What does the decision to stay home convey to our kids?

All too often, when women discuss the downsides of staying home, they bring up the question of what they’d be communicating to their daughters by giving up their career to stay home and raise children. I think that’s a fair question. What ambitions do I want to convey to my kids, especially my daughters? Well, I want to send them the same message my mom sent me. Here’s what her decision to stay home with us communicated to me:

  • We were worthy of her time and energy.
  • We were so precious to her that she didn’t want to give up those early years to someone else.
  • We were worth sacrificing for (because even as young kids, we were aware that we didn’t have a lot of money).  Relationships were more important than money.
  • An intelligent, well-educated woman can find fulfillment in raising the next generation.
  • We interested her; she enjoyed studying us and knowing us better than we know ourselves.
  • Our education and intellectual development was so important to her that she wanted to be involved in it at every level, whether by homeschooling us, helping out at our elementary school, or getting to know our teachers and administrators in public high school.
  • Time spent with us was a joy, not just a burden.
  • Service to children, the elderly, and the outsiders (dozens and dozens of international students and their families) is important in the sight of the Lord, even if it doesn’t bring in money.
  • We could tell her anything, because she always had time to listen. She was never too busy to talk to us.
  • Just because something is hard and not fun doesn’t mean you get to quit. (This one was of course important in my high school and college days but oh, so much more in the sleepless nights with a newborn or the tantrum-filled months with a two year old!)
  • Parenting is not a popularity contest, and it’s not about making the kids happy. It’s fundamentally about obeying and honoring the Lord.

Which one of those things would I NOT want to communicate to my daughters? It’s a pretty healthy list, in my view.  Not once has my mother’s stay-at-home example served in any way to limit my ambitions or dreams. On the contrary, because I’ve seen and lived what it is to have someone be everything to me, I have higher goals for my motherhood and my children!

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3 Responses to What does the decision to stay home convey to our kids?

  1. Kathy D. says:

    Emily and Anna- great job on the website. I really enjoy reading your posts, and you consistently give me a lot of good material to ponder as I try to figure out my vocation as a mother!
    Emily, this post sums up exactly why I stay home with my kids. A couple of summers ago, I took my oldest son and some of his friends on a mini-golf outing at lunchtime. I had to pick up one of his friends from daycare, and the comments that this kid made in the car have stuck with me ever since. He was so grateful to be out of daycare on a beautiful sunny summer day with his friends. He told my son how lucky he was to have a mom who loved him enough to stay home with him and do fun things during summer vacation. It absolutely broke my heart. I know his mother. She loves her children dearly and is doing the best that she can for them. I don’t want to judge another’s situation, but I think it is absolutely true to say that staying home with one’s children, especially if there is sacrifice involved, sends a clear message of what one prioritizes and the strength of one’s love. It’s a message that even the youngest of children understand.
    Thank you both for bravely and eloquently saying these truths that aren’t PC but absolutely need to be said.

  2. Anitra says:

    You’re absolutely right, but staying home does not necessarily communicate that. My mother stayed home but didn’t want to. Although she loved me dearly, I very early on got the message that kids cramp your career, and that staying home *as a choice* was something only uneducated or unambitious women did. It was drudgery. It was undesirable.

    It’s been very hard for me to break those thought patterns – even though I did choose to stay home six years ago, I still struggle to view it with joy every day. It also leaves me feeling very isolated, while never really getting time to myself to recharge, either.

    • Emily says:

      Hi Anitra,
      Thanks for commenting! You’re absolutely right that staying home does not necessarily communicate those things. Originally, my post was a lot longer, as I talked about the fact that we can easily communicate resentment to our children if we are not being intentional about embracing our calling. I decided to break that off into a separate post, so stay tuned for more thoughts on that next week. One of our main goals for this blog is to encourage and refresh stay-at-home-moms who are feeling isolated, so I’m glad you’re reading and hope you’ll feel encouraged here!

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