Growing up in the LDS church, it is pretty much the norm and the expectation that if you are a woman and bear children, you will (ideally) stay home with your children during their formative years. And I have chosen to follow this mold for the last two years. However, the decision to stay at home is not as easy as I once thought it would be. In fact, staying at home is hard.
While I know the role I play as primary nurturer, mother, caretaker, (and house cleaner), is super important, because as former LDS Church President David O. McKay said:
Motherhood is the greatest potential influence either for good or ill in human life. The mother’s image is the first that stamps itself on the unwritten page of the young child’s mind. It is her caress that first awakens a sense of security; her kiss, the first realization of affection; her sympathy and tenderness, the first assurance that there is love in the world.”
I still often feel less than stellar at my nurturing abilities. I hope that my influence will not prove ill.
Motherhood is Tough
Part of the problem is that motherhood is thankless, tireless work, a job that doesn’t see fruits of its labors until months, years, or even decades later, if ever. You don’t get immediate results despite improved and more concerted efforts to get them, and that’s hard. Because when I start a task I very much prefer to be able to go start to finish in one go, and devote my undivided attention to the task. So, when my child interrupts my “best-laid plans” to clean the bathroom, (or get a shower in) during their nap time by either refusing to nap or getting up earlier than expected, it frustrates me. I feel anger rising in my chest as I think out loud “Why can’t you just sleep for once?! Can’t you see Mommy’s busy (or tired, or ___)?”
And, man, that doesn’t make me feel like a great nurturer or mother.
I feel like I’ve become like those dozens of moms I’ve seen in public and judged in my heart through the years, saying “I’d never do that to my child!” or “I’d never treat my child like that.”
But, I do yell at my kids. I sigh when they ask me to read the same book to them for the third time in a row. I push them off my leg so I can finish cleaning the kitchen, ignoring their pleas of “Hold me.”
Maybe I have become one of those mothers.
The Decision to Stay at Home
So, while I can boast about my (self-righteous) decision to stay home because it is what is best for my children, is it really the best when I treat my children like inconveniences? Like burdens? Like nuisances? No! If that’s how I truly feel, it may better if I didn’t stay-at-home.
Missing the Workforce
I am not going to lie: I do sometimes fantasize about getting a job, even just a part-time one. I miss working! I miss having a job! Call me crazy, but understand that I held a job from 12 years old as a papergirl, until my last year of college at BYU. Besides school, working was the only thing I knew how to do, and do well. I miss having fun co-workers, meeting and exceeding expectations, and doing all of it. While an extra paycheck would be nice, I know deducting daycare costs wouldn’t really mean much extra income, so it’s not the “love of money” that makes me daydream about having a “real” job. Though it certainly doesn’t hurt as we could use extra income.
Most people seem to have a two-income family anymore, which makes me think that if they can have two working parents and happy kids, couldn’t I do it too? While I do earn a few hundred dollars making and selling art here and there, it’s not the same as having a 9-5 job. And though I try to make money blogging (try is a good word for it), doing surveys, and using the swagbucks tool bar, it is not the same monetarily or individually as self-fulfilling. (Though I do greatly enjoy this blogging thing.)
Because, yes, there are still many things I desire to do for myself, whether it is as simple as reading more books, or as hard as getting a Master’s Degree. I am selfish and want to develop myself more. My mind and body crave knowledge and activity.
I yearn for more.
But, when my yearnings for more have me daydreaming about time away from home, away from my family, I realize that these yearnings are pretty selfish and not very righteous.
While self-improvement is a wonderful thing and necessary to my self-esteem and happiness, I am missing the gift I have right in front of me every day – my children, my husband, my home, and my faith.
Making a Change to Embrace my Decision to Stay at Home
What this means is that I need to change: my attitude, my priorities, my goals. Yes, mothering twins is extra difficult, but others have done it, and with other kids besides. Yes, I am overwhelmed some days by the seemingly unstopping whines, chaos, sickness, or the lack of time for myself, but if I stop and think about the work I am really doing – raising children – and less about how I am feeling, I will be happier.
As John H Vandenberg said in a General Conference:
Change is what it will take to bring any individual out of the dilemma of living with principles of error. I believe the greatest force in the world to cause such a change is the gospel of Jesus Christ. The apostle Paul experienced one of the greatest such changes that took place in any man, and he concluded: “For I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ: for it is the power of God unto salvation to every one that believeth. …” (Rom. 1:16.)
So, I am getting on my knees and pleading for forgiveness and mercy from Jesus Christ that he will soften my heart and enlighten my mind. Because I’ve tried being a “great mother” on my own and it is not going so well. I need my Savior to teach me how He would discipline, and speak, and teach my children. How He would have me prioritize my time. There are many specific goals I have in mind to enjoy my decision to be a stay-at-home mother, and better accomplish my goal of teaching, nurturing, and raising great children.
My Stay at Home Happiness Goals:
1. Wake up before the girls wake up so I can get a little me-time, or uninterrupted time to do something. This time may include breakfast, shower, scripture reading, and prayer.
2. Stay off the computer when my girls are awake.
3. Teach my children about Jesus (read from the New Testament) and gospel principles a little each day.
4. Don’t yell at them. Remember I am their example.
5. Limit TV time to about 30 minutes, if any.
6. Read several books a day to them a day, even the same one again, and again.
7. Go outside!
8. Don’t let the little things bother me or get me so upset!
9. Make a to-do list for the day.
10. Do activities, like coloring, with them!
I have been doing these things for the last two days and it’s been really good. I have been much more patient and better about not letting little things bother me. I feel like my priorities are better aligned. I am enjoying my children and my husband so much more. They really are my everything and I do love seeing them learn from me, I just hope that now they will have a better example to learn from!
So while part of me does yearn to work out of the home (and I may someday decide to do so), I have a blessed life that I need to enjoy the here and now of, instead of waiting for tomorrows, or when things will be better, easier, more financially stable, etc.
So though we have rough days (like Jen at When You Rise in this post), I hope we can all remember that we can change our happiness, our parenting, and our lives.
And let us not be weary in well doing: for in due season we shall reap, if we faint not.– Galatians 6:9