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'SO WHAT DO you do?' That is certainly the question of the day, isn't it? It is also a question that makes some of us who stay home cringe whenever it is posed to us. We don't know how to answer it. Some of us choose to be creative with a response such as, 'I'm currently researching the development of children.' And yet others of us respond with, 'Oh, I'm just a mom.'
Aren't both of those responses telling? The first type of response indicates that the terms wife and mother are not important enough. They alone do not indicate a 'real profession.' By using a creative title we hope we will be respected more, valued for our knowledge in some area, and interesting enough for continued conversation. I've talked to far too many women who have attended social gatherings with their husbands or former coworkers only to find that when they mention they are 'stay-at-home moms,' the conversations come to a halt. It is as if the other person determines that you can't possibly have much to offer to the conversation because you are not 'educated enough' or 'sharp enough' to contribute . . . after all, you are 'only' a mom---how hard can that be? Conversely, with the second response, we ourselves are suggesting that we are 'second class.' The word just implies that our responsibilities are somehow inferior to those of other people. Because we receive no monetary compensation for our position, we begin to buy into the lie that we are not contributing as we should. We are indeed 'just moms.'
I believe it is time for a new response. I believe we need to remove the 'just' from our response. We need to stand up straight, offer no apology for what we do, and respond with, 'I am a wife and a mother, and I love my job!' With great pride in our chosen career, we must share with people that we are in the profession of motherhood.
A Change of Plans
I found myself in full-time motherhood by accident. It did not begin as an intentional career choice for me. I was a teacher, living in Indianapolis, Indiana. Actually, I had just finished my teaching degree when my husband, Mark, decided to change careers. Mark felt God calling him to the ministry, so we packed up our little family and moved to Lincoln, Illinois. Anne was two years old at the time and Evan was just ten weeks old. To become an ordained minister, Mark had four years of full-time school ahead of him.
Our perfect plan for our new life included my finding a teaching job, Mark's caring for the kids when he was not in class, and a sitter's providing day care for the majority of the daytime hours. We were not prepared, however, for the possibility of a lack of teaching jobs in the area. I interviewed at several schools, but found nothing available. With two children at home, we determined that most hourly paying jobs would not be worth my time since the take-home pay would just barely cover our child care expenses.
Because we lived in a married student housing unit, we decided to put Plan B into action: I would provide day care in our home. There were many other students who also needed day care, and I could offer that service for those families. We would have a steady income and our children wouldn't need child care. It seemed like the logical option. This plan worked for our family during the first year and a half of Mark's schooling.
Those eighteen months were indeed a time of growth. We couldn't afford anything but the bare minimum in health insurance. We had very little money for food. As I reflect on that time, I still don't know how we ever paid our bills on $6,000 a year. But we did because God took care of our every need. When grocery money ran out, we would find groceries on our doorstep. When we didn't have enough to pay bills, we would receive an unexpected check in the mail. When we needed clothes for the kids, someone would give us just what we needed. It was an incredible lesson in God's faithfulness.
The most important lesson he taught me, however, came from caring for the other children. I began to see the downside of leaving children in someone else's care. The children received excellent care in my home, but when they fell down, they didn't want me---they wanted Mommy. When their feelings got hurt, they didn't want me---they wanted Mommy. When they were coming down with a cold or weren't feeling well, they didn't want me---they wanted Mommy.
Furthermore, I cared for a few grade school children after school. When they arrived at my home, they were bubbling over with excitement. They told me about their day. They talked to me about their friends. They showed me their papers and their craft projects because it was fresh on their minds and they were so proud. By the time Mom or Dad picked them up, that information was no longer pertinent. They were tired and ready to go home, eat dinner, and go to bed. For some of those families, I could communicate what the child had told me, but I could not adequately share the pride and enthusiasm I had seen earlier in the day.
What an eye-opening experience that was for me! I had never once considered what I might be missing when leaving my children in someone else's care or how the children might be affected. I certainly had never thought about how short the season of children at home really is in a family's life. My eyes were opened, and my heart for my children and my home was beginning to grow.