The other day, my girls and I were driving past a university on a graduation day. We saw several people in cap and gown, and I pointed them out to my 5-year-old.
After a few moments of reflection, she asked me, “Mommy, what do the people who graduate do after they graduate?”
“Well, hopefully, they’ll get jobs and start working,” I answered.
She liked that answer. “Ooh, that will be fun. I want a job,” she said.
Then, a few minutes later, “But I don’t want the kind of job where you have to leave your house.”
“Why not?” I asked.
“Because I don’t want to leave my babies,” she matter-of-factly said.
All of a sudden, I had a quick internal battle. My whole life, I’ve accepted the mentality that mothers who stay home are somehow not contributing to society, somehow not worth as much as women who work. This was my personal issue, largely influenced by what I gleaned from the world around me. We all take something different from what we experience, and this is the message I heard: A woman must be working to be valuable.
When I met my husband, I told him I didn’t want children, largely because of this mentality. Even though he wanted children, he married me anyway. That man loves me. Imagine my surprise when, two years into our marriage, I decided I was ready to have a baby, and not only that — I wanted that baby. I wanted it right away, and I also knew without a doubt I wouldn’t be leaving it to go to work. I was afraid to tell my husband both of these decisions because then they would be real — Saying them out loud would change who I always believed I was.
But staying at home turned out to be a very peaceful decision for me. I’ve never doubted it, and I’ve been very happy with my life. Of course I have days where I hate my role, but doesn’t everybody hate their job from time to time?
Still, even though I’m happy at home, I carry around voices. Voices that tell me I have something to prove. Voices that tell me my neighbor who is a mom and a professor is better than me. Most of the time, my happiness and contentment with my life and chosen position keep those voices quiet — or a small whisper I can skillfully ignore. But I know they’re still hanging around because whenever people ask me if I work or stay home, I always very quickly make it a point to tell them I’m a copy editor and a writer from home.
So when Lydia told me she didn’t want to work because she didn’t want to leave her babies, my self from 10 years ago wanted to tell her she should aspire to be more than a stay-at-home mom.
But now, 5-1/2 years into motherhood, I’ve learned something, and it is this:
There is no end to the amount of ways a child can and will stain your carpet.
Also, there are so many ways to do this thing called life. I will show my daughter all she can be. I will help her find her passions, and help her see how to make those passions profitable. But if she wants to be a stay-at-home mom, and if she gets the opportunity to do so, I won’t stand in her way.
If she will find satisfaction, she will make a difference. If she chooses not to climb a corporate ladder, she will still rise to new heights as a mother. And a tiny army of mini-hers will be benefited by her enjoyment of her choice and her freedom to make that choice.
I know this because I live it.