The Un-Working Mom

IMG_20121216_152938Emily is a wife, mother, reader, and knitter.  She loves national parks, dark chocolate, and the Oxford comma.  She blogs sporadically at ejfalke.wordpress.com.

Shortly after my second child was born, I confessed to my husband that ever since I had started my gig as a stay-at-home mom almost three years before, I had felt a little like a free-loader because I wasn’t contributing financially.  Giving up my teaching career when my first child was born looked like a really foolish decision on paper: I had job security, a stable income, health insurance…all things my self-employed husband didn’t have.  Things we were potentially giving up for our child.  However, like a lot of decisions made with the Holy Ghost, we plunged into the unknown trusting that we would be caught by grace.  And we definitely have been, although we acquired a few bumps and bruises on the way down.  We’ve known uncertainty but not want.  Our needs have always been met.  

That uncertainty pushed me to feel like I needed to be working in some fashion, to be helping in some way, bringing in any kind of money to help us support ourselves.  So I put my skills to use.  I advertised on Craigslist and tutoring sites and tutored English in person.  I tutored writing online.  I did some freelance writing.  I even worked in my husband’s office for a few months until that just wasn’t working for us as a couple anymore.  I held onto my online tutoring job for another year, but it was just too much.  I knew my brain and heart couldn’t handle working full-time outside the home, but I was frankly disappointed in myself for not being able to make a little part-time, at-home job work out.  Having it there and trying to plan around my shifts was just too much for me emotionally, so I decided to quit that as well.  And any “mompreneur” ideas I come up with just wouldn’t stick.  So I gave up looking and was left with the guilt of not doing any kind of out-of-the-home work.

Maybe I would have felt better if I was a stellar homemaker.  But, alas, I was not.  I couldn’t cook well.  My home was not super clean and organized.  I didn’t plan special learning-play activities and crafts or spend the day playing with my daughter.  I didn’t even blog regularly (which is so popular these days that it seems to be connected to homemaking).  These were the things I felt like I should be doing if I wasn’t working, and I felt failure marked over so many parts of my life because I had all day with my little girl and often didn’t have a lot to show for it.

I hoped that the guilt would get better when I had two littles to take care of during the day, and that was the context of the conversation with my husband that changed the way I thought of my purpose in life.  He was genuinely surprised at my feelings.  He told me he was always grateful to come home to me being home with our children and he didn’t – and never had – felt like I needed to be earning money.  He also told me in no uncertain terms to get rid of that guilt for good.  As I sat in the rocking chair with that tiny infant boy in my arms, I felt a physical weight lift off my shoulders and drift off, out of my mind.  I could breathe more easily.  Suddenly the part of my brain that had held on to the idea that I wasn’t doing enough opened up and showed me all that I was doing instead.

As time went on, and freed from the burden of looking outside my home, I started to feel the Spirit prompt me in ways to make things run more smoothly inside my home.  And that “stellar homemaker” I described above?  Still not me, and never will be. But I’ve finally written these words by Marjorie Pay Hinckley on my heart: “We women have a lot to learn about simplifying our lives. We have to decide what is important and then move along at a pace that is comfortable for us. We have to develop the maturity to stop trying to prove something. We have to learn to be content with what we are.”  And because of that, my home is genuinely a more happy, organized, and beautiful place for my kids and me to spend our days together.

8 thoughts on “The Un-Working Mom

  1. I love that you’ve shared this perspective on the issue! After I graduated (with four kids at home), many people asked, “What are you going to do with your degree?” My answer was, “Be a mom.” But having been raised by a single mother, I worried that I needed to keep improving my resume “just in case,” so I took on some online work that allowed me to be at home. I recently read a talk by Pres. Eyring where he talked about this very issue and said we have to be careful not to work so hard at preparing for what could go wrong that we miss out on doing the things that are right. I realized that even my online work was taking away my focus at a time when my kids need more of me, so I’m letting it go. Thanks for adding insight to my own journey and giving another example of how revelation personalizes the path.

  2. Thank you for adding your perspective to this discussion! This is an issue that I’ve found myself concerned about as a single, 20 year old college student. Every day, some form of the question, “What are you going to do with your education/degree?” pops up. I often have felt ashamed and guilty when I honestly respond, “I’m going to be a mom.” I recognize that every situation in unique and I am proud of the women in my life who balance a salaried job with motherhood, but I wish that aspiring to be a mom wasn’t so heavily frowned upon.

  3. I’ve found myself going in and out of phases where I need to let something go during different seasons (more photography/less photography…more blogging/less blogging). I love the Sister Hinckley quote you shared and also the President Eyring quote in your 1st comment.

    Beautiful insight, Emily! I’m so glad you’ve found your peace in this and thank you for your example of a loving, attentive, proactive mother!

    Love you!

  4. I love your bit about blogging as part of homemaking! How ridiculously true! and it isn’t enough just to blog…it has to be the right kind of blog. I blog regularly but I’m mor likely to talk politics than cooking. So many of our cultural expectations have nothing to do with the gospel.

  5. If I got paid for my homemaking I would get fired! I am a lousy housekeeper. Now that my daughter is in school time I have filled up my time with volunteer work because housekeeping is drudgery to me. I starting to look for part time work.

  6. I LOVE this post for so many reasons. Thank you.

    Anne, I have heard many students say this. It will always be a personal journey for each woman to figure out what God wants her to do, but I just want to celebrate your open desire to be a mom. I think in our world in “Lean in” language, we often lose the simple power that can happen when the Spirit says “lean into (or prepare for) your roles at home.” Keep giving voice to that aspiration. I believe the more women courageously do that, the less frowned upon that will be.

    I also believe strongly that we can do that while still celebrating the value of education. The key to balancing these seemingly conflicting things, IMO, is personal revelation. But especially in LDS culture, imo, no woman should ever feel like she has to apologize for wanting to be a mom first and foremost.

  7. Great post, beautifully written. Thank you!
    I share many of your feelings about leaving professional work to be a full-time mother.

    May I add that all mothers are working mothers. Being a mom is perhaps the most challenging work on earth :)

  8. Thank you. I’ve had the same questions & internal struggle while being home with my 3 girls, and haven’t quite come to terms with my ambivalence as you have. Thanks for giving me a little hope.

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