I blame those Christmas newsletters!
As 2006 comes to a close, why am I haunted by a nagging feeling that I'm not enough? I can't chalk it up to envy. I would rather have my family, our budget, and my work at home than any of my working friends'. I've made these choices, and I'm content.
Too content? Part of me feels like I could drift along for years like this. Before I know it, the children will be grown and gone, but I'll still be right here. And I'll regret what I didn't do: use my education, change the world, leave a mark. I know, I know--I'm raising children, which is practically the same thing.
Except when it's not. Please tell me I'm not the only one who wonders.
We must be living parallel lives right now....I have been feeling a little melancholy about this same type of thing all week. My oldest is 16, and though he is not quite ready to "launch" yet, I still wonder sometimes if how I have spent my life will ultimately matter. I was raised with three brothers. We were all strongly encouraged to really achieve in regards to education, career, etc., and I think that we all did. But I was the only girl,and I am the only one staying home and not "using my education". All the women on my side and my husband's side of the family are working moms. My brothers are highly successful, and sometimes I feel like I haven't achieved much by "just" staying home and raising my kids.
I think there is such a need for encouragement from older Christian women to moms like us who are still raising their children in what is now a counter-culture sort of way. It's lonely sometimes, and even though I have always felt like it is best to be home with my kids, there really are times when I wonder if it really matters in the end. Maybe I shouldn't have posted...I guess my recent angst with this issue is coming through!
I have one more thought to add after rereading your post. Maybe you don't feel like it, since you can't physically see or touch the women who read your blog, but you have made a BIG mark on MY life!! I am very thankful for you and the thoughts that you share that come from your heart. Your life is an example to me of how a woman can shape her home and her family's legacy with class and beauty, even if her budget is very modest. Your life is truly making a difference to me, and I am thankful that you have shared your life and your heart on your blog! You have given me great encouragement through your blog, and I hope that you will be encouraged in return!
Blessings to you-
The differences may not be as apparent with young children, but you'll probably figure out that you're doing the right thing as your kids get older.
I look at my daughters' friends:
One, at age 11, is a latchkey kid ... for 5 hours one day a week. (Parents' work schedules). She is 'cool' and cliquish. What kind of situation is that for a little kid? An 11-yr-old 'cool' kid who is on her own from 2-5 hours every school day.
Another family I know, both parents work. They tell me that the only meal they eat as a family is a restaurant lunch after Sunday mass.
And how many families have you seen where the pizza delivery guy and the Schwann's frozen food guy are on first-name terms with the whole family? I know a few. A neighbor once asked me, "Do you have a problem with ordering out? I never see the pizza guy at your house."
That same neighbor's menu for cook-at-home dinner? She'd ask each kid, "Nuggets or pizza?" [BTW, she was a SAHM. But she had a part-time business, and her interests weren't family-oriented.]
Another family has their kids in so many activities that they NEVER seem to spend an evening together as a family. Scouts, karate, gymnastics, and a few others, I think. In the summer, their kids go to a gymnastics-oriented daycare. That little girl has had been in casts or on crutches more than my entire family -- sports injuries.
And just think of the MEALS these kids eat! Burgers and fries and chips. Frozen pizza. Microwaved burritos. They think a healthy salad is iceburg lettuce and French dressing.
When they eat at my house, I'm shocked by some of the things they say about food. One little girl didn't want her sister to eat a Sloppy Joe ("because you are on a diet"). However, she thought it fine to eat potato chips as part of the meal.
My DH strongly supports me being home with the kids as they get older. With Mom home and the friends hanging out here, the opportunities for serious trouble are limited. Teenage drinking, sex, drugs, vandalism.
Since you have children, you'll do best for the family's comfort and security by giving them time and attention.
Some moms can work and manage this as well. Some can stay home and still ignore the family's basic needs.
But, I think you have a strong probability of raising good kids in a healthy family if you stick to your current plan.
I wish I could just pour into you a knowledge of your influence on your family and your worth in God's eyes. The world tells you that you aren't doing enough and it is a loud voice, I know. Pray that God would give you glimpses of his view of you and of your importance to your family.
Your care for your home and family are much more valuable than any job ever could be.
