It was my first errand since I had quit my job. I parked the car and walked into the garage, following the Repairs and Service sign. Finding the little window to request service on our car, I got in line to talk to the young girl behind the counter.
“Can I help you?” she barked when it was my turn. I began to explain why I was there. Half listening, she took a piece of paper from a cubbyhole under the counter. Interrupting me, she interjected, “Name?” As soon as she had written my name, she asked for my address and telephone number. Then without looking up, she asked, “Work phone number?”
“I don’t have one,” I answered almost apologetically.
“You don’t have one?” she replied. “Are you a student or something?”
“No,” I answered.
“Well, what are you? Just a housewife?”
There it was, that awful, demeaning word.
“Yes,” I responded, feeling my ego deflate with the word. I watched silently as she wrote, in big capital letters, the word NONE in the box for work telephone number.
I had graduated from college and been happy in my career. I had served a mission and held leadership callings in the Church, but at that moment I felt I was exactly what she had written. Nothing. I left the garage, fighting my tears.
Earlier that year I sat in the Tabernacle in Salt Lake City and listened to President Ezra Taft Benson give his talk “To the Mothers in Zion.” I was expecting our first child at the time, so his words were particularly interesting. I knew that, if at all possible, I was to quit work and stay at home with my baby.
It wouldn’t be all that easy. My husband was in school at the time and money was tight, but besides that, I enjoyed working outside the home. Certainly there were difficult days, but I felt appreciated and important at my job. However, I had difficulty rationalizing my need to continue working. We would have to be careful financially, but unlike some women, I had a choice.
I knew President Benson was right. I had fought back tears as I listened to him, remembering my mother doing all the things for me that he was asking me to do for my children. I felt that if I could remember those experiences with my mother, they must have been important to me. If they were important to me, then they would also mean something to my own children.
When we got home from the fireside at which President Benson had spoken, I picked up the phone and called my mother to thank her. I knew what was right for me, and I knew that somehow I could do it and be happy.
As I left the garage, however, I felt anything but happy.
We were blessed with a beautiful, healthy baby girl and named her after my grandmother. When she was five months old and she and I returned from visiting my parents, I found a note waiting for me. My former boss, Brenda, had called. When I returned her call, she told me that they wanted me to come back to work. She added that there would be a raise for me if I said yes. I thanked her, telling her that I needed to think about it and that I would call her back.
When my husband returned home that night, I told him about my conversation with Brenda.
“It needs to be your decision,” Ted said.
My mother had told me long ago that for a woman to feel happy and worthwhile staying at home, she had to have a husband who valued her for doing it. I knew Ted highly valued my contribution at home. I knew what he wanted my decision to be.
I stayed up alone until late that night, praying and thinking deeply. Finally, I took out a piece of paper and wrote down the pros and cons of working outside the home and of choosing to stay home with my child. The working list was filled with pluses—someplace to go, social interaction, positive feedback, money, and so on. When I got to the con list, I wrote only one word: Constance, my daughter.
I knew that nothing could replace my being with her and making sure that she was loved and cared for. I was grateful that I was in a position to follow a prophet of God’s counsel to remain at home. I was also surprised at myself. After some initial adjustment, I realized that being home was really what I wanted to do. I was happy, and even though I sometimes felt isolated, I was not going to give up that time with my daughter.
So I continued to remain at home and learned many things about how to feel good about being a homemaker and mother. Recently, when our family moved to a new state and I found myself again trying to find where and how I fit in, I was reminded of the lessons I had learned. I have prayerfully put into practice things that have made being a mother at home full-time a rewarding experience for me.
Make conscious efforts to stay close to Heavenly Father. On the days when things are difficult or I feel lonely, Heavenly Father can lift my spirit. I can receive comfort and assurance that the choices I have made are good ones. Reading the scriptures daily and kneeling in prayer helps me feel at peace with myself and receive guidance in raising my children. And when society seems to question my place, a closeness to God gives me the sweet assurance that I am doing something important. Any amount of time spent on spiritual things is worth the effort. It helps keep me more focused and organized rather than taking up time I don’t have.
Keep the husband-wife relationship strong. This is crucial. With work, Church callings, and the demands of children, it is sometimes easy to feel as though we are simply two people who live in the same house. Spending time alone together as spouses has to be a priority.
Seek out other mothers or homemakers who are at home. Sometimes we think everyone else has something to do and someplace to go but us. If we will just extend a hand of friendship to another housewife, it is amazing how quickly she will grab on. We need each other.
Don’t exclude any age-group. Since I married relatively late, I find that many of the women with children the ages of mine are several years younger than I am. But it doesn’t seem to matter. Once we share our experiences of raising children, it’s amazing what we have in common.
Another delightful group is the older women at home. My next-door neighbor was a wonderful, energetic, eighty-year-old woman. What a dear friend she is even now, and what a wonderful substitute grandmother she has been for our children.
Take part in Church activities. Homemaking meeting has been a haven for me. Once a month I can spend an evening with wonderful, uplifting women. It doesn’t matter if I’m the only one there older than thirty or younger than fifty, I just enjoy whatever the sisters have to offer.
Remember the blessings of being at home. I have hobbies and things I enjoy, and I love to get away for lunch with a friend. I am happiest, however, when I spend time with my children, when I remember to teach them, to love them, to help them experience life. Taking them to museums, the fire station, the library, and the park strengthens our relationship, creates memories, and makes me feel I am doing something worthwhile. And how incalculable the good that comes from seizing teaching moments to reinforce proper conduct or to clarify gospel principles! Great good can also come from seemingly insignificant things. As a friend of mine said, “When you bring out a batch of cookies and see their eyes light up, how can you think you’re not doing something important?”
Discover what support the community has to offer. I read the newspaper and find out what groups and organizations there are for mothers and their children. I have found art classes, gym classes, swimming classes, and play groups for parents and tots. The children get to play and take part in activities with other children, and mothers get to spend time with other adults. If there isn’t any kind of group in the area, it’s possible to start a play group with neighbors or ward members.
Look for ways to keep learning. Reading is a must for me. I try to stay informed. Often I know more about current affairs than my husband does, and I share with him what I have learned. I also have goals to continue my education when my children are older. Such long-term plans and perspectives remind us that we should enjoy the particular stage of life we are in and all it has to offer.
The other day as I sat in my home in a new town far from old friends, I began to feel lonely and somewhat worthless. I remembered my experience at the car repair shop and struggling with those same feelings. This time, though, I knew what to do. Earlier in the day I’d noticed some toys in our neighbor’s driveway, so I mustered my courage, gathered my children, and went to visit. A woman about my age answered the door, and I quickly explained who I was.
“Come in!” she said with a smile. “I was just sitting here by myself. I’m glad you came by.”