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The negative stereotype
In April 2012, Democratic strategist Hilary Rosen said Ann Romney (wife of then Presidential hopeful Mitt Romney), a stay at home mom (SAHM), had “never worked a day in her life.”
A few years ago, Linda Hirshman’s book, Get to Work…and Get a Life Before It’s Too Late, proposed how women should not waste their precious education on staying home to do the work of a lower caste system.
Michael Ledo’s article, Ann Romney Had It Easy, provides some incendiary comments about the SAHM:
One of the most overrated jobs is motherhood. Nearly half the people on the planet are able to perform it. If you can use a television to baby-sit and push a button on a microwave, you have 90 percent of being an at-home mom accomplished.
The person who really liberated women was the man who invented permanent-press. Women scam men by claiming it is hard work. It was – 50 years ago.
Rosen’s statement, Hirshman’s theory, and Ledo’s article all reveal a common misunderstanding of the complexities and challenges associated with the job of a SAHM.
My intent is not to fuel the Mommy Wars. I addressed that issue here. I cannot comment on Ann Romney’s life as a SAHM since I do not know her personally.
I don’t wish to make moms, who do work outside the home feel judged, as they have 2 full-time jobs. I know many single and working moms who are better mothers than many SAHMs. My mother was one of them.
Instead, I wish to pull back the curtain and give a revealing, behind-the-scenes look at how the incredibly challenging role of a SAHM is of inestimable worth and eternal value.
Life B.C. (before children)
Before becoming a full-time SAHM, I often worked 60-70 hours a week, as well as 10 hours on the weekends in the entertainment industry. I encountered every personality imaginable in my line of work, ranging from the sensitive artist to the ruthless and cutthroat agent.
Short of performing brain surgery or negotiating the release of political hostages, I considered my job to be pretty challenging and stressful, though at times creatively rewarding and even fun. If I got sick, my job gave me paid sick days, and I had 2-week vacations every year.
When my first son was born, my husband had just completed seminary and was looking to go into ministry full-time. I took one look at our newborn and knew that I could not leave him in the care of someone else, while I worked 70 hours a week.
Also, we believed God desired for me to be a worker from home (Titus 2:5; 1 Timothy 5:10, 14). Thinking we were going to raise money to be missionaries in Albania, I started a small internet business and sold a TV project to a production company.
I thought, “How hard can parenting be? I’ve developed and supervised multi-million dollar productions—parenting and a part-time job at home will be a piece of cake!”
Pride goes before destruction, and a haughty spirit before a fall. – Proverbs 16:18 (ESV)
I never realized how unprepared I was to become a mother–parenting made me fall flat on my rear. The job of a SAHM is, by far, the hardest one I have ever had.
God delivered the first blow to my pride when He gave me two colicky sons, born two years apart, who were inconsolable. For the first many months of their lives, I could barely leave the house without looking like a zombie in raggedy sweats.
Bills would get paid days after the due date as sleep deprivation and hours of ear-splitting screams sent my once-sharp memory into a fog of forgetfulness. Simple tasks such as cleaning the house, cooking a healthy meal, and keeping clean underwear in our drawers became insurmountable obstacles to an average day.
To complicate matters, our second-born also had digestive problems and developmental delays. Nothing soothed this poor child except being wrapped to my body, giving proof that a fourth trimester does in fact exist.
I had no choice but to close down the internet business and my TV project went nowhere. Not only did I have to take my second-born to doctors, therapists, and special needs classes, but I also had a 3-year old, who was now requiring my constant attention and correction as he was exerting his will and unleashing a storm of fury if he did not get his way.
The lengthiest job description
Physical demands – Childrearing alone is a full-time, round the clock, 24/7 job. Many SAHMs in this country, who choose to stay at home, live on a single income, which means they cannot afford nannies, accountants, cleaning ladies, and secretaries.
Often, there is no time to eat a real meal, have an adult conversation that lasts more than 5 minutes at a time, or use the bathroom without an audience. Many women in my position of a single income meticulously research to find good deals to shop for food, clothes, and other necessities.
Poring through ads and coupons for a weekly grocery trip can average a few hours alone. I had overseen budgets in my professional job, but nothing improved my financial and budgeting aptitude more than when our household income decreased by seventy-five percent.
We spend another several hours driving children to and from school and their extracurricular activities. Our tax money is not providing our public schools with adequate resources for our children, so we often help teachers by assisting in the classroom, helping with fundraising, or we choose to homeschool.
