Friday, January 15, 2010

The Benefits of Being Home

The Benefits of Staying Home, or
Why I Personally Love Being a Homemaker

There are plenty of books and articles out there to tell you what the Bible has to say about women’s roles as wives, mothers, and homemakers. They are good articles, informative and helpful, but, to be honest, if you’ve read one, you’ve read a hundred. Most of them just say the same things over and over. There comes a time when you have to stop just reading and start applying.

You have to ask yourself, OK, I know what the Bible says (assuming that you take the Bible to the infallible word of God), so how does all this apply to me? How does it relate to my own personal day-to-day life?

Well, here’s my story…

Growing up I was not one of those girls who wanted to get married and have kids and “keep house”. Oh, no, my goals were at least a master’s degree, a well-paying job with a fair share of fame, a fancy apartment and designer clothes. Kids were so not my thing. Submitting to a man was certainly not my thing. I enjoyed my privacy, private time, private space way too much to want to have to share it all with someone else – husband, kids, whoever.

Now, if you have only come to know me in recent years, you’re probably thinking ‘What? Wait a minute…this from Little Miss Suzy Homemaker-Homeschooler-Wifey-Poo?’

I know, sometimes it shocks me, too.

The truth is that at sixteen I got pregnant. While I have no problem opening up about that particular part of my life, it is not all that important to this particular story. Suffice it to say that I knew it was wrong, but I had sex anyway. And I got pregnant.

Me, the one who didn’t want kids.

You may wonder what on earth my teen pregnancy has to do with homemaking. Well, opinions are not formed overnight. Woe to the person who reads something once and decides they agree with it completely (other than the Bible, of course!) We are truly the sum of our experiences, and my experience with motherhood, which is of course a large part of homemaking, began when I was sixteen. So, we continue…

Now, self-centered though I may have been at fifteen, I grew up at sixteen. Much as I did not want to have to share my time or resources, much as a child did not fit into the picture I thought my life should be, never once did it even enter my mind to have an abortion. First of all, that’s murder. Second, my irresponsibility should not result in punishment for my innocent child. Third, I’ve always been one for a challenge.

So, I had that baby. I really had no idea how I was going to persevere, only that I would. It was during that pregnancy that all those things I had learned in church really began to sink in. I learned what it was like to truly cry out to God for help. I learned true humility. I learned true repentance. I began to learn to be self-sacrificing, other-serving.

My daughter was born exactly 6 weeks before my 17th birthday, and life was certainly never the same.

Fast forward a couple of years. At this point, my daughter’s rather disappointing biological father is long gone. I am now 19 years old, working full time and going to school 8 hours a week on top of that. I begin going to a new church, where a certain sort of dorky-looking guy up in the choir keeps staring at me. Ah, love.

At this stage of my life, I was loving being a mother but still very much an “independent woman”. I knew what I wanted with my life and worked to find ways to conveniently fit my daughter into that life. Don’t get me wrong, I was a good mother. I gave up my previous goals in exchange for some modified ones. Instead of seeking my master’s in Education I settled for working toward my bachelor’s in Child Development, because I could teach at a local Baptist Learning Center, have my daughter in the classroom right next door, and have 90% of my schooling paid for by my employer.

Tony and I started dating in September 2000, when Katy was 2 ½ years old. Those two were quite a pair! Tony loved kids. I had a kid. That fitted rather conveniently into my life plans as well. Six months later, we were married.

A month after that, I was pregnant.

So at that point, I was 20 years old, newly married, with a 3 year old, pregnant with another child, working full time, and still going to school 8 hours a week (plus weekend conferences required for work!)

I still wasn’t burned out – yet.

I worked up until 3 weeks before my due date. I would have worked longer, but, since Katy had come nearly 2 weeks early, my doctor thought it would be wise to assume that baby #2 would also come early. It just happened to be convenient that I was due January 10, and Christmas Break at the center where I worked started on December 24 – so on Friday, December 21, our last day before Break, it was also my last day to work there. Since the center I worked for was fairly small, they could not hold my position until I returned.

Where we would go from there was undecided when Rebecca was born on January 8 (she hadn’t come so early, after all).

I stayed home with her for a few months, and then got the job of my dreams: working in the Tulsa Community College Child Development Center. I would be working there, still have my tuition paid, and could conveniently walk from work to class – since they were on the same campus!

