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.
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.)