When I was a college student immersed in the world of academia, spending hours of my days lost in good books, analyzing literary elements, and writing papers, I had the notion that being a stay-at-home parent was full of drudgery. I mean, I recognized the importance of children being connected to their parents. For the parent sacrificing themselves to stay home with their children, however, it seemed like such a magnanimous task, and I had a sneaking suspicion that only those who lacked a certain degree of intellectual aptitude could find it fulfilling.
I didn’t exactly not want children. But I certainly didn’t want to be the one to be home with them either. Then I became a mother, and the force of the bond and protective care that I had for my child shocked me. It was painful to leave her in someone else’s care so that I could go to work. Then a few years later, when my oldest was three and my second child six months, I became a stay-at-home mom.
I wanted to be a stay-at-home mom, but I can’t say it wasn’t a struggle. It was — and 11 years later, still is — a phenomenal learning curve. It might have been less of a learning curve if our culture didn’t pretend that almost no one grows up to be a parent, but as it was I had a lot to learn about infant care, health, nutrition, education, food preparation, child development, time management, finance, and infinitely more subjects that I never seemed to think that much about before.
I also struggled to define who I was apart from academics. One day I had plans of going to grad school to get my PhD and the next, I was cleaning, bathing, nursing, cooking, and diapering. Maybe the transition would have been easier if the “suburban housewife” were less maligned, the example of the constantly frazzled, yet perpetually-frustrated-with-boredom woman whose dreams for her life have all gone unfulfilled and so must occupy her time obsessively hovering over her children. But then, when I stopped listening to the voices of society defining who I was, I took the time to discover what I thought about my work.
I found that my work was meaningful.
With the breakdown of family in today’s culture, and all the havoc and brokenness that goes with it, we should be more convicted than ever of the importance of being bonded and connected to children, and children being attached to us. It seems really backwards, in fact, that we even have to argue the case for attachment; it should be intuitive to say that children fare better if they are strongly attached to their parents, but it is not. So books like Hold On To Your Kids by Gordon Neufeld, PhD. and Gordon Mate, M.D. and countless others on the importance of attachment need to be written since our society is still largely set up to encourage each age group to be separated from the others, including parents and children.
I see the primary work of motherhood as nurturing the relationships that I have with my children, but of course with stay-at-home parenthood, there comes a host of practical and physical needs to attend to in addition to the relational needs.
In a culture that values productivity above all else, finding value in non-quantifiable tasks such as nurturing relationships can be difficult. We can’t point to a love-gauge on our children and say at the end of the day, “Look! I kept her tank full all day and now I am only three points away from having a secure, confident, and independently explorative child!”
Also, due to our limited finances, I found myself needing to acquire a host of practical skills. I began sewing; I learned to crochet; make my own laundry soap; bake my own bread, and many other domestic skills of which I was previously completely devoid, once again, like motherhood itself. I found them fulfilling and empowering. Hand-making gifts and household necessities made me feel resourceful and capable. Making many things by hand also made me feel like I was doing my part to reject consumerism and live a slower, more intentional lifestyle.
Then to heal my family members’ numerous health issues , I began to spend a lot more time in the kitchen making our food from scratch. My nurse mother-in-law had been reading a book called GAPS: Gut and Psychology Syndrome so she passed it onto me. I won’t go into all the details of the GAPS protocol, but it is becoming more well known how important gut health is in regards to our whole physical and mental well-being. In the book, Dr. Campbell-McBride does a good job of explaining why this is so, and she details how to heal the gut to treat numerous ailments.
By our modern day standards, the diet can seem overwhelming. However, it is largely how our great-grandmothers cooked and every generation before her. I felt so blessed to have this information given to me and it seemed to be the one answer to treat all of my family’s issues at once. So baby-step by baby-step I started making dietary changes. We are still not completely on the diet, but mostly. Even so, one daughter’s eczema is gone, another daughter’s mood has improved a thousand fold. Once so often depressed, today she sees the bright side of things and is verbally grateful for many things daily. I can’t underestimate how grateful I am for this change. Also, the diet is a balancing diet, which means that if a person is overweight they will lose weight, and if a person is underweight, they will gain. It is about eating a nutrient-rich diet that heals the body and gives it what it needs. I found that after my pregnancies, I would typically go back to my pre-pregnancy weight after about a year. After my third and fourth, however, I didn’t. There was about five pounds that just stayed on. I just figured it was because I’ve had a few kids and I was getting older and that was that. After really upping the number of GAPS foods we were eating a few months ago, however, even those five pounds fell off. So now I seem back to the weight that’s healthy for me.
Food preparation hasn’t turned into my love or anything, but it hasn’t felt like mindless drudgery either. In fact, it seems like yet another experience that, due to life circumstances, I’ve found myself needing to do that that the poor, unfortunate generations of women before me had to spend their lives doing, and I’ve discovered a degree of empowerment, enjoyment, and meaning in those tasks.
Now, none of this is meant to suggest that a woman’s place is solely in the home. It can be, and I strongly believe that if she is there it is not beneath her intellectual capacities or dignity to be there. I strongly believe in the importance and the ability of women bringing our feminine genius to all areas of life, both domestic and public. In fact, even for those who work outside the home, if their job does not enable them to do that thing they are most passionate about, they will still need to find a way to do that thing, whatever it is. Nevertheless, if in your own life you find yourself being drawn to staying home with your children, either by necessity or through some strange and inexplicable force, fear not. It might not be the drudgery it is often made out to be.