I worked there for several months. It was definitely the most professional child care center I have ever worked at, or been in at all, for that matter. But little things began to eat at me. Things that happened there – in arguably the best child care center in the area – that bothered me as a mother.

In January 2003, about 3 weeks after Becca’s 1st birthday, when Katy was nearly 5 years old, I got pregnant with Jake. My hormones were insane, and before I found out that I was pregnant, I let my hormones get the best of me. I told off my director in a strongly worded letter and walked out of my job one day with both my girls.

About a week after that I found out I was pregnant.

Oh, uh-oh. Had I known why my emotions were so screwed up, I might have been able to step back and reassess things in my working life. But I hadn’t known, and I had just lost it one day.

Great….

It was at this point that Tony and I really began to talk about my quitting working altogether and “just” being a stay-at-home mom. We were back and forth for a while. I was at the top of the list for a job with Community Action Project (I was both educated and experienced at this point, and was in line for a very well-paying child care job, a rarity indeed!). At the time I quit working, I was actually making more money than my husband!

But all that money could not calm the raging emotions in my heart, the longing to be with my kids – my kids, not someone else’s. Job satisfaction and all the praises of the adoring parents of my charges could not compete with the pain I felt at the thought of leaving my children – again. There was a strange emptiness inside me that all the education and money in the world could not fill.

We decided to try it.

I became an official stay at home mom.

It was certainly not always easy. It's still not always easy. But God knew in His infinite wisdom just exactly what I needed. Not only what I needed, but what my husband needed, and what I needed.

This is where the blessings began, although it took me several more years to actually be able to see them.

It’s been seven years now that I’ve been living this SAHM, housewife-homemaker life. It is only in the past couple of years, however, that I would say that I have truly become a “keeper of the home.”

Looking back now, I see just exactly how God worked in my life for the betterment of myself and my family. I see how being a keeper of my home has been the best thing that ever happened to me.

For one thing, being able to stay at home with my children has relieved me from the stress of the workplace. Now, yes, endless days at home with cranky kids or piles of laundry have stresses of their own, but not like the stresses of the workplace. Not having to deal with pressure from a boss, from co-workers, from deadlines…well, that’s an amazing feeling!

But more than that, being home with my children has given me a peace that I don’t think women who are constantly out “in the world” can know. This makes me think of that verse in Ephesians 5 that says husbands are to love their wives and:

“…to make her holy, cleansing her by the washing with water through the word, and to present her to himself as a radiant church, without stain or wrinkle or any other blemish, but holy and blameless.” (Ephesians 5: 26-27)....

Women are made differently from men. We are more emotional and therefore more susceptible. We are made this way in order to be more nurturing as mothers and care providers. This is a good thing. But because we are made this way, our emotions and our exposure to harmful influences need to be guarded. This is not to say that men should never let their wives leave the house! But it is a wonderful feeling indeed for me to be able to trust my husband to keep me informed of what is going on in the world. Of course I have the things I am particularly interested in - homeschooling and the pro-life movement, for example, and I share these things with my husband. But, for instance, during the recent elections, I trusted him to listen to all the speeches and read all the articles and tell me who stood for what. This only works, of course, if you trust your husband and share the same beliefs and values. If you don’t, this is an area of your marriage that needs to be worked on first.....

It is a blessing to not be surrounded by other gossiping, worldly women all day long in the workplace (if you’ve ever worked in a child care center, you know just how bad some of those teachers can be!) It is easy for me to resist temptations of the world – the temptation to talk badly about others, the temptation to dress in immodest ways, even the temptation to cast a flirtatious glance at that guy I see every day at work – if I am not put in a situation where those temptations are present! This is part of the way my husband fulfills his God-given duty to ‘make me holy’. ....

Yet another wonderful thing about being a keeper of my home is that I have learned to enjoy the small things. When your whole day is rushed, getting up, getting ready and out the door, dropping the kids off at school or daycare and then spending all day at work only to have to pick the kids up, rush home, figure out something for dinner, cram homework, baths, anything and everything in before bedtime, you don’t have time to even notice the small things, much less enjoy them.....

It has taken me years to get used to taking things slowly. I still to this day have to stop and remind myself that I have all day to get things done…and if it all doesn’t get done today, I have tomorrow and the next day! I never have to run myself ragged trying to get too many things done in too little time. I can, quite literally, stop to smell the roses! And what’s more, I can stop to watch my children enjoy things as well! This is such a blessing!....

