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Just a Stay-at-Home Mama

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It’s Monday afternoon, and I’m having an ugly stay-at-home mama day.

You know, the day you haven’t a moment to primp in front of the mirror, so you pull back your hair, throw on a t-shirt, and pray the only familiar face you see is your own reflection in the mini-van rearview mirror. It’s the day the pimple on your forehead shines; the shoes on your feet clash your outfit; and the only phrases that exit your mouth are imperative sentences.

I drag my preschooler to his swim lesson, slump in a chair, and bounce my fussy toddler on my knee. I make chit-chat with a familiar stranger while pacifying my toddler with crackers—one after another. Crumbs dribble down his chin onto his shirt, fusing with fabric, and somewhere in between small talk, the snack box, and sporadic hand waves to my preschooler, my toddler survives the entire half hour. I rush my preschooler in and out of the change room — presto. I think we just might escape anyone we know.

Just as I round up my boys and head toward the door, I hear a proverbial voice.

“Hey, Melanie!”

I look back and gulp. It’s my gorgeous always-put-together Facebook-mommy-acquaintance-friend wearing a cute athletic outfit and glittering white tennis shoes.

“Hey.” I hoist my toddler on my hip while my preschooler hides behind my leg. “I haven’t seen you in a long time. How are you?”

“Oh, I’m doing great.” My friend reveals a set of flawless white teeth and a seamless life.

She tells me how she’s now working full time as a manager, and she has never felt better. She’s hired a nanny to watch her kids, and she’s taking great care of herself by working out every day. And after she rattles off her shopping list of accomplishments, she asks the dreaded question, “So, what are you doing?”

I rack my brain for a genius answer to this question. Should I say I’m a home manager? A child specialist? Laundry connoisseur?

“Oh … I’m just home.” I say instead.

My friend flashes a sympathetic smile.

“But we’re expecting again, and I’m doing a little writing.”

I’m convinced the last two variables make my job more acceptable. It’s as if having two kids isn’t reason enough for me to stay home. And just to ensure my friend knows I have something other than the kids, I feel the need to share my moonlight fiction and freelance writing.

“Congratulations,” my friend says. “Wow, three kids. You’re going to be busy. Aren’t you going to go crazy?”

I spew some heroic answer about how I’ve always wanted a bigger family. My cheeks feel warm. Where’s the nearest exit?

“Well, we should go out for lunch sometime.” My friend gives me a hug and then sprints away.

Since when can a stay-at-home mom go out for lunch?

As I leave the gym, my heart is as empty as my son’s cracker box. For in this season of pregnancy, I’ve felt bloated, tired, and unproductive. And some days, I’ve wished I could put on a nice dress and red lipstick, sit in an office with a bay window, and perform some fancy job description.

I strap my kids in their car seats and head toward home, dreaming of my friend’s glorious life.

“How do some women do it all?” I ask my husband over dinner.

“They don’t.” My husband looks me in the eye. “Something always gives.”

I know my husband is right. Superwoman is a myth. In either case, whether a woman works inside or outside the home, some aspect of professional and personal development, housekeeping, or family life lacks. And at the end of the day, a mother’s work decision comes down to a personal calling lived out in faith. For some courageous women, working outside the home is not a choice, but a necessity.

In my case, I decided to stay and work from home after hearing many older mothers tell me this ancient adage of childrearing: the days are long, but the years are short. After the birth of my first son, I chose to pursue my professional goals at a slower pace and, with my husband in graduate school, embrace a simple lifestyle (it can be done!), for I knew with all my heart I didn’t want to miss my children’s first steps, words, and years of life. Working full time outside the home just wasn’t worth the extra car or luxury of eating out and, though staying home has meant delaying other dreams, I’m confident I’ve made the right decision for our family.

So, why am I ashamed to say I stay at home? I have been given such a unique privilege. I am a full time mother to three sons; I am present in their lives for most of their waking hours; and I’ve had the joy of discovering my professional passion (I only discovered a love for fiction writing after staying home). I have the best job for such a short season. All too soon my sons will venture out into the big, wide world, and I’ll enter a new season.

Proverbs 14:1 says, “The wise woman builds her house, but with her own hands the foolish one tears hers down.” My children are gifts from God, and I have a short time to invest in their souls — to build my house. For me, this means staying home while they are very young, and perhaps again when they are in their tumultuous teenage years. I must remember raising children is the most valuable job I will ever do — one with eternal repercussions.

