One of the most common phrases I hear when people are encouraging moms to go back to work full-time while their children are small is that “anyone can change a diaper.” I think it’s a way of justifying working for pay instead of doing the “mundane” work of taking care of little people: if anyone can do it, it doesn’t have to be you. This post is not directed at people who make that choice, but rather written for fellow stay-at-home moms who might have moments of self doubt when we hear people say this. Well, a lot of what I do with my little people is mundane, but I’m so glad it’s me and not just anyone doing it.
Anyone can change a diaper, but I want to be the one tickling my four month old’s belly button during a diaper change, making her giggle. Anyone could give her a bottle, but our sweetest moments together are when she comes off the breast contentedly and just smiles at me and coos.
In the moment, I wish anyone else could deal with my two year old’s temper tantrum (all because I cut her banana into slices instead of giving it to her whole), or that it could just wait until my husband comes home from work. But I’m pretty sure my vow to bring her up in the nurture and admonition of the Lord means I need to address character formation when a problem comes up, not when it’s convenient for me. I’ll be glad when she’s 16 that we had these talks now.
Anyone could shuttle my four year old to swimming lessons, but I wouldn’t give up for anything seeing the look of satisfaction in her face when she finally floats by herself for the first time. I take pictures and describe such things to my husband and the grandparents, but it’s not the same as being there.
Anyone could teach my son to read, but I got chills the first time he sat beside me and sounded out a whole sentence. The most satisfying thing I experienced in my pre-children teaching career was watching the light bulb go on for a student struggling to understand something. And now I get to do it with my own kids!
I think my biggest issue with the anyone-can-do-the-mundane-stuff philosophy is that it misses the fact that many of the most sublime moments of parenting come when I least expect them. I’m doing something “mundane” like making sunflower seed butter and jelly sandwiches for the 500th day in a row, and someone sidles up to me and whispers, “I love you, Mommy!” I’m brushing everyone’s teeth, and someone asks a serious question about baptism that turns into a 10 minute discussion about salvation, grace, and the Holy Spirit. Those things can’t be planned. And that’s why I’m grateful for the blessing of being the Not-Just-Anyone with my kids full-time.