I remember one late evening when I shared my thoughts with my husband: ”No principal in their right mind should hire a mother of six little kids. It would be best for our family that I still stay at home for a while.” I guess I was quite convincing, as my husband seemed to believe me. By that time in my life I had worked as class teacher for three periods of different lengths and had then stayed at home for four years.
Stay-at-home motherhood was good for me, but I still remember the wistful feeling I had that evening. My own thoughts seemed to make the doors of workplaces so thick and heavy that I doubted I would ever again be able to open them.
But toward the end of my maternity leave I began to check for the vacancies being advertised. I showed one interesting ad to my husband, and he said: ”You should apply to that! I will take my month of paternity leave, and we will then get someone to take care of the kids at home.” Even the bigger children enthusiastically accepted the idea of their mom working. “Well, if that’s how you all feel about it, I will apply to that job.” While driving to my interview I prayed that I would get the job, but only if that would be a good solution for the whole family, not just for me. I was not the least bit nervous about the interview because I believed things would go the way they were meant to go. I mentioned the size of our family at the earliest opportunity, but the principal only said they had a teacher with even more children – and I got the job.
My decision to work proved beneficial for the whole family. The paternity leave was a unique and significant experience for my husband, and all things turned out miraculously well at home. We hired a lady to take care of our children, and she was a real treasure. I had been afraid our kids or the nanny might fall ill, but they didn’t. There were times when I felt that the Heavenly Father specifically wanted to show me how wrong I had been with my obstinate beliefs. I had imagined that, by working, I would deprive the children of something, but they actually had a good time with the nanny. My husband also saw something that I had refused to see earlier: the children were too attached to me. He saw how independent they were in the morning when I was not around to help them.
When I stayed at home again after more than a year of working, I had to be consciously careful not to fall back to our old mother-directed morning routines. Although I had enjoyed working and been inspired by the change, it was lovely to be at home with the children again. During that period at home I started my part-time studies, which seemed to suggest that it would be good to stay at home even longer. But the Heavenly Father had different plans.
On a warm summer day on the beach with my seven kids I had a phone call from a principal who asked if I would come and work for them. I had briefly worked in that school earlier, and for some reason they now had problems finding a qualified teacher. While on the phone with the principal, I picked up my youngest kid with poo in her bathing suit. I didn’t quite feel ready for work. But I promised to think about it and warned the principal that I might not be available for the full school year. But that did not seem an obstacle either.
The decision was easy when the lovely nanny we had had previously said she could come back to us. During this six-month period of working I was especially touched by the attitude of the principal and the parents toward my new pregnancy. They showed heartfelt approval. The principal said it was great to have people who were still willing to have babies. The parents were grateful for the time I spent teaching their children, and I still feel moved by the number of baby presents I got when I left. And how much I had wrestled with the apprehension that I could not work for the full semester! That period of work was also meaningful for my studies. I wrote the portion of applied research for my final paper almost as a by-product of my job.
I know I am beginning to repeat myself, but I want to mention that I am, once again, pondering what to do next fall. This time is different, however: I now regard my own thoughts as beliefs rather than facts. I do think about the different options, but the significance of faith shines over everything else. I can believe that things turn out well without my worrying too much. I do not always know what is best for our family, but the Heavenly Father knows.
To sum up, I could say that I find it a bit difficult to leave home and go to work. I remember how I loved the feeling of coming home from school as a kid. We called for mom as soon as we had opened the door. My model is my mother, who was such a great stay-at-home mom. I have not come even near to her level or expertise. But I have begun to understand why. I know I am perfectly capable of running my family, but I have not been able to hang on to the things that inspire me personally the way my mother did.
I have realized that family wellbeing does not depend on whether you work at home or outside home, but rather on whether you have personal ways to find inspiration and energy. I can now fully appreciate my mother’s ”trips to the Canary Islands”, which meant that she withdrew into her own workshop to paint porcelain or make lifelike dolls of all her children. And there were all those courses that she took: from making lamp shades to designing prehistorical objects. I can imagine the enthusiasm that made her get up early on Saturday morning and drive somewhere into the countryside, where she would, in pelting rain, fire in a pit the clay objects she had made. She truly lived by one of her favorite sayings: ”You remain young as long as you are inspired by new things.”
It was lovely to hear my mom tell about her own mother. How grandma had come in from the barn and said: ”I will go out for a while to get some fresh air.” My mother also said that she finds even a short walk in fresh forest air invigorating and refreshing. Next time when I go for a forest walk myself, I will remember all those generations of women who have recharged their batteries with the small things that they have personally enjoyed.
When our family began to grow, I was swept away by the constant daily bustle. My evenings were full of the activities of our children, and I was unable to carve out enough time for myself. I enjoyed being at home and appreciated the importance of my work, but there came a time when I began to feel I was missing something. It took me a long time to admit that stay-at-home motherhood was not enough for me. Nor did I feel happy with just jogging and other physical activities, no matter how good and important they were. I began to wonder how my children are seeing me and what kind of a model I want to give them. A friend of mine described her feelings in that same situation: ”I no longer recognize myself among the piles of diapers.”
I doubt I could ever manage to make the kind of recognizable dolls my mother made, but I have been inspired by studying and writing while being at home. While working, I have derived inspiration from the work itself. It is great to listen to other people tell about their personal sources of inspiration. They usually have a special sparkle in their eyes, which shows how significant those things are. Some people enjoy sowing clothes, some love interior decoration. We mothers are so different.
It is not always easy to find ”your own thing” when you are surrounded by that pile of diapers. But I do recommend that you start searching, if you feel even the tiniest interest in something that is truly yours. And don’t be afraid of possible obstacles. There may be real outside obstacles, but most of them probably come from inside your own head: “I wouldn’t have time for it anyway, I can’t do it, I wouldn’t know how, I’m not really interested in anything”. You do not know what you can do, unless you try. Good luck for your search!
Text: Virpi Myllyniemi
Translation: Sirkka-Liisa Leinonen
You will find the original blog post here.
Raamatun mukaan jokainen Jumalan valtakunnan jäsen on avoin lähetyskirje omassa toimintaympäristössään (2. Kor. 3:2–3). Tämä asia voi olla kipupiste uskovaiselle ihmiselle, sillä henkilökohtaisesta uskosta puhumiselle on korkea kynnys nyky-yhteiskunnassa.