DON'T MISS OUT!

Anna's Story

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Why? Because it is so much easier to run a home when I am, well, home.  Because it makes my family happy.  Because it makes me happy.  Because it feels right, so much more right than anything else I can think of doing.  My degree is in physics teaching, but there are plenty of other physics teachers, most of whom can do the job I would be doing as well or better than I.  As a physics teacher, I am replaceable.  As a mother, I am not.  My children need ME.  There is so much more to mothering than keeping children clothed, fed, and clean.  So much teaching, loving, building.  I am building more than a home...I am building relationships with my children that will anchor them all their lives.  I am building people, who in turn will go out and change the world.  I am changing the world, one little person at a time.

How? John and I knew before we were married that having me home with our children was a priority for us.  So the choices we made at the beginning were made with that dream in mind.  We planned to live on his income from the start.  We actually worked together in an office at the time, which was lovely--the working together, not the office--so we used my income to pay down debt (our car) and build savings.  We lived in a little, run-down, cottage home in a run-down part of Mesa and paid next-to-nothing for it.  We furnished it with hand-me-downs and thrift store finds.  We bought nothing on credit; we didn't even have a credit card.

When I got pregnant with Adam, we had been married five months.  I didn't get very sick, but I was queasy constantly and so tired I could hardly stand it, especially at work.  Trying to keep my eyes open all day (and trying not to gag because the office air was so stale) wore me out and I would come home and crash.  Every day.  I did this for two months.  I ultimately decided that it would be better to fulfill one of my roles well than both of my roles poorly (wife and employee).  So, we talked it over, and realized we had enough in savings to pay off our car (which had been my "retirement" goal), and I quit my job.  We were debt free, living on one (modest) income.
Money was tight.  It has been tight ever since, honestly.  I don't think it always will be, but so far it has been.  But we have always had enough.  The Lord has provided, often in miraculous ways, and made it possible for John to provide, as we have done all we can to make it possible for me to stay home.  I think one key has been that first decision to live on John's income and stay out of debt as much as possible.  That laid the foundation.  I have had opportunities to supplement our income by working and I have never felt right about them.  I do all I can with what I have, and I trust John to provide financially for our family.  I support him, and he supports me.  To me, that is what marriage is about.  It is a partnership.  John provides our income.  I work hard to stretch our income, make things myself, sew, cook from scratch, shop at thrift stores, keep a garden. I make lots of mistakes.  I over-economize, I under-economize, and sometimes I fall apart.  But I keep trying, and I know the Lord makes up the difference. We had one vehicle for years.  We still use secondhand furniture, and my children wear hand-me-downs.  We live simply.  We make it work.  It has been worth every sacrifice.  Would we have more money if I worked outside our home?  Probably.  Would we have more happiness?  I am certain beyond all doubt that the answer to that question is no.

I am grateful every day for the privilege of staying home, of raising my own children.  I know it is God's will for me and that He is the One who really makes it possible. We pay a tithe to our church (The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints) before paying our other expenses, and we have seen so many blessings come as a result of this practice. I am convinced it is a major part of our ability to make this work.  (See Malachi 3:10The Windows of Heaven)

I know that not everyone has the option or the desire.  But if it is a desire of your heart, don't give up.  Pray about it, talk about it, see if there is a way.  Everyone's paths are different and I understand that.  This has been my experience, and I would not trade it for the world.

 "It takes faith--unseeing faith--for young people to proceed immediately with their family responsibilities in the face of financial uncertainties.  It takes faith for the young woman to bear her family instead of accepting employment, especially when schooling for the young husband is to be finished....But know this--that all these are of the planting, while faithful, devout families, spiritual security, peace, and eternal life are the harvest."                                                              SpencerW.Kimball, Faith Precedes the Miracle, p.11



Anna blogs here.

Technology



I have been asked quite a few times on how I deal with technology in the home with teens.

I have learned the hard way when it comes to tech rules.  The hard way being experience, and I have quite frequently felt "behind the ball" so to speak.  I've heard all sorts of different family rules/contracts (here is a great contract and here is another great set of rules from a blog whose author I admire greatly) and one that gave me much food for thought.  I've even read some books on the subject and I've come to the conclusion that no one really has all the answers and many of us parents are struggling with what to allow and what not to allow.

Technology usage ways heavily on my conscience and I know that excessive technology does change children's developing brains.  Beyond that, I think it hurts families, and relationships.  I think technology use is OUT OF CONTROL. I think much of the technology marketed to children and teens is very addicting and purposely meant to be so.  I think too much (which is just a little bit) numbs the brain. There are many studies on this, but they are often buried in the media, or brushed off.

Jeff and I decided that we will not have fancy rules, or rules that are confusing, or rules that are different for this child or that, or rules that require timers or reward systems. (I usually fail miserably at those!)
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These are our family tech rules now.  
Some were our rules always, some were enacted quite recently. 
They have developed over the years and will continue to develop as we have become more knowledgeable, and as technology has changed also.

