The question of whether or not someone should stay home with the kids is one few will touch in polite company because emotions run high on all ends of the spectrum. Those who work for financial reasons don’t cause the fireworks, but rather those who make choices due to other factors.
One side portrays those who stay home as having the personality of a slug. They require no stimulation beyond being spit upon and watching Veggie Tales videos. There must be something wrong with them, because women need to be fulfilled, and staying home can’t do this.
Instead of answering this on a point by point basis, though, too often we become defensive, retreating into the other camp and insisting that motherhood is the be all and end all. Staying home with one’s children is the most sacred duty there is, and therefore must be the source of our greatest pleasure.
Staying home with children is one of the most important things you can do as a parent, no doubt about it. Children do better under predominantly parental care, and you have a chance to build closer bonds and instil values and morals. But let’s not set ourselves up for failure by thinking that this will be a magic bullet to make us happy.
Raising Children is Tiring
In some ways, the feminists were right. It is tiring being home with children all day. You do not get the kind of positive feedback you get at a job. No one is standing over you saying, “wow, did you ever get that stain out of that sleeper well. I have never seen anyone remove stains the way you do.” And you don’t receive the sense of accomplishment you get at work, either, because your accomplishments may not be obvious for another eighteen years or so.
Get some Outside Interaction
The best recipe for success at home, then, lies not in building the experience up into some kind of utopia, but in recognizing that we are with our kids because God called us there and because it’s important. But while we are parents, that is not all we are. Get out during the day and meet friends. Join a women’s group at a church.
If you need to feel a sense of accomplishment, invite some lonely people over for dinner, start a political letter writing campaign, or do something else from home that is meaningful to you. Read books on a subject you always wanted to learn about to challenge your mind. You may have to do so while juggling a baby on your knee, or while sitting in the bathroom watching kids splash in the bath, but grab the time while you can.
Acknowledge You Need Help
Staying at home is important, life giving, and sacrificial. For most women, however, it’s not pure bliss. As a church, let’s acknowledge this and offer relief for moms. If you don’t already have one, start a moms and tots group where women can share and encourage one another. And just as Paul admonishes to Timothy, have older women mentor and help the younger women in these demanding days. Meanwhile, if you’re the one busy juggling bottles, laundry, and diapers, don’t feel guilty when you feel exhausted or lonely. Instead, recognize your legitimate needs and take steps to meet them, even while you are at home. That’s realistic, and that’s the balanced picture of stay-at-home parenting we should be giving.
Sheila Wray Gregoire is the author of four books, including To Love, Honor and Vacuum: When you feel more like a maid than a wife and a mother. Do you need help organizing your home? Get your FREE household organization charts, including children’s chore sheets, organization checklists, and more!