The Challenges of Being a Full-Time Homemaker
By Elizabeth Foss
A friend recently called to ask me to speak at the young mothers' group at her church.
When I asked what topic to address, she replied, with no small measure of wonderment,
"They are all mothers at home full-time with small children and they all have such low self
esteem." My friend could not understand how women who were occupied doing
something she considered so important and something she had worked very hard to be
able to do could doubt their worth.
In our area, where the percentage of dual income households is the highest in the country,
it is not unusual for a woman who is not employed outside the home to feel very much
alone and terribly misunderstood. The leap to at-home motherhood is often a frightening
one for a woman who has heavily invested in her education and her career. One woman
about to stay home with her three-year-old and a new baby commented, "I'm terrified that I
will be bored. I thrive on the mental stimulation and the constant contact with people that
my job provides." I told her that at home she would be limited only by the constraints of
her own resourcefulness and ambition to become the best homemaker she could.
When women come home, it is crucial that they approach their new full-time job as
seriously as they approached their former one. The opportunities for meaningful
continuing education for a mother at home are endless. They are dictated by the needs of
her family and her desire to meet those needs. This does not mean costly hours in a local
college, but self education and research pertinent to a woman's life.
For instance, after three babies of my own and helping countless women learn to nurse
successfully, I know enough about pregnancy, childbirth and breastfeeding to write a book.
In order to help my very allergic child, I have done hours and hours of research on
nutrition and environmental toxins.
Because two of my children are asthmatic, I have a good working knowledge of common
asthma treatments, their indications and contraindications. I am well-versed in how to
assess and respond to a respiratory emergency.
In the area of homemaking, when it was pointed out to me that everything a mother at
home does , from planting a garden to making a meal to organizing and managing a
house hold to nurturing growing children , should bring glory to God, I realized that I
needed to learn to do those things well. Back to the library , for books on gardening,
cooking, household management, and child development. I have spent hours reading and
talking to women who are older and wiser than I am in order to learn at their elbows the
tricks of my trade. Time at home has been one of intensive inservice training.
In order to support her husband in his career, a woman at home must understand his field
by listening intently and learning on her own if need be. Certainly, she needn't attain his
level of expertise, but it helps to have a grasp on what he does and how he does it. My
husband is a television producer. While I have no idea how to navigate my way around a
production truck, I know the positions required to produce a live remote telecast and who
the best people for those positions are on the east coast. I have to know in order to hold my
own with those people who call my home every day seeking or confirming work.
While handling household phone calls and consulting with doctors does provide some
contact with other adults, generally a mom at home needs more interaction than that. If her
children are very small, she can join a play group or a baby-sitting co-op. there are young
mothers' groups in most churches. If there is no existing group, she should start one. Only a
lack of initiative can limit the possibilities. Like any other job, homemaking is one where
success is largely dependent upon effort.
Mothers of school-aged children are desperately needed to support the schools. They are
the daytime volunteers, the room mothers, and the chaperons. The first year I taught, my
husband went on every field trip and attended every class party. I had only one mother
who volunteered and, with 22 first graders, I certainly needed more help than she alone
could possibly give. Education works best when parents are actively participating
alongside teachers. While active participation is by no means limited to mothers at home, it
is certainly more easily facilitated by them.
Another source of support, encouragement and interaction for women who have chosen
homemaking as a career is a professional journal. Mothers at home are blessed with one of
the finest "professional journals" published. Welcome Home is a 32-page, advertisement-
free journal packed with well-written, informative, inspiring text. It is written by and for
mothers at home and women across the country write the editors monthly to tell them how
essential it is to their motherwork. can be ordered by calling 1-800-783-
Being a full-time homemaker is a challenging vocation. It is an intense, exciting, and
inspirational experience. It is also hard work. True self-esteem comes from within, it is
attained by a woman when she recognizes that she has done an important job and done it
well. Ultimately, we are called to lay up our treasures in heaven. Investing in time at home
with our families is an eternal investment. Like other aspects of homemaking, reaching a
point where one is aware of the worth of her work and satisfied that she does it well
requires time and diligence. Some day, when my children are grown, I will return to the
full-time paid workforce. And I know that I will re-enter more efficient, more educated,
and far wiser because of my time spent at home.
This article appeared in the April 24, 1996 issue of "The Arlington Catholic Herald."
Courtesy of the "Arlington Catholic Herald" diocesan newspaper of the Arlington (VA)
diocese. For subscription information, call 1-800-377-0511 or write 200 North Glebe
Road, Suite 607 Arlington, VA 22203.
Copyright (c) 1996 EWTN