Guest post by Sarah. Sarah blogs at Fumbling Toward Grace and her “Musings and Mutterings on Life as A Catholic Woman” really are some of the most Catholic that I have encountered online. I hope that you enjoy this post as much as I did.
When I was a little girl, I used to play “housewife”. This involved me making breakfasts, dinners, and snacks at my play-school kitchen for the imaginary members of my “family”. Then I would “drive” to the grocery store and shop for my “family”. I would make the beds and dust in my imaginary house. My favorite toys as a child were always my baby dolls. That’s why I want to be a stay-at-home mom. Just kidding!
I also pretended I was a jazz musician, a ballerina, a deep-sea diver, and a lion tamer when I was a child. That doesn’t mean I’m going to leave Atticus and join the circus with my saxophone any more than playing “housewife” as a child is a reason for wanting to be a stay-at-home mom. It’s a cute story though.
I haven’t always thought I wanted to be a mom (a story for another post!), but I have always basically thought that if I *did* have children, I would be home with them, at least from infancy to school age. That’s basically still where I stand.
One of the really frustrating (read: God molding me into who He wants me to be) things about struggling with sub-fertility is that you have to re-evaluate your plans. When Atticus and I were first married, and I got pregnant right away, we decided I’d be a stay-at-home mom. Then the miscarriage. Then the fact that it’s been over a year and we still don’t know for sure when we’ll be parents again. Part of the reason that I didn’t look harder for a full-time job was because I had no idea it would take this long to get pregnant again. I didn’t (and still don’t) see the point in spending many, many precious hours looking for a full-time career type job, when I was so hopeful that I’d be getting pregnant any cycle now. Then I’d have to go through all that only to quit my new-found job, because I want to be a stay-at-home-mom. I know I haven’t gotten to explaining why just yet, but it’s helpful, I think, to put my story in context. Eventually I got a part-time job at the public library that any college kid could do, but I didn’t want full-time, and I wouldn’t feel bad quitting at the library after only a few months if I got pregnant.
There are people who make arguments from Scripture, or who try to blame all of society’s problems on the fact that fewer women stay-at-home anymore. While I’m sure that those arguments have some valid points, I think that ultimately they are unhelpful in aiding individual families in deciding what the parenting/working relationship should be for them. I think Catholic social teaching does have something helpful to contribute, namely the principle of Subsidiarity. What this means, is that prudential decisions ought to be made on the lowest level possible. In other words, within the parameters of what is moral, decisions about parenting and work ought to be made by individual families. Each family will know it’s situation better than anyone else will.
Personalities and problems ought to be taken into account by each family. If Mom is a surgeon and Dad is a mechanic, that might mean one thing. If Mom is an alcoholic or has severe depression, it might not be in the family’s best interest for her to be home alone all day with young children. All I’m saying is that by talking about why I want to be a stay-at-home-mom, I’m not talking about why you should want to be a stay-at-home-mom. You’ll never hear me say in absolute terms that the children of stay-at-home-moms do better in life than the children of working moms. The three people I know who probably had the most idyllic childhoods I’ve heard, and who are very successful today are my husband and his two sisters. My mother-in-law (who is one of the most devoted moms I’ve ever met!) worked at least part-time through just about all of their childhoods.
Though I do I want to be a stay-at-home-mom when we have children, I am open to God presenting me with another plan. Motherhood is the vocation. It does not mean you, me, or anyone else *has* to be a stay-at-home-mom in order to be living a vocation to motherhood. A woman is a mother when she gives birth to a child and knows that she would lay down her life for her child, whether that means by wiping snotty noses, pushing the swing again and reading the same picture book a million times, or whether that means tearing her heart out of her chest every day when she leaves for work, because that’s what her family needs.
Often, I think there’s a temptation for working moms and stay-at-home-moms to resent each other because they think that others are judging them. But it seems to me that we’re usually so busy judging ourselves about our choices, that we don’t have much energy left for judging others. Of course, some people will judge the women who make different choices as a way of validating their own.
This makes me think of an episode of Sex and the City which I saw a long time ago (I’m not much of a fan now, but I do think the show provides a very interesting social commentary), in which Charlotte has married her first husband Trey, and quit her job at an art gallery in order to focus on being a wife and trying to get pregnant. The other girls (all of them unmarried and in high-powered careers at this point) think this is a bad idea, and at least one of them tries to talk her our of it. I just remember Charlotte getting really flustered and shouting “I choose my choice!” over and over again. I think that’s what many of us involved in this “mommy war” are doing. Standing on sides of an imaginary line shouting “I choose my choice! How dare you choose yours!” When in reality, it seems like we should be standing together, asking an unsympathetic, consumer driven culture how we can make it better for all Moms (and families!) to really choose their choice.
Now I’ve said that I’m not necessarily more in favor of either stay-at-home or working mom, but I do think that it’s probably best for most families (treading lightly here!) for one parent to only work part-time (if possible). It doesn’t necessarily have to be the mom though. In our case Atticus *could* stay home or work part-time, and I do think he would do a great job as primary caregiver to children. On a practical level though, for us it would not make much sense. I have a background in non-profit management, which as I’m sure you can imagine is thriving in our economy (ha!). Atticus is a lawyer with a job and good health insurance. Yes, he works for the government and not a big firm (which I’m grateful for, since I actually get to see him at night!), so the salary is not as high as some, but it is more than adequate to support a small family, and with stricter budgeting on (mostly!) my part, could support a large family as well. For us, it just makes sense for him to work full-time.
Ultimately, I want to be a stay-at-home mom because I think I was made to do it. I want to be the one who sees my child’s first steps and hears her first words. I want to make the meals, choose the healthy food that will nourish my family. I want to keep a peaceful, warm, inviting home for my husband to return to at the end of the day. I want Atticus and I to be the first people to tell our children about God and the world. I want for my children that I will drop them off and pick them up from school — maybe even volunteer at their school. I want to show my children how to be involved in the community by making the time to volunteer and participate in community and church activities. I want to kiss the boo-boos, read the picture books, even change the diapers. I want Atticus and I to be the first faces of love to our child, and I think, for our family, that can best be achieved with me at home. It’s as simple (and complicated) as all that.
Check out more of Sarah’s writing at fumblingtowardgrace!
- I am thankful 5/23/2010
- Partial Amputations