I often get asked the question, "So are you JUST a stay at home mom right now?" Sometimes that question is followed up by support and well wishes... sometimes I get a really super cool, "Oh I would never be able to do that. I need to be able to use my brain." Or something like that.
Okay people, stay at home moms are not some lesser form of mother. True, sometimes I don't know what day of the week it is and I often cannot form complete sentences... but those are from sleep deprivation. Not a lowering of brain cells. I read, I write, I travel, I calculate the tip when we go out to eat, I keep a budget, I pay bills, I explore the outdoors, I socialize, I MULTIFIRCKINTASK like it's nobody's business, I teach... in fact I use my degree quite often when I teach my children about God.
There are crazy judgements going both ways, I know that some people give working moms a hard time and SHAME on them for doing that. I have nothing but respect for working moms. Not all moms are called to do things the same way.
But, to provide a little insight into why I want to be at home...
When I was growing up all I wanted to be (once I got over the whole dolphin trainer thing) was a mommy. I know it may be politically incorrect or whatever but there has never really been anything else that I have deeply desired to do with my life. (I say "anything else", like it isn't enough, a little tongue and cheek because I believe motherhood is one of the most important jobs in the world).
When I went to college I obviously went with a thirst for knowledge and the desire for a great education (and with my Theology and Catechetics degrees, a desire for a deeper understanding of God) but I always had a hard time picturing myself in a career. It's not because I'm not "independent" or because I wanted someone else to support me so I could stay home. It's because my desired "career path" came with no pay check and honestly required no degree at all. I knew that there was an array of jobs I would be very happy doing but I am very joyful that I was called to my vocation as young as I was.
It's a common topic among Catholic (and I assume all) moms, whether at not staying at home is "fulfilling".
It may be my experience working while Madeleine was a newborn, but I spent those six months desiring nothing more than to just be able to devote myself fully to my baby. I had a wonderful job in the Church and a beautiful little daughter but I felt so torn and lost. Actually, now that I think about it, it may be that desire to give myself fully combined with my ridiculous ADD that makes me know that I'm not really cut out to be a working mom.
And it's not that I think that working moms can't give themselves fully to their jobs and to their families. Many working moms pull it off with grace. I, however, am not that talented.
So really, to the point of all of this, I love being a stay at home mother. It is my heart's desire. I am blessed to have a husband who supports and cherishes my role in the home. I am also blessed that our finances allow him to be the sole bread winner.
There are a lot of times when I feel burnt out by it all. Being a mother isn't the easiest job in the world. It requires you to be on call and alert at all times. And once again, I only have two kids who aren't even school age yet!
Some days I feel empowered. I feel like the most wonderful mommy in the world. Madeleine is counting and showing me how she knows her shapes, Juliette is happy and playing with her sister, we all get to bathe, I cook an amazing meal, the dishes are done, and I just feel super.
Other days my mantra is "just stay alive". I plop the kids in front of Barney for 20 minutes with the intent of being productive but instead end up staring blankly at facebook. My hair is everywhere, I don't get out of my sweats, Juliette is eating the crayons, Madeleine is screaming about cookies, it's frozen pizza for dinner, and a tall glass of something with alcohol before bed (for me, not the kids), and my prayer time is something like, "Dear Lord what am I doing?". Most days its something in between those two, leaning towards the former.
Honestly, sometimes it is hard. As a mom I get almost no time to myself, someone always wants a piece of me, my body has been run ragged. I remember the days before kids when I went to the store by myself, heck when I went to the bathroom by myself, and the reason I didn't wear bikinis was modesty... not crazy stretch marks. Every day, in sickness and in health, I drag myself out of bed and give myself to my kids. They don't have a snooze button, they've gotten pretty used to being fed on a daily basis, and they don't prioritize doing the dishes over playing house. They are 2 and 1. They are sweet, loving, well behaved, and adorable little girls but they are a handful.
And yet I knew about all this getting into it. I watched my mom sacrifice for us growing up. We had the nicer clothes, the better technology. The money went to our hobbies and the house was always filled with our favorite snacks. My mom is a heroic example of sacrifice. But it goes beyond that, down to the heart of the vocation.
Motherhood, no matter if the mother is at home or working, is a vocation that allows us to unite ourselves with Christ by giving up our own bodies out of love for our children, as He gave His Body up for us. No, there is no way we can ever measure up to the sacrifices He made for us but we can unite what little we have to offer to Him. We can be whipped by our exhaustion or our morning sickness, crowned by the thorns of judgements of others who don't understand us (pro-life, NFP, large families), made to carry the cross of our own human flawed human nature, and, if we are really good, we can chose to die to ourselves every day. Nursing mom give their bodies as food to their newborns. Like Mary, we suffer the pains of our children with them. The daily sacrifices we make allow us to decrease so Christ can increase in us.
Most days I don't get it right, my selfishness wins out at some point or another. Still, every day by the grace of God, I grow to love my children more and that gives me the drive to try again. I don't want to be a stay at home mother because it is easy, because it is not, but because it is so rewarding to know that in some way I can experience the love Christ has for me in loving my children.
I wrote a while back about how my vocation as a wife leads me closer to God, this is about my vocation as a mother.
Honestly, most of the time I'm not sure what the word "fulfilled" even means. I used to judge God's will in my life but what made me the happiest. I began to realize that most of the time it meant I was ignoring God's true call for me and doing something "fun". I don't always enjoy hard work and motherhood definitely qualifies as such.
Now I try to find God's will by searching for peace. Even on the hardest days I have peace in my call. I don't think that this is right for every mom but for now at least, it is where my Shepherd leads me.
So maybe in the future I'll put my degrees to good use, maybe even get my masters. For now I am more fulfilled than I ever have been. Tired... but fulfilled.