Crystal Cammack: A Mother’s Choice
Her mom was the kind of mom who prepared a full-course meal for dinner every night. She worked at the school that her daughter attended and then was home when school dismissed to spend the afternoon sharing stories of the day and helping with homework. She attended every school function and assisted at every activity. She was by her daughter’s side throughout the day, every day.
“Did my mom influence my choice to be a stay-at-home mom? Absolutely,” says Crystal. “Growing up I never thought of myself as a stay-at-home mom but I think my mom’s role in our family made an impact subconsciously in my choice, eventually, to also stay home with my kids.”
A maturing mind-set
Crystal Cammack was born and raised in Brunswick County. Now living in Leland’s Lanvale Forest with her husband, Michael, Crystal manages a household of three very active children and works as a dance instructor part-time in the evenings.
“I danced all of my life,” says Crystal. “I taught dance in college and, when I graduated, the owner was selling her studio. I bought the business and took it over.”
Crystal’s plan was to own and operate her studio full-time, even with the birth of her daughter Leah introduced into the equation.
“I thought, what’s the big deal? I can work, have a family and have it all,” says Crystal. “But I was young. I was just 24 when I had Leah. I had just gotten my business going and I guess my views about parenting were a little different than they are now.”
Crystal owned, managed and taught at her dance studio until Leah was four years old. She then welcomed her son Christian into the world and her views on working so hard changed.
“Not until I had Christian did I realize how much I missed with Leah,” says Crystal. “I missed a lot. I have no regrets because, at the time, I didn’t see myself as a stay-at-home mom. Quality time with my kids didn’t really become so valuable to me until I was older. It was just different at that point.”
Crystal left the studio to stay home with Leah and Christian and soon welcomed her third child, Valadie. It didn’t take long before she became engrossed with the daily duties of being a mom to three children who lead very active social lives through cheerleading, dance and T-ball.
This fall her youngest child entered kindergarten, at which time Crystal began to reevaluate her career and started pursuing employment options.
“All along I thought when Valadie started school, I could go back to work during the day in an office environment then teach in the evenings,” says Crystal. “Nothing happened with the search for a day job so I saw that as a sign that I have enough to do raising these kids that God has entrusted me with.”
Life as she knows it
Now Crystal works at the dance studio teaching class two afternoons each week. Through a finely tuned partnership with her husband, the Cammack household schedule operates seamlessly … for the most part. The kids participate in their after-school sports, homework assignments are completed, dinner is made every day and is hot on the table every night. Michael holds a successful career, and Crystal enjoys being back in the studio.
Nobody said that it was easy, though.
“My life is pretty crazy,” says Crystal. “We’ve got three kids in two different schools which means different drop-offs and carpool schedules. I have a house to clean while they are in school, and then we have all three kids in activities after school …I have a seventh grader, which means some very late nights working on school projects. We have practices and games every day except Fridays, that’s our family night … but not right now because Leah has Nutcracker practice.”
Throw in doctor’s appointments, grocery shopping, long afternoons in the studio teaching and a fresh, hot meal on the table every evening, and there just aren’t enough hours in the day. Or enough caffeine in the world.
Crystal is one of those women, though, who is quick to recognize that she’s not the only one who runs a hectic life.
“I don’t know how women who work full time and have kids in activities do it,” she says. “I don’t know how they keep their house clean and get laundry done and prepare meals. I know that you can do it if you have to, but it has to be hard.”
Regardless of a parent’s schedule, Crystal stresses the need to find time for oneself in order to stay sane.
“I walk every morning,” she says. “I used to belong to a gym but with me not working, I quit because it wasn’t affordable. I go to a women’s Bible study on Friday mornings and I try to meet girlfriends or Michael for lunch when I can. Finding time for that, and affording meals out financially, are few and far between, but I do enjoy it when it happens.”
A personal choice
Crystal acknowledges that this chaotic season is nowhere near over, but she knows that the level of activity that her household endures is a choice that they make.
“I could let go and not be at everything, every game, every practice, but I don’t want to,” she says. “I love that I can be at everything, that I don’t have to say ‘no’ if a teacher asks me to help change bulletin boards, that I can pick the kids up from school if they get sick. One of my favorite things is being able to pick them up from school at the end of the day. There’s something about being the first one to see them and to talk to them about their day. That means a lot to me.”
In Crystal’s opinion, whether a parent chooses to stay at home, work from home part time, work outside of the home full time or anything in between is a personal choice; a choice that is the direct result of what is best for each family. No one scenario is better than the other.
“It’s horrible because some parents have to work and they are not judged, but those who want to work are sometimes judged by society,” Crystal says. “People should never be judged, no matter their working situation. Some people enjoy working. And they are better parents because of it. It’s a personal decision that people should make for their own family based on what is best for them. No one should judge anyone.”
Crystal’s choice to stay home with her children and, later, work part-time was a result of her upbringing and what she wanted to provide her family. Her role as a mom is a factor of personal motivations and something that she achieved from years of self-discovery and financial sacrifice.
“I didn’t choose to stay home out of obligation,” she explains. “I saw the benefits of what my mom offered me by staying home and I simply wanted to offer the same to my kids. That’s my life and it’s OK. Just like the woman who has to work because she is the provider for her family or the woman who chooses to work because she loves it. All of us are great mothers.”