Sarah is a single stay-at-home mother. Her husband left a couple of years ago, and Sarah was left with a toddler and a baby on her hands. Since her husband is broke, she is unable to make him pay child support – and he makes no effort to help her in a non-material way. As a matter of fact, Sarah's children are practically fatherless, except for holiday greetings several times a year.
Sarah always planned to be a stay-at-home wife and mother. When she got married, she was full of hopes for a beautiful, strong family, where the children would have two loving parents, a father who provides for them and a mother who is always there for them, creating a warm and happy home. She always believed nothing is better for a family than a wife and mother who dedicates herself to homemaking.
She never imagined her marriage would fall apart, but it did. Furthermore, she was left with no source of financial support but welfare and occasional help from her relatives. Everybody assumed that now Sarah will start working, to provide more money for her children than welfare could allow. Everybody thought that in her current situation, when she has to provide for her children's basic necessities, staying at home is an impossible luxury.
Sarah, however, had different ideas about what her children truly need. And guess what, it wasn't a bigger apartment, new toys or fancy clothes. Sarah decided that as long as her children are fed, clothed and have a roof over their heads, what they need most is Mom. Mom, at home with them, always there for them, just as she planned and promised them when they were born. What her children need least of all in addition to losing their father, she decided, was losing a big part of their mother's attention and care as well.
I met Sarah at a social gathering. People were having the usual dinner party conversations – about their jobs – and when asked what she was doing, Sarah replied she is a full-time mom. Most of the people looked uncomfortable and quickly changed the subject. One woman, however, responded with indignation. "All the women I know are perfectly capable of having a full-time job while raising children," – she said, - "how come you allow yourself to stay at home? After all the way women went to gain their rights?" - That was the nicest, gentlest comment of all she made later, describing Sarah's as a social parasite who indulges in a carefree and easy life on the decent tax-payer's dime.
Sarah didn't lose her self-respect and terminated the unpleasant conversation in a quick, dignified way. In fact, she looked as though she wasn't the least bit shocked or outraged. Even though we weren't introduced, I took the liberty to approach her and express my admiration of her choice and my dismay about the bitter and vehement attack she suffered that night.
She shrugged. She was used to that kind of reaction, she explained. Then she added, "Occasionally, someone will say 'That's great! I wish I could have afforded to do that.' And I look at their fifty dollar shoes and their hundred dollar hairdos, and then at my five dollar shoes and hair which hasn't seen a pair of scissors for about six years, and I think... I couldn't afford it either, but it's too important a job not to do just because I like pretty dresses."
It's a matter of priorities. It's a matter of understanding what's really important, what's really meaningful in our lives – and however you look at it, there's just no way to give your family the same amount of time and attention they need after coming home from a full-time job. We are not superwomen. We can't be at two places at once. I understand it, Sarah understands it, but apparently, feminists like the one who criticized Sarah for being a lazy bum think they know better.
For Sarah, the choice was obvious. She knew that after children grow up, they won't remember how many pairs of jeans they had, or whose room was bigger, or whose toys were fancier. They will remember afternoons on which they came from school and were greeted by Mom's patient smile. They will remember special moments spent together, affection and care and support when they most needed it.
Sarah is doing important, full-time work to make her community a better place. She is creating human beings who are intelligent, socially aware, friendly, educated and spiritual. This is not a task that can be done by a babysitter or teacher. Only a mother can accomplish this – a Mom with a vision.
(* edited and published with permission)