September 9, 2020

Why I Still Stayed Home



“So, what do you do all day?”

Stay-at-home-moms have been fielding this question for decades, and articles answering it have been written by authors a lot craftier than I.

But things get really tricky when you are a non-homeschooling SAHM of older children.

Your PTA days are over. Your kids dress themselves and direct themselves and possibly even drive themselves. Supposedly, they don’t “need you” much anymore.

When the people I stayed home for were older but still often at home, I spent my days getting my little family (my husband and our two daughters) out the door and then welcoming them back when they got home. I cooked and cleaned. I managed our family’s schedule, including my girls’ multiple dance classes a week and their heavy involvement in the school band program. I did a little legal document prep for my attorney husband. I served on the worship team at church and facilitated a weekly women’s Bible study. I was a career band mom. I volunteered at school. I sometimes worked as a catering assistant to fund dance costumes.

I was and still am beyond grateful to have had even the option of spending my time that way.

I know so many moms would love to have this choice. I know most two-income families are not buying “extras” with those incomes. I also know many moms do important away-from-home work they love and cannot imagine being happy without.

And to all the homeschooling and employed moms out there: I truly don’t know how you do it.

But given the choice, why did I “stay home” in the first place? After all, many moms balance careers and attention to their big kids brilliantly. But I knew myself, knew my low threshold for stress...and knew I wouldn't be one of them. So I stayed home—and would do it again—because for us, I believed the older-kid years were the most important time for me to be fully available for my children. 

As tweens and teens, they didn’t need their knees bandaged or their diapers changed anymore. Which was fabulous. But they often needed their hearts healed or their minds redirected. Which was hard and important.

My brother, who is many years behind me in the parenting game, once asked, “Now that you’re this far along, if you had to choose when you would be home for your girls, what age would you choose?”

“Now,” I told him. “Absolutely now.”

I’ve seen the truth of a very wise thing my mother-in-law told me when I was a young bride. She worked in the family business, but her office was in the garage attached to their house, so she was available at any time for my husband all through his growing-up years.

She told me how thankful she was for that option and that it was nonnegotiable for her, even when— especially when—her only child was an adolescent. “People say your kids don’t need you as much when they’re bigger. But their problems are bigger, too.”

I wanted my husband and children to be able to do well in work and school and at their passions. I wanted them to be able to love well. I wanted them to be able to serve well. I wanted them to be able to pursue faith well.

I wanted them to pour out well onto other people and onto the things that mattered to them. But in order for them to pour out anything good, they had to be filled up with something good. That kind of filling up takes time and work and attention, and I knew I, personally, needed to focus on mostly doing just that.

My children have told me, “I’m so glad I have a mom I can count on to make me feel better when I’m upset.” I’m grateful they can say that, because it didn’t just happen all at once. It happened over the course of hundred moments spread out over what’s now been more than two decades of on-the-job training as a mother. There are lots of different ways that training can happen. But this is the way it happened for me.

That’s why I stayed home. That’s why, given the chance, I still would.


A version of this piece originally appeared on Her View From Home.



August 5, 2020

Maybe This Is Our Such A Time As This


Sometimes, life in the age of coronavirus feels like it’s doing nothing less than asking us to save our people.

Of course, as moms, we know we can’t; saving is always and only God’s job. 

But it feels as though He has given us a historic role to play this season, much like He gave the Biblical Queen Esther.

Comfortingly, she wasn’t all that crazy about it, either. 

She didn’t ask for the job.

She didn’t want it.

She balked at it, at first. 

And when she finally accepted it, she did it with sort of a “well, this might be the death of me, but if it is, so be it” attitude. 

You’ve got to love her.

“Who knows,” Esther’s cousin suggests to her when he’s trying to talk her into taking the job, “but that you have come to your royal position for such a time as this?” (Esther 4:14).

Our maternal positions may not be royal, but we have been put in them on purpose, for a purpose. 

We might be reluctant.

We might be uncertain. 

We might think what we’re being asked to do will be the death of us.

But Esther accepted her calling for the good of her people, and for such a time as this, we can accept our calling for the good of ours.

All these generations later, Esther’s reluctant decision to go where she didn’t want to go and do what she didn’t feel qualified to do is celebrated and recounted as an example of faithfulness and bravery.

We may demur at the suggestion we would take on the enormous challenge set before us in hopes future generations might speak well of us. But if we accept this commission as nothing less than a royal appointment by the King of the universe, it is no conceit to hope that future generations might live well and serve well and love well because of it.

The quote “God couldn’t be everywhere, so He created mothers” (attributed variously to Rudyard Kipling and a Jewish proverb) gets God’s omnipresence wrong, of course, but maybe it lends itself to this revision: God is everywhere, and one way He is is in the person of mothers. 

When we don’t check out.

When we don’t give more weight to what we don’t know than what we do.

When we don’t suppose we have to figure out how on earth we’ll do the next month (or nine) and instead ask God to help us do each one day.

