Our small apartment is my domestic monastery. I may not have a bell or children calling me on to the next activity, but what I do have is a rhythm to my day. Within this routine, I have discovered that I really value being a stay-at-home wife. I find a lot of peace in being able to take care of our home, away from the concerns of business or upward mobility. It wasn’t always this way, though…
Striving for Approval
I had come to believe what the world says – I should have a job and be a contributing member of society. It felt as if my worth depended on that vital question, “What do you do for a living?” I didn’t think saying “stay-at-home wife” would be a good enough answer, so I spent months trying to find something that would make me feel like I was doing my part.
I tried starting an Etsy shop making cards and signs. As I pushed to promote my products, I realized that self-promotion felt unnatural. I felt like I was constantly trying to be someone I wasn’t. I may be creative and enjoy crafting, but promoting left me feeling more and more anxious. How should I sell it? Do I have to tell people about it? One day I realized that running a business just isn’t for me.
I kept looking for jobs, scrolling through page after page. Every time I looked I felt frustrated and discontent. Why can’t I find something? What should I even be looking for? Would I be healthy enough to work? I felt helpless as my doctor prescribed more and more supplements and as medical bill after medical bill arrived. I was being tormented by the thought that I was sucking up the money that could be paying for more “important things” in my mind. If you want to know more about my health challenges, check out my post On Suffering.
Dreams on Hold
William and I hoped that I could be a stay-at-home mom one day, but we had to put that dream on hold with my health being what it was. Somehow, staying at home seemed more justifiable in my mind if I had children. So not only was my health costing us financially, but it was also stalling our dream to start a family. This left me feeling quite defeated. I felt like my body had betrayed me and my deepest desires.
As William and I were discussing our plans for the future, he had the idea that I could learn to code. I was surprised! “Me? Learn to code? Like you?” He offered to help in the evenings when I needed, and I found a program to work through. We thought that in a year I might have a skill that could make some decent money. This lifted my spirits immensely. I could already envision myself busily typing away in my cubicle, surrounded by co-workers.
As I started learning more and more, I realized that I enjoyed computer programming. At the same time, I also realized that staying at home was more fulfilling than I ever expected it to be. I liked being able to keep up on chores and making homemade meals. Staying at home meant I had more time to read books and learn new things in general. I realized that part of the reason I wanted a job was to be around more people, but being at home didn’t stop me from seeing other people. It just meant that I had to put more effort into seeing friends or getting out of our apartment.
Trusting in God’s Will
Ultimately, I trusted that if God was calling me to be a stay-at-home wife then He would provide for our needs. I trusted William to be able to provide for us financially. I also began to really appreciate what we do have. Our car may not be the best looking but it gets us where we need to go and is usually reliable. Our apartment may be small, but that means I can actually keep it clean even on my bad days. I realized that if I went back to work I’d probably want nicer clothes, more gadgets, and a big house. By being at home I can just appreciate what we already have, and I’m content.
God gently worked on my heart to let go of the expectations I had placed on myself. While confronting my expectations, I also learned to let go of all the other voices saying, “You should use your college education,” or, “Why not work and save up before you have kids?” I realized there may not be any promotions in my future, but I’m 100% okay with that.
The day I realized that I desired to stay at home, I asked William,
“Is it really okay for me to just stay at home and that’s it?”
He responded, “Of course it is.”
I persisted, “Really, it’s okay I don’t go back to work?”
He said, “You’re the most important person to me. I want what’s best for you, and I want you to be happy.”
I knew deep down the importance of being a stay-at-home wife, but I could never articulate it as well as C.S Lewis did in his correspondence (from The Collected Letters of C.S. Lewis, Volume III):
But [a housewife’s work] is surely, in reality, the most important work in the world. What do ships, railways, mines, cars, government etc exist for except that people may be fed, warmed, and safe in their own homes? As Dr Johnson said, ‘To be happy at home is the end of all human endeavour’. (1st to be happy, to prepare for being happy in our own real Home hereafter: 2nd in the meantime, to be happy in our houses). We wage war in order to have peace, we work in order to have leisure, we produce food in order to eat it. So your job is the one for which all others exist.”
Now I’m not striving anymore because I know I’m in the right place. I know that this is a decision that benefits both me and William. I don’t feel guilty anymore about the extra money I could be bringing in, or the people I could be helping through a job. Instead, I’ve found my place, hidden from most of the world. I find myself thriving in the embrace of our small apartment. I’m able to work on this blog, study, and care for my husband. I don’t get caught up in worries about what I should be doing because I have the peace of knowing where God is calling me.
I live my day to day life more like a contemplative. My life is less hectic. I’m reminded that work is good for the soul and not just for making money. I can focus more closely on my marriage vocation, cultivating my interior life and giving God glory through the small tasks of my day. I’m even at peace with God’s timing for having children now. Creating a peaceful retreat at home with loving care holds great value. Although not every wife has the option to make this choice, or would necessarily choose this path, I feel blessed to be a stay-at-home-wife. Ultimately the vocation is still the same – to love.