Photo Credit: Mindy Rainey Creative
So often when I tell people I stay at home full-time, I get the reply that “Oh, I have to work full-time–it makes me a better mom.” That has always confused me. In what other field do we assume that spending the majority of our time NOT practicing our vocation makes us better at it? Imagine going to get established with a new doctor, and he sits you down and says this:
“Hey! You’re lucky to be in my practice. I’m a lawyer AND a doctor. I couldn’t imagine not practicing law. It really is my identity. I love it, and I’m good at it. It’s so rewarding. It makes me a better doctor to be practicing law full-time–just take my word for it. When you come in to see me, you’ll have to work around my law practice schedule–sometimes I have go to trial instead of coming in to my doctor’s office, but that’s because I’m so vital to the law firm that they can’t do without me and I can’t say no. You can come in after dinner or on the weekends that I don’t have cases or appointments with my therapist to help me reduce my stress levels. Sometimes I have to stay late at the law office and won’t make it to your appointment, but it’s good for you to realize that the world doesn’t revolve around you. Yes, we’ll both be tired by that time of day when I do see you, but don’t worry, I outsource everything! Anyone can take your temperature and listen to your symptoms, so it doesn’t have to be me doing your check-up. And I’m not going to hire another medical doctor to pick up the slack for me because you have me for your doctor, less-educated assistants are more cost-effective, and I need the money. Look at the big screen TV in the waiting room and the comfortable office chairs–a nice looking office is more important than having me available at any time when you might think you need me. Besides, I couldn’t stand limiting myself to just seeing patients all day. Wow, I’d go crazy with the monotony. I didn’t sacrifice to go to law school to sit around listening to people cough all day long. It’s better for them and for me that I do what I really love most of the day so that I don’t hate my patients when I see them in the evenings. How dare you insinuate that I don’t value being a doctor or having you as a patient? I went through med school! It was painful! I deserve to be respected for that! And doctors who just limit themselves to practicing medicine don’t understand me. Yeah, that’s fine for them if they really aren’t up for the challenge of two careers, but they’re really limiting themselves. I’m the one who is a good example of following every dream, never accepting the limits that others try to impose on me, and making lots of money. We really need more successful, wealthy role models for our kids. Being a full-time lawyer makes me a better doctor.”
Convincing? Not so much.
Obviously there are plenty of reasons to work full-time, but working-to-be-a-better-mom is not one of them. When my husband started teaching, he didn’t fix his weaknesses by ditching the classroom as soon as something frustrated him; rather, he kept teaching, and with practice, he got better. As a full-time mom, I’ve learned to be more patient with my kids by… practicing being patient with my kids. You can’t practice when you’re avoiding the situation, and going back to work because your kids make you mad seems to be giving in to a character flaw without embracing the opportunity for sanctification. Parenthood isn’t for the lazy or faint of heart! I’m not saying that a mom getting a break from the kids can’t be helpful–but there’s a big difference between a weekly trip to the gym or even a part-time job and working 40 or 60 hours a week. Can time away from our kids help us to refocus on our vision, encourage us to press on, and give us an emotional break from a toddler who is being a total stinker? Absolutely. But when the time away tips to the opposite extreme, I question how much benefit there is for the huge opportunity cost of letting someone else enjoy your child’s best hours of the day. I wouldn’t choose a doctor who spent the majority of his time practicing law–I want a doctor who is invested in the practice of medicine. What child wouldn’t be confused by the idea that Mommy needs to spend most of her time away from him in order to be a better mom?