Here's another post that's been a long time in coming. Thanks so much for your patience, everyone (and especially you, Claire!). ;)
For as long as I can remember, I've always dreamed about being a wife and a mom. We're talking as early as 6 years old. I can clearly remember drawing pictures of my future hubby and kids at that age. :) Of course, it was all very romantic and set to a Disney soundtrack. I pictured my Prince Charming coming and sweeping me off of my feet. We would enjoy a huge wedding, where I would wear the most beautiful dress in the world, and then we'd have a few adorable, perfect kids whom I would care for with my amazing mothering skills, which would come very naturally to me, of course.
Incidentally, I also dreamed of being a missionary for many years. This was also a highly romanticized thought. I think that somewhere I still have a drawing I did in 8th grade. I'm standing at some unspecific location in Africa, surrounded by adorable African children. I have an African baby in one arm and my Bible in the other. I'm wearing a peasant blouse and a long, flowy skirt, and the wind is blowing my skirt and my hair.
Yeah, that pretty much sums up the way I thought about everything growing up. ;)
Now I know that God had better plans than to send me to the mission field in order to have a complete mental breakdown. :} I know that God gives grace where it is needed, but the more I grow and come to grips with my personality flaws and strengths, the more I realize that the mission field would NOT have been anything like I'd dreamed about and I would have had a very rude awakening.
I think I did have an honest desire to serve the Lord, whether I was on the mission field or at home, but I also think a lot of it was about me, like I was the star in my own movie or something. It didn't matter that no one was watching (although sometimes I think I really did believe that the world revolved around me!). As a result, everything I dreamed about was highly romantic...and highly unrealistic.
Something that my parents always stressed as I was growing up was the importance of staying home with your kids so that you could be the one to raise them, not a day care worker. (They often shared observations and parenting tips with us as we were growing up, even when we were younger, and I really value those years of free advice.) I was thrilled to discover (before marrying him) that Hubby (then Boyfriend) felt the same way.
Fast forward to 8 years ago, when we brought home our first beautiful little girl from the hospital. Here it was, the moment I'd been waiting for and leading up to all of my life. And things were going to be perfect, and wonderful, and I would get all of that baby weight off immediately, and be wrapped up in love for my adorable little daughter, and someday she would be a famous doctor or singer or something great...and she refused to sleep, and refused to stop crying...and I was TIRED! That was the first moment I realized that maybe this parenting stuff wasn't quite as easy as I'd always imagined it would be.
Those first few months were a big adjustment, especially the first few weeks. It turned out I wasn't producing enough milk to keep Oldest Gal satisfied, so she was basically starving. Thankfully, this was caught fairly early on, so we were able to supplement her with formula. Things got easier after that, but it wasn't exactly a walk in the park, either.
It must not have been too miserable, though, because we were crazy enough to want more kids! ;) Adding one more was fairly doable, but by the time we got to three, I was feeling pretty overwhelmed, to say the least. Still, I'd made a commitment to stay home with our kids, so I was determined to do it. Hubby was even working two jobs so that I could be with the girls.
So, why am I a Stay-at-Home mom, especially if it's not easy? Because I believe that it's the right thing to do, and that my children will benefit from the constant parental involvement in their lives (unless I'm being super crabby...they might not exactly benefit from that!). :} I also desire nothing more than knowing that my children love the Lord and want to serve Him. The very best way to gauge where they're at spiritually and to be a godly influence in their lives is to be there with them. I want to be there to answer their questions, to show them from the Bible why we believe what we believe, and to encourage their excitement about God and what He has done.
There's another important reason I'm a Stay-at-Home Mom, although it's not a reason I knew about until I already was one. ;) Staying home with 3 kiddos for hours upon hours constantly brings to my attention the areas of my life that need some work. I always thought I was a naturally kind, patient person. That theory is not one I have anymore. I've discovered that I'm naturally a selfish, petty, spoiled girl with anger management issues.
I can hear all of you now: "And...that's a good thing?" Yes, actually, it is. Because it's only when I stop doing everything on my own and showing God how much merit I have in my own strength that I am able to come to Him in brokenness, admitting my faults and failings. And that's when He can start working on those areas in my life, pruning those stray branches and sanding off those rough edges, forming me into the woman I can be through His power.
Is it as easy as I thought it would be? Not even close. Is it always fun? Um...no. I've had more than my share of wiping messy bottoms, cleaning up vomit at 2 in the morning, tackling the never-ending pile of laundry that seems to grow on its own, and breaking up the endless arguments. But do the benefits outweigh the hardships? Definitely!
You see, I may have to do a lot of stuff that isn't very fun, but I also have been there for every coo and smile. I've seen each of the girls take their first steps. I've been the one to comfort them in the middle of the night, the one to receive their loving kisses and hugs. I've been able to observe their unique personalities develop, to laugh at the funny things they do, and take pictures all along the way to help me remember them when they're all older and in homes of their own.
I'm not perfect. I make parenting mistakes every day...some days it feels like every minute! But I've learned so much, and I wouldn't trade it for the best corporate job you could offer me. Well, okay, there are some days I might consider it. ;) And sure, I get a thrill just thinking about a day of shopping with no kiddos, or a romantic weekend getaway with Hubby. But there will be plenty of time for those things, and I know that someday I will look back on these days and long for them again...some very distant day. (Hee hee...sorry, just keepin' it real!) ;)
I did want to mention before I go that I realize that it's not always possible to be a Stay-at-Home mom, especially with the economy the way it is now. I really appreciate that my husband is willing to work 11-15 hours a day during the busy season so that I'm free to raise the girls. If it wasn't for him, I wouldn't be able to do what I'm doing. I know there are some great moms out there who also work out of the home. For our family, though, this is the choice we've made and one that we feel strongly about.