When, right in the deep and dark of our weariness, uncertainty, fear, and flat-out don’t-feel-like-it, we view ourselves as image-bearers of Abba. 

Not haughtily but humbly. Not because there isn’t any other way for God to preserve our children to the race, but because He thinks highly enough of us to give us the chance to partner with Him in the cause.

God will not force our hand. But if we extend it, He’ll reach out and take it and lead us along so that, following Him, we can lead the people we love. 

In such a time as this.

For such a time as this.

July 19, 2020

Don't Iron a Graduation Gown While Crying . . . and Other Wisdom From the Moms of the Class of 2020 



A few weeks ago, I posted this question on my blog Facebook page:

“Dear 2020 Senior Moms: what advice/words of wisdom/guidance/encouragement would you offer next year’s senior moms?”

I asked this partly because I wanted to recognize these wonderful women and partly because I am a 2021 senior mom and “next year” has suddenly become this year, and I. NEED. TO. KNOW.

With the same grace these amazing moms lent their 2020 graduates, they responded generously, their answers ranging from practical to passionate.

Here, with deepest appreciation, are 21 culled and compiled pieces of wisdom from the moms of the class of 2020. I know I’ll be keeping a copy of this list close at hand...right alongside my purse-pack tissues and my waterproof mascara.

1. Don’t cry when you iron your senior’s graduation gown. Tear drops make more wrinkles.


2. Listen more than you speak, and worry less than you listen.


3. Ask—don’t assume—if they want to participate in school senior/graduation festivities and "lasts." Not all seniors want to. It is their year. Let them do it their way.


4. Allow space for the process of grieving. Honor your senior's emotions.


5. Keep talking to your senior. Give them advice and guidance, because even though they’re bold and ready, they’re also anxious and need you still. Be close, but don't hover.


6. Find out-of-the-box ways to celebrate. Try to help your student see (and to see yourself) that different does not mean not as good.


7. Take some moments to cry to yourself about the things you’ll miss and then cheer openly for all the new opportunities and adventures your son or daughter will have in coming years.


8. Be ready to be surprised by—and so proud of—how bravely yet honestly your senior will handle what comes his or her way. 


9. Pray. (Often.) And give yourself and everyone around you all the grace you can gather.


10. Understand that your senior is looking for independence as you are holding onto their lasts. They will experience a lot of emotions as they let go of you, in a way, and as they look toward their future
.Their independence will shake you, but it will also make you proud.

11. Teach them to address an envelope.

12. Remember to take time for you. Renew your interest in things you loved in the past. This will be a gift to you and to your graduate.


13. You never know what you’ll end up loving. (Drive-thru graduation was a kick! If you have it, go all out!)


14. Cherish all the small moments. Take nothing for granted. Enjoy every moment with your whole heart. These kids earned this time to be celebrated. Celebrate everything. Be present. Do it for your kids; do it for you. Do it for the kids who didn’t get to enjoy senior nights and prom nights and graduation festivities. Do it for their mamas who were heartbroken for these moments to pass uncelebrated. Applaud your senior loud enough for all of us.


15. Don’t blink. But do breathe.


16. Plan ahead; don’t wait till the last minute. Don’t procrastinate on minimum requirements for college applications. Be patient with online learning.


17. Take. Pictures. Of. EVERYTHING. And be IN the pictures.


18. Be supportive, let your students have fun, be there for what they need (hugs, chats, food, a confidante), enjoy spending time with them, encourage them, tell them again and again how proud you are of them, and love them.


19. Enjoy the ordinary moments. That’s where real life is.


20. There will be so many “lasts,” but there will be so many firsts to look forward to, also. Cry...but then put on a smile and get out there and enjoy every minute with them!


21. Do all the things and take it all in. Love fiercely...and laugh often.


*****

Deepest thanks to all the mamas (including but not limited to those listed below) who not only shared pieces of their stories on my page but also gave me permission to tell those stories here. You and your graduates truly put the class in the Class of 2020. 

With Tehanne Cooney, Mindi Hommerding, Mellanie Barksdale, Amber Lee Balentine, Kristina Bellon, Debbie Jones, Traci Welborn Holland, Heather Ann Lynn, Lisa Page, Michele Weyland, Jennifer Edmondson Viveiros, Vicky Valle, Cheryl Gottlieb Boxer, Debra Fhaner Cascioli, Becky Harless, Fiona Sing, Gena Bethune McCown, Robin Basone, Stephanie Kay Suranyi, Jennifer Lynn Remer, Jennifer Meyers-Heeter, Lorri Gail Moffatt, Emily Pruitt Nemec, Kori Titus, Katie Rud, Becki Heck-K
nister, Leanne Grow, Lavinna Rendon, Tammy Ward, Stephanie Pietrasiewicz, Lisa Edwards Cyr, Amy Shupe, Cyndi Edgley.

Photo credit: Melanie Ortt