=All technology only allowed in kitchen, dining room, and den.  (The den is where the one computer we have is located.)

This rule eliminates so many issues in one fell swoop.  You can't lounge on a sofa for hours scrolling through mindless crap,when someone might be trying to have a conversation with you.  You can't sit up late into the night in a bedroom texting to the wee hours of the morning.  Your parents and siblings are around.  We get to SEE you and TALK to you.

Of course the three oldest that have phones, bring their phones with them when going out.  But when they are at home, phones must stay in those areas.

Cell Phones
Right now (and this might change eventually), in eighth grade my kids receive a cell phone without internet for their graduation gift, all the way through high school and then at eighteen years old they receive a 'smart phone' if they wish for their birthday if they have reliable employment (they have to pay the $40 month extra it costs us.)

No locking codes on any personal devices ever.  If necessary for school (the high schools require that the kids lock them) we need to know the code.

Messages are not erased.  If you are under 18, we will and do read them occasionally.  If someone sends a message that they don't think we will like, tell them "my parents read my messages" and that will shut it down quickly.*

No cell phone usage during school hours unless emergencies.  (The schools my kids go to don't allow phones anywhere but lockers, but at the high school level, they aren't great about enforcing this rule.)

Computers and Ipads
Presently, we have ONE main computer in the house. (We do own a laptop but it's so old and broken it takes 20 minutes to start up and no one uses it except for the very occasional ITunes download-it's kept in a drawer.We also own two Ipads for our two oldest, more on that below, that the schools require.)

Our one main computer is for school use only unless permission is asked for some other use.

The computer has a code that Jeff and I (and the oldest kids) know.  Also, I changed the settings on the computer so when I press the power button after use, the computer "sleeps" which means to start it up again, you would need the code.  It also has a program called K9 Web protection on it.

My two oldest children were given (not given-we were forced to buy) Ipads in high school.  A learning curve for us for sure, one I didn't ask for and don't want.  Things will be different for my younger kids coming up, once again, as I have found what works for us and what rules need to be in place.  Since the Ipad is for the purpose of school, it would make a lot of sense for it to be used for school only.  I wish the schools would support this, but unfortunately they don't.  I have seen the schools scrambling, behind the ball, to put rules in place as they are bombarded with serious issues.  I can tell you that for the tiny benefit that IPad has (and I can argue against even the tiniest benefit), the problems it has caused in families, and in classrooms, and most especially with children's brains, far far outweigh any little convenience or new educational opportunity.

Apple's marketing program is genius, if profit (it is, don't be fooled) is the goal-pitting schools against one another to attract students with the 'if you go here you get a 'free' Ipad' lure.  No financial loss to the school, because they force parents to foot the bill.  In the public system, it works the same way, but the taxpayer is footing the bill so kids can play Candy Crush during history class, and waste hours on Instagram instead of writing their paper, or send Snapchats without the teacher having a clue. The convenience for teachers is small, because I think they now must spend time monitoring students usage while lecturing, and often just give up with the excuse "they have to learn good habits themselves, I'm not in charge of that".  I understand this-classrooms are busy enough these days without having to constantly police small tech devices.  And finally, I don't think a kid in this country needs more screen time!  I think school is sometimes the only break many kids get to listen, to socialize, to think and process with their brains. I hope one day schools give up on this ridiculousness, but I have a feeling that might be a pipe dream.

A few more notes:
*There is also a huge learning curve when it comes to social media for kids AND their parents.  How to unfriend someone on Facebook, how to stop too much texting, or inappropriate texts from friends.  I have found that we parents need to help give them ideas of how to get out of sticky situations. What sort of photos posted on Instagram convey the right message?  They need to know these things before they are given the device.  Talk, look, talk and look some more.

I almost never let the younger kids (grade school on down) use the older kids Ipads or Jeff's Iphone (almost never means maybe for a scoreboard app or to check the weather for me)-they still only have access to the one family computer. And they are rarely allowed to use it.

Social media: mostly, we have learned to either friend or follow our kids, or have access to their accounts. As I see fit, I will allow or not allow certain sites, but as I get older and wiser, I get stricter and stricter. I think for the kids coming up into high school, it will be a "pick one" choice to limit time spent and make monitoring easy for us.

We bought Isaac a laptop earlier than high school graduation, but decided from here on, that will be a gift given upon high school graduation or before college begins for the rest of the kids.

One more note: Our oldest is 19 now and a sophomore in college.  The house rule about devices in dining room and kitchen apply to him of course, but the other rules (checking messages, no passwords, etc) don't.

I want to reiterate that this is what works in my family, what we've decided upon from mistakes, past experiences, and advice taken from families we admire.

