It is everywhere. In the mouths of new people I meet. On paper work at my new doctors office. On the forms for my son’s taekwondo class. The word I dread… occupation. It actually sends a little moment of panic through me when I have to answer the question of “What do you do?”.
The thoughts “I hate this question!”, “What will they think?”, “Does my kid look clean enough right now for me to admit I stay home all day?”, “Maybe they will assume I am uneducated and can’t do anything else!”, “Maybe they will respect me for it.”, “Oh, No! What if they think that I think I am better then they are?!”, “Watch the eyes… Glaring? Hmm, to soon to tell.”, “I can always claim my very tiny part time job…please, some career!”, “Should I follow ‘Stay-at-home mom’ up with a list of volunteer work I do, did, may think about doing in the future?”… all these and more flash through my head at once. Why is this such a difficult question to answer? Why does it make me feel so inadequate? And how can I over come and live in contentment?
Now, I want to stop right here and clarify something. Being a stay-at-home mom is NOT the be all and end all of everything holy! I haven’t always been a stay-at-home mom and I don’t know if I always will be. I am right now because God made it very clear to me and my husband that this was His will for our family at this time. Far be it from me to know the mind of God, He could change this plan for us at anytime. Although I hope He doesn’t, I will follow Him into whatever He has for me.
Also, I have the utmost respect for mom’s who work outside the home. You know why? Because there is no such thing as a part-time mom! If you are a mom that works outside the home, your job is double as hard as mine! For you to work all day and raise your children properly is CRAZY hard! My life is full of working mothers who I could take some pointers from when it comes to raising kids, and without a doubt, housekeeping! This post… my life, is not about tearing you down! I honestly applaud you. This post is just about having respect and being humbled by the things God has called you to do. For me it is to stay home. For you it maybe different. Please take pride in whatever situation God is using you in right now.
Part of the reason for the feelings of inadequacy that I and other stay-at-home moms feel is because of media. From the very early years of childhood you are told that you are women and you are strong! Women have fought hard to give us the rights and freedoms that we have today! YES! This is all very true! And in and of itself is not a bad message to convey to little girls. The problem starts when we tell a child they are somehow less of a person if they depend on their husbands for anything, especially money! Or that if they stay home with their kids that they are making a mockery of what women have fought for. It creates a not-so-funny paradox of living in freedom but really you are only free to do what society finds acceptable.
What else makes us not content? Relationships! Friends, family members, even people you hardly know. You feel like they are looking down on you because you are “not normal”. Some people bully you into feeling that you are not as good as they are, other people make you feel guilty that you get to stay home. You have heard it all before! “Oh gosh! I would go crazy if all I did was sit at home all day!”, as if you do nothing. OR “I wish we could afford for me to stay home.”, as if you aren’t making monetary sacrifices. OR, “You are so lucky you get to stay home with your kids all day!” That one is true, but it makes me feel like such a jerk that I don’t always behave like I am blessed, and sometimes my son drives me completely batty!
It all comes back to the comparing game. Maybe I am not as smart, thin, rich, talented, interesting, likable, educated, or perfect as the person I am talking to. We think they are going to judge our life decisions. And yes, a lot of times they really do. I have been told that “people like me” think we are better than everyone else because we stay at home. And that my life style discounts what mom’s who work outside the home do. Of course, I immediately want to tell those people to shove it where the sun don’t shine and ask why they are so hostile when I hadn’t even mentioned anything EVER about their decision to work?! But, I guess that wouldn’t be very Christ like. Ever feel that way?
The only way we will be happy in whatever our situation in life (and not bite peoples heads off for their off color comments) is to go from comparison to contentment. The first step, as with everything, is to give it to God. Remember He wants you here, therefore He put you here. He has a plan for you to accomplish, so get to work!
Second, realize that you can’t be everything! I remember when I was a young teenager I was asked what I wanted to be. At that point in my life I honestly couldn’t decide, so I replied “Everything!”. The ‘be everything’ mentality really tripped me up for a while. I wanted to be everything, anything, except a stay-at-home mom. No glitz, no glamor, no me! It was a few years into fighting this stay-at-home mom thing before I realized it wasn’t a punishment but a privilege. I can’t be everything that people want me to be. I can’t please everyone. But I should only be trying to please God anyway, and He has made my path clear. The clear direction He gave me is a blessing all it’s own. The job wasn’t what I planned. But then, it is rare that His plan is ever ours.
Third, understand that staying-at-home with your family is not worthless! The memories that I am blessed with making with my son, the influence I hold over his education, the ways I can help my husband with his work as a pastor, and the opportunity I will soon have to be a mom to children in foster care, are special and needed. Can a mom be what her family needs and work outside the home? Yes, I believe she can if that is what God has called her to do. But does that discount what I do? No more than my staying at home discounts her influence on her family. Plain and simple.
Forth, remember that you are not perfect. Sometimes we stay-at-home moms struggle with wanting to look perfect. We think that since we are home all day that we should have it all together. Well let’s face it. We don’t. Years ago, at a ladies meeting, I expressed my struggle with keeping my house clean. One lady glared at me from across the table and said, “Why? What do you do all day, Stay-at-Home Mom?”. I was floored by her response, and utterly embarrassed. When faced with people thinking you should be perfect it is very hard to not fake like you are. This isn’t a news flash to anyone who knows me but, I am a mess! My house and car stay in constant array, my hair is always a mess, I am over weight, I lose my patience… all the time, my family likes junk food and I rarely say no to them eating it, I watch T.V shows and movies I shouldn’t, I doubt God will make all things work for good sometimes, I want to be liked so badly by others that sometimes I won’t stand up for things I know are right, I yell at my husband, I have been known to be jealous and untrusting, I like to look wise and like I am close to God but most of the time I lean on my own understanding instead of giving everything to God, I HATE to mop and dust, I have family I never call because I simply don’t like to talk on the phone, I would like to be friends with people but I am to afraid of being rejected to invite them somewhere. And the list goes on and on. I am not perfect. And you know what? As much as I think it would be awesome to be perfect, I don’t want to be. If I was perfect, what would I need God for? All of my imperfections show me how much I need Him, and they show the world too. And when they look at this stay-at-home mom who just cannot seem to have it all together, I hope that they look a little deeper and see a girl who is just happy to be living in the plan that her God created especially for her. Because that would mean that I am content. And when we are content to just be what God has set out before us, it is then that we are moldable for Him to form us into more of His image. And that, no matter your occupation, is all that really matters.