Later that evening, I tuck my preschooler under his covers. He looks at me and says, “I love you, Mama.”

Is he referring to me? The unkempt mama who rushed him around during the day and snapped at various moments?

I scoop him in my arms and swallow hard. “You are so precious to me.”

In moments like these, I know why I love my job as a full-time mama.

I’m positive there will be more days where I’ll long to pull out my hair, or better yet, spend time making it pretty, but I know I wouldn’t trade this season of pattering feet, stained onesies, and sticky fingers for any other. As my children grow older, I’m certain I’ll have more opportunities to pursue my professional dream of publication. God makes everything beautiful in His time (Ecc.3:11), granting me glimpses of His grace even on my ugliest days.

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Melanie N. Brasher is a full-time mama of three boys and wife to an incredible husband who understands her bicultural background. She moonlights as an inspirational writer, crafting stories and articles toward justice and change, and dreams of becoming a voice for the unheard. She’s a member of American Christian Fiction Writers and an avid reader. Though she’s an aspiring author, she'll never quit her day job.

15 Comments
  • Patrice

    Melanie- thanks so much for sharing this beautiful picture of your journey. I can definitely relate to the idea of comparing myself to another mom whether it is someone with a career I envy or another stay at home mom who seems to make everything in life work in the midst of homeschooling several children. In those moments, it definitely can be easy to feel inadequate. And reading your article or talking to other women reminds me this struggle with comparisons seems to be a very real challenge in our mothering (or womanhood) journeys.

    Also, I don’t think any woman is immune to the comparison monster. The woman who works outside the home and believes that is exactly where God wants her (not just because her family needs the income) may feel she gets looks from mothers who choose to stay home. Someone once told me that we don’t know at least one more thing about anyone we encounter. As a result, it can be difficult to fully grasp what may be happening in people’s lives.

    I wonder if another thought might be that we often want to justify our lives and our decisions to the people we think judge us: the acquaintance we see at the grocery store, the woman at church who has made some different decisions than we have, etc. I know for me, in those moment where I feel someone may not think my decisions make sense, I think of reasons why I have chosen a better way than they did. But I wonder if perhaps maybe a different thought might be for me to rest in the knowledge that God is good and God is sovereign. And this gracious God that I serve has empowered me for certain tasks in His kingdom and others for different tasks. As a result, the decisions I make may look dramatically different than the decisions another woman may make. But I can rest knowing that God is ultimately calling us to follow Him in every aspect of our lives. So we don’t need to justify our choices to the people around us (or sometimes even ourselves) or take our value from what people may think of us. Instead, I think God calls us to something greater. He calls us to trust that He is unfolding our unique stories (and our children’s stories) and weaving them together in His divine tapestry. In the end, His divine tapestry points to His one great story. And this thinking challenges me that the greatest thing I will ever do is pursue God with a single-minded focus in whatever season of life He has me in.

    Thanks again for writing such a lovely article about this very real topic. I really appreciate your thoughts and your willingness to share a vulnerable area that I know resonates with so many women.

    • Melanie

      Patrice,

      Thank you for your thoughtful response. You nailed it with this line: “The greatest thing I will ever do is pursue God with a single-minded focus in whatever season of life He has me in.”

      Wow, what a great point. The pursuit of God is even greater than child-rearing. In the end it’s not what I do or accomplish for Him that matters, it’s His work in me. Thank you so much for this insight.

  • Melanie, You are doing the most important job ever. Don’t ever sell yourself short! And you are already an awesome writer – published or not. I wanted to share one of the few pieces I’ve had published online. It is written from the perspective of a mom from ‘the other side of the fence’. You definitely don’t want to trade!

    http://www.scrapgirls.com/NL/Chit_Chat_100724_Sat_Career.htm

    If you’d ever like to become writing critique partners/cheerleaders for each other I would be honored … and entirely flexible to your full-time career of mommy hood. :) I need it too! I only have two girls, but they keep me busy.

    – Suzanne

    • Melanie

      Suzanne,

      For some reason I couldn’t find your article, but I’ll keep looking.

      And thanks for the kind offer, friend!

  • KarenL

    Really great piece of writing and perspective Mel! Thanks! You encouraged me today!

    • Melanie

      Thanks, Karen. I’m so glad it blessed you.

  • This is well said, Melanie. I love it! I’m sharing it on FB.

