A couple of years ago I sat on the receiving end of a passionate diatribe against stay-at-home moms of which I was, and still am, one. The culmination of the “argument” came when she said, “well, I make my own money.”
The implication was clear. She made her own money and was, therefore, better than her stay-at-home-mama counterparts who don’t “make their own.” It wasn’t an argument in the traditional sense; I sat and merely listened. When the evening was over and I was alone, I cried.
But I didn’t cry because my feelings were hurt; I cried because I and my role were greatly misunderstood. These misunderstandings are something we stay-at-home moms struggle with ourselves; the idea that we are less than because our days keep us here rather than out there. These misunderstandings threaten to steal the joy of motherhood.
Like working moms, the call to be a stay-at-home mom is one that takes guts and grit. But, unlike working moms, the guts and grit look a bit different. Staying home takes courage to let go of the security of work, no matter how false the security really is, and leave it in the hands of another provider. It takes courage to leave a respected job with a salary to a disrespected station that is derided and scoffed.
When meeting someone new the inevitable will happen. We will be asked, “what do you do?” and we will be left a few rungs below the others when we say “I’m a mom.”
Today I vacuumed up crumbs from under the highchair seat and the thought jumped in my head, “this isn’t what successful people do.” But I am thankful that the next thought in my mind was this:
“Just because I am less, doesn’t mean I am less than.”
Yes, I do less “work” outside the home. Yes, I am less “valuable” on paper. Yes, my job seems less “important” than one that brings home a paycheck. But it is not less than. It may be smaller, but it isn’t less important, less valuable, or less worthy.
No, I don’t bring home a paycheck. No, I don’t have people calling me by my first or last name on a regular basis. No, I don’t command attention when I enter a room of adults. By all human measures I am small and insignificant.
But I wake up at 4:30 a.m. to make sure I am ready to tackle the onslaught of three kids that are five years old and under. I clean, cook, chauffer, rock, sing, shop, get the oil changed, pay bills, schedule appointments, facilitate repairs and maintenance, bind up wounds, teach, pray, and read.
It feels like I spend the largest percentage of my days wiping something from another human body: hands, feet, faces, bottoms. The other part of the day is consumed with things I thought I’d never say, such as “don’t rub your feet on the baby’s face,” or, “please don’t lick that again.”
I am building a home from the inside. I am called Mama and Mom. I sacrifice my pride, my financial independence, and even some relationships because this calling is a high one. What I do daily is small and it’s true that it doesn’t measure up. But it accumulates, and, over time, it adds up into something truly great.
My choice to be “just” mom was not my own, but one God wedged into my unwilling heart. One day that may change; in fact, I expect it to. But I am trusting this process. And when my pride threatens to measure success on titles and paychecks, I choose to trust even harder. While this may not be what God has called you to (rock on, working moms!), I am choosing to be content to be JUST a mom… Just a mom who may be less but who is NEVER less than.
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