“I’ve been exiled to the kitchen. Heaven help me—they’re setting up one of their parties in the living room, and I’m trying my best not to lose my stuff over whatever catastrophe they’re creating out there. Am praying for either you or Jesus to come back right now.”

Southeast Christian Church member Tonia Johnson, a stay-at-home mother of three, recently sent that text message to her husband, Aaron.

He replied, “It will be a while for me. Just dance it out.”

The reality is that sometimes stay-at-home moms can’t call the bullpen for relief. That can mean extra innings and to “just dance it out.”

Stay-at-home moms don’t have the luxury of clocking in or out. They don’t get paychecks or end-of-the-year raises.

Rather than sharing statistics on how valuable moms are, this Mother’s Day we asked a few moms to share their stories.

The Vance family

Jessica Vance and her husband, Jeremy, have seven children: five girls and two boys ages 7 months old to 10 years old.

Jessica has learned that perfect days are impossible.

“I’ve learned over the years that God can work even through the not perfect,” she said. “Whether it be the failures that you might have or you feel like your kids are failing at, if I would’ve just relaxed a little bit and not pushed myself so hard in the beginning, I think I would have enjoyed them more.”

Vance, a Southeast member for more than two decades, homeschools her children.

The beauty of motherhood is seen in the unexpected moments that allow life to slow down long enough to grab a snapshot.

“We had a guy that walked up to us on our family vacation in Gatlinburg,” Vance said. “He secretly paid for our pancake breakfast, which was astronomically expensive, and as he was walking out said, ‘You have the most beautiful family. This is what’s going to make America great again.’ For me, that was an affirmation that I am doing something right. I’m so sinful, fallen and broken, yet God is working through this discipling that I’m doing with these children.”

Vance said raising children, and the nonstop to-do list that comes with that, is her ministry.

“I see it as making disciples who are going to make disciples,” Vance added. “I have seven disciples. Jesus lived with His disciples day in and day out for three years. He poured into them, healed the sick, fed them and nurtured them in a way that a lot of moms do with their children. He was that perfect example. I feel like I have an opportunity to pour spiritually into them on a deeper level because I’m around them every day. That’s incredibly rewarding to see.”

The Johnson family

Tonia Johnson was a reporter for The Courier-Journal until making the switch to staying at home with her three kids.

“It is hands down the hardest job I’ve ever had, but it is also the most fulfilling one,” Johnson said. “These little people are incredible. I love getting to see them grow, mature and develop their idiosyncrasies, personalities, strengths and weaknesses. Just to be there for all of that, when those things happen throughout the day, is just gold. I really value being able to be there for it.”

The initial transition between being in the workforce to contributing behind the scenes was a struggle.

“Part of the reason why it’s so difficult is when you go to a job, you have projects you’re working on, goals for each day and when you’ve clocked out, you’ve accomplished that mission and can let it go,” Johnson added.

“That doesn’t happen with parenthood or being a stay-at-home mom. Your mission is like 20 years down the line. The ball is way out there. You can’t come to the end of the day and really check off a list. Well, OK, my child is slightly more mature and can tie his shoes now, check.”

Johnson’s children, ages 6 through 11, are now all in school. She said there is one irony to being a stay-at-home mom.

“I’ve always been the kind of stay-at-home mom who actually doesn’t stay at home a whole lot,” she said. “It makes me a little bit stir crazy. I would always make a point to get them out of the house to do something pretty much every day.”

The Myers family

Debbie Myers put a lot of minutes and mileage into driving to different schools, sports or extracurricular activities as she and her husband Larry raised three children who are now adults.

“I would say, ‘stay-at-home mom’ is a misnomer,” Myers said. “I was often eight hours in the car like a road warrior driving my kids to Christian Academy, Sacred Heart and another at Trinity. I was taking them to their activities, whether dance, baseball, scouts and everything else before they were driving on their own. You’re waiting outside of those activities because you don’t have time to go home.”

Myers jokes about how her van was like a mobile home.

“I used to say, ‘If there was an emergency, everyone was running to my car’ because there was food, water, clothing and shoes. It had everything in there.”

Myers says she is grateful for the group that surrounded her children growing up.

“Kids are like turtles on a fencepost,” Myers added. “They don’t get there by themselves. It takes a group of people pouring into your children. It is my husband, a village of scout leaders, support, teachers, coaches and C-group leaders.”