Stay-at-home moms are on the rise, and it’s about time. If you’re like me, you’re exhausted from the working mom/stay-at-home mom debate and having to be politically correct about it. There’s no political correctness about it—kids need moms, a lot.
As a writer, I have bitten my public tongue long enough on this subject. Why is it so hard to say what needs to be said? Why does it take such a deep breath to utter such a basic, simple, intuitive truth? What has gone on in our culture to make such a clear black-and-white issue so fraught with dissension?
Before I started working this year, my views were admittedly biased: I wanted to be at home with my kids, period. No amount of money or standard of living was worth farming them out to strangers or even to Grandma, had she offered … which she didn’t.
Prompted by an article titled “Do moms who work less have healthier babies?” I asked myself an extended version of the question: Forget me and my career goals/upward mobility/earning potential, “Do moms who work less have healthier children? Happier children?
In short: Is there value in staying at home to raise children?
It’s hard to quantify any answer to that question. I don’t know what I missed out on in the corporate world, much like, conversely, those working in the corporate world (or anywhere) do not know what they, by not being at home, have missed out on at home. Those who choose to work (and I realize it’s not always our choice) are quick to jump in with how successful and well-adjusted and blissfully happy their kids are now that mommy’s fulfilled. But instead of convincing me, such defensiveness reminds me that “People who are already free don’t need to talk about liberation,” as Madeleine L’Engle so aptly wrote.
I needed my mom. We didn’t sit around having “quality time,” but knowing she was nearby gave me a confidence that has undergirded my whole life. She didn’t squawk about missing out on her teaching career or lament about what could have been; she did the important thing. Anyone (this hits me as a teacher, too, folks, but it’s true) could teach my mom’s first grade students, but not anyone could raise her five babies. No one loves her children like their mother. Therefore, their mother is the best one to raise them.
“Stay-at-home mom” has become a corny, backward, derogatory label describing women who presumably aren’t ambitious or enlightened or empowered enough to pursue their dreams. But I see in my classroom every day the difference between those who have had mom nearby and those who haven’t. It isn’t politically correct to say this, but it is true: Being near our children during their formative years is the best possible gift we can give them.
But it may force some hard decisions. To paraphrase Emerson, “Private schools and iPhones and Miss Me jeans are not gifts, but excuses for gifts. The only true gift is a portion of yourself.”
Something to think about, come May 11.