If Parenting Is a Job, When Do We Get Paid?

Last night during dinner, I was discussing with my girls their day at school. My little brainiac got very excited as she waited for her turn to tell me about what she learned that day, dealing with time. Past, present, and future, to be precise. Once she knew she wouldn’t interrupt anyone she said, “Mom, did you know that in the past, the mom used to stay home and take care of the babies and the dad would work only?” I must have looked shocked as she said, “That’s an example of the past, mommy.”

I kind of just sat there a moment, trying to think of something to say. Finally, I managed to mutter something about how while that is the past for some people’s lives, it is also still people’s present and possibly future. I mean, seriously? She’s saying this to me! The woman who stays home and takes care of the babies.

It struck me as odd that her teachers would use this as an example to discuss history. As if to say that somehow women aren’t “supposed” to do that anymore. Later, as my husband pulled into the driveway, I met him out front with a kiss and a smile. He looked haggard and worn as he asked me if “Once the twins are in school, do you think you’ll go to work?” Well hello, dear, nice to see you too! I must say, I hadn’t put much thought into four years from now today, but I certainly will think about it now!

It seems like left and right, we are comparing his and hers. Job titles and salaries and job duties. I cannot tell you how many people , men and women alike, think (speculate) that I don’t have a job. Just this weekend, I was talking to someone who said, “Well, when you don’t do anything all day, you have time to think about creative things to do.” He then began to trip over his words as he tried to change his sentence once it had left his lips. In a world filled with money and power, my job as a homemaker has become a leisure sport. How is that?

I grew up an only child with a mother who had to work. We had no choice after my father died when I was only fourteen months old. And man, did she work. She was an amazing nurse. All her patients loved her, and she moved up the ranks, actually making six figures at one point. As I’ve said previously, I never wanted for any THING, but I can’t help but remember what I needed most in life and didn’t have: my mom.

While she was out conquering the world one patient at a time, I was home, alone. Or in daycare. On the weekends, because she had worked so hard, she was too tired to indulge a child. Many of my days were spent alone, in front of a TV. I learned at an early age how to cook for myself and how to clean up after myself just enough so she wouldn’t feel more burdened when she got home. This past shaped my future.

At nineteen, when I got pregnant, I figured I would do the very same thing. Work my butt off to support my only child. I even convinced myself I wasn’t any good at being a mother, not having had many good examples to look upon as a guide. But something changed all that. When my husband and I got together, I was a twenty-three-year-old mother who hustled doing this job and that job to make ends meet. I was tired and worn. Resentment was beginning to build. He suggested that I go back to school, and so I did.

Being a student gave me a little freedom in my days to go into my child’s world and see who she was outside our house. By now, she was in kindergarten, and I volunteered once a week in her classroom. Some of my best moments, I spent in Ms. Fogel’s classroom. Reading books and tying shoes, I found pure happiness amongst these tiny human beings, and I think God saw that perhaps I’d finally found my niche. I was still in my clinical rotations in school when I found out I was pregnant again, and so began my journey on a different road.

I completed school, passed my boards, and even got offered a job or two in the operating room. But I couldn’t take those offers because I was, at this point, just about ready to pop! As my second child was born, I felt this unbelievable urge to stay home, and my husband agreed. We decided that even though it would be a great sacrifice to live on one income, we would make it work. I’ve never looked back from that moment, until yesterday when my tired and beaten up husband arrived home and asked me if I would ever consider going back to work.

I can’t say I never think about it, because I do from time to time wonder if the grass over yonder is greener.

Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect. (Romans 12:2)

I’ve been home now for six years with my kids. I almost have one kid for every year I’ve been home! Look, I’m ALL for women’s lib, but I don’t want to be liberated from my life as a woman. Why is that wrong? When asked what I DO for a living, why do I feel so insignificant in a room filled with successful professional women? Why is my JOB not a job at all, but just something that gets done?

I’m not alone in this either. I read an article by a woman who said that when asked what she does for a living, she cringes at the answer, “I’m just a mom.” JUST! Why is that not enough? Because I don’t make money? Because I don’t have a bunch of letters that follow my name on my business card?

I won’t get into the many details of my daily functions as “just a mom,” because the list is far too long. But imagine a typical school day. I would volunteer at my daughter’s school. I’d split my time between two classrooms, reading to the classes, helping to decorate cookies around certain holidays, tying shoes, and cleaning up messes. I enjoy every moment of it. But you know who else does? My kids.

One day, they will understand that I made a choice to stay home and dedicate myself to them as their mother. They’ll remember meals around a table laughing and the smell of cookies being baked and the clean clothes that hung in their closets.

To the mothers who work all day at a job out of the house, I tip my hat to you! You are amazing! You work tirelessly all day to pave the way for my daughters, and THEN you come home and cook and clean and love in what free time is left. Kudos to you!

The choice to become a mother was an amazing one for me. But the decision to be a stay-at-home “mommy” was something that God showed me I must do, not just for my children, but for myself. Who knows what will happen when my kids are all in school. Maybe I will get a paying job, maybe not. Maybe I’ll lie on the couch and eat bonbons and watch soap operas. I tell my husband in these times of trial: whether the weather be cold, whether the weather be hot, we’ll weather the weather, whatever the weather, whether we like it or not.

Reality Changing Observations:

1. What has God called you to do in your life that may have left you scratching your head in confusion?

2. When you feel strain at your job, whatever it is, do you ever wonder if the grass is greener elsewhere? How do you combat those feelings?

3. How do you manage the challenge of juggling parenting and career? What advice might you give your younger non-parent self if you could go back and say one thing?

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