Here are some of my favorite words (albeit with a British context) on motherhood by G.K. Chesterton:
"To be Queen Elizabeth within a definite area, deciding sales, banquets, labors and holidays; to be Whiteley within a certain area, providing toys, boots, sheets, cakes and books, to be Aristotle within a certain area, teaching morals, manners, theology, and hygiene; I can understand how this might exhaust the mind, but I cannot imagine how it could narrow it. How can it be a large career to tell other people’s children about the Rule of Three, and a small career to tell one’s own children about the universe? How can it be broad to be the same thing to everyone, and narrow to be everything to someone? No; a woman’s function is laborious, but because it is gigantic, not because it is minute. "
The single most important thing you can be doing right now is raising your children to serve God. Nothing else matters in light of Eternity. Nothing!
I thought I was very secure, but there are times when working mommys try to make me feel like less. It is not pleasant, but I am pretty intuitive and have picked up on THEIR angst. Their little newborns are in day care. So when they find out I am raising my children full time instead of just feeding them dinner and tucking them in bed, it might make them feel a range of negative emotions. My husband believes these particular women are either envious or feel guilty.
My children are young like yours, so perhaps when they are older I might wonder how things might have been different, but like someone else said, I will see the fruit of raising them too! :)
So in answer to your question, yes these thoughts creep in, but I remind myself that THIS is the most important job I can have at this time, and it doesn't take long for me to feel certain about that. :)
You're not the only one who wonders. I was laid off from work right after my son was born so I'm currently a SAHM. And while everyone tells me how lucky I am and what a wonderful blessing this is, part of me really feels unfulfilled. Maybe staying at home will grow on me (my son is only 3 months old) but somehow I don't think so right now. I probably ponder this at least twice a day.
I work full time and have a 2 year old (my DH stays home with her). I don't feel like I'm changing the world or making it a better place. I'm using my education (some of the time; mostly someone with a college degree instead of a PhD could do my job however). So working outside the home doesn't guarantee you'll feel the way you think you might with a job. I certainly don't! I feel like I'm making the world better outside of my job--with a garden, with energy efficient windows, with saving money by being frugal, etc.
"Her children rise up and call her blessed." I can remember friends being jealous when they visited my home while I was growing up. I used to chafe under Mom's fairly constant presence and could not believe how many of my friends would come to visit me but seek out my mother. They did seem to crave more attention than they got at home, they also craved home made treats. We basically never went without a home cooked meal and always had cookie jars filled or a beautiful cake out on the kitchen island. At the time it just seemed like that was Mom's job, to provide meals and treats. Now I see that for her it really was an expression of her love for us all.
But in my own life I have lived the other track. I have not only held down jobs I also used to be a small business owner. And while I may not have had as much time as Mom did to have baked goods around the home I know I love my children every bit as much as my mother loved me. My expression of love for them may not have been a pan of brownies, it was me watching my daughter's ballet practices and countless evening hours spent at the side of the pool for swim team and so on.
SAHM or working mom it really all boils down to making our children feel like the blessing to our lives that they really are. Parenting has less to do with staying home or working to provide and more to do with how we make those children feel. I've seen just as many SAHMs overly focused on activities and affiliations as I have seen career moms so focused on the ladder, I've seen equally as many from both examples leading very family-centered lives with happy children.
Meredith, you use your education and change the world and leave your mark every day in everything you do for your children. But, you know that. Maybe what you need to hear is that a lot of people who work outside the home have the same feelings about what they are doing with their lives. You may feel this way no matter what hat you are wearing.
For myself I believe it was God stirring me to do things for people who didn't already beneft from my efforts.
.......and you are not the only one who wonders!
I am at the opposite end of the line really. My youngest child is 17 and nearly finished school. I have been a SAHM for 31 years. And I have loved every minute of it, even though there have been many sneers and people regarding me as a 2nd class citizen. I always intended to go out and carve a career but then had a surprise baby., Then my father developed alzheimers. Now I have my elderly mother who lives with me. And you know what, time just flew by. I have always been involved in volunteer work. I have been the one who watched other working parents' kids. I am the one people come to for advice, or practical help. I am the one who grown kids still come a visit to chat to. I am the one who still loves it all. I am not special. Or better. Or a saint. But I found my niche. I have no regrets. Sometimes I think I could have had a glittering career. But would my life have been better? Would my kids be the same? Would I still be the one people phone at 3 in the morning? I like who I am. I am me. And then my husband died unexpectedly. Now I am out at work full time, and I love that too. I had no option. But I have lost part of the "me" i was. The only truth is that there is no such thing as having it all. It can't happen. So, Meredith, you do what is right for you. You know your family. You know who you are. Just never ever judge yourself by what other people may say or do. That is between you and God. You are enough. Believe me.
