Two years ago, I hung up my suits, threw away a pair of worn out heels and retired about 20 years earlier than anticipated. Yes, today marks the two year anniversary that I have been a stay at home mother.
I first off want to say that I know every woman has her struggles with balancing career and family and that like your birth story, everyone has one personal to them. I have wanted to tell mine now for a while because it isn't so much about choosing my child over work but how God tugged on my heart and completely changed the way I thought about a lot of things including my self worth. So as a preface, please know that this is in no way passing judgement on any mother working or staying home. I have an extraodinary amount of respect for all the mamas out there putting their families first and joyfully (and sometimes not joyfully) doing this work of parenthood (in whatever capacity) everyday. This is MY story and MY experience.
And I should begin by telling you that from the moment I set foot in Atlanta, purchased my first suit, sat through my first sales training and received that first bonus check; all thoughts of ever staying home with children became a distant idea. Not only did it become a distant idea, it became a negative choice--something that boring, submissive women did. I had horribly judgemental ideas of what would you do all day, how terrible to have to depend on a man, what a waste of an education and talent! And as I spent more years working and spending time with coworkers just like me, those ideas began to shape the way I saw myself. As I succeeded--higher numbers, bigger bonuses, encouragement to move up--my job became my identity. That was who I was--business minded, driven, competitive and as my manager would assure me 'going places." I wasn't drinking the company koolaid, I was IV-ing into my arm. And life went on just fine until marrying Bert and moving left me without the fuel to my fire. My energy had been spent on working and with out that, I suddenly felt very invaluable. In my year long search for a job in Charleston, I would get so frustrated that I wasn't "bringing anything to the table." I didn't feel like I brought any value to our marriage because I didn't provide a paycheck nor did I feel that my day was meaningful. I volunteered but still my self worth was so tied to earnings and productivity; I couldn't shake feeling kind of useless despite Bert's encouragement. Not only that but by putting so much pressure on myself to earn, it blindingly kept me from submitting and trusting him to take care of our family.
Thankfully, I found a job in Charleston and once again felt satisfied with how my time was spent. I had Loulie and returned back to work with a lot of resignations but stood on the ground that work needed me, that I needed the
money, and that I would never find a job like that again. I now look back and see how prideful, how selfish and how untrusting I was. In the meantime, Loulie had horrible colic. Her daycare workers would call me out of meetings, I would pick her up to find her on the lap of the head administrator because her caretakers couldn't handle her neediness along with 7 other babies. And through all this, I prayed for signs of what to do but still held on to the thought of what would I be if I chose to stay home. How could I trust Bert to care for us? That if I stayed at home no one would ever know what I had accomplished, that I was capable and smart. Talk about Satan having a party in your head?!
I began to get worn down. One night Loulie stayed up screaming until 5:00am. After finally getting to sleep, the alarm went off an hour and a half later so that I could get Loulie to daycare before an 8:00 meeting. It was hell and we were both miserable.
I prayed more. I asked the advice of friends. I stained my poor mother's ear daily. And one day a friend said something to me that flipped a switch. "Whatever you decide to do, just don't loose your identity." I remember clearly going home and standing at my kitchen counter thinking "so is my identity my work?". Is that who I think I am? And like a cloud lifting, all of my self righteous sin that I had been masking with excuses for months was revealed. And I realized the real reason I was struggling. After praying and praying, all circumstances were pointing to me staying home. And after fighting it for so long, it became so apparent that I was scared of what God had in store, I was scared of loosing control, I was scared of not being able to provide for myself and Loulie, and I was scared of going down a road that might not have an exit ramp. So with so much trepidation, I made a call, I finished up my two weeks and I handed my self worth back to the Lord.
And for months he did a great work on my heart.
I get asked all the time since I have done both sides of it whether or not I think a friend or coworker should stay home with their child. I want to share what I've learned so far but I'll save it for another post. Like I said earlier, it is a different story and choice for each family. I have one answer for myself--I have never once looked back with regret. It took a lot of pruning but I have peace that what I am doing now is where I am meant to be. That what I do with my hours and days doesn't define who I am. That the choice wasn't about what to do but who I was putting in control, who I was choosing to trust. And I hope I never stop being thankful for the lessons I've learned and the way I now spend my days.