Let me say from the get-go that my purpose is not to shame anyone into anything. This is not some rant about how we all should be stay-at-home moms and that anyone who isn’t is evil.
It’s simply permission — if you needed permission from a total stranger — to become a homemaker and a stay-at-home mom if you want to. Since modern feminists spend so much time talking up the benefits of being a working mom, it seems only fair that someone should make the opposite case. So here it is.
The idea that our kids are somehow happier at daycare or with their nannies is a myth, as studies show. When we choose to go to work, we are choosing to leave our kids with someone else. Their lives don’t just pause for the time we’re gone and resume when we come home — they’re living their lives without us. The current modern feminist narrative tells us that giving up a career to be a mother is some kind of a cop-out — a betrayal to womankind, and a waste of our intellect and talent. But that’s a complete misunderstanding of what being a stay-at-home mom is all about.
The current modern feminist narrative tells us that giving up a career to be a mother is some kind of a cop-out — a betrayal to womankind, and a waste of our intellect and talent.
A thought experiment
When my husband and I started thinking about having children, I was working as a third-grade teacher. I loved my job (although I liked it a little less than I had at the beginning) and had decided that I might want to keep working there once I started having children. But, as a kid, I’d always thought I’d grow up to be a stay-at-home mom. Why have a child, I thought to myself even then, if I wasn’t going to be around to care for it? But now I had a career I loved.
So I did a little thought experiment: I imagined that I already had a kid. I pretended that he — my imaginary baby — was home with a babysitter, or at daycare somewhere, and that I’d need to leave right at 4:00 to pick him up. I imagined pumping breast milk in my classroom’s closet and checking my phone periodically to make sure there were no emergencies. I imagined that I was infinitely more tired than I currently was — though, in retrospect, I didn’t imagine being nearly tired enough — and I thought about missing this baby I didn’t yet have. I did this for a week. And, at the end of the week, I made a decision: I was going to be a stay-at-home mom.
I thought about missing this baby I didn’t yet have. I did this for a week. And, at the end of the week, I made a decision: I was going to be a stay-at-home mom.
I understand that, for some people, being a stay-at-home mom isn’t an option. It requires that your husband make a baseline amount of money to keep everyone fed, clothed, and sheltered in order for you to do it, and it’s possible that your husband’s job doesn’t allow for that. Though I will say that, if both you and your husband are committed to having you stay home, there may be ways to find extra resources that you wouldn’t have considered before having kids. My point is, I get that becoming a stay-at-home mom may be something you wish you could do but can’t right now, and I understand and am not judging you.
Your children are only young once
But if you can stay home with your children and you’re wondering if you should, consider that they’re only going to be young once. It can be hard to envision how much time you miss with your children when you’re at work since, when you are with them, the time feels so rich and so full of emotional highs and lows. But consider that, if you work eight hours every day, that’s 40 hours every week that your child is living his or her life — growing, learning, and being — without you. 40 hours is like a lifetime to a little person. (And that doesn’t even factor in commuting, or needing to stay late to take care of some project or other.)
Consider that if you work eight hours every day, that’s 40 hours every week that your child is living his or her life — growing, learning, and being — without you.
As parents, our job is to be in a perpetual state of letting go of our children. But it happens by degrees and, initially, our children need constant adult attention and care. When your children are older (say age five and above) they’ll need the intellectual and social stimulation of school. But school only goes until 3:00 or so, so those after school hours are hours you’re missing too. First steps, first words, first freak out over a science fair project, or a fight with a friend, all happen in these moments when you would be at work. And they won’t happen again. Not ever.
If it’s not you, it’ll be someone else
When you leave your children with a nanny or at a daycare, you’re entrusting all those hours of learning and growing to someone else. And there are plenty of great nannies, and highly respected daycare providers, but not one of those people is you. Not one of them loves your children the way you do or possesses the specific set of values you hope to instill in your child.
And there are plenty of great nannies, and highly respected daycare providers, but not one of those people is you.
Anecdotal evidence doesn’t count for much, I know, but I feel I must mention that most of the nannies that I see regularly (and I see a lot of them) leave much to be desired in the caring and kindness department. As one of the few stay-at-home moms in my son’s pre-school class, I am frequently mobbed, at the end of the school day (not to mention at the playground, coffee shop, and local bookstore) by children hungry for maternal affection. They want to show me their artwork, tell me about their days, and brag about themselves in search of praise. That’s just my own personal experience. Take it for what it’s worth.
Mothers are powerful, brave, and strong
Anyone who says the job of a stay-at-home mom isn’t as worthwhile as the job of a working mother can pound sand. Stay-at-home moms are raising our future, knee-deep in diapers, vomit, laundry, and tears. They are patiently, painstakingly, shaping the men and women of tomorrow, paid — not in promotions, and paychecks — but in endless love and sloppy wet kisses. What they have given up — public recognition and advancement — is paid back one-hundred-fold in what they have gained: the chance to watch their children grow. Perhaps this path is not for you (that’s your business), but don’t look askance at those of us who walk it.
Mothers are patiently, painstakingly, shaping the men and women of tomorrow, paid — not in promotions, and paychecks — but in endless love and sloppy wet kisses.
There may be lots of reasons — some of them outside of your control — why you can’t be a stay-at-home mother. But if the reason you hesitate to stay home is that you think you’ll somehow be betraying the cause of womanhood, it’s time to reconsider. This is 2019 — those of us who’ve chosen to stay home with our children aren’t oppressed by the patriarchy. We are strong, brave, modern women, and we’ve made our choices freely. You can too.