Catholic Exchange: Easing the Loneliness of Stay-at-Home Moms

In our desire to convince people of the rightness of our position in certain matters, we can unwittingly lead people to believe that the spiritual life is meant to be easy. Far too often, we build things up with high and false expectations that damage the people we are trying to help. Instead of being honest about the very real struggles of our vocations, we brush these struggles off, ignore them, or pretend they do not exist, all for the sake of convincing people that certain choices are good, right, and/or superior.

In reality, the good speaks for itself, but that does not mean the path to holiness is easy. One of the areas in which I think we avoid full disclosure and honesty is in the struggles stay-at-home moms face in their vocation.

I am a stay-at-home mom and many of my friends are stay-at-home moms. I have noticed—as have many of my friends—that in our desire to convince people that staying home is good and worthwhile, we portray the realities of day-to-day life in unrealistic terms. We pretend that we are constantly smiling at our children with joy and happily thanking God for the gift of doing the dishes, laundry, and sweeping the floor for the umpteenth time in one day. Instead, many of us are muttering under our breath as we clean up the most recent mess. We are all works in progress! Most of all, we ignore the fact that many stay-at-home moms are lonely. Yes, lonely.

Western culture has led to a radical decline in community. As the idea of rugged individualism and the idea that we can do it ourselves took hold, the notion of coming together in community all but disintegrated. This is true both inside of the Church and in Western culture. Now most stay-at-home moms are islands largely isolated from one another. There are movements within parishes to get mothers together. This is a good first step, but I think we need to be honest about the struggles many Catholic mothers—good Catholic mothers—face in their isolation.

Read the rest over at Catholic Exchange.

Honesty About Being a Stay-at-Home Mom

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There are a lot of mommy blogs out there and I read various authors to get ideas for my daughter and my home. I am not crafty or creative in the same sense as many of these mothers, so I appreciate their help. Sometimes, though, I wish stay-at-home moms would be a bit more honest. In our rush to fight the stigma that has been manufactured against mothers who choose not to work outside of the home, we can put on airs that isolate other women.

Here is my honesty. Being a stay-at-home mom is hard. There are days I am bored out of my mind. Days I am not sure how to keep my insanely active daughter entertained. How to get through the drudgery of singing Old McDonald for the twentieth time in a row. How to establish the ideal schedule for us. I struggle to find the organizational system that we need. I am starved for adult interaction because, let’s face it, being the mother of a young child means isolation. I battle my call and desire to serve my daughter with my desire to write or engage in intellectual pursuits. There are days those two are at war within me.

To put it in perspective you have to understand my life before I was a stay-at-home mom. It is similar to many other women. I worked for over a decade before I got married and had my daughter. I had a job that college graduates only dream about at the age of 20, thanks to the Navy. I lived in Europe and traveled all over. It’s always amusing when someone finds out about my past, which I don’t discuss often these days, and says “Oh, you did something before your daughter?!” It’s as if it is impossible for people to realize that I worked before I was stay-at-home mom. It is funny, but also strange.

My biggest struggle is the very active intellect God gave me. I want to be engaged in profound and deep study and writing. It’s a drive he gave me, but one that has to take a backseat to my daughter. That is the great struggle for me; doing what I am supposed to do versus what I want to do. That is the meaning of vocation.

In the end a vocation is our slow dying to self. It is where we learn to serve God and to allow things to happen in His time rather than our own. It isn’t that God does not want me to engage in these pursuits, I am in grad school, it just means that I must learn a proper ordering. While prayer is a priority, reading for leisure is not. I have to choose between the book I want to read and playing soccer with my daughter. The latter is more important in most instances.

I think that there are some women who naturally enter into motherhood. I have met women like this and I am amazed. I am not one of them. Motherhood has been a major struggle and change for me. I love my daughter with a type of love I did not know I was capable of before her. I know that staying home is the right thing for her, but that does not mean that it is not hard for me some days. There is nothing wrong with being honest about the hardships. It makes it more real. It also doesn’t mean that I would or will change things. I am firmly set on being home and schooling my daughter for the foreseeable future. It does mean that God is doing some serious pruning within me in the process.

Let’s remember that when we have tough days, it is good to be honest. It does not change our choices or question our decisions to be open. Yes, others will take it as proof that all women should be working, but other women who are isolated during this period of time will know that they are not alone. They will also be reminded that this is only a season. My daughter will start co-op this fall and soccer, so the isolation will not be quite as intense.

We also need to be honest with God. We need to ask him for the grace and strength to persevere. He is the only one who can truly help us in our moments of frustration and loneliness. He gave us this vocation and He will provide what we need to endure. We have an amazing task in staying home with our children and denying a part of ourselves in the process. This is the sanctification process and it has very painful moments. In the end, the goal is holiness and we can only get there by the slow process of dying to self and putting others first. Just remember, this too shall pass, and the reward is truly great. God bless.

A Response to Feminism’s Clarion Call to Be “Self-Made”

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I saw yet another article condemning stay-at-home moms as second class citizens. Quite frankly, the author is not worth the link in on my blog. She is worth prayers, but not a link. The argument is always the same: The self-made, individualist, materialistic, selfish woman is the REAL woman of the 21st Century. Let’s call a spade a spade shall we? Anyone who trumpets themselves as the center of the universe is struggling with selfishness. How do I know? Mainly, because like all people, I have to battle my own selfish nature. The biggest difference is that I know that my family will tear it right out of me, while rugged individualism will leave me selfish and alone.