I do know what you mean. One thing that helps me is thinking that although we started our family relatively late (32 at birth of first child, will be 35 when this second baby is born), that life is long. I may be close to 60 when my last child leaves the nest but given the expected life spans for our generation, I will have a good 10 years of being able to focus my time and energy on the larger community, whether it be through be paid or volunteer work. Although sometimes I wish for the satisfaction of completely finishing a task that sometimes comes in the working world, I also remind myself of all the times it felt like endless drudgery, though my job was well-paid and sounded fairly interesting at a party, lol.
So back to Meredith's original question: am I fulfilling my potential, living up to everything God has given me? I noticed that you didn't say you wished for more money or more leisure, just that you wonder if you are using your talents to the best? My answer to that, is only you and God can know. Personally, part of me becoming more accepting of where I am in my life has been becoming accepting of myself: instead of berating myself that I'm not running a huge volunteer project plus caring for my child & home (as others I know do), I've acknowledged my own weakness: I'm not great at balancing priorities so something always gets skewed therefore I chose to set up the situation so I can't get skewed away from my first priority, my family.
Sorry this is long & rambling, just a few moments while getting clean laundry out and then taking down Christmas decorations.
Happy New Year!
I doubt we'd be human if we didn't feel this way every once in awhile. Sometimes, for me, God pokes me like this to bring me out of my complacency.
Each new year leaves me wondering if I did enough with what God has blessed me with in the previous year and what can I do differently/better this year?
If we didn't hear God's challenges to us I think, perhaps, we'd fall into the trap of becoming stagnent and complacent. Two places I dread being.
Often I am my own harshest critic. I have to temper myself and be reminded by a favorite quote of mine from John Newton (the writer of Amazing Grace): "I am not what I ought to be; I am not what I wish to be; I am not what I hope to be; but by the grace of God I am what I am."
I'll be praying for you.
My children are in their 30's and I was a stay at home Mom. For someone doing that in the l970's & 80's was unusual and I felt very alone, always felt looked down upon by the other Mothers. They made me feel having a career was the most important priory for them. Everyone assumes I sleep till noon everyday! The message to me was I had it so easy, did not know what the "real world" was. How I wish I had a support network. Now it is becoming more accepted and supported. We had a very tight budget to work with and some people would say I was being unfair to my husband by not contributing to our income. However, I have no regrets knowing I was able to give my husband and children equal attention, and they always knew they could count on me being there for them. We did not have new vehicles, updated remodeling, expensive vacations etc. But the house was always clean, the yard mowed and the cookie jar full of home made cookies. Thank heavens for garage sales also. I guess the bottom line is you should do what your "gut" feelings tell you to.
I always love reading Meredith's blog and especially love the responses she gets from her readers. What a wonderful and fascinating group of women you all are!
I know, the readers here are great! I appreciate all the encouragement.
Anonymous with the three-month old, let me tell you one thing I know: staying at home will get SO MUCH BETTER SOON! When your baby becomes more of a person, you will see what I mean.
There is no "better" work out there than being at home with our children. Our influence is greater, our time multiplied, our creative outlets limitless, our impact on eternity greater. Satan would love to make you think there's something more. Ask God to give you new eyes for the work He has blessed you with. Remember too, that there are different seasons to mothering. Your kids are still very young. As they grow there will be more you can do with them. You will see more fruits of your labor.
You are such a talented lady- thanks for this blog!
Dear Anonymous with the Three Month Old Baby: I want to chime in with Meredith that is does get better. The lack of sleep eventually improves but most importantly the baby grows and changes and starts interacting with you in ways other than crying for milk or a dry diaper! It can seem daunting as there are plenty of moms out there who instantly bond with their babies and will truthfully tell you "I can't imagine spending my time any other way, I am so fulfilled, etc." but there are also plenty of us moms who love our kids but struggle for a while before the connection totally clicks. My son and I did not have an easy or even pleasant first six months but two years later he is the delight of my life and I am happy we are companions each day.
Hang in there! Don't make any rash decision (i.e. if you can wait until your baby is at least nine months old before deciding whether to be SAHM or working) but also don't let other people's defensiveness that drives comments like "you know the kids of moms who work outside the home eat horribly" get to you either if you eventually decide your family will be in better balance if you return to work. Many of us feel we can meet our family's needs best by limiting our outside commitments, but I have friends who work outside the home and are happy to go to work AND happy to come home each day.
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