And even with the rules we have, something always crops up that needs to be addressed-kids make mistakes-whether it's the whopping number of texts sent and received by a certain teenage girl in one month, or angst about feeling left out from Instagram postings, or the amount of time spent on devices.  There is nothing, alas, that makes all the issues suddenly vanish.   (Besides moving to some far far away land that doesn't get internet service, but also has cute houses, a white sand beach and a warm ocean, a cook, a cleaning lady, an awesome bookstore...and a big plastic bubble enclosing it all.:)

Extra Help:
How to install K9 Web Protection and a whole house internet filter here.

Undertows and The Patron Saint of Fun

(photo taken by Abbey)

I was reading an article about Pope Francis a few days ago in our paper and Andrew was looking at the photos included and said, "When Pope Francis becomes a saint I think he should be the Patron Saint of Fun." I had to laugh at that one, and I think the Pope might like that.

There was an excerpt from a homily that Pope Francis gave last year included in this article, and it seemed that day, it was just what I needed to hear.  I had been feeling so overwhelmed, and angry, and discouraged all week-I had been feeling like it seems this might be one of the hardest cultures in history to raise children in truth.  Our children are fed lies constantly-lies about what happiness is, and how to achieve it.  The media feeds these lies, and politicians, and Hollywood culture, which markets directly to our children relentlessly, profits from these lies and this culture spreads from peer to peer.  It feels, and I know you readers probably feel the same, only because I've received many letters that have told me so, that it sometimes seems like a lonely job, being an intentional, present parent with a strong value system, more often that not.  And as my children have grown, especially into their teens, sometimes I feel like maybe I'm the crazy one-saying no to things (sometimes the craziest things that drop my jaw!) that other parents say yes to. Gosh, kids can't parent themselves, what the heck?  It's our responsibility.  Love them, and say no!  No, no, no, no.  It's a word that rolls of my tongue easier, for sure, as I see more and more what's out there, what our children battle every day against.

And sure I have felt bad for saying it, sometimes I have given in to that feeling of not wanting to displease, of not wanting the tears, or the anger, or the discomfort.  I have learned, and still am learning, that parenting today requires us to be so so discerning.  To grow a backbone, a strong one, to conserve that energy (so much energy!) to swim against the tide, the undertow is strong, it's strong always, it never seems to let up.

I have found that it is worth the time to hunt out those families (you will find them) that have the same strong feelings and passion for parenting that we do, who strive to remember the way things used to be, when children of all ages were protected because of their vulnerability while growing into adulthood.  I recently asked one of my veteran mom friends (kids mostly grown, some still teenagers) what her rules were about this or that and she told me and then said, "Sarah, remember that the important thing is to just say no and don't waver!  Decide your rules, whatever they may be and say no with conviction and without apology." She also talked about using the reasoning of purpose (something my mom talks about a lot also.)  What is the purpose of this or that from cell phones to dating-whatever it is, and if you can't come up with a really really good one, then it's not worthy of a yes, it's not worthy of the exertion of money, time and energy.

Another veteran mother who has raised great kids with very strong values told me that her older now grown adult children once said to her, "Mom, for as strict as you and Dad were, and as many times as you said no, and we were the only ones not allowed to do this or have that, you could have said no even more!  It's that bad out there!"  They thanked her, years later.

And strong family life-I am convinced that is where it's all at when it comes to the goodness, for us, and for our children and our children children's-(maybe this is what "eternal life" really means?). Parents who want to spend most of their time with their children.  Parents who require their children (that means teens too) to spend most of their time with their families.  Parents who are deliberate about fighting that tide, and teach actively good morals and values-who live them, which is the best way to teach them.  I think the home needs to be an oasis, a retreat, an example-that beautiful island to land in the midst of swirling undertows.  I am convinced if this would happen-if home life were strong across this country, with a mother and father at the helm, in a loving dedicated marriage, the tide would turn.

Here is the Pope's hopeful message, I hope you enjoy it as much as I did.

"How many difficulties are present in the life of every individual, among our people, in our communities; yet as great as these may seem, God never allows us to be overwhelmed by them.  In the face of those moments of discouragement we experience in life, in our efforts to evangelize or to embody our faith as parents within the family, I would like to say forcefully: always know in your heart that God is by your side; he never abandons you!  


Let us never lose hope! Let us never allow it to die in our hearts! The "dragon", evil, is present in our history, but it does not have the upper hand.  The one with the upper hand is God, and God is our hope! 


It is true that nowadays, to some extent, everyone, including our young people, feels attracted by the many idols that take the place of God and appear to offer hope: money, success, power, pleasure.  Often a growing sense of loneliness and emptiness in the hearts of many people leads them to seek satisfaction in these ephemeral idols.  


Dear brothers and sisters, let us be lights of hope! Let us maintain a positive outlook on reality.  Let us encourage the generosity that is typical of the young and help them to work actively in building a better world.  


Young people are a powerful engine for the Church and for society. They do not need material things alone; also and above all, they need to have held up to them those non material values that are the spiritual heart of a people, the memory of a people."

