During Bill Clinton’s 1992 presidential campaign, a controversy arose about the president allegedly funnelling money through his wife’s law firm for state business. When asked about it by a reporter, Hillary Clinton responded in her trademark caustic style:
I suppose I could have stayed home and baked cookies and had teas, but what I decided to do was to fulfill my profession which I entered before my husband was in public life.
This was before her handlers realized that Hillary needed to be kept in a protective media-free zone for her own good, because when she speaks her mind, venom often flows out. Hillary likely thought it was virtuous to derisively dismiss stay-at-home mothers — housewives — who were putzing their lives away wiping snotty noses and baking cookies all day instead of participating in some meaningful paid labor.
The day Hillary made that comment I was at home with a 6-month-old baby. I remember thinking that she was a judgmental elitist who had no idea what I did all day and I was angry that she devalued stay-at-home moms without batting an eye.
When my husband and I got married, we made the decisions that if we were blessed with children, I would stay home with them. We started planning for it from Day One of our marriage — doing our best to live within our means and not become dependent on my income, which we anticipated would disappear once we had children.
It wasn’t easy — there are sacrifices when you choose to live on one income. We drove high-mileage cars (which my husband maintained and repaired), lived in a small, one-bathroom house with a “one butt kitchen,” and shopped for our clothing at yard sales and thrift stores. Things eventually improved as my husband advanced in his career, but there were a lot of Hamburger Helper years in the interim (ground beef was 89 cents a pound back then). I am blessed to have a hardworking husband who joyfully provided for all of our family’s needs over the years and who also made sacrifices so I could be home with our children (the ’68 Mercury Cougar comes to mind).
Of course, this also meant that I gave up having a career of my own. In fact, I was out of the workforce providing unpaid labor as the caretaker of our home and children for 17 years. My husband reminded me recently of a comment I made to him a few years ago as our kids were getting ready to leave home. I told him I was pretty sure I was unemployable after being out of the workforce for so long, but thought perhaps I could get a job as a Walmart greeter. (God is sure full of delicious surprises.)
I’m not here to judge mothers who work outside the home. I am in the “trust parents to make the best decisions for their own families” camp. But I am here to say that I have not — even for one minute — regretted my decision to stay home with my kids. I had the privilege of wiping their snotty noses 24-7 and teaching them to read — spending hours reading to them each day. I taught them to bake cookies, to throw a baseball, and to clean toilets. I homeschooled them and taught them to love learning and be curious about the world around them and to be suspicious of people who sound like they’re selling something. I was blessed to be able to do all of these things at a leisurely pace without having to rush back and forth to daycare or to school while trying to squeeze in all the mothering between dinner and bedtime and on weekends. I had dinner on the table
every most nights when my husband arrived home from work and our family enjoyed leisurely meals together.
I’m always puzzled by mothers who say that they are counting the days until summer is over and they can send their kids back to school. While my kids weren’t perfect and we certainly had our rough days — those day when I handed off the kids to my husband the minute he walked in the door with a terse, “I’m going to the store” — I never for a minute wanted to hand them off to daycare workers or teachers. We were a family and we loved being together.
Sure, I could have had an epic career of my own and our family could have had new cars and fancy vacations. But I would have missed out on the privilege of spending those 17 year raising a pair of snotty-nosed babies into amazing, godly men. Nothing I could have achieved in my career could rival what I accomplished — with God’s help — in those 17 years and I have not one regret for the sacrifices that accompanied the decision my husband and I made all those years ago. I don’t feel like I missed anything — although if you ask my husband, he’ll probably tell you that he still misses that ’68 Cougar.