Ellen's Story

(about Coming Home series here)

My husband and I were born and raised in the town in which we are currently living with our children.  We were high school classsmates (but not sweethearts!) and kept in touch off and on through college.  I spent those years at Loyola University Chicago, where I played softball and earned a degree in Elementary Education.  A few years after graduating, we married and began living in the real world of jobs, bills, and homeownership! 

By the time our first child was born, I had been a teacher for four years.  I taught 5th grade at a local Catholic school and 9th grade theology at my alma mater.  I also spent a few of those years coaching softball at the high school level.  I enjoyed those endeavors very much, but I knew all along that they were temporary.

I do not recall a conversation with my husband about not returning to work.  It was always my desire, always part of my plan.  It always just felt like the natural thing to do.  Our first child was due in October.  I finished the previous school year in May, and returned for a (very little) bit of substitute teaching until our son’s birth. 

I never considered continuing my job.   I did not wish to spend my days with the children of others while someone else took care of my baby.  As is the experience of many new parents, my husband and I found that the transition into parenthood was exhausting and frightening and so overwhelming for a very long time! 

Clearly though, we made the necessary adjustments to our new reality…..Our son was  4-years-old by the time his third sister was born!
There is a saying about the days being long but the years flying by.  How true it is!  I spent so many days wondering “How in the world is it only 9A.M.?”  My husband’s job requires him to work 24-hour shifts, so those days were particularly challenging.  I will never forget the kind words of a stranger as I walked with my babes through the neighborhood park one evening, killing time before bedtime (with one on foot, two in a stroller and one in a backpack!)  This kind woman probably sensed that I was ready to crumble at any minute.  She told me that when her daughter was small, her goal each day for them was to take a walk and read together.  If they accomplished those things, it was a good day.  I think that was her way of saying, “Honey, you look like you might fall apart before you make it back home, but you are doing a fine job!”  It was often the complimentary words or sincere encouragement  of strangers that kept me going in the those early years of motherhood (and still today!)
I was sitting in the dentist’s chair shortly after the birth of our son when the dental assistant asked me how much longer I was off work, assuming I was on maternity leave.  When I told her that I was not returning to my teaching job, she asked me if my dad was mad at me.  I did not immediately understand her question, and before I could respond, she added, “Because I’d be really upset with my daughter if I had just put her through college and she chose to just stay at home.”  I left the dentist’s office with tears in my eyes, a lump in my throat, and feeling very sorry for that woman’s daughter.
This year, our youngest child started Kindergarten, joining her 1st, 4th, and 5th grade siblings.  It has been a bittersweet transition for us…. It’s always hard to accept that your babies aren’t babies any longer, but at the same time, we have reason to celebrate….YAY!! We made it this far!  I could easily spend my days sadly longing for those early years- our days were simple and very routine, our calendar was practically empty, and our children were safely sheltered in our home.   But by God’s design, we all must grow and change and face new seasons as they come…..

I am wrapping up my first year as the librarian at my kids’ school.  When our youngest began Kindergarten in the fall, I returned to the (wage-earning) working world.  I have a really great job!  I work just three days a week and enjoy the same days off and breaks as my kids.  When my kids are at home, so am I!  In truth, my heart is still at home, and I predict it will always be.  But, in order to carry out our plans for our children, my (extremely modest!) income serves a very specific purpose.

If you are a young mother or mother-to-be struggling with the decision to stay home with your children, let me be an example of at least one thing:  You CAN have it all!!!!....... JUST NOT ALL AT THE SAME TIME!!!!  I kicked off my adulthood with a job I enjoyed and left it to pursue my calling of motherhood.  I am a teacher by trade, but a mother forever.  The years I spent (eleven in all) at home with little ones were gone in the blink of an eye.  Never will I look back and think, “I wish I would have worked more” or “I wish I would have had a nicer car, vacation, wardrobe, television, etc.”  None of that matters!  Chances are good though, that if I’d made the opposite choice and continued to work, I most likely would have regretted it.

