On Being a Stay-at-Home Mom


129924852This is not our family.


Last week, I wrote a post that praised the new domesticity as a way for women to embrace the image of God in their lives, a way by which they could express and engage in being creative like He is creative. My basic premise was that this renewed interest in the domestic arts offers many women who are already choosing to stay at home an avenue to realize their own humanity. But I forgot something. I forgot that terms like “domesticity” and “home” and “motherhood” are value-laden words within our Christian subtext and unless clearly defined, they sit heavily on the lines, causing them to sag and leave great gaps.

Gaps the size you can read between.

So I want to write a follow-up post to tighten up those lines and explain some of my assumptions when I talk about motherhood and domesticity. And I figured one way to do that is to talk about being a SAHM myself. Let’s start off simply,

1. I stay at home with my kids because I can and I choose to. It really is that basic. Sure there are values and opinions that undergird this choice, but in the end, it is a personal choice that we have made as a family.

2. And the primary reason that I choose to this is because of the freedom it gives me. Freedom to devote myself to my family’s well-being without the obligation of a boss or an office. Freedom to pursue without distraction the values that my husband and I want for our lives together.  These values include not only supporting each other in our God-given callings, but also nurturing the gifts of every member of the family. For me, that means being at home; here, I am actually more capable of pursuing the things that I’ve been gifted to do--not only to love and care for those closest to me but also to write and study and dream.

3. At the same time, I understand that this freedom, that this liberty to be in control of my working hours, comes because I have been blessed. In staying at home, I am giving up the extra income that some families need to accomplish these very same life goals. (Believe me, if your children are not warm and fed, it doesn’t matter how gifted they are—no amount of love and time will fill their bellies and help them become what they were created to be.) At times, this process has included sorting through our priorities, tightening our belts, even getting help when work wasn’t available; but always, in the end, it has been the result of abundance—an abundance that in this age is really only accessible to a certain class of people living in a certain western paradigm.

4. Because the truth is that not all women who want to be SAHMs can afford to be. I’m thinking of the single mother whose has been abandoned by a man who, after bringing children into the world, has left her with no way of raising them. I’m thinking of my friend whose husband has suffered long-term illness and when work became available, they didn’t think twice about who did it—they were just thrilled that God sent it.  I’m thinking of the immigrant family struggling along on (below) minimum-wage jobs, happy to have the opportunity to put food on the table and clothes on their backs in peace. I’m thinking of my sisters across the millennia that have been caught in slavery and have never imagined the possibility of being able to devote themselves exclusively to the interests of their families.  And I’m thinking of the whole host of other individual circumstances to which I’ll never be privy.

5. And since staying at home is a privilege, it is also a gift that I am responsible to steward for the benefit of others. I must be diligent to use my freedom to bless my husband and my children and my neighbors and my friends and even my enemies. And here’s a twist: I must use my ability to stay at home to serve others mothers who do not--whether that means helping them with their own children, making an extra meal so they don’t have to, or simply praying that God would give them the strength they need. You see, the danger for those of us who do stay at home is that we can very quickly use our independence for self-absorption instead of service. And like jewelry on a pig, selfishness looks worst on women who assume that they couldn’t possibly be, simply because of who they are or what they do.

Because ultimately, even as I stay at home, I’m not “at home”—not on this earth anyway. My mind and heart and emotions and gifts are all directed toward building that greater home, toward nurturing that larger family—a family that includes not only my own husband and children, but one that spans gender and age and race and time. A family where we are all brothers and sisters caring for each other simply because our Father has so generously cared for us. In this sense, I guess we’re all homemakers, we are all nurtures—it’s just that some us do it by picking up wooden train sets and making peanut butter sandwiches and spending our days quietly within our own four walls. And some of us do not.