Looking Back on Stay-at-Home Motherhood, and Looking Forward

Monday, June 24, 2013


I was drawn to paths, borders really, during our recent trip through the mountains of West Virginia and Virginia. Maybe it was the curvy roads that made me long for symmetry. Maybe it's just me. I like the security of straight lines. 

I am discovering, however, that what is most clear to me is often what has been; the rear view. With a little distance, I can see how I actually felt - or feel.

When I stumbled upon this article, Why I Regret Being a Stay-at-Home Mom, the title unnerved me. I became defensive. Whaaat? What insults are being hurled in my general direction now? And then, curious. I've had a few moments of regret myself. I clicked over.

Only a couple of my stay-at-home mom years have been purely that. When I stopped working part time (from home) as a lawyer, it was a relief. No more hiding in the bathroom to take a call, no more anxiety over billable hours during waning nap times. I could finally focus on being Mom and running our household. Interestingly, the relief didn't last. Yes, I thoroughly enjoyed being at home with my boys. I treasured being the one who got to fix snacks, and take them to swimming lessons, and read stories, and potty train, and practice soccer. Oh sure, I complained and had moments of "God help me!" but mostly I said (and say) to my husband, " . . . but I'm so glad I get to be here with them and witness this or that and tell you about it."

The relief of leaving work completely didn't last, though, because it was eventually replaced by a sort of aimless feeling. The void in my identity (who am I if I'm not a working lawyer?) became a source of anxiety for me. I filled the void with volunteer hours, writing, and (I'll admit) probably some helicopter parenting. I don't regret any of that. But I can see now that the void is still there.

Since leaving my old firm, I have resisted job titles, commitments, or employment, because I thought I was supposed to love NOT having an employer. I thought that once I got through the anxiety and the "who am I?" label-stripping, I would simply rest in a blissful glow of domesticity. I think I did that for about six months. Then the restlessness began. Now, a new type of part time job has basically fallen into my lap. I've naturally been helping to manage my husband's law firm for some time now, but I have have resisted making it official. I have been consumed with thoughts of but I wanted to be a stay-at-home mom! I should be completely satisfied with this. I can't get myself distracted by employment. How silly. It is time for me to claim the job, set some office hours, and get on with it. 

For I can see now that if I don't, I will regret viewing my life in such a simplistic, either-or way. 

Thanks to the unnerving article, I can see, gratefully, that regrets realized two years down the road instead of twenty years out can be corrected much more easily. I can also see, finally, that what works for me may not work for you, and what works for you may not work for me. I can rest in this:
A heart at peace gives life to the body, but envy rots the bones. Proverbs 14:30
I can see now that, ultimately, it has been envy - a "the grass must be greener on the other side" mentality - about what I'm "supposed" to do that has driven my reluctance to change. I've been looking around, side-to-side, what's going on over there? should I be doing that? instead of looking straight ahead with an occasional, orienting glance at the rear view.

It is so much more peaceful to simply move forward. Scripture confirms it. A heart at peace, a heart open to God's nudging along my particular path . . . that gives life. There is no regret there. 

How has your perspective on stay-at-home mothering changed over time? Do you resist change? 

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20 Comments »

20 Responses to “Looking Back on Stay-at-Home Motherhood, and Looking Forward”

  1. Spectacular post! I could wax on here, but I'd much rather read responses from other young moms. Very good subject. Just one remark from this grandmother: I wouldn't take anything for my gratifying and fun stay-at-home years with you and Duff.

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    1. Thanks, Mom. You know I feel the same way. And I also wouldn't trade anything for the example you set of a mom who isn't afraid to work hard outside the home, too.

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  2. For most of my children's lives, I was a stay at home mom, but not a home schooler. Yes, I did teach them at home but not the ABC's. There is plenty to do at home if you cook and clean for your family. If space permits to even have a garden. Oh, yes when my husband was in business, I stayed home, answered his phone, did his books and income taxes. So I did work while at home for him and for the children.

