Disclaimer : This post is meant to help mothers who have the means and desire to take a break from working outside the home to be more present for thier little ones, but are hesitant to do so for various reasons. I think working while raising children could be a great option for many mothers as well! A great example of an amazing working mother is Saint Gianna Berretta Molla who was a wife, mother and pediatrician. Only you can decide what is best for your own family based on personal circumstances 😊
I was working for a big corporation and had a great career in the field of information technology. I worked full time while raising my 2 older boys, but after my little girl was born, I decided to take a break from my career to take care of my kiddos full time. This was a big step that, among other things, resulted in drastically reducing our family income by half. Since then, I’ve been asked a lot of questions regarding my decision. Here are my answers to some common questions that we “stay-at-home” moms encounter. I hope you find this helpful!
Don’t you miss the corporate life i.e. working in the city and being able to just walk around downtown any time you want and enjoy the nice restaurants and atmosphere? Not at all, I can still go to the city if I want. It’s not like I’m stuck at home. Corporate life is great in many ways but what I like to do in any stage of life is to always determine where the greatest investment of my time should be. Where am I needed the most and where is my time and energy valued more? When I did not have kids and was working, my greatest investment of time went to my career. When I became a mom, the question became, “Who would benefit most from my time and energy: my company or my children?” I was pretty sure my company could find someone to do my job just as well as I could. My children though, could never have a better care taker than their own mother. So it was pretty clear to me that the greatest investment of my time, with the greatest return, would be with my kid crew.
Do you feel like you are developing yourself intellectually now that you are not working? Oh yes definitely, even more so now than when I was working. At my job, I programmed all day, and I certainly enjoyed using my problem solving skills. But intellectually, it was simply more and more programming. Even though I’ve stopped working, I don’t feel like I am missing out. I still do some development work when I can. I’m not as stressed as I was before and I’m able to enjoy working on my skills more than I ever did. I have time now to explore future business opportunities that will allow me to put my skills to use on my own terms so I can prioritize family. I also have a much better social life now that I’m not working. When I was working, I lived in a bubble of just work and home and had no time to hang out with friends or meet new people. I’m now able to hang out more with my friends and meet and learn from other mothers who have resigned from various other professions to take care of their children. I also now read like I’ve never read before! So yes intellectual growth is a win.
Don’t you think you should contribute financially to the family? I think I’m contributing so much more now than I ever did when I was working. Contributing financially is great, but as the saying goes, “If you want your children to turn out well, spend twice as much time with them and half as much money.” Thank the Lord my husband has an income sufficient to meet our family’s needs with some room for family fun. My contribution, now that I stopped working, is far greater than any more money I could bring into the family. What they need now in this stage of their young lives is me to be present to them and love them like no one else can. I am thankful that I am able to provide this for them. It’s the greatest investment of my time and I absolutely love it!
When kids are little, does it really matter who takes care of them all day as long as their needs have been met? Well let’s talk about needs. What are their needs? If you are talking about the basics like diaper changes and feedings and some attention from care takers, then I would think day care would meet those needs. But children need and desire much more than that. Babies are wired to have a very deeply rooted desire for their mother’s touch and sound. Studies have shown that the mother-baby connection is a significant factor in the baby’s development. The greater the presence of the mother, the more beneficial it is for the child. Every touch, every kiss, every sound of the mother’s voice is significant. That’s not to say that children in daycare don’t do well. Many babies seem to do great in daycare. But I cannot discredit or reduce the role that a mother plays for her baby and the scientifically proven benefits of a mother caring for her own baby.
Don’t you find the job of taking care of the kids so mundane? Not at all! I’m trying really hard here to teach my kiddos how to act, how to think, and how to take care of themselves. This is training grounds for adulthood! That’s a big deal and I take this job very seriously. I want them to be well-rounded adults, grounded in their faith, and to be able to respond to God’s will for them to the best of their ability. All that training starts with the little things. Seemingly mundane tasks like diaper changes and baths are all teaching moments. Every moment is a teaching opportunity, actually. My children are watching my every move. Do I sound annoyed or do I smile when they ask me the same question a zillion times? Or when they accidentally spill their juice for the third time, am I yelling at them or understanding that it was an accident? Am I complaining about all the work I need to do, or do I joyfully just get things done? When I mess up, how quick am I to apologize and get back on my feet? It’s all about the little things. They pick up our attitudes, so these mundane tasks are actually really important. The challenge of refining my ways is developing me to be a better person. I’ve become more patient and efficient and just much happier in general when I understand the significance of those mundane tasks. It’s easy to lose sight of, but doing the little things with love and joy is paramount. I’m lucky enough to just BE with my children during the day, so hopefully you won’t find me complaining about those “mundane” tasks! I know what it’s like on the other side sitting at work, wishing I could be with them. So far I haven’t lost sight of what I have in front of me!
What made you so sure that this was the right decision for your family? My husband and I prayed about the decision for a long time. I felt it was something God was encouraging me to do. It also helped that I spoke to several experienced mothers who have worked all the way to retirement. They said their one regret is that they didn’t take a break for just a few years to enjoy and care for their little children. They feel as if they have missed out on so much joy. I also spoke to several mothers who did in fact take some time off when their children were little and not one of them said they missed going to work those few years. Every single one of them said it was one of the best decisions of their life. Another reason it felt right for me was because it didn’t bother me too much to have to cut down expenses. Things like a big house or a fancy car or other expensive things are not very important to me. I’m totally fine with a comfortable home and car that works! I’m fine with eating in more than out and taking more low key vacations instead of extravagant ones, especially at this phase in my life with little ones. I’m also not the type that would buy my little guys expensive toys or devices at such a young age or spend a lot of money to entertain them. Our kiddos have the most fun doing what kids do best at their age. They enjoy playing at the park or out in our driveway, climbing trees, doing experiments, drawing and painting, playing sports, going geocaching and camping, reading, building forts, going to local waterparks, having family movie nights, etc. The cost to entertain our kiddos is pretty nominal. So, it helped that our personalities and parenting style is such that cutting down expenses wouldn’t be such a big deal for us.