Sarah's Story

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If you had told me at 18 that at 26 I would be a stay at home mother with two young boys, who had never held down a professional job in her life, I would have laughed and started to run as quickly as possible in the opposite direction to get FAR, FAR AWAY from that proposal. Add to that moving halfway across the world to get married, throw in a home birth for one child and a religious conversion that goes against everything I was brought up in, and we are in fully-fledged crazy town when contrasted to the expectations I had for my adult life.  Now, I know full-heartedly that if I had early on been given a glimpse of the truth in which I now stand, a mother in love with her boys and committed to being at home with them, I could never have followed through with it. My God was gracious, and cunning, in that He waited until I was so immersed in the journey of carrying and birthing and raising that first boy of mine, that nothing else but me being there with him would do. And so it has continued.

It's hard to write about all the struggles I experienced with my first child. Maybe many of you can relate that it brings all those feelings of fear, overwhelming despair and helplessness back to the surface, in a way that only reminiscing about your first can do. I know for some mothers that is not the case, and truly, I am glad for them, but when I hear of a mother expecting her first and I think about what she has ahead of her- the birth, the breastfeeding, the sleep- oh, I can't help but worry! My worries are influenced by my own journey, I know, and admittedly I was not in the best circumstances for having that first baby. I wasn't destitute, or even alone, but boy was I clueless!
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I discovered I was pregnant just four months after my husband and I married. I was 22 and had emigrated to the US to marry my American born and bred man, whom I met when studying at college in Scotland- I'm originally from Ireland. So imagine extreme culture shock, for one, trying to live in this Southern barren land ;) and add to that I'm unexpectedly pregnant.  I have no idea what a trimester is, nor can remember holding a newborn, don't know what epidural means...yeah. I am far away from my Mum. I don't have any friends who have babies to help me, but really, I don't have any friends! Then bring on the crippling hyperemesis for four months. Add in some daily shots for a previous blood clot. Throw in a natural birth class that terrifies me but I know I'm going to do that...I am so overwhelmed at just navigating my way through being pregnant. And I can't even work because my immigration process has not cleared me for that yet. Decision made: I'll stay at home because I know that is the only next right step. It's all I can do, but really, it's all I am capable of. Motherhood has broken me and my son is not even born.

My husband, I now know, is quietly loving this decision. It's what he would have chosen all along for our family, but I didn't know that. We didn't even have that conversation before our wedding (can you say 'naive'?!) Funny what you find out a few years after any event in your marriage! He's the good kind of man who waits until I work my way through any crisis and doesn't say anything. Just supports. It was the same when I converted to the Catholic Church, and it's the same here: he knows me. I know he saw that my heart was tender and turned towards motherhood as a vocation, even when I had no idea I was capable of that.  And believe me, I was NOT capable. Those first few months of my sons life were endured only by my innate stubbornness, pushing on and on to make sure I would birth naturally even with a very painful late induction, that I would breastfeed through my boy's weight loss and painful reflux, that I would survive through the worst days of my life when my son was hospitalized for a skull fracture at 5 weeks. Again, broken, but that need to be with my son, that only I would do, was being carefully woven into my heart.
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What's interesting to me now looking back on my life as a student until 22, is that because I was intelligent, I automatically equated that with being ambitious, career wise. In fact, I remember writing that as a personality description in a high school yearbook, "ambitious", when I really wasn't. I just thought that was what I should be if I was getting good grades and succeeding in school. I attended a prestigious college as an undergrad and I know that was the right thing for me academically, personally. The development into an adult I had there: irreplacable. But I never had any driving force that was pushing me to a certain career. I was very open to whatever would happen. That happened to be marriage and then motherhood. So it's something I am aware of now, the expectations put on intelligent women: you will work, in a career. Staying home was not a choice even entertained in my upbringing for the modern middle class woman who has a good degree. If you have a brain, use it. No one talked to about 'options' for my future life when my family came along. It was just assumed I would navigate that when the kids came: after my career had established, after a few years of marriage. It was an unspoken assumption that motherhood would not come first.

