Women willing to give up their career (be it temporarily) to stay home for their children should be prepared to have this choice criticized as a waste of talent, a suppression of women, an impediment to self-realization, or as the confirmation of patriarchal structures. This is illuminating for the philosophy of modern culture. It uncovers how society thinks about freedom and the important things in life: freedom is the state of not being constrained by any external factors and what really matters in life is making money, careering and accumulating goods.
Once again, Christianity offers a great alternative view, turning the worldly logic upside down. Here are 8 arguments in favour of staying at home.
1. Our world needs saints
Saint John Paul II told us: “More than reformers, the Church has a need for saints.” God wants each one of us to be holy (Lev. 11:45), we just have to figure out which path He chose for us to expand our hearts.
One could call the family a “privileged space” for sanctification, to disperse God’s infinite goodness and love. One of the reasons why we would want to work outside the home is the question of impact – to make the world a better place. But Saint Josemaria Escrivà already knew that the positive impact of a mother on her children can be much more far-reaching (attaining also a great circle of friends, acquaintances and people she gets in touch with) than that of a university professor on the life of his students (interview with Pilar Salcedo, spring 1968).
Your job probably will not last until you pass away, but your kids will. In this perspective, it is economically perfectly reasonable to make an “investment” in them, especially when they are young.
When you see your children all day and not just in the early morning, you see a lot more of them. It is about much more than not missing your “baby’s firsts” (the first time they walk or speak their first words). This way, you can really get to know your children and bond with them like no external educator ever will.
3. Our children are our first priorities
Gina Loehr, an author of multiple books on the feminine genius, told me: “The world may think otherwise, but we need not doubt that our children are our first priorities.”
Being on the workforce can somehow feel hypocritical. When at the office, you are almost naturally reassuring your boss that your work is your top priority, for which you are willing to sacrifice anything. But in reality, you know that the needs of your family will always be more critical. A colleague can take over the responsibility over a file, but no other person can fully take over the responsibility over your children. This is an aspect of natural law.
One might start to think: if my children are indeed the most important thing in my life, then why do I spend 10 hours a day doing other things? Switching the priorities list, from work-based to family-based, pursuing other ambitions (which can be equally noble indeed) if and when time allows, can feel more natural and coherent.
No matter what one’s choice regarding working outside the home, children need the love and time of their mother. This is non-negotiable
4. Happiness lies in the quality of human relations
Not in professional successes, trips to exotic destinations, or lots of free time. Here is a logical flaw found in the reactions of many well-meaning contemporaries. They assume you will not be happy if you are not able to go on a city break three times a year, or unlimitedly go out for dinner and buy designer clothes.
Ultimately, what will make us happy is to Love, and this is not a naïve slogan by starry-eyed idealists who have not come to know the world yet. It is a law that is inscribed in our hearts
5. The pedagogical value
An argument inspired by the book Love and Economics by Dr Jennifer Roback Morse: this author compares an institutionalized childhood (without homeschooling or daily parental care) to a state-led economy, where differences are wiped out. She also quite wittily notes that people tend to have smaller families nowadays, using the argument that they desire to give more individual attention to each child. But then these children are put in institutions where there is often only one supervisor per 8 or more children…
Also, educationalists would agree it is better to avoid one-size-fits-all approaches in the relationship educator-pupil. Being a stay-at-home mom (or homeschooler) is just that. In a nursery, children will usually be faced with a chain of different educators. As a mother, on the contrary, you know your children best and are able to offer a truly individualized approach, tailored down to each unique child.
6. To be more available to relatives and friends
People who are at home all day can carry out an important role in their social networks. In our world of agitation and running from one activity to the other, availability for other people has become a scarce good. Think of a retired grandmother and grandfather who live nearby: they are a blessing to family members who just need a chat, their home is a place of encounter, and they keep the family together.
A befriended doctor went as far as to say that women are the guards of international peace. “We have got an enormously important task to fulfil in the community, as spouses, mothers and “social networkers and carers”. We keep guard over the common good, the values and institutions, in fact we are guardians of international peace!”
7. When you are in for an adventure
Pope Francis repeatedly urges us to get out of our comfort zones. Caring for children is doing just that. It is deliberately giving up control over one’s own plans, being open to the adventure our children will bring us – and in that sense, on a day to day basis, being “open to life”.
8. The greatness of the task
During the early months with my first child, I often felt discriminated against by God. Why did I have to do these laborious tasks? Why could my husband cheerfully leave the house for work at morning, leaving me with a non-consolable baby? The numerous chores appeared trivial to me, and almost oppressive.
I believe this mentality was largely indebted to the legacy of 20th century feminist Simone de Beauvoir, who aspired to liberate women from the “slavery of marriage and motherhood”. By the guidance of the Holy Spirit, I have been able to take on a different mindset now. Raising children and caring for your loved ones is in fact an immense task. Every person on earth has once been young and they could have but thrived on the love that they received in their families, particularly by their mothers. And by the way: even in jobs with the best reputation, the work is often tedious and monotonous.
It is great to be supported in this view by the ingenious writer G.K. Chesterton, a true advocate of domestic life. He compared the work of mothers to that of Aristotle, teaching morals, manners, theology and hygiene. He wrote:
“How can it be a large career to tell other people's children about the Rule of Three, and a small career to tell one's own children about the universe? How can it be broad to be the same thing to everyone, and narrow to be everything to someone? No; a woman's function is laborious, but because it is gigantic, not because it is minute. I will pity Mrs. Jones for the hugeness of her task; I will never pity her for its smallness.”
Society does not particularly esteem those day-to-day tasks and it should absolutely start to do so. It speaks up for the Church and her regard for women that it has always viewed them of great worth.