents as mom will be most useful? Most important? Most influential to your children? Secret- it’s not when they will have absolutely no memory of it. So plan for it when they are young, give yourself grace if you miss their first bike ride because you were working. Hug them, love them and care for them when they are little, and prepare for when they aren’t anymore. Because it’s coming quicker than you ever thought possible.