Saturday, March 7, 2009

Why Stay At Home

I overheard two women talking this morning at my daughter's dance class.

"You're back at work full time?" One asked. "How do you like it?"

"I'm getting used to it," the other one said, struggling to keep her toddler from falling off a ledge. "I liked being at home with the kids, but I didn't feel like I was accomplishing anything there."

"I know what you mean," the first one said. "I've worked since I was fourteen. How could I sit at home all the time?"

I bit my tongue, but what I wanted to say was: "Sometimes the most important thing in the world you can accomplish is just being there when your family needs you."

That message was brought home to me with a vengeance this week. I used to think that once my kids were all out of diapers, they wouldn't really need me anymore. Older, wiser women told me over the years that my teenagers would need me more than my toddlers did. It turns out they were right.

When I was a teen it never occurred to me to discuss anything important with my mother. She seemed so out of it; incapable of understanding anything I was going through. I went through some pretty heavy stuff during those years and told her nothing about it.

So I was honored yesterday when two of my older children invited me out to the woods with them, where they showed me every patch of ground they cover in their games, and the significance of each tree, path, mound and gully. The landscape has taken on epic proportions to them and they didn't hesitate to share all of it with me. It seems like a simple thing, but I understand the significance; they're acting out their dreams here, and they want to share that with me.

It took longer for another of my children to come to me this week and tell me about something that's been troubling him, but in the end he did and I'm forever grateful. There's nothing we can't get through as a family as long as we can talk about it. It's silence that destroys people. It nearly destroyed me as a teen.

I started this journey of simplification out of some pretty selfish desires - essentially wanting more money for fun - but with each passing week it's morphing into something new; something more important than I might have guessed. The paring down of possessions, costs and activities - or at least the preparation I've done so far - is allowing me to step back into a more prominant, more involved role with my older children, just when they need me most.

Could I have done what my children needed me to do this week if I worked full time? Possibly. I sure would have tried. But I'm more grateful than I can say that when one of my kids needed me, I didn't have to call in to my boss, wrangle time off, and try to somehow meet all my obligations simultaneously. Today my heart and my energy is where it needs to be: here at home.


L Harris said...

That's great. I'm loving staying home with my children. I never wanted it any other way and I was blessed to marry a man who felt the same. Yep, it feels like I'm not doing anything here, but the same old same old. However, the same old same old is important to my kids, so it is becoming important to me too.

Jennifer said...

LOL - You commented before I even finished posting! That's got to be a record. Glad you understood what I'm saying.

DebMc said...

I wish I could tattoo this message on the hands of some young moms I know. They moan and groan about accomplishing nothing. About being bored watching daytime TV (hmmmmmm) and feeling trapped.

I've been a working mom. Okay, so I owned the business, but I still had to wrangle, adjust, and sweat at times to be there for my children. When I finally decided not to sacrifice my children on the altar of my career I came home. Within a year of that decision, we were a homeschool family. Now I see that young, 'trapped' by toddler moms need to turn off the TV and switch on an audio book. Perhaps invest in a hobby they can do from home with children underfoot. Read!

I'm so very glad I've had this wonderful time with my sons.

Jennifer said...

I think half the problem is that people now have crazy expectations of stay-at-home moms. The kids are to be entertained at all times. The house is to be beautiful. If you get together with other women or, Heaven Forbid!, sit down and read a book while your kids play, then you are somehow being evil.

The worst part about my kids' toddler years was that I did daycare and felt I had to rise to this standard every minute of the day. I worked 10 hours straight and felt guilty if I sat down for 5 minutes to eat my lunch. Now I realize how stupid that was. I should have simply come up with a realistic schedule, explained it to the parents and let them go if they didn't like it.

Even after I stopped doing daycare I found it impossible to relax. I always load myself up with an impossible schedule for this very reason.