Naming the Struggle

I’ve been struggling for months.

Even worse, it has taken me until very recently to put a name to the struggle.

About two weeks ago I figured it out and can work toward a solution, and I’m so grateful.

I realized that I never actually wanted to be a stay-at-home mom.

Before I begin, I love my children deeply and unconditionally and am grateful that I have been able to be at home with them. I have no regrets. And, I am not judging anyone else’s choice to stay home. I want to make that clear. This is only about my personal experience and realizations about the future.

A friend of mine recently said “I’m a better mom because I work” – a sentiment I hadn’t heard before. Another friend said that she felt bad about not being sad when she put her son in daycare because it allows her to continue to work, something about which she is very passionate. I began to process these things and it surprisingly led me to the solution I had been needing.

As I have continued to reevaluate the ideas and values I have held for most of my life (i.e. deconstruction), one of the messages from Christian culture that affected me the most was a more subtle one, but one that I internalized unknowingly: Christian women should stay-at-home with their children, it’s the greatest calling a mother can have, you should homeschool if you can, etc.

Before I got married, I had joked that I wanted to marry someone who wanted to be a stay-at-home dad so that I could work. But somewhere along the line I adopted the mindset that I had to stay at home if we had children, that it was the “right” thing to do.

When Tori was born it made sense for us because I was only working part-time and that wouldn’t have covered daycare. I focused on the positives (getting to wear comfy clothes all day was one) and found joy in it. Once she became sick I was incredibly grateful to be able to care for her full-time and truly treasured every moment. I wouldn’t change a thing. That was my calling.

When the twins were born, it also made sense because I was working very part-time and daycare would be out of reach for us. And while it had brought much joy and growth, it has also been a struggle for me, especially in the past year. I blamed it on the pandemic, on having little support aside from Brennan (who is amazing!); I even thought it could be a Vitamin D deficiency. Nothing seemed to make sense. I’m not a naturally unhappy person so for me to feel “down” and defeated was strange.

While I was experiencing this struggle, my advocacy work was also growing and the lines on the graph were intersecting. I didn’t connect the two until two weeks ago.

When I am doing Newborn Screening work I feel alive, satisfied, excited. I know this is my life’s calling and to have been given these opportunities has been incredible. I am using my education, experience, and passion in ways I never could have foreseen, and I’m furthering Tori’s legacy in it all. I am confident in my calling and eager to learn everything I can so that more lives can be saved.

I feel so alive when I’m able to do things for ME like advocacy, writing, giving tours, etc. but not in the daily tasks of being at home.

In fact, I often feel defeated as a stay-at-home mother. I struggle with meal planning, with keeping the house tidy, with being at home all the time. I have no desire to homeschool and I eagerly await the day that the boys go to school. Essentially, I am no good at the things that many women who stay-at-home seemingly love to do and are skilled at doing. I’ve tried system after system and always feel like a failure.

But two weeks ago I realized that I’m not a failure – this just isn’t my long-term calling. This isn’t my strength. And going to Florida this past week solidified that.

I had the privilege of attending the Krabbe Translational Research Network Meeting (thanks to The Legacy of Angels Foundation) and was a panelist; I gave a presentation about Pennsylvania’s experience with Krabbe Newborn Screening and talked about my efforts and the long road it took (my slides are below).

I met with some of the greatest scientific minds and heard their remarkable research efforts (most of which I didn’t understand, of course, but I know it’s amazing!). I met with industry partners who want to help with our advocacy efforts. But most of all, I felt like I finally earned a seat at the table – and it’s been a long road in that respect.

And when I came home, I felt refreshed, energized, grateful. Brennan and the boys had a great time while I was gone and I know that was important bonding time for them, too. Without Brennan’s support and love for being with his children, none of this would be possible.

I love that I have the privilege of being a mother to three amazing children. I am so grateful that Brennan works so hard to provide for us so that I can stay home until they go to school. But, I no longer feel guilty about looking forward to the day they are in school full-time. Yes, I am called to be a mother and raise children, but part of that calling also involves Tori’s legacy, which is my advocacy. Wanting them to go to public school doesn’t mean I don’t love them – it will be so good for all of us.

Doing what I was called to do makes me a better mother.

Bottom line:

It’s okay to not want to be a stay-at-home mother.
It doesn’t mean that you love your children less, it doesn’t mean that you are a bad mother.
The Bible doesn’t say you have to stay at home – Christian culture does.
We all have different callings and roles to play, and I’m so grateful to have discovered mine.

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