I believe that God shares these children with us.  They are not OURS.  They are HIS!  He handpicked these four to be called ours on this earth, and I believe God wants us to be the ones to spend our days and nights with them, loving and protecting and nurturing them, and leading them to HIM!

“There is an appointed time for everything,
 and a time for every affair under the heavens.”
Ecclesiastes 3:1


  1. Just last night our twins had dinner early, so rather than play in their room I took them for a walk - I suspect I'll be doing more of this! I'm home with three boys under four and am loving it, though it's certainly the hardest work I've ever done. It's worth EVERYTHING. I love this series so much - thank you Ellen and Sarah! xo

  2. Thank you Ellen. I quit my career in the pharmaceutical industry almost 5 yrs ago after our 3rd child was born and I still have some feelings of guilt with not financially helping my husband, with wasting my biology degree, and a myriad of other things. But you are right, will I look back on the years feeling like I missed out on living in a bigger house, driving a fancier car, taking a great family vacation every year? I doubt it. I know that instead I would have missed out on everything I got to see my children doing with my own eyes instead of having to hear about it from someone else. Love these stories!


  3. I love all of these Coming Home stories, but especially enjoyed this one, as I attended high school with these two!! (and grade school with Ellen's husband) what a small, small world!! your family is beautiful :)


  4. Ellen's story brought me to tears. I was reading my own story; it was surreal to say the least. My husband and I attended high school together (but were not sweethearts). We live in the town we both grew up in. I was a high school English teacher (taught in the same Catholic HS my husband and I attended) I have taken last almost 8 years off to be home with my children (who attend the Catholic elementary school) and now, although a year earlier than I'd like, my position at the HS has reopened and so, after a total of 8 years home with my kids, I will be rejoining the ranks of a wage-earner as a High School English teacher, same breaks as my children etc. I am in awe of Erin's story as it mirrored mine so incredibly. Perhaps I connected so well because at first I felt incredibly GUILTY because I am excited to teach HS again, but to know that, it is possible to join the ranks of working mother's again and know that I will always cherish the time I've had home with my kids and will continue to always be a mom first. ~Jessica

  5. "You CAN have it all!!!!....... JUST NOT ALL AT THE SAME TIME!!!!"
    I agree wholeheartedly. Thank you for your encouraging words and example!

  6. Thank you, Ellen. Your story has me in tears - the happiest of tears. I struggle everyday, wondering if I'm making a mistake, bogged down in what society says I should be doing. Your story is such a light to me. And I love the truth in Ecclesiastes. Something I need to hold close to my heart. Thank you.

  7. Gosh, what a lovely family. Those children are too precious!

  8. Ellen, my story is so similar! I worked as a 5th grade teacher at the PK-8 Catholic school that I attended and my mom taught at for 14 years. I taught for 6 years and we had our first baby 4 years after we were married. I am currently entering my 7th year at home with my 3 daughters (almost 7, 4, and 2). I hope in the future to go back to teaching part-time as necessary to put make sure we can put our girls through Catholic school. I see your beautiful family of 4 and smile, we are still on the fence about a fourth child (those Catholic schools are expensive!) Anyway, thank you for sharing your story! Staying home is an absolute blessing that I am hoping to embrace as long as possible!

  9. Ellen! Your children are precious - what a beautiful family with whom you have been blessed! I am also glad to see how you have found a way to supplement the family income while remaining totally available for your children. I will probably be transitioning to that world in the next 1-2 years. I recall a priest told me that if I did not have time to play and read to my children each day then I was just too busy. We can be home but not truly present to our children. Thank you for the great reminders!

  10. This comment has been removed by the author.

  11. I have always been a stay-home Mother for 13 1/2 years now. I have never regretted it. Thank you Ellen for sharing your story, you have reminded me how important my job as Mother is, and I needed that tonight. And thank you Sarah for having this series. I love it!

  12. Sarah- these are great...but how are you guys? Miss hearing from you too!!!!