Staying Home

Big, wonderful news: we’ve decided I’m not going back to work at the end of this maternity leave. I’ve informed my employer and my parents, so it’s totally official.

I am thrilled, and excited, and terrified, and feeling kind of guilty… all at the same time.

It’s a change I’ve wanted to make since Alex was born and I had to go back to work after only six weeks, which really just plain sucked—this time, even if I went back, I had tacked on six weeks of unpaid family leave to the end of my six weeks of disability coverage so that I could be home for almost 3 full months. Leaving Alex when he was so, so tiny was the most heart-wrenching thing I’ve ever had to do. Don’t even get me started on being stuck in traffic on my commute home after being away from my tiny baby for 9 hours…

So I’d been dreaming about staying home. All the enriching activities we could do! How my house would be clean for once, even without the imminent threat of guests arriving! I would have time to exercise, to read, to sleep (perchance to dream)! The boys would have a more secure attachment, wouldn’t be so clingy when I WAS home, and maybe Alex would start speeding up his speech development?? All my problems could be solved and my whole life would be perfect!

Yeah. Well. Not so much. (Duh, Jessica.)

It turns out that caring for two tiny humans is actually a lot of work in itself. It’s hard. The rest of my personal goals and to-do lists have to take a backseat. And as obvious as that is, it’s also kind of a blow. If I can’t get those things done, is it really worth me being home? Am I being lazy? Am I just plain bad at this “full-time mom” thing? Am I mooching off my husband, who now has to provide 100% of our household income?

Society inundates us with conflicting messages about stay-at-home moms. Essential to healthy kids, or lazy slackers? Must everything be Pinterest-worthy, or is that putting undue pressure on other moms who can’t keep up? Is it normal to be frazzled, with dirty hair and stained yoga pants, or does that mean you’re a total disaster who deserves mockery and derision?

And the truth is, a lot of the questions come down to a fundamental problem of perspective, which is measuring a mom’s value through a lens of productivity. Capitalist, individualist societies like ours put a lot of emphasis on measurable improvement, visible production, and immediately tangible results. So the question gets put to mothers: what are you doing today? What have you made, or fixed, or earned? Nothing, really? Then you’ve wasted your time. You probably weren’t even trying.

It is REALLY HARD to get that perspective out of my head. Some part of me knows and truly believes that the important things in this life can’t be measured in those terms—that we are here to love, to learn to be virtuous, and to be sanctified through sacrifice—which are all things that stay-at-home moms are GREAT at—but I have to keep reminding myself of those things over and over, which tells me that the deepest part of my heart is still falling for the lies of the world.

Somewhere deep down, I keep falling for the idea that my worth lies in my ability to produce, not my capacity to love. That my value is determined by my visible output, not my innate dignity as a daughter of a divine King. That caring for my children could be done just as well or better by the nice ladies at the daycare, even though my boys clearly delight in my presence even as they are deliberately breaking the rules.

So I’m trying to remember that those messages ARE lies. That I know better.

And yet, it feels like I’m giving up and lowering my standards if I take some of the pressure off to have the perfect house, perfect body, perfect outfits, and perfect children that the world expects. Can it truly be allowed to just… let go of those things? Shouldn’t I try? Shouldn’t I drive myself and my kids crazy, trying? After all, I’m home now. I have more time available, so I must have something to show for it. (There’s the lie again—that every effort must have immediate, visible results to be worthwhile.)

Maybe the answer is that yes, I SHOULD try to work towards the good, valuable goals of a clean house, healthy body, and fulfilling hobbies around the more important but less measurable work of raising healthy, faithful, virtuous kids. But I should NOT drive myself crazy. Those other goals aren’t worth sacrificing my sanity or even my stress level. They’re good things, if they are approached in the right way–in voluntary service to self and others, not as necessary sacrifices to an idol of productivity. They aren’t essential, the way love is essential.

I’ll keep trying to internalize that.

I think I’ve made good progress by writing this blog post and letting a sink full of dirty dishes wait. High five to me.

Staying Home

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8 thoughts on “Staying Home

  1. Jess,
    Welcome to the team. The uniforms are probably somewhere at the bottom of the laundry pile, but we’ll wash them eventually!

    I am in no position to offer advice, but my own continuing mistakes offer this perspective- hygiene, laundry, dinner. Everything else is a case of minimizing possessions and using every second wisely– which for you in this season means sleep first, shower later, and everything else can wait! The house will look … lived-in. The kids will spend more time fighting over who gets which seat at the table than doing the beautiful Montessori activity you’ve set up for them. You will have many, many (did I mention many?) people tell you outright or say behind your back that you’re wasting your time or that you’re none too bright (um, perfect verbal SAT here, 3.98 GPA, voted most likely to succeed, medals and pins, let it go, let it gooooo… Lol my inner monologue to keep from chewing heads). Humility is a gift I’m still working on being thankful for when it’s given to me, but it plants the seeds of wisdom and compassion. You are more than your blog, your house, your children, even your body– but I know it helps to know you’re not alone. So here 👭. Fight the good fight.
    TL; DR: so many feels. 🙏 will pray for you

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    1. Thank you so much!! That is such great advice. And I am totally with you (although my perfect portion of the SAT was math, not verbal 😜)! I feel like the story of my life has been God slowly, slowly making me learn humility and stop considering myself such hot stuff. Teaching me that just because I am smart doesn’t mean I am destined for fame and fortune… And that service to my little family is a better use of my talents than my job.

      I love your point about minimizing possessions! We have started doing that and it truly is such a big help. Thank you so much again… especially for the prayers!!!

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  2. And I’m sitting here commenting with dirty dishes in the sink and still needing to feed the children dinner (high five back!) I think your mommy instinct is always true and you did good by following it. We’re all just doing the best we can, and it is a lie that our worth as humans can only be measured in terms of financial gain. Lord knows Mother Teresa’s little enterprise never made it on the Fortune 500 list. You are doing the most important work by fashioning little humans (and hopefully future saints) to eventually go out into this world to do God’s work. God bless you.

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  3. I also have just a few thoughts to share from my 3 years as a SAHMama so far, the one thing I must say is please give yourself TIME! it’s a big transition and thoes are big deep entrenched ideas that need to slowly disolve and be replaced by the truth that you spoke about, it also takes time to find your new adjusted identity and feel like you’ve found yourself as a mama and as a person without all thoes externals defining you. The other thing regarding goals, make love your goal, loving your boys you will want to give them a nice ordely home and healthy food and decent clothing, but thoes are means to the more important end of loving them, and you will realize some days the love they need looks like staying in PJs 2nd diapers or eating popcorn for dinne and that’s no failure on any ones part because if you are striving to love them, failure is impossble

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