It came when my daughter was three months old: an email containing a proposal from a counseling center in the city my husband and I would be re-locating to in coming months.
The email expressed interest in networking with the private counseling practice I had founded in 2005 and presented me with a proposal to do some part-time counseling in their offices.
This would be in addition to the counseling I would do in my own office location. This very specific proposal came because I was the only Christian counselor in this particular city that dealt exclusively with eating disorders and adolescent issues. Up until that point, I was still on an extended maternity leave that I had been slowly acknowledging either needed to come to an end or needed to become a permanent stay-at-home situation.
In the hours following the entrance of this email into my inbox, I let my mind travel down the pathway of being well-known again as a counselor (the only one in my area of specialty for that matter!), dressing up and going to an office atmosphere daily, and supervising other counselors under me, all while earning a second income to help support our family.
It was an enticing pathway of purpose, prestige, and financial security, and I traveled it for about 2 hours. Just as I was caught up in the middle of a daydream about accepting a Nobel Peace prize for my groundbreaking work on eating disorders. . . . Ok, well, maybe not that, but at least the daydream of being thanked profusely by a client and her family for the hours of sacrificial work I poured into her situation so that she could find hope, healing, and the abundant life, my daughter woke up from her nap and began crying.
I made my way to the nursery, still caught up in the moment of being important in the counseling world. As I came to the side of my baby girl’s crib and looked down at her, she looked up at me, her crying stopped immediately and a smile came to her lips that lit up her entire face, crinkling her beautiful, blue eyes. It was in that moment that I knew with startling clarity what my decision would be.
It was not only what I knew my decision needed to be, it was what I knew my heart wanted my decision to be. I would not be returning to the world of professional counseling, but would instead fully embrace the role of a stay-at-home wife and mother from that moment on.
It came as a bit of a surprise, as I picked up my daughter and she snuggled deep into my neck, that as much as I loved being a professional counselor with a private practice and longed to go back to that world, I loved being at home with my daughter and being her world even more.
As I held my daughter and wiped away the tears that were still on her cheeks, all the while saying, “Mama’s here, baby girl. Mama’s here,” I came to a clear crossroads in my life. Not all women are this fortunate to come to such a distinctive decision, but I was. As I stood at this crossroads, I could see either path that I could choose to walk and the mile markers along the way. Both journeys held a certain appeal to me, but ultimately I knew that only one path was the one my heart truly longed after. It was a decision that would not only take my life in a clear-cut direction, it would also take my husband and daughter in a clear-cut direction. This was not a decision that could be made in isolation from them, but was instead something that would profoundly impact their lives as well.
Later that evening, after talking it over with my husband, I responded to the email and told the Counseling Center that I would not be returning to the professional world of counseling once we moved to the city.
It was a momentous step for me to receive an offer like this and turn it down, all within one afternoon – especially when I had put almost 10 years into building my counseling career! As I sat for a few moments staring at the computer screen in front of me before hitting send, I felt as if I was about to make a life-changing decision that would forever affect who I was as a person.
When I finally sent the email, I felt a sadness and loss mixed with triumph and excitement! I had clearly been given a choice between a career path and a stay-at-home mom role, and I had firmly and consciously chosen the stay-at-home mom position. The sadness came from the finality of a chapter closing in my life.
The sense of loss came from the knowledge that, as time passed, I would no longer be known as the only Christian Counselor in that particular city that worked with adolescent issues and eating disorders.
People would no longer know who I was and request my counseling services. Instead, I would be well-known to only two people in a small world – my husband and daughter in the small world of my home.
The triumph came in that I had once wondered if I would actually choose full-time motherhood if ever I had a child, because once upon a time I simply could not imagine giving up what I had worked so hard to build.
To realize that I was willing to give up years of sacrifice and labor in order to give all I could to my husband and daughter was nothing short of triumphant for me. It showed that my heart’s desires had gone from inward, all about me and my wants, to outward, to others and what was best for them.
The excitement came as I anticipated creating a future full of precious family memories with my daughter and helping shape and nurture her into a young woman who would later go out and impact her world. Making a decision like this has affected many aspects of our lives as a family.
It means not having the money for Dunkin’ Donuts coffee, it means buying clothes only when we absolutely need new ones, it means my daughter may not have the latest toys that light up and make all sorts of cool noises, and it sometimes means struggling to pay our bills on time.
It means vacationing closer to home, cutting back on what we do when our anniversary rolls around, missing out on the latest movies that hit theaters, and making birthdays and Christmases very simple affairs.
It means learning to shop and cook on a tight budget, extend the life of leftovers, do the hard work of growing and putting up our own vegetables, and taking the extra time to bake things like cookies and bread instead of buying them prepared in the store.
It also means seeing all my daughter’s firsts; her first smile, her first crawl, her first words, her first tooth, her first steps. It means being the one to pick her up after each nap and being the one she smiles up at and cuddles against as she finishes waking up. It means being the one that she can run to when she is hurt or sad or scared. It means sticky-armed hugs and crusty-mouthed kisses.
It means days of non-stop crying and temper tantrums where I long for meaningful, adult conversation. It means days of delightful playtimes and amazing discoveries as I see the world through my daughter’s eyes.
It means days of horrendous poop explosions, when I just stare down at her and myself, who are both covered in a huge mess and wonder what the first step should be in cleaning it up – all while the potatoes on the stove boil over and the hamburger threatens to burn.
It means being able to have a home cooked meal for my husband when he walks through the door at night, hot and dirty after a day’s work as a stone mason. It means having the time to take his phone calls in the middle of the day when he needs to vent about something on the job site instead of saying, “Sorry hon! Can’t talk! I have a client walking in right now!”
It means being able to give my husband my all emotionally and mentally at the end of the day, instead of being weighed down with work concerns. A decision like this means a new role for me. It means assuming a brand new identity as a woman.
It is a new direction. It is a path I wasn’t planning on walking in my 20’s as an ambitiously-minded career woman; a pathway that at one time I would have felt was boring, stifling, without purpose, and even a tad bit terrifying.
My heart no longer belongs to the world of high heels, high visibility, high income, and influencing the lives of young men and women as they walk through the door of my counseling office.
Instead, my heart now belongs to a world of jeans and stained T-shirts, being known only to my husband and daughter, living with tight finances, and influencing the life of my husband, daughter, and [hopefully] the lives of all our future children.
I am a Stay at Home Mom!