I have often wondered why our culture puts so much importance on an individuals employment choices. Being asked what you do for a living is one of the most common questions people face. When asked, I’m not always sure how to respond. The cultural view of motherhood, specifically the role of a stay at home mom, is often viewed with contempt.
It was a few weeks after we arrived in our new community before we located a pet friendly rental home. I was thrilled with the prospect of getting my family of five, and large restless dog, out of the hotel room. Maid service aside, I daresay I was at the brink of desperation for a full sized coffee pot and absence of cable TV.
My excitement ran so high, I didn’t immediately notice the cold reception at the real estate office. I cheerfully handed our rental application to the young receptionist, who began scanning the form without looking directly at us. When finally looking up, she stared directly at me and demanded, “So, you’re currently unemployed!?!” Thankfully my husband began laughing out loud.
I wish I could say the question of my employment status was isolated to one incident. On another occasion, while taking my daughter to an appointment, I found myself being questioned again. The sweetly smiling girl at the appointment desk wanted to go through the entire file to make sure all insurance and contact information was current. After verifying my husband’s work information, she suddenly became quiet, and apologetically asked, “Our records indicate your unemployed. Has that status changed?”
un·em·ployed: a person without a paid job but available to work
By general definition, I am a person without a paid job. I could argue and suggest mud pies, crayon art, and sticky hugs and kisses are forms of compensation. If I could just get the bank to agree, I’d be wealthy!
Being a stay at home mom is more than a full time job, and it’s hard work. I know many would argue. Stay at home moms are not usually out digging ditches or performing other hard labor, but the work we do is continual. Continual as in never ceasing. No matter where we go or what we do, there is always something we need to do, plan, or think about. This usually occurs with one or several small humans on our hip, attached to our legs, or otherwise invading our bubble of personal space.
Too often our culture minimizes the important work mothers do. It’s increasingly evident in younger generations.
My husband and I recently ran into a young dad out with his very active children. When asked about his wife, he vented at how she’d left to visit her mother for the weekend. He rolled his eyes and added, “She says she needs a break. I’ve had them all weekend and they are fine. It’s not hard. I don’t know what her problem is!” When I could privately talk to my husband about the encounter, I appreciated his perspective. He said simply, “Sure it’s not hard for him. He knows he gets to go back to work on Monday.”
Regardless if a mother works outside the home or chooses to be a stay at home mom, mothers have the single most important job. I have experienced the role of motherhood while working full time, and presently staying at home full time and homeschooling. I personally feel, the most rewarding and most challenging time of my life has been the time as a stay at home mom.
I don’t know what every stay at home mom does in a day, but I think I can speak generally for a few. We rock our babies. We hug the hurts of our toddlers. We are puked on, peed on, slept on and sneezed on. We spend sleepless nights watching over our sick children. We wrestle in prayer for them. We hide our tears when we’re too tired and overwhelmed. We give up our lunch when our children are hungry for more. We share our water bottles with our slobbery toddlers, and say a silent prayer of thanks when backwash is crumb free. We pray there will again be a day we can use the bathroom alone.
We read! We read so many books. We learn to hide the books our toddlers love the best, and explain, “The caterpillar is not hungry tonight. Let’s read about green eggs and ham instead.” We find the favored book when our efforts fail. We have some of the stupid books memorized because we’ve read them so, so many times. We love that our kids love books. We rejoice when they learn to read. We grieve when we realize they no longer need us to read to them about that hungry caterpillar.
We give the best underdogs on the park swings. We even push other children while their tired moms watch from a restful park bench. Our heart hurts a little as we watch a young mom helping her toddler, while reminding our growing kids to slow down around little ones. We watch. We always watch. Whenever a child says, “hey mom, look at me…” Every mom that hears, looks up to watch.
We pray over curriculum. We pray over math. We throw out a math book and pray over new curriculum. We read more books, schedule field trips and search for creative ways to help our children learn. We develop a love/hate relationship with Pintrest.
We question ourselves. We pray we are enough. We log countless hours sitting up late to listen to the struggles of our hormonal teens. We watch them make mistakes. We cry when they have to learn hard lessons through experience. We hold our youngest close and cherish each moment, realizing childhood is fleeting.
photo credit: The Healer via photopin (license)
At the end of a day, I often find myself feeling drained. I remind my children of my granny’s words, “Angel’s smile down on babes with clean faces.” I receive non-sticky hugs and kisses as I tuck them in for the night. They tell me they are not babes anymore. I pray with them. I pray for them.
Although I am unemployed, I have a career. I am a homemaker. I am a wife. I am a mom. I have the hardest job I will ever love! What do you do?