I am not condemning women who choose to work. My mom worked part of the time we were growing up, as did most of the women in my family. No, rather, I would say that we must always prioritize properly. It is family and then career. Part of the reason I decided to stay home is because, when I enjoy my work, I am a workaholic of the worst kind. My family would suffer as my aspirations took precedence over them. I worked for 12 years before I got married. I was a workaholic. I cannot believe the hours I pulled while I was in the Navy.

What exactly does it mean to be a “self-made” woman? To own a lot of things? Make a lot of money? Promiscuity? Childlessness? Being alone? I am not sure what this phrase even means, but I hear it a lot. I think of myself as pretty “self-made”. I chose to marry my husband. I opted to stay home with our daughter. I am choosing to stay home to school her because, yes, I think that I can do better than the public schools and I assure you my daughter’s test scores will reflect that fact. This is not arrogance. It is the truth. I choose to serve my family over myself. Is it hard? You bet. I fail daily, but it is my choice. I decided that others are more important than little old me.

Let me think back to my “glorious” single days of my Twenties. I worked a lot. I had multiple careers including stints that a lot of 20 year olds could only dream of. I lived in Europe and traveled. I saw the back-stabbing, self-centered, corruption up close interning on Capitol Hill at The Heritage Foundation. I did everything that I wanted to do, but it was never enough. Why? Because “I” am never enough. I am not the center of the universe. God called me back to Him during Holy Week of 2009 and there I have stayed.

So if being a “successful” and “self-made” woman means selling my soul and my family, then I would rather keep my soul. I know what real priorities look like. There is nothing that I can buy, no men that I can date, no salary that I can make, that would take away the joy I have received in my husband and daughter. I truly feel sorry for the woman who cannot experience that joy. So you can berate women like me all you want, but we know the real secret to happiness: sacrificial love.

A Vocation I Never Expected

A vocation is not necessarily where we thought we would end up.  Instead, a vocation is where God calls us to journey towards Him.  In short, it is how He makes us saints.  And that, my friends, is the meaning of life: to be a saint.  We either choose to answer is call or we don’t.  To be quite honest, I still struggle with openly answering His call in my life.  Being a homemaker, was not what I had envisioned for myself.  I have imagined myself having a career since childhood.  I guess that is just what a child of the 80s and 90s did, even though my own mother took a long break from working to stay home with us.  I also did not get married until I was 29, so I had been working for over a decade and I had lived all over.

I guess I left behind the notion of a big city career at some major university when I moved away from Washington DC for the last time.  I did not know it then, but I was making a choice for the life I wanted to lead.  I had really enjoyed city life for most of my Twenties, but by the last part of that decade of my life, I was burned out.  I craved quiet and nature.  And while DC is still my favorite city, whenever I go back, I know that I made the right choice.  It is not where I want to raise a family.

 
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When I met my husband we had agreed that we would homeschool our children.  Not only to raise them in the faith, but to ensure that they get a good education.  We are both products of public school and knew that we wanted  more for our children.  Not to mention that my time working in public school during college, showed me just how much things have changed since I graduated.  I also knew that I did not want my children raised in a daycare.  I had to make some touch choices and that is when I made the choice to be a stay-at-home mom and homemaker.
 
I think my mind began to change when I started to think of marriage and parenthood as a vocation, rather than a relationship and job.  I started to see that love and my family require sacrifices.  It meant that I no longer come first. A truth that I still struggle with greatly.  When I had my daughter it became even more clear to me that I belonged at home.  That did not make it easy
 
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I am the type of person who enjoys being engaged intellectually.  I like a challenge, I enjoy study, I am passionate about teaching, and I want to write.  Staying home with a two year old presents great challenges to these God given drives of mine.  It is difficult to feel intellectually stimulated when your day is full of incomplete sentences, diapers, and play.  My friends know when I have been in the house too long.  I talk incessantly.  Some days I am on the computer way too much, because I want adult conversation.
 
Here’s the paradox, when I fight against my vocation, I am the most unhappy.  Even though laundry, dishes, and playing house do not give me intellectual stimulation, they bring me the most peace.  That is because I am doing the right thing staying home with my daughter.  It is a great sacrifice, and I would not change anything.  God is making me a saint here in my home.  He is teaching me how to put others before myself, something that I greatly lack.  He is increasing my capacity for joy through my daughter and husband.  He is showing me the Little Way.  I am sanctified here, not out in the world.
 
If I had stayed on my previous path and pursued a high powered career, I do not think that I would be where I am spiritually.  I probably would not even be married, because meeting men in DC is a lot like trying to find a good man at a fraternity.  I had to give up that life in order to find God’s real calling.  Sure I have moments of nostalgia and miss it, but I would miss my daughter and my husband infinitely more.
 
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Yes, I will still have days that I will fight this “ordinary life”.  But, that is a part of my journey.  That is the Divine Gardener pruning away at my imperfections and sin.  That is not to say that my path is your path.  We all have to discern where God is calling us in the different stages of our life.  Who knows what God has in store up ahead?!