“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.