I am ever more convinced of this: mothers who stay at home with children, especially when it comes to large families, are brave. They put all their chickens in one basket and hope to be good at one thing only: raising well-formed little people. Getting other people to turn out how we’d like them to be is an impossible task. Dedicating yourself entirely to a task of upbringing that, in the end, is totally out of our control, and not having another job to get a little self-worth from or at least have as a back-up plan is… crazy!
It all starts from when they are born. I distinctly remember a visitor we had in the first week who told us our baby would be calm because her mother (me!) is calm. I thought, does that mean if a baby is not calm this person and many others assume it’s the mother’s fault? Yes! I think the answer is yes. The pressure is on. The sizing up of a baby and how much of it is due to the mother’s aptness is immense pressure. Is the baby healthy? How chubby is he? Is he breastfeeding? Only breastfeeding? Is he happy? Does he cry? Is he attached to his mother or does he willingly smile at every stranger and perform on cue?
It is a difficult job to be a mother, not only because of this immense pressure to produce a beautiful, intelligent, social, overweight (!) and perfect-in-every-way baby, but also because of the very full-time-job of it all. If you are lucky, you can get the whole sleep thing figured out (we went to a miraculous workshop that helped us, but only after five months of non-sleeping madness). However, even if you do get the sleep thing straightened out, you still have a baby to entertain, keep out of danger, breastfeed about every two hours (if you’re doing that), not to mention grown kids if you have any. Nap times can seem painfully short. You are not as mobile as you used to be and can only get about a third of what you used to do done. Even going to the grocery store is an unsurmountable obstacle. You don’t have a clean-cut schedule with a time to clock in and a time to leave work’s problems at work. They even wake you up at night.
None of this, however, compares to the part of it being out of your control. You can not fake it until you make it. They will sniff out your every feeling and flaw. In other jobs, you can somewhat follow to-do lists, plan and reach goals. Although the truth is all of life is out of control, a 9-5 job might feel controllable. You can tell people with pride, “I’m a teacher”, “I’m an accountant”, etc. and feel as if you’ve accomplished something with your paycheck and your status at work. However, if you stay at home with your kids, people might say, “she dedicates herself to her kids and look at how bratty they are!” They will always be able to find some flaw. You will definitely not have things under control. Since you are raising people and not machines, they will make you learn and grow as a person and in holiness, and they will have their own rhythms and difficulties.
A job gives you a place in society. As one of my favorite articles about jobs says, it’s important to feel as if you contribute to society and a job does that. Are stay-at-home mothers valued as contributing to society? I would venture to say no, at least not by the majority. Here in Portugal the concept barely exists, and probably in all of Europe. Yet being a mother, although it may not be advancing science or technology, advances much more important things, as John Paul II said in his Letter to Women, n. 9:
Progress usually tends to be measured according to the criteria of science and technology. Nor from this point of view has the contribution of women been negligible. Even so, this is not the only measure of progress, nor in fact is it the principal one. Much more important is the social and ethical dimension, which deals with human relations and spiritual values. In this area, which often develops in an inconspicuous way beginning with the daily relationships between people, especially within the family, society certainly owes much to the “genius of women”.
So stay-at-home mothers, kudos to you! All you who value motherhood, (and fatherhood!), the most important job that has very little material pay-off, kudos to you also.
Also, have you seen the “All About That Bass” music video? Moms everywhere: please watch this hilarious parody and let me know if you like it: