A fascinating thing about this time in history is how it’s challenging many of our long-held beliefs and practices. Take the conversation my sister relayed to me the other day. While out for a walk, she stopped to talk with a neighbor – from an appropriate distance, of course – and asked how she was handling time at home with her young children.
The woman explained that she and her husband were balancing child-watching duties with their work schedules, saying things were working out. The indicator of her true feelings was apparent on her face. The woman was beaming over the fact that she was getting to spend so much time at home with her children. Things weren’t just fine. They were wonderful!
This got me thinking. Could this little stay-at-home experiment – for all its drawbacks – have some benefits? Might all those working mothers discover great beauty in becoming – gasp – a stay-at-home mom?
Wall Street Journal columnist Erica Komisar is wondering the same thing. In fact, she implies that both kids and moms are enjoying their forced staycation:
“‘Mommy, I like coronavirus because I get to spend time with you,’ a patient of mine, a lawyer, quoted her son as saying. With schools closed, social events postponed and workplaces empty, usually busy professionals find themselves at home baking cookies, playing games, watching movies and doing arts and crafts to keep their children occupied. Some are surprised to find they enjoy it.” [Emphasis added.]
The last several generations of women grew up constantly being told to strive to achieve and succeed in the working world. Many have done so, breaking glass ceilings in the corporate world and managing to marry, have children, and command a household. The stress and busyness which result are a part of normal life.
But now women are learning that there’s a difference.
Instead of slaving away to meet the demands of the working world, they’re learning that they can take a breath and enjoy the little moments with their children that will pass all too quickly.
“America’s productivity comes at a price—the emotional well-being of families and children. Maybe it takes a crisis like the Covid-19 pandemic to make us slow down and ask why we’re so intense about work. Do we need to go into the office every day? Is it so critical to be there by 9 a.m. when we could walk the kids to school and arrive by 9:30? Is an extra car or a trip to Disney World worth giving up precious time with our families, friends and loved ones?”
We can ask ourselves these questions now that society has a breather from our usual frenetic pace of life and has a chance to experience something different. Perhaps families will recognize that the extra income a second job brings is not worth the extra stress it causes mothers. This little experiment may also help mothers realize that staying at home and raising children is not unfulfilling drudgery, but can instead be pure joy.
As Louisa May Alcott explains in her famous book, Little Women, the “shelf” of motherhood is not the grievous place many make it out to be. Instead, it is “safe from the restless fret and fever of the world,” filled with “loyal lovers in the little sons and daughters who cling to them, undaunted by sorrow, poverty, or age.”
In the upcoming weeks, perhaps more mothers will discover this sweet spot and realize they never want to leave.