    • Melanie

      Thanks for sharing, sweet Theresa!

  • What a great post! I love your writing style. I can so relate to those “hope no one sees me while I shop for groceries” moments! Being a “professional mama” is a wonderful job. I was writing at my computer this morning when my 2 year old whispered in my ear, “I love you mama.” That’s priceless as you know!

  • Debbie

    Melanie – what a lovely, well-written, heartfelt post. I know just what you mean. And appreciate a fresh perspective that I desperately needed.

  • Melanie, this article moved me to tears. God really spoke to my heart through you this morning. I have an MBA and gave up a budding career in marketing to stay home with my now 2 year old son. I’ve struggled with my self-worth and feelings of bitterness for 2 years. Thank you for reminding me what a high calling being a mother is, a calling that not every woman is blessed with. God bless you!

    • Melanie

      Amanda, you are right where you are needed most. Thank you for investing in your little one. God sees your heart and desire and your labor is not in vain.

  • Ruth

    Melanie,
    A wonderful article and great encouragement; thank you. May I encourage you that your children will continue to need you at home just as much as they grow older . . . . The needs will change but just like you don’t want to miss their first steps or any of the sticky kisses you also don’t want to miss the times as teens when they open up to share their struggles, dreams and general thoughts. You’re right: the days are long but the years are short.

    • Melanie

      Thank you for this encouragement, Ruth! I constantly need this reminder.

  • Thanks for sharing. This really reminded of my mission as a mother. Your story sounds so similar to my own. In the start of my journey as a “SAHM”. I had those days. However, over the years, God has given me his confidence.
    Five years ago I was not the woman who spoke freely being a stay at home/homeschooling momma. Especially the part about homeschooling. I wouldnt dare to volunteer that information. Over the years I have learned that “The one who calls me is faithful and he will do it.”. I still have those days when I just wanna be left alone and I’m just plain old weary. But all in all, I wouldn’t trade my “job” for anything on this earth.

Articles

When Doing Justly, Loving Mercy, and Walking Humbly Stand at Odds

If your compassion far exceeds your capacity, here’s one way you can be sure to do justly, love mercy, and walk humbly.

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One of my life verses is Micah 6:8, “He has told you, O man, what is good; and what does the Lord require of you but to do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God?”

It is one of my favorite verses because my heart has been so moved by the love Jesus has for me and the sacrifice He made for me that I am grateful to have a way to express my gratitude through acts of justice and mercy while walking humbly with God.

I have found at times, however, the call to do justice and love mercy come in conflict with the call to walk humbly with God. For me, one of the ways to walk humbly with God is to recognize my limitations. I have to put skin to the fact that I am not God which means saying, “no” to ministry requests. It means going to sleep when I could be spending time advocating for the harrowed and helpless in the world. It means limited seats at my table, limited funds in my bank account, and limited energy in my body cannot be ignored but respected and adhered to.

This is hard for me at times, especially when I scroll my Facebook feed and see friends who are caring for their really sick children, spouse, or other family member all while millions of refugees flee war torn countries and babies are slaughtered by the hundreds each day in our country through the abortion industry.

As I scroll, I receive texts about one family member’s surgery gone wrong and another family member announcing a new baby is on the way. I have in mind my neighbor who has inpatient surgery scheduled this week and another neighbor who is trying to hold down a full-time job, care for twins all while battling profound “morning” sickness.

Folks at church are fighting for their lives in physical and spiritual ways, and strangers who pass me on the road are clearly battling something as demonstrated by their impatient honking because I won’t take a right turn on red. I want to meet the needs of all; I want to do justice and love mercy, but I’m daily confronted by the fact that I am so limited.

What am I to do when doing justly and/or loving mercy seem to come in conflict with walking humbly with my God?

God keeps bringing me to this answer: prayer.

God invites us to cast our cares before Him because He cares for us.
God tells us to be anxious for nothing BUT WITH PRAYER present our requests before Him.
God commands us to pray without ceasing.

And, when I walk humbly with God, I see the immense kindness in His command.
He gives us a way to do justly, love mercy WHILE walking humbly with Him.
It is by praying without ceasing.

I cannot take a meal or give money to every sick person or family I know. I cannot extend kindness to all my neighbors all at the same time they’re in need nor conjure up sustainable solutions for the refugee crisis and contact all the necessary world powers to make it happen.

