“I told my boss I am definitely not coming back; I’ve decided to be a stay at home mom.” A few years ago my very pregnant friend told me this news while we chatted in the car. We were both pregnant, each expecting boys and talking excitedly about what life would be like when these babies arrived. I listened as she told me all the plans her family had made to cut back on expenses, to make things work with one income. She said, “I just can’t imagine doing anything else but being home with my child.”
I was jealous of her clarity, because I could imagine lots of scenarios. I could imagine my child being fine in day care, as so many of my friends’ children thrived there. I could imagine continuing full-time work, just as my mom had done with three children. I could imagine holding on to the vocational identity I had built through years of seminary and a career. But I could also imagine caring for my child being my primary vocation. That too sounded wonderful to me.
My husband, Jake, and I explored the idea of having one parent stay home. We both wanted something different for our family, but my stepping away from full-time employment was a financial leap we weren’t sure we could make. I was working two jobs at the time: as a full-time special education teacher and as a part-time minister of congregational life. Stretched too thin was an understatement about my life; something had to give. Jake and I began a discernment time the same way we had with twelve years worth of other major decisions. We worried the topic to death, because what else would you do while stepping off a vocational cliff? We prayed, because that’s the best thing we knew to do. We made it through late-night wonderings and four seasons of “How I Met Your Mother” on Netflix before we realized: this stirring of the heart feels a lot like other callings we had known.
Like our callings to ministry, we paid attention to that stirring. We thought through how we could adjust our life to make it happen. It was not the first time: we had already moved across the country twice for my husband’s job and then for my seminary. By the time my due date arrived, we had shuffled bills and refinanced our way into a decision: I would no longer work full-time but would instead be home with Logan.
For my son’s first year, our decision meant chopping our family budget in half and being very flexible with my hours in my part-time church position. It meant picking up additional opportunities for income and letting go of unnecessary extras. The complete shift in how we ran our household felt just right because, as every parent knows, a baby changes everything anyway. This new season for our family brought a calling to a new vocation. I am grateful that “stay-at-home mom” is my main gig and that I also get to piece together projects and ministry moments.
I have come to understand that ministers are called to seasons of ministry. In our family, there have been seasons for youth ministry, teaching, writing, and pastoral leadership. Listening to the Spirit in each season has meant that we pay attention to those nudges that won’t quit and risk rearranging our household to make room for a new calling. I don’t imagine this season will last forever. I am often reminded that having one parent at home is a privilege not available to every family. Like the privilege found in so many moments of ministry, being present for holy moments—even if they are baptized in cheerios and apple juice these days—affirms that I am just exactly where I need to be in this season.
Erin Robinson Hall holds a Master of Divinity degree from Candler Theological Seminary, Atlanta, Georgia. She has served as minister of congregational life at Heritage Baptist Fellowship in Canton, Georgia, and for nine years taught in the public school systems of North Carolina, Texas, and Georgia. Erin is currently working on a Doctor of Ministry degree in Christian Education at Columbia Theological Seminary in Atlanta. She lives in Macon, Georgia, with her husband, Jake, and their two-year-old son, Logan.