The decision to become a stay-at-home-mom (which, for brevity's sake, I will call a SAHM for the rest of the post) was not an easy one for me. In fact, I would call it almost agonizing. There were many, many sleepless nights, tearful conversations, and desperate prayers involved. Deep down, I always knew it was the best decision for our family. But I was terrified to make the plunge.
I was immensely blessed to get my dream job right after graduating college. I have told this to many people, but honestly, I could not have found a more perfect job for me. I taught band, choir, and general music at a local Catholic high school. One which, ironically, most of my family attended, but I did not. I absolutely loved teaching high school. For me, it is the perfect age to teach. The students are old enough to understand my weird sense of humor, and to discuss real life issues with insight and maturity. They appreciate sarcasm, they love talking about every day topics, and they make me laugh like no one else can. It was truly a great job.
The first two years I taught, it worked out really well with my life situation. I was engaged the first year, and newly married the second year. Being a high school music teacher means that there are many after school, evening, and weekend obligations that take up your time in addition to your day job (and to be honest, it's like this for most teachers, not just music). But I didn't mind, because it was just my husband and me at home.
When Elizabeth was born during my third year of teaching, my school was generous enough to allow me to take an entire semester off for maternity leave (mostly unpaid, but my job would be held for me). For me, it was a great situation because I was able to have 7 months off (second semester and summer) to spend with my baby, getting used to being a mom. Trent and I seriously considered me not going back to school. In the end, though, we decided it would be best for me to return to my job.
My instincts were telling me that staying home would be the right decision. Trent wanted me to stay home more than anything. But fear held me back. What would people say? What if I hated staying home and wanted my job back? I kept asking God for some sort of sign...a sign which I felt wasn't coming.
But then, the sign came. In the form of a positive pregnancy test. At that moment when I saw those two pink lines, even amid my shock and disbelief, I knew that once this baby came, I could no longer return to work. I was still scared out of my mind, but deep down, for the first time, I felt a sense of peace and finality about my decision.
Much to my surprise, most of my friends and family showed great love and support of our decision. There were a few negative comments and disapproving glances here and there, but overall, I really did feel an outpouring of positive feedback. This helped me feel peace about our decision so much.
Now that I have been a SAHM for almost a half of a year, I have realized many things. Most importantly, I now understand how lucky I am to even have the choice to stay home. Money is tight for us, yes. But we have the means to make it work. Many women want nothing more than to stay home with their children, but can't because of financial or other reasons.
I also see that being a SAHM does not make you a better or worse parent than being a working mom. Every family is different. I know some moms who are simply better moms when they are able to get out of the house and work. They say they would hate staying home every day. Other moms, like myself, simply do better when we can be with our children most of the time. I think Catholics especially are guilty of being judgmental of other family's situations. When I went back to work after having Elizabeth, there was a well intentioned Catholic friend who asked us why we were going to pay someone to raise our child for us.
Most of all, though, I see a culture that views SAHMs as lazy leeches who use their husband's money and do not contribute to their family in a productive way. We are asked the dreaded question time and time again: "So...what do you do all day?"
In a series of blog posts to come, I will talk about why this view is wrong (not to mention highly offensive), where it comes from, and how I respond to it. Stay tuned!