Ricochet is the best place on the internet to discuss the issues of the day, either through commenting on posts or writing your own for our active and dynamic community in a fully moderated environment. In addition, the Ricochet Audio Network offers over 50 original podcasts with new episodes released every day.
Spoiler alert: I think mothers staying home with their kids is best.
Hold on! Having said that I have known many wonderful mothers, including my own, who worked outside the home. I understand all circumstances are different but do believe that staying home – is best.
I haven’t always felt this way; let me explain.
Becoming a stay-at-home mom was never on my radar as a youth; I wanted to be like Ally McBeal or Topanga and take on the world! (While of course – fulfilling my matronly obligation.) I just figured being a mom without an outside job was beneath me; I assumed I needed more.
I began my career working with kids right out of high school and for the next 14 years, that was my life. It didn’t take long to see that the apple doesn’t fall far from the tree.
A child’s home life was reflected in almost everything I saw:
I worked with a fifth-grade boy who wouldn’t listen to me because I was a “white woman”, when talking to his dad about this behavior, I received the same exact disrespect. (Awwwwkward.) I saw a special needs kindergartner who couldn’t separate the fight scenes he saw on TV from reality and kept beating-up his classmates. (His method of choice; whacking kids in the face with a tree branch lightsaber.)
I observed sisters who interacted with each other, as one teacher observed, “like little animals”, and when we met their parents, sadly, it became obvious where they learned it. I watched a nine-year-old juggle living between his lawyer mom’s and professor dad’s homes; the poor guy was bright, but tired and disheveled, hardly able to tell you the day of the week let alone any academics from class.
I noticed most of the kids I worked with had working mothers. In fact, since 1975, the number of mothers with young children in the work field has almost doubled. In my college classes, I learned about brain development; how 80% of a child’s brain is developed by age three, 90% by the time they start kindergarten, and the more positive, stable and nurturing that child’s relationships are when they are young, the better off they are as adults.
Five years and one bachelor’s degree later I was in a new city; new school, new kids…same issues. By this point I was fully convinced, from firsthand experience, that families and the home environment were the biggest factors for a child’s success. I recognized how problems trickled into adulthood and society.
Eeeeven still – I had no plans to give up my career and raise children. Then that changed.
A leader from my church said something that didn’t sit well with me, it was about feminism. Now this was back when I heard “feminism” and naively thought of the Suffragists Movement and women entering the work field; not the abortion-loving, man-hating chicks you see today.
So I heard this leader mention feminism in what I perceived as a negative light, and it bugged me; a lot.
How are women who want to provide for their families bad? What is so wrong with wanting to do the same thing as men?
I was seething. For days this boiled in my mind until I decided I had two choices; I could let it fester – or I could do as I had been counseled since childhood, which was search, ponder and pray. I chose the latter.
After weeks of doing this, I got my answer and I’ll never forget it. It was a Sunday afternoon as I was reading my scriptures, the thoughts came like the rays of a sunrise; first small and gradual, eventually flooding into every crevice of my mind.
My answer came in two parts:
1) God loves women. That was made very, very clear. He is pleased with our innate desires to do good and help others, He gave that to us. A mother who wants to provide for her family or supplement her husband’s income is not bad. A woman who wants to have a career and utilize the skills she’s fine-tuned is not bad. A mother who wants to help others through her job is not bad, in fact, these are noble. A nurse, teacher, hairstylist, these are noble professions motivated by honorable and selfless desires. As women we are amazingly gifted in serving wherever we can; we really are incredible!
So what’s the issue? The problem lies in this…
2) Mothers are entrusted with the nurturing and rearing of their children; this is no small task. Think of the concerns a mother grapples with:
Is my child getting the right amount of sleep, is it quality sleep? Is he eating enough, is he eating too much? Is she getting enough playtime, enough social time…what are these bumps on her legs? When should I potty train, HOW do I potty train, does she know not to talk to strangers? Did I yell too much today, is he gonna need therapy someday…did I check for ticks today? Does he know how to handle a bully, what if he is the bully? Preschool or no preschool, does he have all his shots, has my car-seat been checked by a certified car-seat inspector…holy crap is that a tick bite! What is she learning at school from her teachers, from her friends? Do her friends have smartphones – what is she seeing? Has she seen a pornographic image yet? Have I prepared her for that? Have we had the sex talk, how do we have the sex talk!? Did I miss soccer registration, is he doing enough extracurricular activities, is he doing too much? Did that tick have Lyme disease, is she on-level for reading, will she go to college? Am I preparing him spiritually, does he know how much I love him, will he ever know how to get the pee in the freakin’ toilet?! Does my child have Lyme disease?!
Was this list annoying?? Was it long and rambling? Are you tired just reading it or did you skip it altogether? Well, friends, this is just a drop in the bucket. Ask any mom; a teeny-tiny drop, into the anxiety-filled, sleep-deprived, million-miles-a-minute mind – of mothers. It is overwhelming. It is exhausting. It never stops.
And herein lies the conundrum of working outside the home; when anything distracts, divides, or displaces a mother’s attention and concern for her children, that is a problem. These distractions come in many forms: it can be a job, volunteer positions, social obligations, our phones, the gym, anything that takes away the most important thing from our children; us.
This answer made sense to me. I thought about my experiences with other people’s children, I thought about my future children. I reflected on my exhausting days as a teacher and how my patience was gone by the time I got home. Why would I want to add anything extra to my plate that would make me more tired and less attentive to my kids? If I didn’t have to, why would I entrust someone else to teach my children the values I so greatly desire them to have?
I was convinced. I was converted. I was changed.
And I haven’t looked back.
Don’t get me wrong, I am all for moms having their “me-time”. I have pried tiny hands off my body and lovingly shoved them into their room so I can have that “me time”; friends, hobbies, education, a shower, all great! Filling our cup is essential, but if our children get put on the back-burner as a result, that is an issue.
Also, I am not advocating for helicopter parenting.
Nor am I absolving fathers from their responsibilities. They have an equally important role to play, but it’s different because they’re different; they’re not mom. My kids adore their dad; he plays, he protects, he provides, but when they’re sick, they want me. When they hurt, they cry for mom.
After I had my first baby and decided to quit my job, my experience echoed many others I’ve heard describe it; sacrifice. It was a sacrifice of money, of career progression, of interaction with other humans, but a most worthwhile one.
I have a new job now – I only get one shot – and I don’t intend to fail. Because no success will compensate for failure in my home.
What You Can Do
- If and when you are expecting, research your options; staying home is more possible than you may think.
- Pray for what is best for your family.
- Reach out to mom groups in your area.
- Talk to other, more experienced mothers for guidance.
- Focus on the Family and Values Parenting are great Christian organizations with loads of information on parenting and family.
- LifePetitions has an extensive list of petitions “serving the pro-family community”.