When my oldest daughter was a baby, she had colic. Boy, did she ever! While most babies with colic will cry for an hour or two each evening from about six weeks old til 3 months, my daughter cried from 6 pm til around midnight – every night from 6 weeks old til six months. I was exhausted (finishing my senior year in high school at the same time as the colic!) and functioned on auto-pilot most of the time (though I still managed to graduate with a 4.25 GPA!) I remember my mother saying to me to “enjoy those moments in the middle of the night.” I thought she was crazy! She would tell me how those moments up alone with her kids in the middle of the night were some of the best memories she had, and I decided she was delusional! Now, granted, neither of her kids had ever had colic! ....

When my second child came along, she was a little easier, but still HATED to go to sleep! I still thought my mother must have been insane.....

However, when Jake – our third – came along, things were different. I was a stay-at-home mom. I learned to appreciate those moments in the middle of the night, secure in knowing that I could always grab some sleep the next day while the baby napped if I needed it. I was able to truly bond with my baby as I rocked him and fed him at 2 am. It was during this time that I truly began to know what the “joy of motherhood” was. Up until that time, I had been a good mom – by the books. I read all there was to read about raising kids and child development, but I had never just slowed down, relaxed, and enjoyed my kids.....

I can also remember, shortly before we got married, Tony showed me a picture one of his high school friends and his wife and kids. I looked at that girl – just a year older than me – in the picture and took in her short, no-fuss hairstyle, her lack of make-up, her plain clothes, and I said to my mother these exact words: “Don’t ever let me become so much of a mom that I forget to be a woman.”....

Now, while the basic premise of that statement might not sound so bad, the way I meant it certainly was. I was still incredibly vain though I didn’t realize it at the time. I was still self-centered though I didn’t know that then, either. I was more concerned about how the world would view me than with how my children did. I was more concerned with my outward appearance than with the condition of my heart.....

“The Lord does not look at the things man looks at. Man looks at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart.”~1 Samuel 16:7....

While I still think it is important to take care of ourselves, to stay active and healthy (and clean!), and to care about being attractive to our husbands, I realize how very trivial things like fashion are! I no longer require name-brand clothing or expensive-to-maintain hairstyles. I am perfectly happy in my discount jeans and my $5 shirts and shoes I bought on clearance. I am content with a simple hairstyle and inexpensive make-up. My husband still goes ga-ga over me, my kids tell me all the time that I’m beautiful, and so far no one has backed away in horror at the sight of me! I have no reason to try to be physically attractive to anyone other than my husband. I do have reason to be spiritually beautiful to all who know me, because my spirit is to be a reflection of God’s love.....

I know that being able to be at home all day has greatly impacted my vanity. When you are surrounded daily by people who don’t care what you look like, whether you’re in designer dresses or knock-off jeans or just your jammies, whether you’re hair is perfectly styled or just in ponytail or not even brushed yet (those people being your kids, of course), well, it helps you realize that your real worth in life has nothing to do with how you look!....

Now, I must enter a disclaimer. I have been to the grocery store on many occasions and seen women – sometimes people I went to school with! – who are out in public in their sweats or even pajamas, with messy hair and no make-up. I see them and I wonder how a person gets to that point. Saying that what’s inside is more important than what’s on the outside is not saying that the outside doesn’t matter at all! God says our body is a temple, and that we are to love and care for it. We should care about how we look, how we present ourselves to the world, we just shouldn’t be more concerned with the outer appearance than our inner spirit! Even on days when I’m not going to be leaving the house at all, I get dressed and fix my hair (even if only to brush it and put it in a ponytail) and put on some make-up! I usually re-do my hair/make-up shortly before Tony gets home from work, because I care about looking nice for him!....

I have much more to say but it will have to wait because this is getting really long already and its about time to put my kiddos to bed, so for now, in conclusion….....

Being a keeper of my home has allowed me to truly know my children and truly respect and honor my husband. It has allowed me to become more Christ-like because it allows me to have more time away from worldly influences. It allows me to experience the great joy of servanthood to my husband and children. I read recently a story where a woman said, “Why would I want to be the ‘servant’ of a boss I can’t stand, when I can be a ‘servant’ to the man and children I love?”....

My thoughts exactly.....

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