On the street
Yes. My mom stayed home to raise me until I was 10. I think it was a good decision. It was nice to have a parent there to keep me engaged in activities and help with my school work.
Lana Grove is pretty sure she's never had a bonbon in her life.
She doesn't watch soap operas, and she can't imagine finding time to sit through each plodding, dramatic episode.
And she does have a job, thank you very much.
It just so happens she's paid in kisses and memories instead of dollars and cents.
Grove is a real, live housewife. She's no June Cleaver, and she's not like those featured on "The Real Housewives of Orange County" or "Desperate Housewives."
But how often does TV really mirror reality anyway?
"When I had my first baby, I thought I would go back to work," Grove says. "But when she was a couple months old, I thought, 'I'm not going back to work because I don't want anybody else to take care of her.' And then I changed paths and stayed at home."
Grove is one of many area housewives who are anything but women of the bonbon-and-soap-opera variety. Across Lawrence, there are women like Grove who are giving back to the community, running households and improving their children's lives all at the same time.
Take Susan Eagle. The former surety bond underwriter and mother of two - Megan, 14, and Matthew, 10 - is a super-volunteer. She bounces from Scouts to school events to entering the 2009 Festival of Trees.
"I keep saying I need to go back to work, and my husband keeps saying, 'You can't, you're involved in too many things,'" Eagle says. "He said, 'I don't see how you can go back to work.' I just wouldn't have time."
In fact, she says, with the amount of volunteer work she and other moms do, by not working she thinks they're adding funds to the municipal budget.
"There's no way that our community could afford to replace the volunteer hours with paid man hours," she says.
Despite the benefits to the common good and at home, Eagle says the decision to stay at home wasn't easy when she made it 10 years ago. She says that when she decided to stay at home after her second child was born, it was a choice that was full of stress - financial, social and otherwise.
"I actually did feel that pressure more than probably a lot of people realize because I was raised by a single mother," says Eagle, 42. "And so, my mother thought was I absolutely insane to leave this incredibly good job where they clearly wanted me to continue into management."
Grove, 40, also felt the pressure when she quit work nearly eight years ago. Her twin sister was initially a big critic, not believing Grove could be making the right choice.
"She'll say things like 'You just wasted that education. They spent all that money on you to go to school, and you're not even doing anything with it,'" Grove says.
Mom Tracey Kastens, 34, says that either way, moms make sacrifices.
"Working mothers are making sacrifices by not having as much time at home with their children," says Kastens, a former teacher. "On the other hand, stay-at-home moms are making sacrifices as well by giving up these great careers that they did have."
Grove says leaving work was the best decision she could have made. Not only is she there for daughters Quincy, 7, and Stella, 4, but she's the membership vice president for the Mom's Club of Lawrence-South. The organization brings together mothers and helps to fight one of the job's potential hazards - loneliness.
"If you stay at home with your kids all the time, you don't see other adults, and it can be pretty isolating," Grove says.
There are about 40 moms in the South club and similar numbers in the North club. They have almost daily activities, including art classes, which Grove finds time to teach every once in a while, using that hard-earned degree. Not that it impresses her sister.
"She was like, 'Oh great, glad you can color,'" Grove says, laughing.
Despite the jokes or the stigma or the challenges of living on one income, the moms say they wouldn't trade their choices for the world.
"Growing up, I never envisioned myself being a stay-at-home mom. I was going to be the independent, professional business woman. I had a college degree and you know, gosh darn it, I was going to go out and conquer the world," Eagle says. "But I feel like I'm doing much more now than I ever would have in a business environment. I feel like I'm having much more of an impact on the world."