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    1. Hi Hazel - Thanks for your comment. It resonates because I'm back to work thanks to my husband, too. He has his own law firm, and I'm basically officially doing now what I've been doing behind the scenes in a rather scattered way for a long time. I'm serving as the practice administrator and it's been good for me to set some office hours and get some separation between what I do at home and what I do at work.

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  3. I loved my days of the single working young career woman, only to cherish more the days of being a stay at home mother to my daughters. My husband and I wanted to be the sole caregivers for the children during their short time as babies and children. Returning to the business world as they move on to the high school / college years I find that I am more productive, more successful and able to expand my creativity in ways that I probably would have not had the courage to try in the past. What could be more wonderful than sharing a great book, singing songs from your childhood or helping to make the perfect summer lemon aide stand in the neighborhood with your children? Having the snack ready after school, catching frogs or lightning bugs and holding hands when taking a walk around the block bring us closer to the children than we can ever imagine. Driving my girls to camp last week, they started singing every song I taught them on family vacations....hey, it worked...they really listened and learned something along the way. Women do not need to "have it all", women just need to enjoy the moments and memories that God gives us....

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    1. Hi Janie - I agree that the quest to "have it all" is a foolish one. No one gets to have it all and goodness, why would I want it all? The key is to enjoy the moments God gives us, and the ones you described are beautiful. Thanks for your comment.

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  4. When my daughter was little, my husband was in medical school so I really needed to work. In fact that is what I wanted though a part of me wanted to be able to be at home with her. Eventually I felt called home when she was in middle school. All of her friends' mothers were heading back to work. It seemed strange timing but now 4 years later I see that it was incredibly important for me to be at home during these tumultuous years. So many things were changing for her during this time and it was so good for me to be able to be here to help when she needed to (and often when she didn't). Now that she is in high school and driving herself everywhere, I definitely feel that the Lord is moving me into a new season. But I think it may be different than I originally thought. I expected myself to move back into full-time ministry or back to my original career in museums, but instead I find myself being drawn to writing and photography and creating--areas that I have always had an interest in but now am passionate about. Will I actually be able to let go of the lure of title and safety in employment to launch a new career? One that I design and create myself? I admit that I am at times terrified but I am just taking one step at a time for now seeing where it all leads me. I have only been blogging (http://alifeofmakinglemonade.wordpress.com) for two and a half months but I am developing a flow to my work that I never imagined. I'd love to know more about your experiences as a writer, formerly employed attorney and a stay-at-home mom.

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    1. Hi Amy - What an interesting adventure you are on! I love that you are developing and exploring a creative interest and that it is bringing you such joy. I feel the same way about blogging and am trying to figure out what the next step will be for me in that department. It started off as a therapeutic and fun hobby for me (and it still is!) but I have this feeling that it is time for me to make something more of it. What that looks like? I have no idea! Stay tuned :)

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  5. Sooo, can you reveal what you are going to be up to?

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    1. Hi Jane-Ellis, First, you should know that I count you among those mothers who inspire me :)

      And yes, I'm going to edit this post to include it because it should be in there! I'm basically making it official what I've been doing for some time behind the scenes - managing Jim's firm. It's still part time but making it a real thing and shifting our family schedule around to accommodate me having actual office hours, that's been a good thing.

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  6. The whole sahm vs the working mom is such a touchy subject in christian circles, isn't it? Everyone has an opinion but what really matters, I think, is that God calls us to love our families and serve them first. For some they that means no other outside distractions, for others it means something else. We shouldn't have the mandate confused with the method.
    May God bless your work with fruitfulness!

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    1. Marty - Wise words! Thank you for sharing, and encouraging me (and many others, I'm sure) in this way.

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  7. My view on this has changed so much.

    I used to idolize staying at home. Then I despised. Then, I longed for it. Then, I dismissed it. Now, I know I need a combo platter. Full time work (for me) makes me feel as if I am a terrible mother. I just can't seem to balance it. Part-time would be perfect. . .now, if I could just make that work.

    This is really good. You need to submit it somewhere.

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    1. "A combo platter"
      That is priceless, Amy! That is what I needed when I was a mom of young kids.

