Last week I read an article in the Huffington Post that deeply troubled me. You can read the article here "Grown and Flown" written by Lisa Endlich Heffernan. I wrote a reply to her article that has generated a lot of conversation on Huffington Post. You can read my reply Here as well as my entire blog post HERE.
Truthfully, in retrospect, what troubled me about Lisa’s article was the fact that she has chosen to live in a place of long-term regret. I believe that as a healthy woman, it is important that when one looks back over one’s life what is most easily and vibrantly seen are those things that stir up gratitude and thankfulness. And so my heart breaks for Lisa and for the sadness that fills her soul simply because she chose to stay at home with her children.
I know that the conflicting opinions between stay at home moms and working moms create a volatile issue among women today and truly it is not in my heart to make anyone feel guilty over their parenting choices. I chose to stay home and I am glad that I did. The sacrifice that my husband and I made financially still impacts our lives during our empty nest years and I turned down many prestigious and exciting career opportunities. But if I had it to do over, I would do it again. And again and again and again.
However, I am also wise enough to know that not many women are able to stay at home all day every day while their children are growing up.
My heart breaks for single moms who would love to stay home but can’t.
My heart breaks for women whose husbands are underemployed or have lost their jobs and so these women must leave their children under the care of others for 40 or more hours a week.
My heart aches for young widows who must provide food on the table, medical insurance and the monthly mortgage payments alone.
Unfortunately, we live in a two-income world and in order for a family to have any financial latitude or stability at all, many women are forced to work outside the home.
I know all of these things ... and this is what I want to say from the heart of a mother whose children are now healthy adults pursuing with passion and focus the dreams that are within their magnificent hearts.
Spend as much time with your children as you can. If you must work outside the home, then give up other things that would take you away from quality and quantity of time with your children. Rather than going to the gym 5 nights a week ... go during your lunch hour so that the evening hours are times of reading books, playing games and snuggling. Rather than going to Weight-Watchers, book club and making coffee dates with friends, have people in your home and make it a family night.
Always remember that love to a child is spelled T-I-M-E.
If at all possible, during the pre-school years, work only part-time or not at all. Habits are developed, character is set, self-esteem is created and home values are established during the important pre-school years. No one will do the job that you, the mother, will do. No one can take your place ... not a daycare ... not a nanny ... and not even a wonderful grandmother. Do not underestimate the importance of a leisurely morning of homemade pancakes, followed by an hour of reading books and snuggling on the couch and then time spent together making messy crafts and singing silly songs. These years will never come again so wring the joy and purpose out of each one.
If you must work due to extenuating circumstances, don’t spend one day in guilt but joyfully give everything you have and everything you are to your children when you are together. Make every week-end a time of celebration and love. This does not necessarily mean spending wads of money. Your meaningful and delightful time together can include making cookies, going for walks, doing crafts, reading books, going to the library, planting a summer garden, blowing bubbles, making snow angels, counting the stars and a thousand other activities that just say, “We’re together!”
Re-evaluate your spending habits and financial goals to see if you can lessen the hours spent away from home. If you are working in order to go to Disney World, buy a boat or live in the lap of luxury ... think again. Your kids want you more than they want designer clothes, $1,000 birthday parties or colossal Christmases. They want you.
When you are together, try to lay aside the computer, your phone, the iPad and anything else that makes your child feel unimportant in your life. Focus on your child’s dear face, their precious and creative words, the inflection in their sweet voices and the heart they are offering to you, their mom. Today’s e-mail, twitter and Facebook posts are rubbish in comparison to the soul of your growing child.
Whether you work 40 hours a week at a prestigious job, 20 hours a week at a mediocre job or stay at home all day long, know that the gift of parenting is unequalled in importance or in prestige. Remind yourself that your career does not equal self esteem, your income does not define your importance and the demands of a boss are not nearly as important as birthday parties, ball games and ballet recitals. Make choices based upon long-term investment in your family rather than the short-term clamor of today. When you are with your children during those precious hours, whether long or short, give them your whole heart and attention.
Parenting is not easy but it is worth it! When my children were small, I used to love to mow the grass. I would beg Craig, my husband, to let me mow our acre yard every week from April - November. He would stay inside with the children and I would sweat with delight as I pushed our lawn mower through the weeds and grass that filled our yard. I have figured out in these latter years, that the reason I loved mowing the lawn so much is because I saw immediate results. I could look behind me and see exactly where I had been and the difference that my sweat and woman-power had made. Parenting is not like that. As a mother, you sweat, push, walk, pull, talk, encourage, scold, exhort and rarely see an immediate result. However, in the long haul of parenting, you are making a difference.
You are today raising the ones who will change history tomorrow.
You are raising the dreamers, the doers, and the doctors of the next generation. You are raising presidents, authors, pastors, thinkers, mothers and worship leaders. You are raising men and women who will live on in history because of your impact.
You are fixing the mistakes of our generation by raising the next with honor and integrity.
You are splashing a dark and ruined world with the miraculous legacy fashioned by a stable home and of parents who were engaged in the lives of those whom they treasured the most.
Whether you work 40 hours a week or have been given the delightful opportunity to be a stay at home mom, value the lives of those whom you have created by an act of love. Their lives will never develop well without you and you will never become the person you were meant to be without them.