So needless to say many people have been surprised by my decisions and life today. My family and friends in my home country especially often ask if I will go back to work. I never even started! I don't give a definitive answer to that question because I don't know. As long as we can afford this, and we have worked hard to afford it, as my husband has been in graduate school for three years, I will stay home. But more than that, I am now so deeply in it, the business of being a full time mother, that I cannot imagine getting out. If I ever have a tough day at home, my husband will ask me, jokingly, do I want to find an outside job! More than wanting me to be at home with our children, he wants me to be happy, and he would support me if I told him I must work. I am young enough to start now and not be too much 'behind' my peers. But  I know it would not satisfy me. My work could never be as important as what I do at home, and that would drain any passion I had for an outside job. I have had the privilege of never feeling pulled away from my children, and I am very aware of my blessing.
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Instead, I'm looking further down the rabbit hole: more kids, many more kids possibly; homeschooling as an option for our family. Things I would never have imagined I would be doing or even thinking of doing. But I ask my God repeatedly for the desire to do those things to be implanted in my heart. If that desire is there, I will have no problem carrying out my tasks. I will exhaust myself to make things possible for my children and my family. If the desire is absent, well then I will forget those things. They will return if they are true and good for me. The desire to stay at home was first created out of struggle, but continuing desires for my family's future will be born out of hope.
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I think that's what I'd like my mother friends who are reading to ponder with me: whatever desire is on your heart for your family at this point, don't bury it. Especially if you are a pregnant or new mother as clueless as I was, but you have the desire to test out staying at home: don't bury it. Don't be afraid. You can try it. It is not a lifelong retreat from the world. Your husband, your family, your friends, they'll get used to it. For me personally, 'coming home' has been the best pyschotherapist's couch I never had to pay for, because it has revealed more about myself that I think I ever could have learned in a 'regular' job.  And I know my children love their mama because I hear it regularly every day, and I love that. I *need* that as I work my way through this crazy town!  It was an unexpected blessing-the best kind-that plotted my course forever. 

Jane's Story

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I grew up in an old neighborhood in Cleveland along the shores of Lake Erie. It was a colorful Irish/Slovenian neighborhood that, I think, was perfect. One step outside, and there were always kids to play with! That is, if you didn’t want to play with one of your five siblings. We played outside all day and night until my dad whistled us in. We biked, swam, played tennis, board games and cards, and went ice skating and sledding in the winter.
 Most of the moms in the neighborhood, including mine, were home, but many of them worked. One helped out at the family business, another was the Church secretary. Even my Grandmother worked at the family insurance agency with her husband! So there were all kinds of working women around us, but in such a tight-knit neighborhood, it seemed that someone was always looking out for you (and wasn’t afraid to yell at you if you were doing something wrong.) My main memory of my mom is that she was always there.

I didn’t have many interests. I loved to read, watch TV, play outside and be near the water. I tease my mom that, since I was the youngest of six, she didn’t have the energy left to take me to Girl Scouts! In fact, in a one-car home, if you couldn’t walk to it, you didn’t do it. So my one extracurricular activity was piano lessons because I could walk the seven blocks to my teacher’s home.

I went to an all-girls high school where I was a bright student who aimed to please. That was before there were honors classes and many sports. I didn’t know what I wanted to “be” when I grew up. I just always figured I would be a mom. I took college prep classes and loved math. I also loved typing class and art class! (In hindsight, I wished I had taken sewing classes.) I explored science and engineering and was encouraged to study chemical engineering because “women chemical engineers were in demand and earning great starting salaries.” I was starting to grow out of my shyness, enough to know that I wanted a career that would allow me to interact with people.

As I explored colleges, I also asked about pre-med programs. I thought I could study engineering and fulfill pre-med requirements. That way, I could go on to become a doctor or, perhaps, a biomedical engineer. Back in those days, we only applied to two colleges. After my acceptance letters arrived, I made the entirely impractical decision to turn down a full scholarship to a private school in Ohio to attend the University of Notre Dame. Why did I do that? Well, there was a rich tradition of Notre Dame Football in my house as my dad was a “subway” alumnus. I used to tell my mom, well before women were even admitted, that I was going to attend the school. And, then, when I visited the campus, I knew I had to attend. Notre Dame is a special place in which tradition is palpable.
Engineering was rigorous. It was junior year by the time we got into the core chemical engineering classes and I got my first C. By that time I wasn’t even sure I liked engineering! I also realized that I was not committed to the idea of studying medicine and continuing my education for seven more years. I felt that if I went to school that long that I would never be able to “give it up” when I became a mom. It’s funny how I felt so conflicted. I didn’t even have a boyfriend. I had barely dated! But deep down I felt my vocation was to be a mother. So that year, I made up my mind that I was going to have many careers in my life.

I came back to Cleveland as an engineer and as part of a corporate program which provided a Master’s Degree in engineering. No, it was still not my passion, but the training program was excellent and I was able to get the degree while working. I also had a great group of friends at work and in the city. One of those friends eventually became my husband.
My husband and I talked about our dreams and plans. I know he would have supported me if I wanted to work full-time or even part-time. But we wanted a lifestyle that would enable me to stay home with our kids. When we first were married, we lived on one paycheck, paid down our college loans and bought a house. (At that time, home loans were easy to get. Still, we didn’t listen to what our realtor said we could afford. We calculated what we could afford. There was a huge difference!) We lived under our means. I’m fortunate to have a husband who is a saver and a planner. We kept our social life simple, maintained our cars for 10+ years, painted and furnished our home simply, and didn’t have cable and cell phones. We weren’t deprived – we had plenty of lovely things and could provide for our kids. But we made decisions based on our budget. Saving, planning and discipline are key elements to success. I am grateful for all the blessings bestowed on us, including good educations and jobs. But I also know we worked hard and saved hard - hard enough to pay for our house and put our kids through private schools and, now, college.