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    2. Amy, You are the best. Thank you!

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  8. Courtney, this is terrific. I was not a SAHM. I never wanted to be, nor did we financially set ourselves up so it was even a possibility. That being said, if I had it to do over again, I would stay at home as long as I could. Hopefully, I would avoid the either/or you write about, as well as the envy. You are right on target about those being real issues.

    The great news is that my oldest is due soon with her first. I sent this to her, and we have had joyful and interesting conversations about SAHM's, possibilities and expectations. Thanks for providing wonderful material for mommy conversations with my daughter!

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  9. Thank you, Kim! I'm so thrilled that you feel like you can use some of this with your daughter. Talking about it and thinking about our unique situations from every angle can be so helpful.

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  10. I'm glad you wrote about this... I tried to vlog about it, but the kids were crazy and I couldn't get my thoughts straight. :) But what I said in the video that never aired was that I understood where she was coming from, and it made me think about -- "what's my message, really?" It has never been "quit your career" and definitely not, "be a stay at home mom". It has always been about finding the path that feels true to you... and that's a one step at a time kind of thing. For me, I know that I will regret not finishing this book and trying to get it traditionally published, and blogging feels like part of my purpose. But I've had to reconcile those ambitions with my desire to be home with my kids. And reconcile that I'm forgoing lots of income in the process. So, I have to live like I will succeed... I have to remember this feels like a calling... and I have to remember that I only have so much control over the outcome. But I do understand the repercussions. I think the woman who wrote the article feels regret because of that... she followed her heart, but didn't realize where the path could lead her.

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  11. So good to see your thoughts on this subject and how they have changed. I have been at home full time for eight years this September. It is something I have always wanted and for quite a long time I really thrived, but since having our third child three years ago, I just feel like I've never found the groove again. It was a long time before I could put words to my feelings and even longer before I really understood them. It was my sister who finally defined it for me: staying at home had become overwhelming. I'm still here at home and I'm still loving it, but I also look forward to the prospect of returning to teaching as a profession in the next couple of years. It has become my fuel for those days when I feel tortured by the unfinished laundry or the sticky table or the clutter. There is so much comfort in reading about the self-doubt of others!

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  12. Hi Courtney! I absolutely LOVE your writing and I wish would have found you many years ago! I read the article you mentioned about regretting staying at home, and I wondered the worldview of the author? Obviously,I don't know whether she believes in God or not, but that one factor influences everything in our lives. As Christ-followers, we live our lives for Christ, not for the things of the world. I am not saying she lives for things which are not meaningful, but I wonder about how her season affected her regrets? When you go through the tough teen years where the kids think you know nothing, or when they don't call while away at college, it's easy to think your life at home didn't matter. The Scriptures clearly say that "Start children off on the way they should go, and even when they are old they will not turn from it." Proverbs 22:6. You see the fruit of your labors when your children are older-whether good or bad parenting. When we are intentional with our children, we reap those fruits and when we are too busy, whether volunteering or working, we will reap those fruits also. When we are busy and overwhelmed with commitments, it's more challenging to have the time and the precious moments to speak into our children's lives and where they are in that one particular moment. When we are available, we have access to our children's hearts more often than we do if we are busy either working or even volunteering in ministry somewhere. It's all about the heart and the question, "Where's your heart?" and "Is it divided?" Even stay at home moms can have divided hearts. Our hearts are first and foremost for the Lord, then our husband and children. Then everything else comes after. I am grateful for my years at home. God used my time and opened doors for me now in this season of my life which never would have opened had I gone back to work! I am grateful. I will leave you with the words of a man I admire and look up to tremendously, Paul Stanley. He was the Navigators International Vice President. I went to a workshop where he spoke to many famous bloggers, writers and speakers and he told us, in his sweet kind words, "Your biggest years for ministry and success do not even begin until your late forties and early fifties. Your most important work is what your doing right now at home with your children."
    It was eye-opening and I am grateful for his candor and truth.
    I pray you begin writing again. Thanks for sharing your heart :)

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