Angie Alessi, 29, didn’t plan on being a stay-at-home mom. After four years of studying biology, another four years in medical school and two years of residency as a family practitioner, she was thrilled to be finally starting her career in medicine.
Then, her daughter, Susie, was born. "I wanted to put Susie in day care," she admits. "My husband wasn’t keen on the idea."
Nonetheless, they gave day care a try, and Alessi resumed working. "I kept going to work every day and seeing kids. One time, a guy came into my office with his little one, and I was so excited. Then I found myself asking, ‘Why am I playing with this kid and not mine?’"
Alessi left her job soon after.
She currently stays at home with her daughter, now 16 months old, in Santa Clarita, Calif.
"I feel like my job for God is being a mother and wife, and I feel like I’m doing that job better now that I’m not working. I used to come home very tired from work, and my husband would ask me, ‘Do you want to pray the Rosary?’ and I would say, ‘No, I kind of want to go to bed!’ Now, I have more time for prayer, my husband is less stressed and more focused on God, and I go to church more with Susie."
Women like Alessi are contributing to a rise in stay-at-home motherhood, a trend that is reversing three decades of decline.
According to recent data from the Pew Research Center, the number of stay-at-home mothers rose from a modern-era low of 23% in 1999 to 29% in 2012.
Various reasons are cited for the increase. While some women are staying at home because of disability, illness or the inability to find work, most (85%) are choosing to be at home for the sake of caring for their families.
Theresa Thomas, 50, from South Bend, Ind., is a Catholic speaker and the author of Big Hearted: Inspiring Stories From Everyday Families.
As a stay-at-home and home-schooling mother of nine, she experiences many personal benefits: "more sleep, less stress, more family time, better health, less expenses (like work clothes, babysitters and commuting), and it’s fun."
Is there a substantial benefit to Catholic families in the modern era in having a stay-at-home mom?
Thomas thinks so. "Our simple presence tells them they are important. Secondly, we can inculcate our family and faith values — and morals — much better when we are stay-at-home mothers. A rise in Catholic stay-at-home mothers is great news for the Church because, as those families commune with one another, they are strengthened; strong, healthy Catholic families make strong, healthy Catholic communities, which make strong, healthy Catholic nations, which build up the entire world."
As St. John Paul II once said, "It is a disservice not only to children, but also to women and society itself, when a woman is made to feel guilty for wanting to remain in the home and nurture and care for her children. A mother’s presence in the family … should instead be recognized, applauded and supported in every possible way."
Even though more mothers are choosing to stay home, others strive to balance work with raising Catholic families. Allison Dalloul, 38, a mother of three children under the age of 4, currently works full time as a territory merchandising associate in Woodstock, Ga.
She acknowledges that being a working mother has its challenges. "I want to be with my kids every second of the day," Dalloul said.
Since she believes that God is calling her to help financially support her family as a working mom, Dalloul makes sure to prioritize practicing the Catholic faith with her children when she is at home.
She exemplifies Catholic working mothers who recognize the gravity of the teaching in the Catechism of the Catholic Church about educating children in the faith: "Parents receive the responsibility and privilege of evangelizing their children" (2225).
"Faith is central," she said. "I pray the Rosary at night with my kids, and my husband and I teach them to blow kisses to the images of Jesus in our home."
She makes a particularly special effort to care for her children, physically and spiritually, with all of her attention at nights and on weekends. "I try to always show them how much I love Jesus."
Stay-at-home mom Angie Alessi agrees, saying that teaching the faith to little Susie is her principal goal: "My faith is growing, and I have more to give her."
Katie Warner writes from California. Her website is CatholicKatie.com.
Why I Am a Stay-at-Home Mom
When I was growing up, I never really envisioned myself as a stay-at-home mom, and before I became one, the thought of sacrificing some of my career aspirations — especially after years of undergraduate and graduate schooling — seemed daunting.
Then something changed. I realized that I was not giving up any career aspirations at all. I started to view staying at home with my children as the beginning of a new and incredibly challenging career: professional motherhood.
To be a true professional at any career, a person must have focus and passion. At least for me, I am most focused and most passionate when I can pour myself entirely into one career at a time, and right now, that is the hard, professional and indescribably gratifying work of family life.
When my son was born at the end of last year, he solidified my decision.
Now, I cannot imagine being anything but a stay-at-home mother during my children’s formative years.
After years of focus and passion, I will hopefully be rewarded with children who have the virtues, attitudes and capabilities that reflect the professional mothering they experienced in their childhood and adolescence.
This is what stay-at-home motherhood means for my Catholic family, and as current trends would seem to indicate, more families are finding it means something similar for them, too.
We stay-at-home moms may be a minority, but we are an important minority — for the family and for the Church.
— Katie Warner