"So you aren't working now? You're just staying home?"
I'm not easily offended; I assume that she wasn't saying that staying home isn't work. What actually surprised me most was how okay with this comment I was. I've reached a point where I'm happy to say, "Yep! Just taking care of Liam right now." I don't feel a need to justify or defend or rethink our decision.
I've written before about my struggle with saying I am a stay-at-home-mom, a struggle that was completely unexpected since it's something I've always wanted. However, telling people I wasn't teaching--that I was instead staying home with my child--proved to be a blow to my pride that I hadn't expected.
Two things in particular have shifted my view of being a stay-at-home-mom.
The first is realizing that I have to balance acknowledging the challenge with seeing it as a privilege. Sometimes, I overemphasize the challenges of my day in order to make sure what I do isn't minimized. I overemphasize the sacrifice of staying home. But really it is a privilege to be at home with my baby--to spend most of my time with him for this season. If I forget that, I will be constantly trying to justify myself and prove that what I do is valuable.
The second is realizing that being a stay-at-home-mom can be a valid choice for reasons beyond being there for your child. I was reminded of that as I read Caroline McGraw's desire to simplify her life. She talks about how she and her husband left good jobs in DC to move to Alabama to find a slower pace. I love how she says,
"My life looks entirely different than it used to ... much quieter, much simpler, much more me."
Though she's talking about trading one paying job for another, I would say that sentence sums up my experience now as a stay-at-home-mom. I love being a stay-at-home-mom because of how it simplifies our lives. I love that I have time to shop for groceries and meal plan. I love the margin in our days, the fact that I'm not sick and stressed, and being able to prepare dinner and keep the house clean. I love being more available for friends and family. Our life really is much simpler now that I don't work outside the home.
It's important to see the choice to stay home not just as a career move but also as a lifestyle choice. Once I got on the career path, it was all I could think about. I considered staying home with my baby only in terms of how it would affect my career. But we are bigger than just our jobs; we have dreams and passions. People give up flashy careers to pursue dreams or a quieter lifestyle. In the same way, it is legitimate to consider trading a paying career--for a season--to stay at home with children. It's not necessarily some archaic family structure; instead it may be a path to simplicity, saneness, and wholeness.
In those early months of little sleep, lots of diapers, and a sudden, strange quietness in my life, I felt a bit lost in this role. Now I'm finding that this season actually invites me to create. It invites me to rethink how I look at time, relationships, and success. It has been healing and strengthening.
Sometimes it's the mental shifts that make the biggest difference in our lives. I've gained confidence and peace as I have come to see our life right now as a privilege and part of our dream for our family, something grander than a number on our bank's website or a line on a resume.
Related: Modern Mrs. Darcy has a great post about resume virtues vs. eulogy virtues.