The Myth of the Stay-at-Home Mom
Did you all read the post this past week on Matt Walsh’s Blog about Stay at Home Moms? I saw it shared and re-shared and shared some more on Facebook. He said some VERY nice things about stay at home moms. He did a fantastic job of advocating for his wife while she wasn’t around. I feel sure he racked up lots of well-deserved brownie points.
On the other hand, I just don’t really get why this is a conversation we seem to need to keep having. Maybe it’s just me, but of ALL the “STAY-AT-HOME” mom’s I can think of, not a single one of them . . . nary a one . . . fits the stereotypical model of the stay-at-home mom (SAHM). Not a single one of them drives her kids to school, drops them off, and then peacefully goes home and cleans her house and takes care of the long list of home management things that seem to fall to the mothers (regardless of where they work) of the world.
Just off the top of my head, I honestly haven’t been able to think of a SAHM who isn’t also juggling a full or part-time job, some sort of organized ministry effort, a home-based business of one variety or another, homeschooling one or more children, or some combination of all of those. I consider myself a SAHM and at one point I was doing ALL of those things simultaneously.
So what exactly is this SAHM thing, anyway? I’m beginning to think that it just means that when all the dust has settled, this role I currently find myself in of wife and mother is the most important of all of the other roles that I play. I mean, it takes some prioritizing to decide which things get done now and which things get done later, and more often than not, I choose the things that fit in the “Wife” or “Mom” or “Home” categories first.
In the past, when I had a career outside the home (pre-kids), I felt like in the big scheme of things my marriage was more important than my job and had it been necessary, I would have made hard choices to put my marriage first. But . . . if I’m honest with myself (and my husband would probably appreciate it if I were), I often made choices during that time of my life that were hard ones on him. I wanted to really be successful in that area of my life, and while I worked VERY hard to find some balance and be true to my priorities, it’s just not always possible to give everything 100% simultaneously, so something (or someone) ends up suffering.
And it’s not that he never suffers, or that my kids are always able to be my top priority now. It’s actually pretty important to me that my children don’t grow up thinking that the world revolves around them or that MY world revolves around them. I ask them to wait, to hold their demands, to entertain themselves while I attend to other things. There are plenty of times when I decide that something else is more important than their wants or needs at that time.
BUT . . . I make decisions differently now because of my choice to call myself a SAHM. Or, maybe it’s that I call myself a SAHM because I make decisions differently. For example, I teach a class in our homeschool group. I invest a decent amount of time and effort into it because I enjoy it, because doing things well is just important to me, and because I consider it a job and I am paid to do it. At some point last year, one of my children was sick on the day our group meets. It is possible that I could have arranged for someone else to watch my child that day so I could go and teach my class. It would have required some finagling, and any which way I sliced it, someone else’s day would have been impacted: my husband’s; my parents’, who had been in town visiting but were planning to leave that day; the person who would substitute for me in my class. In a another season of my life with a another job, I would have chosen differently. Differently. Not necessarily badly. Just, differently. That day, as I picked up the phone and made arrangements for a substitute, I remember telling my dad, “I teach so I can be with my children. If they aren’t going to be there, then I don’t think I need to be there, either.”
I don’t have it all figured out. I do think that believing that we understand the whole of a person because we can call them a “Stay-at-Home Mom” vs. a “Working Mother” is impractical. I have seen good mothers on all sides of this because I have worked outside of the home full-time, part-time, and not at all. It is TOUGH to be a mom under any circumstances (and being a dad is no piece of cake, either). Personally, I consider myself a SAHM because when I am doing enough things to make me want to put myself in a different category, I am unhappy and my spirit feels torn. I am FINE, absolutely FINE with juggling a billion responsibilities – with working on business-related items from my home, with accepting the occasional short-term part-time engagement outside of my home. But for ME, I choose to be a SAHM because coming back to this basic rhythm of life where I make home, and the people within it, what my life is primarily focused on keeps me sane. Even in the midst of the craziness that comes with it all.