The Case For Staying Home May 16, 2013 13:42
There’s a lot to read out there about how hard it is to stay home with your children, ways for parents to cope with the challenges and the importance of having space from your children and an independent sense of self. These things are all true and important. However, what I feel gets lost in all that talk about the housecleaning, the crying children, discipline challenges, and the monotony of being home, is the truth about how amazing it really is to spend your ‘career’ caring for your own children.
I feel so blessed to be living my dream of being a mother and having the opportunity to stay home with my children. It is an opportunity not all parents are afforded, and while many parents choose working outside the home for personal, professional and financial reasons, I choose to stay home. Like many stay at home moms, I’m very employable and had a thriving career before my family grew by one, and then two children. People often question why someone would voluntarily leave a successful career and comfortable salary when there are so many varied childcare options available. This is such a personal choice, and is different for each family; but for me, I couldn’t cope with the stress of being away from my little ones for the vast majority of my days.
And it was more than that. I knew that (again this is very individual) I couldn’t give myself fully to my family or my career as long as I was splitting my time between both. I tried going back to work after my first son arrived. It worked out for a while, but eventually, one side of the equation was always suffering. And I was always suffering in the middle. Most parents, especially moms, face this struggle on some level – ultimately it’s about following the stronger pull, whether that’s money, family needs, personal satisfaction, etc.
Mothers working outside the home need advocacy and support for the challenges they face in the workplace, and stay home moms need the same support, respect, recognition and validation that they are doing something meaningful and important. In light of honoring stay at home moms, I’ve decided to highlight a few of the reasons why I feel staying home is the best gig there is.
1) Play: Sure, it can be exhausting to chase two busy kids around a zoo, playground or hiking trail, all while lugging sippy cups, snacks, diapers and a deserted tricycle. But, I get to play for ‘work’. The most important task of my day is to engage my children in exploring their world with their minds and bodies. We play, we go on adventures and we enjoy the outdoors. I’d gladly trade a day in the office for a day of changing diapers if it means I get to spend the bulk of my time having fun with my kids.
2) Involvement: Stay at home moms have the luxury – and I do feel it is a luxury – of being involved in their children’s daily lives, friendships and school. I keep my kids pretty active, and I’m the lucky one who gets to watch them learn how to swim, see their first somersault at gymnastics class and cheer from the sidelines at a weekday t-ball practice. I know their friends well, and have the time to chat with the pre-school teachers at drop off and pick up. I can help in the classroom and volunteer to bring snacks without having to make concessions in a work schedule to do so.
3) Variety: I’m a busy body, and I do not do well with being idle. The prospect of staying at home all day without any planned activities can sometimes cause me anxiety. And there are monotonous days when I feel a deep longing for adult life outside of my home. Definitely days when I miss my former job. But kids bring boundless variety. Each day brings a new development, milestone, conversation, opportunity for teaching and excitement. A child views each new day with hope and anticipation for what might happen. If you can immerse yourself in that way of thinking, each day at home with your children can be entertaining and stimulating for everyone.
4) Company: I don’t have to spend an entire day alone with a computer. I always have someone to talk to – and kids are much more capable of deep conversations than they are often given credit for. I’m needed and wanted every day, and though I’m much harder on myself in terms of expectations than any former ‘boss’ ever was, I’m removed from the drama that can come with workplace relationships. Plus, I get to meet other parents and spend afternoons with my best friends while our children play together.
5) Challenge: Learning how to discipline my children has been the most daunting aspect of parenting. I know what values I want ingrained in them, I know what my expectations are of them for social and familial behavior, I know that I want to be gentle and empathetic with them. But I tend to have no idea of how to achieve these things gracefully or even successfully. My husband and I work to find balance between parenting ‘tactics’ we’ve learned from books and experts with our natural parental instincts. Everyone knows parenting isn’t easy, but staying home all day and maintaining patience and calm day after day is the ultimate test. I appreciate the challenge. And while there have been countless times I’ve felt broken by it, staying home with my kids is teaching me to be a better person and to dig deep to uncover parts of myself I didn’t know were there. I’ve yet to experience a paying job that offers the same level of self discovery.