I cannot heal all, but I know the Healer.

I cannot provide for all the needs, but I know the Provider.

I cannot rescue everyone in need, but I know the Rescuer.

I cannot comfort all the broken, but I know the Comforter.

I cannot speak peace over every situation, but I know the Prince of Peace.

I cannot be all to all, but I can go to the Great I Am through prayer, lay all the people, problems and pleas for help before the Omniscient and Omnipresent God of all Creation.

I can do this through prayer.

Recently, via an Instagram contest of all things, I came upon A–Z prayer cards designed by blogger/author/speaker, Amelia Rhodes. It is a simple concept packed with a powerful prayer punch. It has served me personally in this tension of wanting to do far more than I practically can do. It provides prayer prompts starting with each letter of the alphabet along with a scripture that coincides with the prayer focus. It ranges from Adoption to a creative “Zero Prejudice” for the letter “Z.”

The cards are well thought out, color printed on sturdy cardstock with blank lines for the user to write in the names of people and/or organizations that are personal to them.

If, like me, your compassion far exceeds your capacity, pick up a set of these prayer cards and unload your burdens onto a God whose competence matches His kindness, both boundless.

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Articles

Facing Our Fears in Motherhood

Do you have fears tied to motherhood? If so, here’s encouragement for you.

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“Are you scared?”

I was taken aback by his question. Scared? Of what?

“Of anything,” he answered.

I had just shared my due date with a new class of trainees.

“He has three boys,” another new hire volunteered. So fear is to be expected, I reasoned. I’m just about to face the most frightening experience in my life.

Of course I was scared.

I was scared…

  • I’ll lose my temper.
  • I’ll whine about sleepless nights.
  • I’ll breastfeed too often or not often enough.
  • I’ll leave piles of unfolded onesies in the middle of the nursery floor because I’m too tired (or lazy?) to fold teeny-tiny baby clothes for the upteenth time.
  • I’ll go with disposable diapers when the better choice would be cloth.
  • I’ll work too many long hours at the office and miss precious moments with her.
  • I’ll sign her up for too many activities and push her to become Miss Achieve-It-All.
  • I’ll pass on to her my ugly pride, self-righteousness, and perfectionism like a dreadful contagious disease.
  • I’ll miss countless little joys in life while pursuing worthless dreams.

Facing Our Fears in MotherhoodIn short… I was afraid I was going to fail miserably as a parent.

And now, holding my second-born daughter in my arms, thinking back on that brief exchange just a few years ago, I realize those fears were well-founded. I’ve failed many times. I’ve lost my temper. I’ve raised my voice. I’ve worked too much and played too little. I’ve seen my own sinfulness reflected in my daughter.

Yes, I’ve failed, but over and above it all, God’s grace has covered my parenting imperfections and made me run to the cross day after day. The writer of Proverbs puts it this way:

Whoever fears the LORD has a secure fortress, and for their children it will be a refuge.
Proverbs 14:26

When it comes to fears, we have two choices: Will we fear the unknown or will we fear the Lord? Will we allow the uncertain to grip us in its clutch or will we turn to God’s Truth to set us free?

Scared? Oh yeah. There was so much to be scared of that day. And even now, if I’m completely honest, there are still fears nibbling at the edges of my consciousness. Fear that we won’t outgrow the temper tantrums. Fear that the two girls won’t get along. Fear that I’ll mess them up and cause them interminable hours on a psychologist’s couch.

I’m sure you have fears, too.

But rather than allow those fears to consume and paralyze us, we can take them to the Lord, acknowledging His sovereignty over our parenting, pleading His grace over our mistakes, and entrusting His provision over their futures. He is not only able to handle it all — He is far more capable to be trusted with it all.

If I say one thing to that frightened 9-month-pregnant me standing in that room years ago, I would say this: Don’t let fear rob today’s joy with tomorrow’s unknowns. Each day has enough worries of its own (Matthew 6:34).

Instead, let us keep seeking God, running to Him as our secure fortress and resting in the knowledge that He will care for us and our children one day at a time.

What are you scared of today? Name your fears and bring them to the Lord, allowing Him to replace them with His peace that passes all understanding.

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Articles

He Gives Shade To The Weary

If anxiety is a struggle for you right now, remember that He gives shade to the weary.

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Do you ever have those moments of fear because you don’t know what lies ahead? When do those thoughts tend to happen to you?

