Without wanting to attack any particular blogger who wrote an article about just how important Stay At Home Mothers are, and because I'm not entirely in disagreement with him, I have been pondering why his post bothered me so much. I think I finally have the answer.
In his writing, Mr. Walsh is asked by two different people questions about his wife, in the vein of "When is she going back to work?" and "What does she do all day?". His wife is a SAHM of two little children, and Mr. Walsh felt very offended and attacked by these questions regarding his wife. He then went on a long defense about why being a SAHM mom is a ton of work, a hard choice, and one worthy of the highest praises. This is where I agree.
I was a SAHM full time until after my 3rd baby was born, and then only worked part-time (2 days a week) until my 4th baby went to school. Staying at home with a lot of little people who are very needy and dependent and living in a society where you don't feel like your choice is valued is hard. It's physically, emotionally, and mentally draining.
But where I don't agree is that this is somehow only a SAHM's cross to bear. Because taking care of all the needs of your children, and maintaining a somewhat orderly home and shopping for and preparing meals doesn't just apply to stay at home moms. It applies to all moms. And dads too.
These things aren't "jobs" that one can pick or choose, it's part of the vocation of being a parent.
Just because I have to (yes HAVE to) work outside the home does not mean my fridge fills itself with groceries, my sink magically cleans the dishes, the laundry takes care of itself, the kids are picked up from school and brought to practices by a chauffeur, and Mary Poppins comes in to meet my children's emotional needs, doling out hugs and kisses with her teaspoons of sugar.
You may be thinking that being sole caregiver to your children is a more difficult choice than working at an office. You may be right. I remember thinking having a job outside the home would feel like a vacation. Then I got a job outside the home, and now long for the day I can go back! I really miss how much I was able to get accomplished in the house when I was at home, and my down-time every day during naps. Do I get to have down-time at work now? Yes, it's called a short lunch break, but I can't use it to run errands or clean my house or start dinner or exercise, or take my baby to a playground...you get the idea.
When I go to work, I have to make sure each child is all set for the day (lunch packed, uniforms washed, sports clothes ready, homework done, etc), drop them off at their respective schools or daycare, and then work an 8 hour day in order to provide for these same wonderful children. Then I leave work, start the picking up/dropping off process of said kids, run an errand, prepare dinner, clean the house, do laundry and dishes, pack lunches, check homework, put the kids to bed after prayers and snuggles, and finally have a minute to myself. (Thankfully I do nothing without the help of my wonderful husband who is also fulfilling his vocation as a father.)
Sound familiar? If you are a parent, it should. Because no matter if you're home all day long or at work, we all still have the same duties to do simply because of our shared vocation.
Taking care of little children all day is hard.
Working a job outside the home is hard.
Homeschooling children is hard.
Being a parent is easy....oh, no wait, it's hard.
Although I wish that all mothers could be at home with their children if that was what their heart desired, I don't think children that grow up with two working parents are destined for debauchery, and I don't think kids who have a stay at home mom are the only ones being raised for Sainthood. I do think that being the most loving and generous and holy and inspiring parent you can will lead to kids who know right and wrong and have a sense of responsibility and will be blessings in our society.
So yes, our days and nights may look very different from one another, but we're all in this vocation together. We are all (I believe and hope) doing what we feel is best for our children and family and God will fill in the gaps in our human weaknesses. Let's stop putting down moms based on where they spend forty hours a week, and start encouraging one another in our shared vocation.