Proverbs 14:1 The wise woman builds her house, but with her own hands the foolish one tears hers down. (NIV)
I am a work-from-home mom. I have resisted that title for years but finally am ready to admit it. I always thought of myself as a stay-at-home mom (which is a full time job itself) who worked two part-time jobs from home on the side. I am realizing that no, I’m a work-from-home mom which means I have two part-time jobs with all the responsibilities that come with that, and have the privilege of completing that work in my home so that I am able to raise my children, for the majority of time, by myself. (Thank you to my mom who comes in and helps me for a few hours two days a week and my mother-in-law who steps in when I ask for help at other times as well. It definitely takes a community to raise a child and we will talk about the importance of that in the next blog.)
Having said that, I am finally admitting that I am a mother with a job who is privileged to work from home so that I can raise our children. However, with this title, there is a whole new set of guilt that sets in with this type of situation. My job requires me to sit at a computer for long periods. Therefore, I always felt guilty if my children were left to play on their own, entertain themselves, or (gasp), have to do things for themselves that are age appropriate things to do like fix their own lunch, clean up after themselves, or help out with chores around the house like fold and put away laundry, vacuum, or dust.
Growing up, I always envisioned that I would be the type of stay-at-home mom who waited for the school bus with her kids, sending them off with a hug and kiss every morning, before tackling all the chores while the kids were at school. There would always be fresh fruit on the counter ready to grab when someone wanted a healthy snack. When they returned, I would have fresh, hot chocolate chip cookies and milk waiting so we could sit at the kitchen table and talk about their day before they went away (willingly) to do their homework and I started supper. I am not sure why I envisioned that scenario, as my own mother was not a stay-at-home mom. She was a teacher. My dad is the one who put me on the school bus every morning and waited for me when I got home every afternoon. It was expected that our entire family would pitch in with the chores during the weeknights so that we would have free weekends to play as a family.
I grew up learning responsibility, how to find ways to entertain myself, and receiving the satisfaction of a job well done when I finished what I started, even if it was hard. I did not have videogames, Facebook, the internet, or cable TV to entertain me either. In addition, I did not always have the luxury of having friends close by to come hang out each and every day.
I wondered why having had the childhood experience that I did, and it was a great childhood, I felt so guilty as a mom for not being able to live up to the standard I had envisioned for myself as a stay-at-home mom? I realized that it was not so much that I wanted to give my children that scenario everyday as it was that I did not want to miss out on any part of their growing up by sitting at a computer instead of sitting with them.
I have since realized that God definitely knows what He is doing. Some women are truly gifted to be stay-at-home moms, others are happier working full- or part-time outside of the home, and others still are gifted at working full- or part-time from the home. I have the type of personality that I think would smother my children if I did not have something else to occupy my time. I would raise incredibly selfish, self-centered children if I had the opportunity to focus completely on them. Instead of creating opportunities to teach my children new domestic skills or working on chores together, I would reenact the above scenario and have everything done, making my children believe that they are the center of the universe and they do not have to contribute to our family to help keep it running.
By being a contributor to our household finances, God has blessed me by providing a wonderful opportunity to teach my children the lessons that I was taught growing up. They are able to get satisfaction out of starting and then completing a difficult project, they learn responsibility by helping out with chores that keep our family life running smoothly, and are navigating how to occupy themselves alone or master the important skills of getting along with others, even those that irritate you sometimes as siblings tend to do.
And, I still have plenty of time every morning to wait outside with them for the bus as well as take a break from work long enough for them to tell me about their day when they get home before they go find themselves a snack, sometimes frozen chocolate chip cookies that were baked on the weekends, sometimes fruit from the bowl on the counter. Weekends and weeknights are spent working on chores together, running last-minute errands, or finding some fun activity that we can do together as a family.
As I sit here writing this, I am overhearing my middle child assist the two-year-old in finding a healthy snack. She is teaching him words like broccoli and apple and I am feeling really good that not only is she able to meet her own age-appropriate needs, but she is helping him to learn how to satisfy his in a healthy way as well.
There are still days that I feel overwhelmed with balancing my paying job and raising our children, but overall, I feel very blessed with how my life is structured. As a great friend of mine, Melissa, reminds herself and me regularly, this is only one season in our children’s lives. We may be busier or less busy in each season, but each is only a season. We must remember to be kind to ourselves as well. One season may have more time for holding and cuddling, another season has more time for teaching, and yet another season may be just for enjoying, but each season should be treasured for the season that it is.
Yes, God definitely knows all the time what He is doing, and for me to work part-time from home is better for my children, and myself, than my misguided image of what a stay-at-home mom would have looked like. The added bonus: The mom guilt is slowly fading, being replaced with pride in the lessons my children are learning to help them achieve the independence they will need as they grow into adults and possibly become parents themselves someday.