For me, most of those thoughts happen when I lay my head down to sleep at night. The vulnerability comes forth every time. That’s what happened the other night to me. I shut my eyes and immediately anxiety welled up inside me.

What if we don’t succeed in this new venture? What if we have to move? What if we can’t pay our bills?

I laid there with the covers drawn tight over my head (I still think that I am safer if the covers are over my head), praying scripture over my anxious heart. Assuring myself that God sees me and that He cares.

In the morning, I turned to Isaiah 41, specifically verses 10-20.

“Do not fear, for I am with you; Do not anxiously look about you, for I am your God. I will strengthen you, surely I will help you, Surely I will uphold you with My righteous right hand.” (Isaiah 41:10, NASB)

Yesterday, the “what if’s” piled up as I anxiously looked about me. My daughter needs tutoring, however at this point in life, tutoring feels like a luxury we can’t afford. So I listed some items online to sell hoping to make just enough to cover the tutoring. I’m buying groceries on a Visa reward card. I’m holding my breath until the next paycheck comes. But what did God speak over me: Do not fear. Do not look anxiously about you.

“For I am the Lord your God, who upholds your right hand, Who says to you, ‘Do not fear, I will help you.’ Do not fear, you worm Jacob, you men of Israel; I will help you,” declares the Lord, “and your Redeemer is the Holy One of Israel.” (Isaiah 41:13-14 NASB)

Why shouldn’t I be anxious? Because God will hold me up. God will help me. When I first read the word “worm” as a description, I took it as a slam against Israel. Like, gesh, God. What animal does He relate me to? But through further study, He calls them a worm because worms are helpless. They are viewed as insignificant, despised and weak. God will help me — seemingly insignificant, helpless me — because He is my Redeemer. He is my go’el — my next of kin. The Redeemer is the one who provides for all my needs. Rent. Car payment. Credit card bill. Gas. Food. Clothes. Debt. God will redeem.

He Gives Shade to the Weary

“Behold, I have made you a new, sharp threshing sledge with double edges; You will thresh the mountains and pulverize them, And will make the hills like chaff. You will winnow them, and the wind will carry them away, And the storm will scatter them; But you will rejoice in the Lord, You will glory in the Holy One of Israel.” (Isaiah 41:15-16 NASB).

God is transforming me from a helpless one to a powerful one. The description of that type of threshing sledge is like a modern day earth mover. Powerful. Strong. Immovable.

“The afflicted and needy are seeking water, but there is none, And their tongue is parched with thirst; I, the Lord, will answer them Myself, As the God of Israel I will not forsake them.” (Isaiah 41:17, NASB)

He will come to our rescue. God, Himself, will answer you and me. Can you hear how personal that sounds? Have you ever pleaded with someone important whether your boss, public figure, or even a parent, and they responded to the need themselves? You expected for them to send their assistant, but instead they — the most important one — responded to you.

“I will open rivers on the bare heights And springs in the midst of the valleys; I will make the wilderness a pool of water And the dry land fountains of water. I will put the cedar in the wilderness, The acacia and the myrtle and the olive tree; I will place the juniper in the desert Together with the box tree and the cypress.” (Isaiah 41:18-19, NASB)

This passage describes the wilderness-like times in life. You are barren. You are thirsty. You are hot. You are in need. God will provide what you need. God will quench your thirst. He will provide shade when you are weary. During those times, God can provide in creative, innovative ways. He can provide something out of nothing. Doesn’t that give you great hope? Even when you can’t answer how He will do it, He is creative enough to figure it out even when the odds are stacked against you.

“That they may see and recognize, And consider and gain insight as well, That the hand of the Lord has done this, And the Holy One of Israel has created it.” (Isaiah 41:20 NASB).

God will do all of this so that His glory will be put on display. People — including yourself — will see that He is powerful.

So you can see how after a night of wrestling with fear and anxiety, reading this was like shade and water for my soul. God is a god who sees. And God is a god who acts on your behalf.

What do you need His help with today? What are you fearful about today? What keeps you awake at night? Where do you need some shade?

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Hi, I'm Ashleigh Slater, founder and editor of Ungrind. Here at Ungrind, it’s our goal to churn out biblically-based encouragement for women. We strive to be honest and transparent about our struggles in a way that inspires hope, faith, and perseverance.

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Just a Stay-at-Home Mama

by Melanie N. Brasher time to read: 4 min
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