Since Reuben was born in 2007, I have always worked. I love my job as an outreach consultant for InterVarsity Christian Fellowship and the thought of quitting entirely was enough for me to wrestle with whether or not I even wanted to have kids. Before having Reuben I would utter phrases such as “how can I travel from campus to campus and nurse a baby?! I don’t even know how that’s possible?!” I even felt mad at God for prompting me to do something other than ministry with college students; work that makes me feel joy, like I’m using my life purposefully and eating cheap college pizza with students late at night and muse about “what does it all mean? though I graduated from MSU 10 years ago.
Though I’ve been on academic leave with InterVarsity for 10 months, this fall has slowed to a considerably unhurried pace now that I’m done taking classes and am just completing writing projects. There are no more trips to take, no thousands of pages of reading to get through, no long hours sitting in class with stimulating conversations about faith and culture. It’s forced me to learn to be a different type of mom, and it’s been like a little window into what it’s like to be a stay at home mom without ever quitting my job. It’s increased my respect for and understanding of stay at home moms a lot more. Here are 5 things that impress me from my tiny window into their world (perhaps your world if you’re a SAHM!)
1. Stay at home moms are ridiculously creative. I read my friend Erin’s status update on facebook that she had made “real” garbage bags for her son’s toy garbage truck using plastic baggies filled with balled up paper. Her son was elated. My friend Sarah made a UPS costume for her son who was enthralled by their local delivery man and even asked if he could sleep over :)!
2. Stay at home mom’s are resourceful. Now that we’re down to one car (by choice) I haven’t had the option to run to the store to pick up ingredients for dinner if I don’t have something I need. It’s forced me to be more resourceful with what we have in our cupboards or go without. My friend Mindy bikes everywhere with her son- to get Starbucks, to the library, just to get out of the house. Field trip/coffee break/exercise all in one! Another one of my mom friends Laura used stale old cornflakes for a topping on a casserole for dinner because she was out of breadcrumbs. Slightly gross in theory, probably delicious in reality. Stay at home mom’s figure out how to make it happen whatever “it” is.
3. Stay at home moms are workhorses. These last few months have been a foray into what having more traditional roles would be like. In general Dave and I are pretty egalitarian in our marriage; things like he cooks, cleans, changed poopy diapers, I mow the grass, try to unclog a sink, and learn how to patch a hole using plaster. If you’re in a more traditional situation- the mom does a lot more work to make life run at home. I am super lazy when it comes to cleaning- I just don’t like doing it even though I love having a freshly scrubbed tub, clean dishes in the cupboard and vacuumed carpets without bits of cracker and dirt in them. Stay at home moms do this day after day, week after week only to have it get messy again after a day, an hour or 20 minutes. You can feel worthless after seeing all the hard work be erased so quickly, but SAHM’s keep at it to make sure their home is a place of rest and comfort for themselves and their families.
4. Stay at home moms are patient. In learning how to become a different type of mother while being at home, I’ve realized that while working I intentionally had to carve out special time with Reuben. We would have adventures together at the zoo, McDonald’s or even just the playground even if I was dead tired after coming home from a trip. Since I haven’t been under pressure to write talks, hop in my car to travel from campus to campus or prepare for conference calls the urgency of carving out time hasn’t been necessary. Each day has been a slate of “what are we going to do?” I’ve realized that one of the best gifts I can give to Reuben while I don’t have urgent work things is patience to do what he wants whether that’s trapping a slug under a basket in our backyard or spending 45 minutes throwing stones in a stream on a walk. Stay at home moms do this every day- learn to attend to their kids and be patient with their agendas of play, fun and discovering the world since they don’t have to rush. Of course there are moms who don’t do this- but I know many stay at home moms who have learned the art of patient play’ hours of pretending to be a tow truck, tea parties with their daughters, puppet shows to entertain their babies. In those moments of play they are patiently telling their kids “your agenda is more important than mine right now”
5. Stay at home moms are totally underrated. I’m ashamed to admit it but there have been times in my life where I’ve looked down at stay at home mom’s, and for this I’m sorry. This was mostly before I had a child of my own because I didn’t realize how much work it is to raise a kid, manage a home and stay married. Now that I’ve had a peek into their lives it’s made me realize that how seldom it can be that a thank you is heard for night after night of meals, clean clothes folded and put away and genuine excitement for the scribbles on a paper that is supposed to be a robot…or a dog, wait, is that upside down?
Mad props to you stay at home moms. If I had a million dollars to make a commercial and air it on network television to say bravo, I would. This blog post will have to suffice to express my admiration for who you are, the brave choice you’ve made to invest in your families, homes and communities and that you keep doing it day after day. Though I’m eager to get back to work in January, I’ll still be impressed by your creativity, resourcefulness, hard work and patience!