We prep and clean up after every child’s snack and meal time, amounting to 5 or 6 times a day.
- Paying bills
- Event planning
- Washing clothes
- Changing diapers
- Cleaning up spit and vomit
- Organizing the weekly schedule
- Purchasing groceries
- Researching and calling the doctors
These are just some of the things that take another 20-30 hours a week. There is also incalculable hours spent on taking care of the husband’s needs, but for the sake of length, I will simply leave it at that.
Lastly, if you don’t have family nearby or a support system, there is no freedom to leave anytime you want to do something for yourself. Some women have gone so far as to equate the SAHM position with a prison.
Mental and emotional demands – The part of the job that cannot be quantified involves instructing and guiding unpredictable moving targets. Each child is born with a unique personality, a set of preferences, and diverse tastes.
Some kids have low-key personalities, while others are highly sensitive. Some are born with special needs such as autism or Down Syndrome and require hours of on-site and at-home therapy.
Unlike a work project that usually has a beginning, middle, and an end, rearing children lasts a lifetime. All mothers will understand when I say how I will worry about my kids when I am 90-years old and they’re in their 60’s as much as I worry about them now.
The war of the souls
There is also the spiritual dimension to rearing children that includes the simple fact that they are born sinners, and so are we (Romans 3:10).
There is a constant battle of the wills that takes place all day. When you have conflicts with adults, they do not normally fall to the floor in a Target aisle, scream at the top of their lungs, and turn their bodies into Jello so you cannot pick them up.
Children are born litigators and you will spend every day in protracted and tense negotiations, if not a war, over issues that will help shape their moral universe, while potentially sending you off the deep end.
During the many moments when caring for my children and home is overwhelming, I confess my flesh occasionally wants to escape the hard work of being a SAHM; I will daydream of working in an environment where I can use my mind and talents and interact with adult peers.
I completely understand why some women, given the choice, choose to work instead of stay at home. Working with adults in a job that has a cut-off time can be a respite compared to the unpredictable and exhausting day of being isolated with children, who test your patience and cannot communicate on your level.
When I was speaking baby talk to my infant, while wearing the same sweats 3 days in a row, I imagined my college scholarship money going through a paper shredder and my expensive business suits gathering dust in my closet. My sinful mind would question if my expensive education had been wasted.
God’s job description
Proverbs 31 reinforces how a mother wears many hats—imagine a multi-tasker on steroids. Also, the biblical call of motherhood is a high and honorable one. While Proverbs 31 and Titus 2 don’t prohibit a mom from working outside the home, they both highlight how her primary sphere of influence is her home.
The Christian mother is called to an even more important duty: to teach children about the LORD and His Gospel truths as often as we can (Deuteronomy 6:7-9), and He tells us how we can best do this by being workers at home (Titus 2:5).
And he said to all, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me. – Luke 9:23 (ESV)
Nothing gives a woman better practice in the art of self-denial than motherhood, including when she chooses to stay at home. There are not a lot of worldly perks to the SAHM job such as a vacation, awards, pay, or a 401K.
But the gifts and rewards that come with the job are priceless: spontaneous hugs and kisses from your little one, watching your toddler walk for the first time, your child bringing you a flower from the backyard, teaching them how to love an unkind classmate as Christ loved us….and the list is unending.
What is the greatest gift and joy of being a SAHM? Putting God’s glory on display. God uses our children as His instruments to transform us into Christ’s image. As a child of God, wife, and mother, I fail all day long.
When my sinful heart succumbs to isolation, exhaustion, or frustration, I have no choice but to return to the cross, where the LORD gives me rest and reminds me why I have to deny myself for Him and my children.
Being at home with my children gives them many occasions to witness my sinfulness; thus, showing them my constant need for a Savior. When I sin against them, I try to seek their forgiveness and model the reconciliation that Christ provided through His blood.
I am able to discuss mercy, grace, and the love of Christ when one child clubs the other over the head for grabbing a toy out of his hands, or if I lose my temper and, as my older son once said, “You resemble the Incredible Hulk.”
The best CEO
The next time someone asks you, “What do you do?”, do not hang your head in shame when you tell them you’re a SAHM. Perhaps one day, we can get rid of these labels and acknowledge how motherhood is an honorable and eternally rewarding job because the LORD has created it for His glory and our good.
Whether you are a worker at home, or have a second full-time job outside the home, we can take comfort in the fact that we have an amazing LORD as our loving and compassionate employer.