My husband and I talk a lot about trying not to be snowflakes.
Both of us want to be honest about how we’re feeling and honor our emotions as good, God-given gifts (me more than him), but we also want to cultivate a healthy dose of humility and good, God-given self-control (him more than me).
There is one thing that challenges my wannabe-zen attitude, though:
When people say that being a stay at home mom is a luxury.
All the southern sass I’m learning in Mississippi drips out in the ever-insincere, “Well bless your heart.”
I know I should really just get over myself, and I’m growing. But while I grow, I want to offer some perspective
Luxury is defined as “the state of great comfort and extravagant living.”
If you are a twenty-first-century American mom, many would say you are living in the lap of luxury. Your country is one of the wealthiest in the world, your opportunities are some of the broadest in history, and, thanks to the Industrial Revolution, you have conveniences that your great-great-grandparents could never even dream of.
I know that might cause some to wince, and I understand why. Not every American’s access to opportunity is the same. Please don’t hear me saying that. What I am saying, is that, compared to the majority of people on the planet, many modern Americans could be described as luxurious. First world problems, anyone?
The Lap of Luxury
Yet, we still have to work.
That’s where the stay at home mom conversation comes in. Because, obviously, if you are able to live on a single income, that income must be pretty cushy, right?
I’m not a statistician, but I have lived the SAHM life, and I will speak from my own experience, since my first year as a stay-at-home mom was a good lesson in that assumption.
My husband and I moved to a family home in a rural town thirty minutes from the nearest Wal-Mart. We lived on a dead-end street cut off from the road by an overgrowth of greenery. We had one car, and my husband drove it forty-five minutes to work every day. He’d started his career over again, and the lucrative, dual income we were earning Minnesota was cut by a third in Mississippi.
The word luxury rings hollow to an isolated young mom who’s struggling with PPD, tied to a nursing infant, cutting corners to keep the budget in check, and living across the street from her in-laws (lovely people) and thousands of miles from her parents (familiar people).
First world problems? Yes, many of them. But this first world girl was struggling not to count other people’s luxuries.
He Works Hard For The Money
My husband was working hard to take care of our family.
He has always been a hustler. When we started dating, this man had seven part-time jobs.
One thing I love about Phillip is that he sees that hard work as his duty, not a luxury that he affords me. That doesn’t erase my gratitude by any means. I’ve seen enough deadbeat dads in action to thank God for my gift. But Phillip’s provision for our family, while greatly appreciated, is also incredibly biblical (1 Timothy 5:8).
He went above and beyond during that year of transition and made sacrifices for our family every single day.
So did I. So do most stay-at-home moms that I know.
So many have made the assumption that I stayed home because my husband made twice as much as theirs did. When, in reality, my husband was making half as much as theirs did, and I wasn’t working. I was home with my son because it was a priority for us, not because it was easy for us. I think that’s the part that gets lost in translation.
They Work Hard Together
My staying home and taking care of our son was also a biblical option. I tried not to make Phillip feel beholden for having a wife who cared for his home while he was out working (which was easy, because I wasn’t very good at it -let’s be real). My service to my household was as unto the Lord (Titus 2:3-5).
The bottom line here is, neither of us was sitting in the lap of luxury during that difficult year.
In fact, things are a lot more luxurious for us now that we’ve moved to Jackson and are both working. I’m still home with my son 3 out of 5 workdays a week (although I work from home), but my emotional health skyrocketed with just a tad more adult interaction and purpose outside of keeping the house running. Emotional health was my luxury.
Is being a stay-at-home mom a luxury?
Depends on who you ask. By some definitions, absolutely. Some of my friends who are single parents say the same of me having a partner. As triggering as the word can be, it’s not inaccurate. Depending on the vantage point, your “normal” might be someone else’s “luxurious.” To some people, knowing where your next meal is coming from is a luxury.
And yet, whether you’re a SAHM with a husband with a six-figure income, a working mom who is using her career to make ends meet, or a SAHM who is on food stamps, we are all making sacrifices for our families.
Sometimes, your experience doesn’t feel luxurious. And while we should make a habit of counting our blessings, we don’t have to accomplish that by ranking our neighbor’s blessings.
Be careful how you speak to that stay-at-home mom because she could be barely holding it together (just like the rest of us).
And, for goodness sakes, if she lives 45 minutes from town and doesn’t have a car, go sit with her for a while. She loves her baby to death, but adult interaction is a luxury.
So are lattes. Bring her one of those, too.