At the time I became pregnant, I was unhappy with my job and had been looking for another job. Maybe – if I had loved my job – I would have considered going back part-time. But my job dissatisfaction made it easy to quit. Well, even though I wanted to quit, it was still hard to do! I felt like I was letting all womankind down. When our son arrived, I knew I had made the right decision. It was an overwhelming, terrifying and wonderful experience becoming a mother for the first time. Nothing prepared me for it! But like many mothers before me, I adapted to my new role.
More babies arrived – four in all. Throughout that time, I had a few “you’re wasting your education” comments. I felt pangs of guilt. I heard my engineering professor, who told my friend, “You’re wasting a spot for a boy” ringing through my head. I would read my alumni magazine and see the amazing careers of my classmates and feel a tad jealous. Years later, while back on my alma mater’s campus, I saw a beloved old chemistry professor, who is still a legend on campus. We shook hands and he asked me what I was doing. I hesitated, and then told him I was busy being a mom. And he told me it was the most important job I could be doing. I beamed. Despite those pangs of guilt, I do not feel my education was wasted. I deepened my love of learning and thirst for knowledge. I met wonderful people and had many fun and meaningful experiences.
Those early mom years were filled with new experiences, fears, and growth. When there were days filled with frustrations, my husband would remind me that I was “building cathedrals.” (Have you read that story?) I was able to connect with neighbors and other moms I met at the kid’s schools. I also discovered a love of sewing and knitting – hobbies that I had learned when I was a kid and which, now, gave me a creative outlet during naptimes.
By being home, I could help my kids experience the freedom of playing in the backyard, going to the beach, riding their bikes, and boredom. We put many miles on the strollers as we walked through the neighborhood or to the parks.

By being home, I could also be a housewife or homemaker, although I never loved those terms. I don’t love cleaning, but I do love a clean and organized house. Even though the housework falls along traditional lines, I admit that my husband has done every one of my chores, while I have yet to cut the grass! (This year I managed to use the snow blower for the first time!) He was particularly helpful during my pregnancies and when the kids were little – cleaning bathrooms, doing dishes, and grocery shopping.
Of course, as the kids got older – and especially as they entered school – people would ask “what are you going to do now? I had thought about it all these years. I wondered if I could reenter the workforce as an engineer. I thought about technical writing. I was already doing a lot of volunteer work for the kids’ school when I was asked if I would like to substitute teach. Every parent should have the opportunity to be in the classroom – to see that our kids are not the angels we think they are! I liked working with junior high kids and it was a wonderful arrangement to be at school with my own kids. The work was sporadic, but I enjoyed getting out again.

When our school closed, I found a very part-time job at a local online fabric company. I could come and go as I pleased. The owner encouraged me to open an Etsy shop with some of my sewing creations. I did so, and my business has grown since then. Having my business has enabled me to continue my love of learning. It has enabled me to explore my creativity, which had lain dormant for a long time. It allows me to work from my home. I’m thrilled that, at 51, I am entering a new career! I am glad that I made the decision – back when I was 20 years old - to have many careers in my life.
I have thought often about whether or not to pursue an outside job. My husband and I feel it is in our family’s best interest to have me home, even now that my youngest is a teenager. (Sometimes I think that this is an even more critical time to be home.) I like being home when my kids get home. I like being accessible if they are sick. I like preparing meals and having my family around the dinner table. I want to keep an eye on what they are doing. I want to “be here” if it happens to be one of the rare moments my teen decides to have a conversation.

I will also add that it is not easy working from home. I started my business in my late 40s and am working “full-time” at it now. Even with older kids, there are many distractions and interruptions.

I am grateful that we, as women today, have so many options available to us. I love the woman I have become as a mother. It didn’t happen overnight, but I am stronger, wiser, more confident and less shy.

If you feel a calling to be home, listen to your heart. Use your heart – but also your mind – when choosing a mate. Then, together, carefully, choose your path. Realize that life is a journey.

Jane blogs here and Etsy shop here.

Ordinary Days but TGIM

I sometimes look forward to Monday-that is my life right now!  Busiest weekends ever-don't get me wrong I love them-but my head spins.  Weekends are when all the action happens around here and they are busy as all heck.  I am the center of the storm, the air traffic controller, the pit stop, the answer to all questions, the coordinator of all schedules, the food maker, the soccer cleat finder.

This weekend:
Taxes paid.
Stations of the Cross Presentation for 8th graders and potluck.
Three soccer games.
Prom.
ACT.
Little Sibs Weekend-Patrick and Andrew visited Isaac and had so much fun.
College visits to Chicago.
Palm Sunday Mass (two hours in a hot stuffy church and we all made it, even Janey, by the seat of her pants).

Cramming for the ACT the night before, with a friend.

