In the same way that my professor was pushing the “why” question onto the class, over the last year, I have been seeking to sift through different reasons people give as to why motherhood and taking care of children matters. There is no shortage of people that are willing to take a firm stance on the value of staying at home with children. I have read many answers- from Christians and non-Christians alike. I have found many that are based on the assumed value of secondary things like the money that stay-at-home moms save at being all things at once – you’re a chauffeur, chef, baby-sitter, teacher, maid, and more! I have also read citations of amazing stories about how one mom’s prayers and efforts (like Mrs. Wesley or St. Augustine’s mom) were used by God to raise children who had enormous impact on large numbers of people. I read about women who open their families and homes to others and thus lead many people to Christ. But while it is encouraging for me to know that I am not making a financially ruinous decision by staying at home and that God can still answer my desires to disciple other women or reach unreached people groups as a mom, these reasons are not vast or deep enough for my heart.
Justifying staying at home as a mom by only answering potential good and even godly things that can come out of it (children who love God, discipleship of others, etc.) is not enough to help me understand the value of the day-to-day grind of diaper changing, clingy-to-mommy days where I can’t get any housework done, days past of feeling like a functional “milk machine” (someone else said that, not me!), and sleepless sick nights. In some ways, it also functionally reduces my daughter to what she potentially could be and ascribes value to her today because of what she might or might not become in the future (e.g. “You are raising a world changer!”) This isn’t to say that people who have strong convictions of these things don’t value their children (no way!) just that answers alone about the benefits of staying-at-home and raising children aren’t, in my assessment, the kind of ultimate and fundamental “why” that my professor was pushing for and I needed. I had been struggling because in my case, I could have free childcare (nearby grandparents!) and wasn’t necessarily saving money by being at home and because my daughter’s not talking yet it’s not like I’m directly instructing her heart, right? So is the chunk of my time that is important the time I spend discipling other people while she is napping or just the prayers I pray for her and not the time I spend playing with her that she won’t even remember?
The passage of Jesus welcoming children to him has been important to me recently. I was convicted a few weeks ago of not valuing my daughter in the way that God does. (It was actually through reading this article about ministry to women.) I had been trying to find worth in what I did because of the potential impact it would have in measurable, seen ways. And because of this, in many ways I was frantically trying to get other things done while making sure she didn’t hurt herself and wasn’t dirty or hungry like caring for her was a side job. I realized that feeling like I would feel more justified to stay at home if I had more children was reflecting a heart that didn’t value her as one individual- why would having more children make it more important for me to stay at home? I repented of this perspective and God opened up my eyes to let me see that she is loved by God and valuable to him today and that my calling is just to love her in the same way. It actually made me a bit sad that I haven’t had this perspective earlier and all that I had missed out on already because of it.
The heart change God is working out in me changes the way I wake up with purpose to a needy toddler. It changes the way that I respond to my daughter when she, for whatever reason, is super clingy for a day and I don’t get the things done that I had hoped to around the house. My call is to love her- all 2 feet 7 inches of her made in the image of God. I engage with her when we play because I love her and want to show it. I am getting to know her- her tendencies, her heart, her temperament- and how God has made her uniquely for himself. I pray that our home would be welcoming to others and she would get to see people transformed by God because I love her. I don’t feed her so she’ll get big and will one day make a difference in the world. I feed her, change her, bathe her because I love her. And I pray that her life will glorify God and make a difference in the world in whatever way he chooses- not because that will somehow justify the work I am doing, but because I love her and she is precious to me and I know she was made to glorify him.
To be clear, I have seen that in little ways, the things that I do are affecting my daughter’s heart and behavior- and these affirm to me that the work that I do at home is not only seen by God above, but also in the mystery of God’s way, is actually being used to shape her. She gets clingy when she knows I’ve been sitting at the computer for a while and even at around 9 months, she would get upset at me when I was at the desk and wanted me to sit with her so she could play around me. She imitates me in surprising ways and searches my face for how I respond to her when she does things she knows she shouldn’t do. Because we sing to her, she recognizes the tune of “10,000 Reasons” and the chorus of “All I Have Is Christ”! God in his wisdom has made mothering a hugely important and impactful calling. Still, these are things that I praise God for because I love my daughter and even if I could not see the fruit and impact of my work today- as I couldn’t when she was just one month old and barely opening her eyes- what I do to serve her is because I love her and she is inherently valuable to God and to me. God has called me to love her and I believe that when I do, it brings him pleasure and glory.
The longer I have been a Christian, the more convinced I have been that the Scriptures are the only source that provides a working framework large enough for all of life- in general sweeping ways and in its all its particularities. It is big enough to answer questions about the purpose of not just my life but the whole universe and I believe it’s also extensive enough to give me perspective on the everyday things that make up the majority of my life. I know that my daughter is made in the image of God and God in his grace loves her. She is precious to me because in my heart I know and see this value, and I learn from Scripture what it is to love her well. Thus the work I do today as a stay-at-home mom matters because my daughter matters to God today and I have the privilege of welcoming her into my arms just as Jesus would have and still does.
Pray for me as I learn to be a mommy and that I would see her as God does.