For some reason, today I've been thinking a lot about Troy's years in seminary. We moved from University Park, Iowa to Jackson, MS in August, 2002, all because God called my husband onto further education. Along with our sixteen-month-old son, Clayton, almost 2 1/2 -year-old daughter, Tayler, and our four-year-old black lab, Duke, we schlepped a moving-van full of stuff across multiple states to this new world called Mississippi. And we had no idea what the next four years, in particular, would hold.
After six weeks of living in a one-bedroom town-house (the kids' beds and the only bathroom were all upstairs, Troy and I slept on an air mattress every night in the middle of the living room floor downstairs), we were thrilled to move into a 3-bedroom house a mere block or two from the seminary. I loved that house, despite the fact that it had the old-fashioned floor heating that poor Clayton once burned his little feet on, and a plastic ride-on firetruck's back wheels were almost completely melted down when it accidentally was left over the hot grate.
In order to make ends meet, however, Troy worked part-time at the seminary, pastored a church 40 minutes away, and cleaned an office a couple times a week. I also babysat in our home to make a little extra money. Between his many jobs, actually attending seminary classes (even in the summer), doing homework and studying for those classes, and participating in a weekly prison ministry, it often felt like I was a single parent. Friday nights after the kids went to bed, we'd cuddle on the couch and watch movies together. That was our time together. While he helped with the house and kids as much as he could, working 3 jobs and attending seminary left little available time for him. I mostly ran the house and raised the kids during that time. Even during my subsequent two pregnancies. After the last two babies were born, Troy would get all the feedings until midnight or 1 AM when he'd go to bed (I'd try to be in bed no later than 9 PM), and then I had the night time feedings after 1 AM so he could rest.
There wasn't an equitable division of labor. Troy worked 3 jobs to provide for our family so that I could remain home with the kids. My job, in turn, was to cook, clean, buy groceries, and raise our kids. There were times when I felt like I was missing something by being "just" a stay-at-home wife and mommy. Now that I'm older, I know better.
You moms with little ones in the house--what you are doing is important. Critically important. I'd say it's the most important thing you will ever do. Never let anyone convince you that what you do doesn't matter. Or that because you don't leave the house every day to work in an office and receive a salary means that you're not really working. Oh, we know better, don't we ladies?
I am so grateful that I married a man who knew (and knows) how important my presence as mom was (and is) to our kids. He was willing to work multiple jobs at one of the most stressful, exhausting times of his life to make it happen. I also know that not every family can do this. For some families, both parents must work in order to make ends meet or for insurance purposes. Troy worked three jobs, I babysat, and our children had state-issued Medicaid while we went without insurance. It's not for everyone. For you working moms, what you do when you are spending one-on-one time with your children is still the most important thing you'll ever do. Even if you are a pediatric surgeon who saves hundreds of lives in your lifetime.
I'm also thankful that I work for an organization that equally values the mother's role in the home. Even though our kids are all in school during the day, my first priority on the field is that of mom. And so, when my kids are home, I'm "off the clock". However, I'm now able to have a ministry separate from my family and keep my first and most important ministry: that to my family.
Again stay-at-home moms with little ones. I know there are days you don't feel like you are doing anything important. Be patient with yourself. Enjoy this time with your little ones. Have tea parties. Play games. Wrestle. Watch endless hours of "Dora" and "Blue's Clues". Color pictures. Read books. These are all vitally important things. Then, before you know it, your kids will be in school. And unless you are one of the brave souls educating them at home, your daytime hours while they're away will be free for you to pursue other ministries or interests.
Just remember that nothing you have done or will ever do is more important than what you're doing now: being a mommy. And never let anyone---even yourself---convince you otherwise.