December 2011

Does being a “stay-at-home mom” mean that I have to stay at home?

In addition to being a homeschool mom, I am a stay-at-home mom and I love it. I feel very blessed that my husband and I have agreed to sacrifice so that I can stay at home and raise our children. 

Life gets busy sometimes and it’s easy for me to get so busy that some weeks I find myself going somewhere every day and not actually staying at home even though I’m a stay-at-home mom. Of course it’s okay to go places and do things. I like going and doing.  Many of the things I go and do are necessary like grocery shopping, or doctor appointments. Other times it’s educational, volunteering, or just plain fun. It’s all good stuff. 

However, when I do all these wonderful things outside of my home, it’s just that, outside of my home. It doesn’t leave a whole lot of time to stay at home and be a wife,mother and teacher which, after God, are my next priorities. The more I am away from home, the more I get stressed since obviously things like the laundry and the kids’ schoolwork aren’t getting done to my usual standard. The more I get stressed and crabby, the harder it is to be a good Christian, wife, and mother.

It is tough for me to balance how much to go and how much to stay. Lately I have been challenged to evaluate my goals/priorities as a Christian, wife, and mother and to really think about how much I want to stay at home as a stay-at-home mom and then try to find ways to meet those goals. Sometimes I have to just say “no” or “not now”. 

I have to remind myself often that “self” comes last. I struggle when I hear the common phrase “You have to take care of yourself first, so you can be a better wife/mother/(fill in the blank)”. This logic sounds appealing to me because it offers me an excuse to be selfish. Things like eating three meals a day, sleeping eight hours a night, and getting a shower qualify for taking care of myself. Going out for a day of shopping with my friends doesn’t usually qualify as taking care of myself. It qualifies for having fun for myself which usually falls into the selfish category. God tells us to be servants to others, to think of them first, not to be selfish and think of ourselves first. If God, husband, and children are cared for first, then I think it’s okay sometimes to do something for myself. It’s important that I get my priorities straight.

I know that the more I stay at home, the more my children’s quality of education improves, the less stressed I am, and the happier my husband, children, and I am. I think it’s worth the trade off of a little more fun outside the home now and than. 

Gift Stress

My husband and I sometimes struggle with giving gifts to our children or receiving gifts for our children from others. We are thankful for whatever our family receives and are truly appreciative of the sentiment behind the gifts given to us and our children. However, sometimes the gifts we receive bring with them issues.

One of the issues that sometimes arises with gifts of toys, is the educational value of them. We are okay with our children playing with toys just for fun, but we don’t want mindless entertainment toys that quickly lose their entertainment value to be the main focus of our children. We prefer toys that serve some form of educational or developmental value. We feel that quality is far superior to quantity in the area of toys.

The other main issue that arises with gifts of toys for us is quantity. The reasons are two-fold. First, there is the general issue of a large quantity of toys and the stress it places on the child. There are studies on this topic so I will summarize it to say children with fewer toys are often less stressed and happier (which also makes Mommy less stressed and happier).

The second part of this issue, is that we live in a small house with very limited storage space. I am constantly going through stuff in our house to try to make room for other stuff that I deem more important. When we receive more stuff, there is always the question of where to put it. Even if the stuff received is more exciting and fun toys, the question of where to put it still remains.

We’ve done a few things to help deal with these issues. We now limit the number of gifts we give to our children. We usually choose no more than three gifts per child. Sheer quantity helps with the issues of storage immensely. We are also mindful of the size of the gifts we choose. Some things are simply too big for our space and are therefore just not options.

We have also stopped giving mostly just fun entertainment toys to our children. We now give mostly stuff with a purpose. In addition to the old standby option of clothing, we have gotten a little more creative. This year one of our children is getting a new backpack because his old one is worn out. Our children love art projects so they have gotten things like glue and tape and even construction paper before. They love this! It’s also helps our financial budget. We like to give our children educational gifts as well, like science books about animals, manipulatives they can play with, a microscope to view things, or a globe to learn about the world. Sometimes we give these gifts to an individual child, but often the educational gifts we give jointly to all the children to share. Another type of gift that we have considered, but not yet given, are less tangible items like a zoo membership, tickets to a museum or sporting event, or a state park pass.

Not only have we made these personal changes in our gift giving to our children, but when grandma and grandpa inquire about gift ideas, we make sure to request these types of gifts as well.

One thing we have done to help with the quantity issue after Christmas, is the “In one, out one” rule. If you are not familiar with this one, it means that when you receive “one” gift “in”, you take “one” item “out” and get rid of it. I usually do this with my children a week or so after Christmas or their birthdays.

We also encourage our children to give of their own stuff to others throughout the year. This takes a bit of effort on my part to find areas for them to give their stuff that it will be appreciated, but it is worth it. In addition to minimizing the quantity of toys that creep into their space, it helps them learn to be givers. Which is a lifelong character quality I want to instill in my children.

Merry Christmas!