Friday, September 28, 2012

Tales From A Stay-At-Home Mom: Where Is My Worth?

Western Wall in Jerusalem
I once read an account of a mother who left a high-profile job after her child was born to stay home full time.  After raising her child at home for a while, she was offered another job in that same field - a field where she could use her time and talents to make a difference in the world, as well as to garner a very sizable income.  This was her response to the would-be employer (I'm paraphrasing from memory) - "I am doing a very important work [as a mother] and cannot stop until it is completed". 

She was referencing the Bible passage in Nehemiah Chapter 6, where, when faced with an invitation from his enemies to stop the building project on the Wall of Jerusalem to come to a "meeting" that would do him more harm than good, Nehemiah replied, "I am carrying on a great project and cannot go down.  Why should the work stop while I leave it and go down to you?" (vs. 3).
This mother viewed the life of her child as a "great project", a project that she was not willing to put on hold for any reason.  Her story has resonated with me since before I became a stay-at-home mom - when I was working full time and did not yet have children.  I remember thinking to myself, Her talents were making a difference in the WORLD and she wanted to stay home for the sake of one person?  That just doesn't make sense.  The math doesn't add up.  Wouldn't God want her to touch more people as opposed to less?  I respected and envied this woman for her selflessness, but I didn't "get" where she was coming from until after my first daughter was born.  From the moment I saw her, I understood what an honor it was to have the opportunity to raise her, and how the math would add up in the end - because if I trained her up in the way she should go (God's way) and she didn't depart from it, she could possibly touch hundreds - or even thousands - of lives according to God's purposes for her.  She was entrusted to me by God.  How awesome is that?!

Now, fast-forward a few months to teething, sleepless nights, multiple ear infections and working full-time at a job that was a blessing, but definitely not anywhere near my dream job.  I sat in my spacious cubicle (now that's an oxymoron), thinking to myself, What am I doing?  I came down from the wall and now I've lost my sense of direction.  Where is my worth?  In my paycheck?  In a job well-done?  Maybe I should go back to school...I know I had worth there.  But wouldn't my family suffer even more if I added night classes to this crazy schedule?  On and on the pity party went, until it ended in bitter tears and a completed application for a fellowship grant for grad school.  I prayed and prayed for direction, and let me tell you, God provided it - just not in the way I had expected he would.  I ended up minus a fellowship grant and plus another child just a few short months later.

In a sense, God gently grabbed my shoulders, turned me around and gave me a kindly shove in the direction He wanted me to go in.  Was it the direction I desired at the time?  Absolutely not.  Like Peter, who went back to his successful fishing career when it seemed that his future as a disciple of the next King of Israel had been crushed following Jesus' crucifixion, I attempted to go back to what I knew (school).  Where I knew I had "worth" and could make something of myself.  Where I could make a difference.  In His mysterious way and timing, God showed me that my worldly understanding of worth was - and is - not His understanding of worth.  He reminded me that Nehemiah had one of the most important jobs in the kingdom as cupbearer to the King of Persia (he was one of the King's most trusted servants), yet God led him away from his "significance" in the Persian Empire to broken-down Jerusalem to build a wall.  As insignificant as that may seem, that wall ended up rejuvenating the entire city and all of the people of Israel, many of whom were exiles that were able to return to their homeland once work on the wall had been completed.  Did I mention that the wall was huge?  It wasn't a fence that he built around the city - it was a formidable wall.  Look at the picture above.

Being a stay-at-home mom can sometimes feel like one of the most insignificant vocations on the planet, especially to those of us who were trained in institutions of higher education to think of ourselves as "smarter than that".  I believe God has a different view of things.  He has been slowly revealing to me where my worth lies - in those bright eyes that watch my every move; in those lips that cry my name and give me kisses all day long; in those little arms that encircle my neck and make me feel like a queen when I would otherwise feel like Cinderella (before the Fairy Godmother appeared, of course).  My worth isn't attached to a degree, to money or any other piece of paper - it is living and breathing, and it needs ME to navigate and survive in this world.  "I am doing a very important work [as a mother] and cannot stop until it is completed". 


  1. My mother-in-law just told my husband and I "you are giving your daughter a great gift by allowing her mother to stay home and raise her" that meant SO much to me! Being a mother is so much more important than anything else I could do right now. Sometimes I lose sight of that, thanks for the encouragement and reminder Alicia!

  2. Anytime - and what an awesome thing for her to say! It's so encouraging when family members are supportive of what you do as a mom.

  3. This is just what I needed to read tonight. Thank you for blessing me!