Even though I am going to preface this post with some opening statements, I apologize in advance if it rubs you the wrong way. This post is written with love in my heart for all the parents that are choosing to stay home with their children, and maybe still miss working sometimes.
Who this IS NOT directed at:
1.) If you are working outside of the home and you are happy with that choice.
2.) If you are working outside of the home and you are not happy with that choice.
3.) If you have to work outside of the home and you want to stay home.
4.) If you do not have to and do not want to work outside of the home, and are perfectly content staying home.
If 1-4 above apply to you, then you are at a different place than I am. I have actually invited our students who would describe themselves as fitting into one of those categories to share their perspective, and I will be posting their thoughts as I receive them.
If you do fit into categories 1-4…then today’s post was not written with you in mind. I wrote this to encourage primary caregivers who are home after leaving the workplace. If this isn’t you, treat this post as the dish on the buffet line that you *do not* want to try, and peacefully move on to other things on the Internet that appeal to you. Consider that there is no need to leave a flaming comment because I already recognize that I am not speaking to you. We are on different paths, and I honor your journey, as I hope you will honor mine.
This post is written with a heart to encourage those of us who intentionally transitioned from the workplace to be stay-at-home parents. Although that was our choice and we are usually at peace with it, sometimes we have moments, maybe a whole day (or longer…no judgment!), where we might wish otherwise:
Do you ever have days when you miss your old workplace? Can you believe that you “gave it all up” to be at home with little people? Do you, like me, sometimes have twinges of envy when you see friends and classmates receiving accolades and making announcements about how their career is pregressing?
If you have felt any of these things, I want you to know that you are not alone. Although you made the choice to stay home with your child(ren), know that it doesn’t take away from the person that you are, and the person who was capable, probably even excellent, in the role you were in before you made the decision to stay home. That person is still alive and well inside you; breathe that in for a moment.
For me, there are times when being “mom” felt so stifling and unfulfilling, especially when I saw/see other people my age doing things I wish I were doing. Even though I believe in my heart of hearts that parenting intentionally is the greatest work in the world, it doesn’t mean I am happy in this place all the time. We all have our moments. I think the key is to ackowledge the feeling, and then rise above it by reminding ourselves why we made this commitment to our children in the first place.
Parenting intentionally means that we recognize our children as whole human beings, no matter what age and body size they happen to be wearing at the time. It means that we believe that responding to their needs will encourage their self-worth; by meeting them where they are, we are building a parent-child relationship founded in trust. Trust that when they have needs, we will answer them. Trust that we will not abandon them. Trust that even when they are at a loss, they are still loved and that we will show up for them. By showing them they are worthy, they learn that they are valuable and lovable. I believe they start to build a self-confidence that will be harder to erode as they get older and exposed to ideas and people outside of the family.
When we parent intentionally and choose to stay at home, that is a huge commitment of our time, what some might consider an intersection with most productive years of our lives. I can’t tell you how worthy the work you are doing is going to be in the long run. It is something you will have to trust: Parenting intentionally and staying home with our children is Worthwhile. It is a Work. It is a long-term investment that will pay dividends years from now.
Find your places to breathe, know that you are also worthy. “Fill your cup”, as the saying goes, so that you can be present and loving with your children. Recognize that parenting intentionally is meaningful work, and just as you took time to recharge after a long day in your old workplace, you still need to do that to be able to keep giving as a parent.
At the same time, I encourage you to create a reciprocal relationship with your child(ren). Parenting intentionally does not mean to give selflessly or to become a second-class citizen as you meet the needs of your child(ren). Model a healthy relationship with your co-parent. Show your family love in your words and your actions. It is okay to tell them that you do things because you love them and you treasure them, instead of giving them the impression that you are a slave to their demands.
What about the days when you have reached the end of your patience? Use your words, even if you are telling them you are angry and you need a time out because you love them so much you don’t want to hurt them in your anger. Convey your words in an Opera Voice, so maybe you will all end up laughing. Chant “OM” to demonstrate that you are trying to find another breath. Change your space, go for a walk, play with or in water…model for them all the ways to channel extreme emotion so that they can learn how to express themselves when they are feeling big emotions.
We are in a place where the dividends are starting to show now that they are older. We are beginning to see the results of the time we put into the relationship with them. We hear it from their babysitters and adult instructors that they truly are exceptional little people who are a delight to be around.
Now that I am experiencing the people they are growing into, I am grateful I opted to stay home with them instead of going back to work or spending more time on (insert technology of choice here). The face time and attention you are giving them now will yield amazing, thoughtful, kind, independent human beings who are the future of the change we want to see in the world.
If you are a working parent and you have read this far down…yes, I know you are capable of raising equally thoughtful, kind, independent human beings…we have taken different paths to the same end. I honor you for your choices and applaud you for being able to work and parent intentionally with the same fervor I have for the path I am traveling.
I guess what I am trying to say is that you are doing a great job with your kiddos, and try not to feel like you are missing out. Our time with them is fleeting. In the grand scheme of things, they will probably live well into their 70s, if not 80s or 90s. We get about 18 years of that lifespan – make the most of it. You will not regret it.
By the same token, if there is really something in your heart, go for it! Sometimes we have an all or nothing approach to life. I have always wanted to get my PhD. Because I pretty much blew off my first three years of college, I really have to hit the reset button and start over. If I waited until the Sweet Pea Kids were grown up to do that, I would have another 14 years of pining and letting that desire eat away at me…I don’t need more reasons to envy others. Instead, I have decided that it is doable and that I am okay with taking it slowly. If I do one class per semester, then 14 years from now, I can take that “empty nest” time to write my dissertation, instead of starting the whole process from scratch.
That happens to be my dream. Do you have one? If you know it, what small step can you do in the next day-week-month to start moving in that direection?
If you do not know what is going to feed your soul after your children claim their amazing lives thanks to the confidence and independence you have instilled in them, take some time to reflect on what that is so you can start making plans now. You will need something to fulfill you; and one could make the argument that making them the whole center of your life is not necessarily healthy now, or in the long run, for either of you (musings about that HERE).
When we follow our dreams, we also have the opportunity to teach our children the beauty of discovering their gifts, and using them to fulfill themselves and help others. Circling back to where we started, having our own treasure, our own burning desire, will make it easier to get through those days when we wonder what we were thinking as we look at the small tornado that is our home life that day.
So own it. Be the stay-at-home parent you want to be, live here and now with your child(ren). Find what feeds your soul so that you can show up as a whole person for your family. Enjoy your Sweet Peas, drink them in, encapsulate all these little moments. Some day we will have all the time we thought we wanted, and our homes will be quiet, and we may miss all the chaos. I believe we will reap a second harvest when our children fill it again with the love and laughter of the next generation being raised in love.