Andrew is a very passionate soccer player this season.

 
Jeff's tax face.

Janey's tax face.

On Sunday night I was looking at a disaster of a house and a laundry chute backing up to the first floor.  For some crazy reason I had enough energy to tackle it on Sunday night so I could start lovely Monday a little caught up-that was the only incentive I needed.  

And what a difference a little sunshine and warm temperatures make for me energy, and mood-wise.  We got a bike ride in, Janey loved it and giggled at every turn, and a few nice walks, and the boys played outside a ton.  I always say-if we could just skip winter-PERFECTION.  Straight from fall to spring.
Did you see the Pink Moon?
It is beautiful!

Rose's Story

I always thought I'd be one of those working moms that seemed important, and the reason why I wanted to be one was because of my mother. I wanted to do better than her, and complete my education and go all the way. I wanted to be able to provide the necessities that my mother couldn't provide. Little did I know that "living to work" was not fulfilling, that money didn't buy happiness, and that tiny human beings were (still are) more important.

I have a certificate of completion in Computer Office Technology, and continued my education at Del Mar Community College in Corpus Christ where I majored in Public Relations. I moved to Utah in hopes that I would transfer to a different school, but to no avail. I chose marriage, and to have a family first. 

Growing up my mom worked really hard to support us, and because of that she was hardly around, hence the decision in always knowing that I would eventually be a stay at home mom, but my perspective changed, and even with a hardworking husband I felt that I "needed" to work in order to "define myself" & of course survive. I didn't quite understand the whole concept of motherhood. Truth is that because my childhood wasn't peaches and cream I felt that I would mess it up by having kids. And then the time came in the summer of 1995 when I had my firstborn. 
^^^ Sierra at six months, circa-1995 ^^^
I was very fortunate in landing jobs without a bachelors degree. Being bilingual in the state of Utah sure had its advantages and my confidence grew, and my knowledge expanded with the great jobs I had in the clerical field. I loved working alongside a bunch of sharp lawyers, but there was a point in my life where I was getting burned out. I thought that I needed to make a name for myself, and that money bought happiness. It didn't. I could tell that deep down inside my husband's heart he wanted me to stay at home to raise our daughter, but he let me be. He let me be. We had trial after trial, and even though we had a faith in God so strong we weren't as active in living upon it.

Sometimes a bold act can make you see "the light", and in this case moving to Texas in the summer of 1999 was the answer to my prayer. My husband and I grew even closer to the Lord, and in the year 2000 we unexpectedly had our second daughter. That unexpected pregnancy was expected to happen! Having my second daughter helped me in ways I could never imagine. It was as if she was sent down from heaven to soften my heart to let me know that my place in this world was to be at home with her, and her older sister.
^^^ Sierra (4), Lexie (a few hours old) circa-2000 ^^^
And I did.

Ever since then I knew that my role in this life was to be a stay at home mom for my children. I now have four, and they are the best thing that's ever happened to me. 
I have enjoyed doing the "mommy" things with my last three that I missed out with my firstborn. Changing diapers, going to the park, playing tea party or diner, potty training them on my own, and actually making breakfast for them without having to rush out the door to go to work. I could see it in my oldest daughters eyes that she was happier. Happier that was the one picking her up from preschool, and not a friend, or relative.
^^^ Sierra (5) Lexie (one year)- circa, 2001 ^^^
I am so grateful for this decision that I made in sacrificing a career to be a stay at home mom to raise & nurture my children. My oldest daughter is now in college and is doing exceptionally well. I see how much goes into those first years, now that I have been home with her younger siblings and I would have loved to been there every day for her first four years.  Children grow so quickly and they are out of our nests before we know it-every day is precious. 
^^^ me and my lovely daughter Sierra ^^^
 I see a huge difference in my children compared to the way my sister and I were raised. We are very bonded as a family, and although we are not perfect we certainly are a family that prides on love, and family time. We strive on living the Christian values that I didn't have growing up. Communication is key especially when one moves far away, and that is something that is solid within our family.  
I am lucky that I hardly received negativity as to why I'm not pursuing a career. There may have been a few people who would advise me to further my education in hopes that I'd be some hotshot working mom, but I know what I am. I am a hardworking mom who tends to these wonderful kids everyday. Today my mother, sister, and mother-in-law, and of course my husband, are happy that I have made the decision to put my family first before any job. I learned the hard way years ago that money does not buy happiness, and how important it is to raise my children first. Nice cars, a big house, and material things will not make the lifestyle of a family better. Sure those are nice things to have, but it's only a temporary happiness that can't be built on love. What's important to me is my children, and they will always come first before any paycheck. 

^^^ me and Noah ^^^
I also know that finishing an education is crucial especially with these next generations today, and I have advised my children to do the same thing, but to know that family is number one. I am fortunate enough to be able to stay at home with my four year old son while my girls are at school, and no matter how old they get I will continue to stay at home "career free" as long as they are living under my roof...and I wouldn't change it for the world. 

