I was recently asked, “What is the bravest thing you have ever done?” As I quickly reflected on my life, I knew right away what the answer was. I have done some pretty crazy things. Some of them, in hindsight, I probably should not have done. However, ever since I was a little girl, I wanted an adventurous life. It started with my childhood dream of being the real Wonder Woman. By the time I was 13, my dreams where transformed by the first Gulf War. I was the only kid in the seventh grade glued to CNN and checking out books at the library about Iraq and Saddam Hussein. I knew then that I wanted to work for the government some day and be an expert in international relations.
By the time I was a freshmen in college, I already had my major picked out. I jumped right into my studies and ran through every open door. I interned with the United States Embassy in Nicaragua. I then studied in Bolivia for four months and I traveled all over that beautiful country by myself for a month. Immediately after, I worked on a research project in Guatemala and interviewed former guerrilla fighters (Yes, the type that fight against established governments). I graduated with honors and I had my eyes on Washington, DC. I sent my résumé to every agency dealing with international affairs and I also applied to become a United States Marine Corps officer. I was medically disqualified for the Marines so I took a job with the Navy instead.
The Navy was appealing to me because they offered a lot of travel and they certainly did deliver. I was able to go to Japan, South Korea, Panama, and a lot of places within the United States. I was ambitious and I dove through every open door. I even got to play “marine” and “soldier” for a few weeks and I spent a week on a naval destroyer. I loved my job!
I loved it even more when my boss asked our team if anyone would volunteer to go to Hawaii to support the Navy’s Pacific Fleet for four months. I was only surprised that more hands did not go up but thanks to my seniority, I got the gig. There were definitely some neat work-related assignments, but I mostly enjoyed my time off in Honolulu. I tried my hand at surfing, I hiked Hawaii’s beautiful terrain, and I almost drowned while ocean kayaking. That was the life! However, that would all change upon my return with a little blue line.
I was pregnant. I was excited about the baby, but I also knew that I had to make a choice. I could have still gone full throttle, continued my life of adventure, and continued to travel. After all, I had a trip to China on my radar! Yet, as I patted my tummy, I got the feeling that China would have to wait. I felt God pulling me in a completely different direction. It is as if He was telling me that my child would only have one mommy and I would only get one chance to raise her. And so I did the second most bravest thing I have ever done. Instead of setting up a meeting with my boss to lay out my future career path, I set up a meeting to see if I could possibly work part-time (that is code for career stopper). I did that for a year and then left that exciting life (with an incredible salary) to become a part-time Realtor for about 3 years. Although not nearly as exciting as what I used to do, it allowed me to mostly work from home. However, by the time my second child came along, I knew I had to give that up as well. There came a defining moment when I knew, positively knew, God was telling me to just give it all up. That was the bravest thing I have ever done!
An amazing view during one of my hikes in Hawwaii!
I had done some pretty incredible things in my life and I had some awesome experiences. I had travelled alone in foreign countries, I had repelled off cliffs, I had chased chickens in a dusty third-world country, and I had even rock climbed in complete darkness in an old mine. Yet none of those “dangerous” things compared to the nervousness I felt of leaving the comfort zone of my adventurous life and my financially security.
Adventure was easy because I loved it. However, being a stay-at-home mom scared me to death. I never liked cooking nor cleaning. I needed to be intellectually challenged and singing Twinkle Twinkle Little Star over and over is not exactly intellectually stimulating. I felt like I was jumping off a cliff.
That was not the only cliff. Leaving government, and then real estate, would mean that our household income would be cut by half. We would have to live paycheck-to-paycheck, cut cable, start couponing, and shop at thrift stores. I wrestled with it and part of me wondered how we would cover unexpected expenses. Our savings would only carry us for so long. What did I do? I stopped thinking about it and I did what I felt God was telling me to do.
It was not easy. It was a rough time in my life, but it was also one that God used to propel my faith forward. I knew it was Him. And here I am today, a full time stay-at-home mom. I spend my days doing all the things I told my mom I would never do: cooking, cleaning, changing diapers, and now gardening (and blogging). It was a leap of faith. I also remembered the words of a friend who had made the decision before I did, “You just learn to do without.”
I’ve traded in my hiking pack for a toddler carrier :o)
Financially, I did my part. I cut every unnecessary expenditure. Cable was out, a land line was out, eating out has become a once in a blue moon type of thing. There is no more shopping for me; no new shoes, no new clothes. If we travel, it is usually by car (or through Space-A). We refinanced the house to bring down our mortgage. We reviewed all of our insurance policies. Like my friend said, yes, you do learn to do without, but most importantly, you learn to trust in God.
The one thing about having a very good salary, is that you depend on yourself. You know you are bringing the money in and that you can afford very nice things, and you give lip service to God, but you don’t really trust that He will take care of you. When you live pay-check-to-pay-check, you start to depend on Him and Him alone. Since I left work, we have had to replace our septic tank pump, fix our well, and buy two cars because both our cars went kaput. We had some savings, but clearly not enough to cover all those expenditures. At every problem, He has met our needs and some of it in the most miraculous ways. And if push came to shove, we would give up so much more, move to a smaller house or apartment if need be, just so I could stay home with my girls if that is what God willed us to do. The reality of the matter is that twenty years from now when my girls think back to their happiest times, they will remember the times spent with us, not the things they had or did not have.
What of the cooking and cleaning? I still don’t like cleaning bathrooms, but if that is the worst that I have to do, then I will try to do it with a smile. I have come to really enjoy cooking. It is also so rewarding to see all the achievement that my girls make. I have heard their first words, I have seen their first steps, I have been there at all their important moments of their young lives. Every hug, every tear I wipe, every kiss I give is worth so much more than an amazing career. I would make that choice all over again.
But the real question is, am I happy? You bet. I have never been happier. How can I not be? There is a home-made apple bread in the oven that has now permeated the whole house. I have two happy girls upstairs sleeping after a day full activities with mom and a happy husband. I can get joy from that because God has changed me. Maybe he didn’t change me at all, but just showed me that it was in me all along. I can see the joy in what I do now, and that has made all the difference. I have God right here with me, guiding me at every turn.
God has called us to be different things and I know that right now I am doing what I should be doing. I am not one to say that every mother should be a stay-at-home mom. I look at the virtuous woman of Proverbs 31 and I do not just see a traditional homemaker. I also see a savvy business woman. I see a home “manager” who clearly puts the needs of her husband and children before her own. I believe God has instructed us wives to manage our homes in that manner, but that does not necessarily mean that it has to look one particular way (although I have to admit that I have a hard time seeing how you can do that if you are working so much that you hardly ever see your kids or your husband. God created us to be personal beings and we need personal interaction). The most important thing is to ask yourself, are you doing what God wants you to do or what you want to do? I used to say, “I could never stay home all day. I would go crazy and my kids would suffer if I was unfulfilled.” God showed me something different-that I could be home all day and be fulfilled. So as you make a decision on whether to stay home, go back to work, ask God first. You and your family will be better off for it.
This is the reason I am home now.