by Katy White
On Sunday, a friend of mine spoke in church and took the opportunity to first introduce her family, including her highly educated and accomplished husband. When she got to herself, she said, "And I'm just a mom at home with the kids."
I felt like someone had tried to slap me. And I felt like slapping her (just a little bit. Lovingly).
Before becoming a mom, I had a successful, high profile career for twelve years. I was very well respected at work and only had more opportunities in front of me. When my years of infertility were finally rendered obsolete (YAY!), I returned to work for a short time, but ultimately decided to stay home. When I left my job, I was overwhelmed by the number of people who reached out to me with their regrets (and support). Yet now, not even nine months after I closed my office door for the last time, conferences and trainings and site visits are all still happening. My former coworkers are going to lunch together. My boss has taken my replacement under his wing, complete with inside and practical jokes. My directors are thriving under the new regime. All without me.
On the other hand, when I leave my kid for two minutes to go to the bathroom, it's like the apocalypse has come early at our house (okay, not quite, but you get the picture). I’ve never felt more important, loved, wanted, needed, or fulfilled. Instead of managing grown ups who too frequently choose not to change or grow, I get to shape the entire life of someone who is constantly developing and learning and laughing and calling the wrong things “Daddy!” I love it. So when someone says "just" to staying at home, it saddens me. And I'm not alone.
Patricia Holland, wife of LDS Apostle, Jeffrey R. Holland, said:
"If I were Satan and wanted to destroy a society, I think I would stage a full-blown blitz on women. I would keep them so distraught and distracted that they would never find the calming strength and serenity for which their sex has always been known.
Satan has effectively done that, catching us in the crunch of trying to be superhuman instead of striving to reach our unique, God-given potential within such diversity. He tauntingly teases us that if we don’t have it all—fame, fortune, families, and fun, and have it all the time—we have been short-changed and are second-class citizens in the race of life. As a sex we are struggling, our families are struggling, and our society is struggling."1
She said this in 1987, over 25 years ago. We all know the problem has only gotten worse. We feel the pressure everywhere we go, sometimes even at church. We see it in the media, read it in books, and are slapped in the face with it so frequently, our cheeks are numb. (And that’s not even mentioning Pinterest!) Satan has one message for us as women: you’re not enough. You’re never enough.
My mom passed away when I was a little girl. I scour photo albums for glimpses of her (she hated having her picture taken) and pour over the baby journal she kept for me, eager to glean hints of her personality. I pepper my grandma with questions about her and relive memories with my siblings. When my dad or her old friends tell stories, I listen with wide eyes, an open heart, and a tightly closed mouth. I cherish memories of the holidays that she took pains to make special, not because of the hand-crafted decorations-matching-the-invitations-matching-my-dress, but because of the thoughtful, personalized touches that made you know it was for you, not her. I revel in her wit and sass. I admire her kindness and charity and the fact that virtually every woman in our small town felt that she was, in fact, my mom’s best friend. I delight in her competitiveness and intelligence and her love of adventure and thirst for knowledge. I miss her voice.
She is with me always, a part of my world, an integral part of my identity, regardless of how little time I actually spent with her - less time than my career, in fact. If someone tried to tell me she "just" stayed at home, I wouldn't be able to laugh or even grow angry at their ignorance. I'd pity them.
I respect the heck out of those moms who work, whether it's by choice or not. It's hard and it's sometimes frustrating and it's sometimes wonderful. And having experienced over a decade of unwanted childlessness, I know you can be happy and fulfilled in your life/marriage/career/church calling without a child, despite a righteous longing for one. Whatever path we find ourselves on, we can know joy and know our Heavenly Father, if we want to.
There’s no “just” to any of our lives. No woman is “just” single or married or working or at home or any combination thereof.
And no woman has ever, ever, ever “just” been a mom.
1. Holland, Patricia. "One Thing Needful: Becoming Women of Greater Faith in Christ." LDS.Org. The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, 01 Oct. 1987. Web. 26 Aug. 2013.