In a recent article at the Huffington Post, Lisa Endlich Heffernan said that she had regrets about her decision to forgo her career in order to stay home with her children:
Now, on the downslope of parenting, I have misgivings about my decision to stay home. … Although I am fully aware that being a SAHM was certainly a luxury, staring at an empty nest and very diminished prospects of employment, I have real remorse.
One of Heffernan’s reasons caught my attention: “My kids think I did nothing. They saw me cooking, cleaning, driving, volunteering and even writing, but they know what a ‘job’ looks like and they don’t think I had one.”
I’m not sure whether that is a true assessment of the way her children really feel about the time she spent at home or a projection of Heffernan’s insecurities, but in either case, it’s a sad reflection of the devaluing of the “work” of motherhood in our culture. Anyone who has ever taken on the challenge knows that although it’s not a 9-5 “job” in the traditional sense, the rewards and accomplishments last far beyond a bi-weekly paycheck and deposit in the 401(k).
Kasey Crawford, a senior at Hillsdale College, said her mother could never have planned for the struggles and joys she experienced as a full-time homemaker. For 23 years she cared for her quadriplegic son, while homeschooling Kasey. Kasey says that even during the hardest of times, she never heard her mother say anything negative about her choice to stay at home and raise her children. “In reality, stay-at-home mothers are some of the most selfless people in society.”
Crawford says she appreciates the gift of being homeschooled and she desires to be a stay-at-home mother herself. “I believe that rearing the next generation is the most important job on earth.”
Those mothers who choose to sacrifice a second income in order to stay at home with their children always have to deal with the question: “What do you do?” As a homeschooling mom, I took some comfort in the fact that teaching was in the “job” category — albeit the unpaid category — but that answer was still, in a sense, devaluing of motherhood. Just being at home with my children all day was intrinsically valuable, whether or not I chose to homeschool them.
Adam Josefczyk, a young conservative leader in Ohio, says, “There is no job of higher value, purpose and dignity than being a full-time mom.” Josefczyk, co-founder and executive editor of Ohio Conservative Review and state field director for Citizens for Community Values, added,
I cannot put into words the heartfelt appreciation and gratitude that I have for my mom, Robin, staying home to raise me and my sisters.
Josefczyk noted that his parents were being obedient to God’s commands for parents:
God says that the highest calling of parents is to train up their children in His Righteousness. I am thankful that my parents chose to believe the voice of Truth rather than the voice of culture. By having my mom stay home, they ensured godly stewardship of the blessing of children God had given them.
I think stay-at-home moms are especially prone to guilt when we’re not contributing income to our families. It can sometimes seem like we are not contributing anything of value — anything tangible that our children can understand.
Our kids don’t see it that way.
Alex Mellen is a senior at Taylor University, majoring in writing. She is a summer intern at Focus on the Family, a blogger, and an aspiring editor. She didn’t think any less of her mom for staying home and dismissed the notion that her mother was less accomplished than her employed peers:
She…worked for many years before having me and I heard lots of stories from her jobs, so I knew she was very capable and talented.
Mellen added, “I really appreciated my mom’s teaching. I loved being homeschooled, and I loved that she gave so much of her time to teach me. She’s the reason for many of my passions and interests, and I wouldn’t have changed my years with her for anything.”
Perhaps Heffernan’s kids are different than the ones I spoke to, or perhaps she doesn’t give them enough credit. When all is said and done, most children are profoundly grateful for the time and sacrifices of their stay-at-home parents. Though our society as a whole continues to devalue motherhood and as economic realities press in and make stay-at-home moms increasingly rare, it seems like the children have not yet evolved on this issue. They still value motherhood and appreciate having their moms at home during their formative years.