I recently went through a bit of a quarter-life crisis, presumably a few years late. I’ve been a stay-at-home mom for about eight months now, and in that time, I took a job tutoring middle-school students for about two months, as well as a few babysitting gigs scattered between February and now. I still take babysitting gigs from time to time when it’s convenient to do so, but if you haven’t guessed yet, I ended up quitting the tutoring job because it was too difficult to juggle that and a whole host of doctor appointments that popped up this past winter (Don’t worry- everyone’s fine.). I felt guilty about quitting (see my last post on that topic as it applies to parenthood), but after a long conversation on our way home from our Christmas travels, Andrew and I decided that it was for the best.
I took the job when we were a bit strapped for money (a new car and a new baby will do that to you) and both of my kids were healthy. I took it because the extra cash took some of the pressure off Andrew (and my credit card), and because I was feeling a bit guilty about all the free time that I had at home. It just didn’t seem right that I should have so much free time when Andrew worked so hard, and I was struggling to adjust after years as a full-time DRE/youth minister. I felt like I needed to do at least a little something to support our family, if only to help pay for the occasional dinner out or for clothes for our rapidly-growing children.
As the holidays approached, I found myself incredibly stressed out about my part-time job. I didn’t feel like I was making any headway with the girls I was tutoring, I felt guilty that Felicity had to nap in her car seat while I worked rather than in her crib at home, and I had to cancel several times to take John to the pediatrician for ear infections. I was stressed, but I didn’t want to quit. I was afraid to quit.
I ended up discussing my situation with one of our parish priests, and he very candidly asked me if I really needed to be working. While the extra money was helpful, I knew that we would be able to manage without it. Our extra expenses had mostly sorted themselves out, and I knew that Andrew would be able to support us on his own. But I was still reluctant to quit.
After spending about a week with our families over Christmas, as we were driving back to Virginia, Andrew and I ended up talking about my job. I confessed that I didn’t particularly enjoy the work- it was just too stressful, and I felt guilty about how often I had to cancel for sick children- but I’d also felt guilty before I’d taken the job. I felt guilty that I had so much free time, and that I got to spend my days caring for John and Felicity while Andrew worked so hard to support us. His response astounded me.
Andrew confessed that he didn’t find caring for the kids easy. It was a challenge to him, in a way that teaching was not. Even though I found it so easy, it wasn’t so much that it was easy as that caring for the kids came naturally to me in a way that it didn’t come to Andrew. Looking back on our years with John, I can see that. I always knew that Andrew stressed on the days that he cared for John. He did a fantastic job taking care of our son, but it was a lot of work. Caring for John and Felicity doesn’t feel like work to me, but it is work. Andrew made this fact abundantly clear to me. It’s just never felt like work to me, but as we drove home, he admitted that it was probably because it came more naturally to me. He admired me for how easy I made caring for the children look. From his own experience caring for John, he knew how difficult being a stay-at-home parent could be, and he also knew that I made it look like a breeze. I was good at it.
Andrew’s declaration changed my entire perspective on my life as a stay-at-home mother. Just because I find something easy does not mean that it can’t be considered work. It might be easy for me, but that won’t be true for everyone. As Andrew repeatedly affirmed that afternoon, I didn’t need to feel like I needed to work to “do my part.” Taking care of Felicity and John every day was how I did my part, and he was grateful.
As much as he loves our children, he would rather be the one out and working while I stay at home. He works to support us and to make sure that I can stay home with the kids, but he also works because he knows that staying at home with our children comes more naturally to me than it ever did to him. If one of us was going to do it, it makes more sense that it should be me. I might have been good at my job, but I’m even better at home with my kids. I flourish here in a way that I never did while I was working. I feel a satisfaction that I never really experienced anywhere else.
I belong at home with my children, and my role as a stay-at-home mom is a gift to both me and my husband. I get to stay at home with my incredible children, caring for them and teaching them, and my husband doesn’t have to. I can love our children through every diaper changed, every meal cooked, every lesson learned, and my husband can love our children through every hour he works to support us, every late night of lesson planning and preparing, and every weekend that he is able to spend by our sides. And those weekends together are the greatest gift of all. So husbands, before your wives go job hunting out of a sense of guilt, make sure they know just how much you appreciate and admire them for their ability to make a house a home and to raise such incredible children that you are proud to call your own, because we’re all apt to forget it from time to time.
Mary Help of Christians, pray for us!