There is so much more to motherhood

Women have come a long way.

In the past century, we’ve gained the vote, access to every level of education, and entrance into a multifaceted workforce. Almost everywhere you turn, you’ll find programs specifically geared toward the academic and professional development of women. Women’s Studies departments. Girls Who Code. The Society of Women Engineers. Women make up over half of the college student population. We own companies, govern cities and states, sit on the Supreme Court, have our own history month, and will soon appear on American currency.

Of course, many will point out, there is still much to do. Workplace inequalities, wage gaps, and inadequate accommodations for working mothers are among the issues in the public square.

As I made my way through college about seven years ago, I hoped for a future that could offer me even more than what women were being handed professionally. I wanted a life that would challenge me, shape me into a better person, and fulfill me. I dreamed of a daily routine that had purpose, uplifted those around me, and helped people no one had helped before.

So a year after I graduated, I quit my job, got married, and had a baby.

Hear me out. It’s not that I disdained or disliked my studies. On the contrary, I loved my classes, in which I read great literature and learned to write well. I continued to incorporate those interests and skills into my life after I graduated, both in the jobs I took after college and still today in freelance writing. But however much I get to research and write, I consider my primary job to be the work of my home and family. So I am what you might call a “stay-at-home mom.”

Except I’m not.

I’m no different from other women who chose the work of the home over a salaried career. My point is that there is something seriously lacking in the term “stay-at-home mom,” a term that I do not think describes me—or most mothers, for that matter.

The problem with the term is its passivity. The image of a stay-at-home mom is of a woman who just, well, stays. Sure, her life is plenty busy with chores and children, but there’s nothing exciting, nothing adventurous, nothing that earns a promotion or a better title. The term itself is a non-title, a clumsy jigsaw of hyphenated words that describes nothing specific (and is maddening to type). “Stay-at-home mom” describes a life that is isolating, boring, and—above all—stagnant. I often hear people talk about seeking a job that is “intellectually stimulating.” It’s no wonder the daily grind of “staying at home” isn’t at the top of their list.

The stay-at-home mom is what mainstream culture tells us motherhood is—at best, an accessory to real work, and at worst, an obstacle to it.

I’ve only been a mom for 15.5 months, but if I’ve learned one thing so far, it’s that motherhood can and must be much more than that.

And the truth is, mothers do a whole lot more than stay at home. Any given day takes us here and there, from the post office to the park, and each task incorporates the work of countless professions. We work as teachers, chefs, nurses, chauffeurs, guidance counselors, event planners, travel agents, bookkeepers, hospitality managers, caretakers … the list could go on. We have the monumental task of raising helpless children into mature and virtuous adults. We shape the next generation.

We need not (and often cannot) do it alone—that’s where the bond of marriage and the support of family comes in—but on this voyage, we stand at the helm of the vessel.

All this is to say that motherhood is a full-time profession. More than that, it is a vocation, one that takes dedication and grace. It has shown me countless areas where I need to grow (patience, flexibility, and a sense of humor come to mind right away!). Like any other job, it has its crazy and boring days, but unlike any other job, it blends the everyday with the eternal. If the family is the domestic church, the mother is the tabernacle. She makes God present through her unique gift of bearing and nurturing life. She is the beating heart of the home, and without her, the place feels empty.

My life as a mother is not being a stay-at-home mom. It is a full and thriving life as a wife, mother, homemaker, and writer. Those are titles I can breathe in and inhabit.

The presence of women in the workforce is wonderful. We have made amazing contributions to society, and I am excited to see what women—many of them amazing mothers!—continue to bring to the world of business, academia, and other fields.

What isn’t wonderful is when the world tells women that being “just a stay-at-home mom” is a step backwards.

Ladies, if all you want after college is a family, it’s okay. You’re not selling yourselves short, you’re not wasting your degree, and you’re not settling for less. Don’t give into that image of motherhood that the world tells you isn’t good enough, because it just isn’t true. But don’t be a stay-at-home mom. Be a mother, through and through, and by doing so you will change the world, one little precious soul at a time.

Sophia Martinson (’18) is a former writer and editor-in-chief of The Irish Rover. She is a wife and mom with a passion for reading, writing, and home arts. She is a freelance culture writer for various publications, and her blog, Homemaker Hopeful, explores the skills of taking care of home and family.