I guess technically I am a "working mom". I do work outside of the home ten months of the year. But if you look at my contract, I technically am only contracted for 185 days (I think) which is really just a tiny bit more than half of the year. So in a way, I am in both worlds...
When I was growing up, there were three things I wanted to "be". I wanted to be a teacher. I wanted to be a wife. And I wanted to be a mom. In my mind, there was never any question that I would have to "pick and choose" a role.
When our firstborn was a baby, I didn't question at all that I was supposed to be in the classroom. For one thing, he stayed with my mom. I figured he was getting better care there (experienced mom) than being with me (inexperienced mom) all of the time. Plus, and it is hard to "confess" this at times, I love being in the classroom. It is just a very natural "home" for me.
I did face some criticism for continuing to work. I will never forget one Bible Study where someone asked me point blank how I could as a Christian continue to work outside of the home as a teacher. Of course, I remember thinking, "Who do you want in the classroom teaching your kids?"
Like I said, I am technically "home" half of the year. And I do believe God put the desire to teach in my heart. If He wants me to be at home, I feel like I will know differently. That hasn't happened yet.
So, having both roles, I can give you a little insight into both of them...
- Quality Time...I know that sounds funny but when I am with my kids, I am truly with them. In fact, I have mine (part of them) with me from 3 o'clock on. It is a rare thing for us to be out without kids nor for me to get out by myself unless they are in bed. I don't participate in Wednesday night church activities because of the little ones...they have been away all day; I just cannot put them in the nursery for the night. So we do have alot of time together. Not to mention, I am with the older kids(this year it will be three) pretty much all day. They aren't necessarily WITH me but I can see them anytime, check in with their teachers at any given moment, and know what they are up to.
- The house actually stays somewhat cleaner because we are not here as much!
- One of the benefits of working is that we pay someone to clean our house (the deep cleaning stuff) regularly so that is one less thing we have to do on the weekends.
- Mark really steps up when I am working. He does as much if not more laundry than I do and is good about helping with keeping the house cleaned, running to the store, etc.
- I am actually a bit more organized when I am working. We lay out clothes the day before, shop for a couple weeks at a time, and have a pretty good system for keeping up with paperwork. During the summer, some of that falls to the wayside.
- I get good "time" with the youngest. Really, between meals and naptime, I don't miss many hours of his playtime.
- Thus far, my kids don't seem too traumatized by childcare. We have done the gamut....my mom took care of all of the kids at least for a while. We have also been with daycare centers and in-home babysitters. All have been fine for what we needed at the time. I am thankful for the kids' preschool especially (which they can start at 3)...it gives them a good start to school.
- We actually spend less money during the school year (other than Christmas/birthdays) because unless I really need something, I try to avoid stores! No energy for it.
- I get to do something I love. I really love my job. I love watching little minds learn. It makes my heart smile to make a difference (or hope that I am). Not to mention, each day is a learning experience for me too. I am learning different cultures, different personalities, and different perspectives. I am hopefully becoming a better person because of it!
Stay at home Mom:
- More time for cooking...that is difficult at times throughout the school year
- Fitting it all in. It isn't easy, and I am in no way saying that I have tons of spare time on my hands in the summer, but I do find I exercise more if I fit it in during the day before my energy is gone. The same holds true to Bible Study and even just the mundane household chores. When I am at school, I come home and have a short window to fit it all in. Then I stay up later which cannot be good for my health!
- Seeing my children in all times; instructing them throughout the day. Just this summer I have been able to teach my older kids how to empty the dishwasher and fold dishtowels. I gave Child 3 a "computer lesson" not long ago, and Child 4 has been learning the fine art of cleaning up the house. Even just teaching manners is a bit easier since I have multiple opportunities throughout the day to explain that when someone is on the phone, it is rude to talk to them...
- Freer weekends. During the school year, weekends are used for running errands, organizing/cleaning up (the "surface stuff"), and catching up on paperwork. When it is summer, I can work on that throughout the week and have freer weekends to just relax and enjoy the time with kids.
- More time to minister. It is harder to help out people during the school year just because time is so limited. But during the summer, if someone needs a meal in the middle of the day, I am able to help out that way.
- More social activity for the kids. During the summer, we can go on playdates or swim dates. We limit those activities more in the fall since again, our time is so limited.
- Staying home is not an easy task! I know some people think staying at home is eating bonbons and watching soaps all day (we rarely turn the t.v. on and I cannot compromise my weight with bonbons), though I doubt it is anyone who actually stays at home. I laugh when people ask how my "vacation" is going. It is not a vacation being at home. I am on duty 24 hours. There are some days being at school (with 20 kids) is easier than being at home all day (with 4)!
- Staying at home can be a struggle at times to NOT overfill our days. I am very protective of family time during the school year and will limit activities. But when I am at home, it is easier to fill up our days with activities since we have the "time"...suddenly our "stay at home time" involves very little stay at home time (which may benefit one child but not all of them).
- Less guilt. I don't feel as guilty taking a nap or having a night out for myself when I am at home all of the time.
So there you have it...the best (and worst) of both worlds. I am glad and blessed to be a part of both of them. It has always bothered me that there has to be a division among moms or that anybody feels like they need to defend their position, whichever it may be. I do feel some people are called to be at home full time, some are called to work full time. Or like me, some of us get to "straddle" both worlds. In the end, are we really that different? I imagine no matter where you are called to spend your days, you love your child and hope and pray that you are being the mother he/she needs you to be. Our lives may be different but our role is the same...mother to our children. Instead of arguing about who is right, I think we need to support one another. Motherhood is not an easy career, no matter who you are.