I can't shake the feeling that these are the best and happiest days of my life.
There’s a place near a local museum that’s special to me, and I point it out to my kids anytime we pass it. It’s the spot where I sat down, while out on a walk with my newborn, to take the call from my employer to confirm that I wouldn’t be coming back to the office.
Although the decision was the culmination of years of thought and prayer, that phone call felt so decisive. It was the final act of closing one door and opening another, the start of a new chapter in my life.
Now 7 years later, that sleepy, floppy newborn is an energetic and rambunctious second grader. My husband and I have added several more little ones to our home. And I’ve chosen to stay home on yet another level as a homeschool mom — a choice that feels like a natural continuation of the decision to be a stay-at-home mom in the first place.
That decision was made because I wanted to spend more time with my children. I wanted to soak up the days of their fleeting childhood. I wanted to give them the nurturing, engagement, and love that a parent gives in a particular way.
It’s important to note that staying home with your kids does not mean you can’t continue to work professionally. In fact, many stay-at-home moms are employed in some way, as our society is not set up well to support the work of full-time caregivers.
That’s been the case for me. I’ve been employed, in some way or another, for most of the past 7 years, fortunately always in positions that allowed me to work from home or bring my children with me. I’m glad I found these opportunities to keep a foot in the door of my career, and this kind of part-time work is a solid strategy for women who want to stay home with their kids for a season and then eventually ramp up their work once the children are grown.
At a time when choosing to be a stay-at-home mom feels increasingly unusual, I want to offer some words of hope to women considering this decision. Not every day has been the calm and peaceful haven I imagined it would be at first (in fact, have any days been peaceful with lots of small children at home?). But 7 years later, I have no regrets, and I wouldn’t trade these years at home with my kids for anything.
It feels like we’re bombarded with the message that we need to always be on the go. We should always be piling up new accolades, always running to the next big thing. But what if there’s another way?
It feels counter-cultural to choose a quiet life at home, and a lifestyle that moves at the gentle pace of babies and children. One of my friends jokes that becoming a stay-at-home mom meant that she “retired at age 25.” It’s true that our self-determined and unhurried days are something many people don’t experience until they retire in their 60s.
Staying home is not the right choice for everyone, but for myself, I’ve found this to be the better part.
It’s the choice to spend slow mornings reading books snuggled on the couch instead of rushing everyone out the door. It’s the choice to spend hours playing outside whenever the weather is nice, no matter what time of day or day of the week it is. It’s the choice to be there not only for my children’s milestones but also (and more importantly) for the sweet, funny, and even the difficult moments in between, and to hold onto these memories, “reflecting on them in [my] heart” (Luke 2:19), as Our Lady did with her beloved child.
I recently saw a social media post in which local moms were sharing daycare recommendations, places that cost upwards of $30,000 per year. I had a moment of self-doubt, wondering if my kids were missing out because they don’t attend a prestigious and pricey institution.
But when I took that question to prayer, and searched my heart, I know they’re not missing out at all. Call me crazy, but I believe that spending their days at home with me and their siblings is right where they’re supposed to be.
British educator Charlotte Mason wrote in her book Home Education,
“In this time of extraordinary pressure, educational and social, perhaps a mother’s first duty to her children is to secure for them a quiet growing time, a full six years of passive receptive life, the waking part of it spent for the most part out in the fresh air.”
I believe that it’s my calling to create that “quiet growing time” for my kids, and this work is an honor to do. I’m grateful I’ve found a way to make it work, not least thanks to my husband, who works so hard at home and in the office to make this lifestyle for our family possible.
Despite the hard days and moments, I have a feeling this is the best and happiest season I’ll ever know. This was confirmed when I spoke recently to my grandmother, who had a fulfilling professional career and also stayed home for a season to raise six children.
“These surely are the happiest days of your life!” she said.
My perspective comes seven years after making the choice to stay home, but hers comes after more than 50 years after making the same choice. Her words are yet another confirmation that I made the right choice on that walk by the museum all those years ago.