Do you worry about big expenses such as paying for college? I don’t really worry about it too much. There are several variables when it comes to college and there are so many different options. I didn’t want to sacrifice what I think is best for them at this time in their lives, considering the fact that there are so many different paths they can take when it comes to college. Maybe they will be accepted to great colleges and receive scholarships. (That would be the best case scenario!) Maybe I’ll have a business that really takes off and be able to afford it (wishful thinking ). Maybe they have a vocation to the priesthood (that’s usually partially funded). Maybe they will attend public universities, which are more affordable. Maybe they will work their way through college. In any case, if finances are an impediment, there is always the option of taking out loans, which I personally feel is a good option as it makes them more accountable and gives them a greater sense of responsibility. You really just never know what the future holds. There are mothers who worked all through their children’s childhood because college expenses were top priority and it turned out their kids joined the army and payed their own way. There are other mothers who chose to work but then sadly lost a child before they could go to college, and now live with deep regret.
College is great but what I care about even more is the development of my children’s personhood. It’s easy to lose sight of what our goals are for our children. Yes, we want them to be educated. But even more than that, we want them to be able to use that education with virtue. Much of that development happens during these crucial, formative years, so it made sense to me to make those years the most optimal for them by being present and being their main teacher of life and faith. I didn’t want to lose that opportunity due to a concern for college expenses.
What was your biggest struggle when you were working and trying to raise your children. The greatest challenge was the feeling of not being where I’m needed most. I knew my babies were being well taken care of, so I wasn’t worried about them. However, I knew all the little things were probably not being done exactly the way I would do them. I missed all the little things like kissing their bellies and little chubby legs during diaper changes, pointing out the animals on the cereal box to engage them in conversation during breakfast, complimenting them throughout the day on the positive things they’ve been doing so they feel really proud of themselves, answering their zillion questions as thoroughly as I can and asking them related questions to make them think (I love doing that! They say the funniest things!), and giving them hundreds of kisses and hugs throughout the day and spontaneously telling them how much I love them. And although I don’t really enjoy disciplining them, it is an important aspect of parenting that I wanted to be a lot more involved in during the day. Consistency is key and that’s hard when mom is not present as often. All this and so much more is really what make up childhood. Of course I didn’t think it was necessary to be with my little ones 24/7. I knew time away is healthy, but my time away was significantly more than my time being present with them and reducing my hours at work was unfortunately not an option for me. Knowing that I wasn’t a part of their childhood as much I wanted to be, is what I struggled with the most. I also felt very rushed all the time and it was always so hard when the kids would cry and tell me they miss me and ask why they only see me for a couple hours in the evening. Considering my family’s particular circumstances, I couldn’t give a solid answer that I could truly justify.
Do you ever question whether you are being a good role model for your daughter because you are not working? I’ve never questioned that. My daughter knows that I worked hard in school, graduated college with a degree in Information Technology and had a great career for over 10 years. She knows the importance of having a good education and contributing to society with the talents God has given her. More importantly though, my daughter knows that SHE is more important to me than my career. She knows that it took courage to make that decision to take a break and resign from a great career, and knowing that this was done for HER could only make her feel like a superstar! I actually feel like I couldn’t be a better role model for my daughter. The message is basically “Strive to be who God wants you to be. Be motivated to have a great education and career so as to contribute to society to the best of your ability. Have courage to make good decisions that may be outside of the norm. Do all things with love.”
Don’t you feel like you are too dependent on your husband now that you are not working? Of course not! First of all, we are BOTH dependent on each other big time! That’s what marriage is all about. My husband depends on me to run our household and take care of our children and so much more while he is at work, and I depend on him significantly also. We need each other and that’s how it’s supposed to be. Of course we are independent as well. We would both be able to manage our family independently (of course with much difficulty and several adjustments) but that’s not how I think family life is meant to be. We make a great team and are truly able to appreciate each other’s hard work for our family.
What are some perks to not having to work as you raise your children. There are so many! I mentioned some before like having more time to read, having more fun with friends, being able to enjoy all the precious moments of little ones, feeling less stressed (don’t get me wrong, it’s not easy raising 4 kids and being pregnant, but not having to think about work is a huge load off my shoulder! ) Some other perks are being able to work out more, being able to go to daily mass, enjoying cooking and experimenting more with recipes (cooking felt like a chore when I was working), I think the best perk is how it’s improved our family life so much. My husband is not as stressed as he used to be. When we were both working, we were both in a rush after work scrambling to get things done for the house and our kids. It was really stressful for the both us. But now, I pretty much have most things done before he comes home from work so even though there is still some work that we need to do together, it is definitely a much lighter load. It’s the “good life” as he puts it. I’m happy that he’s happy!
I hope this post helps moms who are on the fence about either taking a break from work or cutting down work hours to be more present for their little ones. When I first became a mom, the thought of not working didn’t even cross my mind. I worked full time while taking care of my two little boys because it was the normal thing to do. For those who are in that position, I want to simply propose some other options. Although it’s not for everyone, and I recognize that, I do encourage moms to at least consider where their greatest investment of time can be, without being pressured by norms or expectations. I could have benefited from a post like this after my boys were born!
If you enjoyed reading this, please subscribe by email, and let us grow together in faith and virtue and help eachother raise disciples.