When I was five and someone asked me what I wanted to be when I grew up, I would tell them about my plans to be a missionary/movie star/artist. (I wanted to travel to distant places to film movies, where I would paint the sets and tell people about Jesus while I worked.) When I was in sixth grade, I thought that maybe I should look into becoming a courtroom artist. (I still laugh about that one!) In high school, I wanted to be a doctor. By the time I got to college, I was smart enough to realize that I had no idea what I wanted to be. I considered international relations, nursing, and law before I finally settled into the education department and began preparing for a teaching career.
But all along, from the time I was young, there was a tension and a conflict that kept me from deciding on a future career. You see, what I really wanted was to be a mom. A stay-at-home mom. And I knew that my desire to stay home with my children was in conflict with all of those careers I was considering. But high school teachers and college professors don’t think much of a girl’s desire to prioritize a family over a career, especially if that girl is an honors student with a bright future ahead of her. I was told that I needed a high-paying job and a prestigious career to fulfill myself. I needed to be able to support myself. I needed to “do something meaningful” with my brains. I needed to make something of myself.
When I was a freshman in college, my dad, my sister, and I drove to Macon, Georgia to meet with a scholarship counselor. She was supposed to help us find other sources for scholarship money, but instead it was a terrible, horrible, no good, very bad experience. (A different blog post for a different day.) However, as we talked with her, she asked me what I wanted to do after college. When I told her that I was leaning toward teaching, she asked me why. In that moment I had a quick internal debate – should I tell her what she wants to hear, or should I be completely honest? Against my better judgment, I decided to be honest. I said that I wanted to be a teacher because I really just wanted to be a mom, and teaching was the career that seemed least in conflict with that desire. Well, boy was that the wrong answer! She went off on a tirade against my reasoning, told me I could do better than teaching, and mocked me for wanting to be a stay-at-home mom. I just sat there and tried to hold back my tears.
Her attitude, however offensive, was not abnormal – I encountered it everywhere. No one seemed to think that motherhood was a “career” to plan for. Everyone tried to push me toward a career that entailed years and years of school and long hours of work. At the time I didn’t realize that the battle I was fighting was actually against our post-modern culture. Feminism has spread so far and so deep, and it has greatly devalued the role of wife and mother. Few modern mothers prioritize their children over their careers. Call me old-fashioned, but I didn’t want to compromise in this area.
So, I kept my ultimate goal of being a stay-at-home mom in mind as I made decisions in college. When faced with the option of taking on a lot of debt or transferring to a different college, I transferred. I continued with my plan to become a teacher. JD and I got married, I graduated, and I wanted to go to graduate school. But grad school meant debt, so I put it off. I taught for a few years in two different schools – one job I LOVED and the other I HATED. And when we were ready to start a family, nothing was standing in our way. We didn’t have any debt. No student loan payments, no credit card debt, nothing. We were able to live on JD’s salary. And I was able to stay at home with Piper, which I wouldn’t give up for all the money or prestige in the world.
My best friend, Chrystal, has taken a different path but is still working and planning to be a stay-at-home mom when the time comes. When she finished college, she wasn’t dating anyone and honestly thought she’d never get married. So she started pharmacy school, but before long was dating a great guy and making plans for the future. They got married a few years later, and Chrystal graduated from pharmacy school in May. Most young couples with two (very good) incomes would be living it up – vacationing, buying cars and a house, enjoying the fruits of their labor. But Chrystal really wants to be a stay-at-home mom as soon as possible. She and her husband are living modestly off of his income and throwing all of her salary and any extra money they have toward her student loan debt. In a few years they’ll be debt free, accustomed to living on one salary, and prepared for Chrystal to stay at home with their children.
I write all of this as a reflection on my journey to becoming a stay-at-home mom, but also to encourage other young women. If you desire to be a stay-at-home mom, plan for it. Keep yourself out of debt. Make college and grad school decisions with your end goal in mind. Don’t listen to anyone who thinks motherhood is not a good career choice. Ignore the pressure to find success and prestige in a degree or a salary. Our culture says motherhood has little value, but don’t listen to that. It’s the most important job, and the most rewarding. I promise you, if being a stay-at-home mom is your desire, you won’t find fulfillment in any other career.