When I write from my heart about being a stay-at-home mom, part of my boldness withers because I in no way want to diminish the other fierce roles women are choosing/have chosen. I DO NOT want this post to be about stay-at-home moms vs. working moms. For real? There is already a long enough buffet of differences for us to feast on. Please hear my heart, I'm not starting a food fight. Today, I'm tracing back through my own journey trying to offer hope, hilarity, and human experience.
We were so stinking cute; 17 and 19. We had been an official couple for all of one hot week. We were sun-baked, self-focused love birds. All I wanted was him, in every holy and fleshly way. AHEM. But I needed him to know this one thing. Being assertive was a weakness of mine at the time (16 years later, I think he wishes I was a little less assertive :) None-the-more, we arrived at a moment where I owned 'assertive soul'.
"I want to be a stay-at-home mom. I will live in a card board box if that's what it takes. But I want to raise my own kids!"
It was bold. It was risky. It was a non-negotiable in my mind. As much as I wanted him, if he had put up any type of fight, I would have walked away. Passionate has never been a weakness. ;) He didn't fight, he didn't hesitate, he said, "ok!"
At the time, neither of us knew what we had just signed up for.
Fast forward 12 years. There is a series worth of book material I could spew about the 12 year journey of "swimming across the ocean without a life preserver" (thanks, Ames :) One week from today, I will officially step down from a role I have intimately known for 12 years, 24/7, 365 days a year. No one pours their bone marrow into a career for 12 years, and simply walks away unscathed. One week from today, I will drop off all FOUR of my babies into the care of another human soul. I will walk away from each of them and walk back into our quiet, still, and empty home for the first time ever. And as sure as the sun will rise, I will grieve.
Here are the two most powerful truths I've learned the last 12 years.
1. There is nothing sexy about being a stay at home mom.
Nothing. Absolutely nothing, sexy about this role. It is the hardest, longest, least accolade producing job on the planet. The mundane repetition required, HAS to kill brain cells. There is no lunch break, vacation, sick leave or mental health days. There is no income, 401k plan, health insurance, over time, Christmas office parties, or monetary bonuses. There is no yearly review, raise or promotion. The majority of this job is spent in the sleepless, thankless, over-worked trenches. Knee deep in poop, crumbs, toys, tears, whines, Barney, diapers, and wet gold fish. Most days, your sucked on, climbed on, spit on, peed on, bite, hit, and hated. You have no company car, no reimbursement plan for work attire, and no plush conferences in Vegas on someone else's dime. The work never ends. There is no closing time. There are no weekends for a stay-at-home mom. Your job performance is based on a trip to Walmart, while of course, your child screams the entire trip and mean people give you ugly looks.
It should not at all surprise us then, that many SAHMs are depressed. VERY DEPRESSED. When we elevate the position of SAHM without very clear warnings, we end up with isolated, lonely women who are vulnerable to believing lies and then acting on them. Once upon a time, SAHMs had this beautiful protection called community. Moms, grandmas, sisters, mother in laws, sister in laws, cousins, aunts and friends all lived in community. The saying, "it takes a village" is a sweet reminder of how it used to be. They all lived in a village together where the weight of raising human souls was shared. Today, we do a HORRIBLE job supporting the family unit in a community type setting, but the pressure to be 'fruitful and multiply' remains as oppressive as ever. So many of these mamas are drowning without a prayer, without a friend, without a safe place to share their struggles openly and honestly. I want to hug every young mama I know and whisper in her ear, "Get help. Ask for help. Hire help (even if it means going in debt...Tell Dave Ramsey to jump in a lake...) Go back to work if you need too. Admit your broken and tired places and oh btw.... GET HELP!!"
We had just welcomed Julia into the family. Katie was 26 months, Mark was in his first year of engineering school taking 18 hours, and we had just moved into a new town with few friends. I was tired, SO TIRED, far from family, isolated, lonely, and TIRED...SO TIRED. Zero kiddos to one, was a major transition. One child to two, almost killed me. My sweet husband, who was intently watching and helping as best he could, made an executive decision to hire a babysitter once a week so I could have a four hour break. It saved my sanity, my life, our marriage. Thank you, love!
Being a mom is so hard! ALL TYPES OF MOMS! We must lean into these women, pull them out from themselves, help them, engage them, encourage them. Rescue them in their weariness, redeem them from the mundane, offer them space and a place to recharge. We can do better!
2. I am NOT a victim, I chose to be a SAHM.
I chose this. I still CHOOSE this. The last 12 years, I re-upped, I re-signed, and extended my maternal contract. No one forced my hand. I willingly walked back into the throes of this position, hour after hour, day after day, month after month, year after year. And now the chapter is over, and I can hardly catch my breath. I have no pay check stub to prove my worth. I have no degree to solidify my education. I have no marketable skill competitive enough to out pace my peers. These four kids are my ONLY resume item. I put ALL of my eggs in one basket.
I don't have a SINGLE regret. NOT ONE!
For the last 12 years, I intentionally chose to be the full-time museum curator of my children's hearts. It has been the hardest thing I have EVER done. It has required GREAT sacrifice and struggle in EVERY department. I have sweat, celebrated, bleed, laughed, cried, complained, rejoiced, enjoyed, hated and quit every other day.
But oh friends, there is zero regret in penning this story hand in hand with my children. Zero regret in molding, folding, and holding their every days, their little moments and great big moments, their success and failures, their firsts and lasts, their good days and sour days... I was there, and I am so glad I was!
My final project.
My magnum opus.
My life. I chose life. I choose life.
And know what?! I'd do it all again, if it meant I got to do it with them!
Here's to you Mama!