Rose blogs here.

Ordinary Days

The typical look in my living room.

And on my kitchen counter.

Little flowers brought to me by a special boy.

Storm windows up, screens down.  Too soon, I know, but fresh air smells so good.

April Fool's Day, green milk. Matt, I knew it was you.

Abbey presented me with this photo she took of Janey for her photography class.  It captures Janey perfectly, and I was overjoyed to receive it.  Her curls, her shy look, her sparkly eyes and little nose.  
Thank you Abbey!  

I am reading this right now and it's good.  
No, I'm not going to home school anyone probably ever (never say never)-I love our little parochial school, and I'm hoping it will always stay special-but I like to read about learning and teaching and education.  I understand more and more why parents are choosing to go this route, and I think it's just pretty darn cool.  There are things that have been happening in education lately that I don't love-the introduction of the one-to-one IPad program in high school and junior high (don't even get me started, honestly) and I am not loving the Common Core especially for the younger years.  And "school" (it's called school now, for even toddlers?) for younger and younger children makes me sad.  I remember when kindergarten was optional and the best way to learn was to be at home with your mom.  So much of it is NOT about the child and learning-which is the purpose of school, right?- but just about everything else (politics, competition, marketing, and money, ick.)

Do any home school moms that might be reading have any other good books to suggest?  I would love to read more, I just bought this one randomly from Amazon.

Three days straight outside, ALL day.  Sunburn on faces, fresh air in lungs, I LOVE IT.

Stephanie's Story

...


I remember so vividly the moment I told my boss that I was pregnant with my first child. I had just started working at my big post-graduation job - I was a customer service rep for a software company. Ha! It was the worst, and unfortunately the best my degree in Home and Family could give me at the time. She asked me if I planned on returning to work after the baby came and it honestly took me a minute to understand what she was saying. Because the idea of going back to work after I had the baby was something I had never even considered. Even though my husband still had a year of schooling before he graduated and wasn't working. Even though without my paycheck we would have no income. And no insurance. And still, it wasn't even a consideration. I'm not sure how we made it, now that I think about it. Maybe we were naive to think we could. I know my parents gave us quite a bit of help, and Mike worked here and there. I am sure it was difficult to make ends meet, although I don't remember it being so. I was so consumed with my new role as a mother that the rest blurred into the background.

Let me back up a bit.

I went to college to get married. There, I said it. :) And I chose a major that I thought best suited to my plan - Home and Family. My studies focused on managing a home, providing good nutrition, family relationships and human development, with lots of sewing thrown in for good measure. Most of the girls in my major (there were only girls in my major) were going on to become Home Ec teachers. That didn't interest me one bit.


I'm lucky that I met Mike. He was everything I wanted in a husband, and we were married during my final year at BYU. We didn't plan on starting a family right away, but that's how it happened and I am glad it did. Mabel arrived feet first into this world a few weeks ahead of her due date, and at least a year or so ahead of "our plan". We were thrown into parenthood, and we were young, and it was hard, but so wonderful, too.

Since then, we've never looked back. I guess there have been sacrifices made so that I could stay home, but because we've never known any different, maybe we haven't noticed? Living on one income is not impossible, and stressful though it may be, my husband has always been willing to be the bread winner. There have been times when I have felt pulled away from my children to sew more, in order to provide a little extra spending money. That has been difficult for me. During those times, I was technically home, but completely unavailable to my family, holed away in my sewing room like I was. But those moments were fleeting, and I am better now at saying no to new projects. Or at realizing that the little bit of income sewing provided wasn't worth the stress on my family. And so I try to budget our money better instead.

There will be time later to pursue other things. But for now, my family needs me to be present at home, more than we need a little extra spending money, or anything else really.


When I am home, I can create an environment that provides relief from the wild world outside. I believe that my husband and children need that relief, more and more as the years go by. The peaceful feeling in my home is something that I don't like to disrupt, and so I make choices that contribute to that peace. I keep my home tidy. We try not to raise our voices. We don't rush about if we can help it. And the biggie: we stay at home as much as we can. This is what works for us.

I realize that wouldn't be ideal for everyone. And I understand that some women have to work. I believe that we are all doing our best. No one wants to fail as a mother, and so we find routines and activities that work for each of us. Judging another mother on her decisions doesn't do anybody any good, and so I turn my focus to my own family. I do what is right for us and I don't worry about what anyone else is doing.

This is what I know: being a stay at home mom is everything I dreamed it would be. Yes, there are hard days, and long nights, and sometimes difficult children. But as a stay at home mom, I get to decide the tempo and structure of our daily life. I choose what to feed my children, I am the one who reads them stories on the couch, and listens to how their day went when they come bursting in the door after school. But most importantly, I am here, always here.

The success of my life will be measured in how well I complete my role as mother. Period. It is my calling and my pleasure.

(Stephanie blogs here.)