Today, an acquaintance and a stay-at-home mom to two elementary school aged boys posted the following Facebook status update:
“10 years in, and I still don’t know how to answer people when they ask, “Do you work?”
There was more to the post than that, but you can get a general understanding of where she is going.
Please note: This is NOT a “stay-at-home mom (SAHM) versus working mom (WM) – who works harder?” debate blog.
Guess what? We all work equally hard. When a SAHM is up all night with her kid, the next day is going to be just as tough without a pot of coffee as it would be for WM. WM gets a phone call from the school saying, “little Bobby kicked the crap out of someone on the play ground today.” Sitting at her office desk she is just as upset by the event as SAHM would have been receiving the call in her minivan (i.e. her office). Parenting is tough as shit, and no one can claim that her day to day life is any harder than anyone else’s. Even if you are living “the” life, there is some hardship in there somewhere.
I’ve had this conversation with pretty much every mom I know. If there is a choice, to stay at home or to work, which one do we choose? Who is happier, SAHM or WM? Is there a happy medium between working and mommying?
Right now I have chosen to stay home, but for some reason every time someone asks me what I do, I feel an absolute compulsion to tell them that “I was a speech therapist in a former life.” I have a need to make sure that this person, often a stranger, should know that I am an educated person, a person who could, if she wanted to, hold down a job that actually brought in a paycheck.
A dear friend, and mother to a 3.5 year old and a 21 month old, recently said to me that she could go back to work, but she’s exactly where she’s supposed to be right now. Her kids are young, she mused, and they need her here. She was so confident and sure of this; she made it sound so simple.
So why do I feel the need to justify being at home?
The Facebook post ends with a simple, “Can’t win.” And for women, this seems to be true.
For men it’s cut and dry. We women will stand back as you roar loudly and pound your chests, as your title of hunter has been etched in stone since prehistoric times. You have always been the breadwinner, protector of the household. It is expected that you work.
Me woman, watch me child rear and gather!
Women, the gatherers, also had a designated job as heads of cave, raisers and caretakers of children. Even just writing this, the quintessential 1950’s image of June Cleaver pops into my brain and offers me a fresh slice of homemade pie.
Mom, you worked so hard baking me a pie!
Fast forward and waves of feminism got us out from the kitchen and into college and the workforce, holding the same jobs as men. We are told we can and should be anything we want to be; however, somewhere along the way, “housewife” was removed from that list. It is our right to be moms and be in the workforce, so therefore, we must. Now we can have it all.
According to www.thefreedictionary.com, a very reliable source, “work” is defined as the following:
1. Physical or mental effort or activity directed toward the production or accomplishment of something.
I could insult you with the list of daily activities and chores that begin at 6AM and often don’t end until 9PM that are required to take care of a three year old and an 18-month old. The level of “mental effort” that is put into accomplishing a successful day of caretaking is astounding, but as parents I trust you already know that. I mean, if both parents are in the work force full-time, your kids aren’t taking care of themselves are they? No, you hire someone to “work” for you, to make sure that the diapers are changed, the meals are administered, and the baths are taken. Why then if mom chooses to do this herself is it no longer called “work”? Is it because we don’t get a paycheck?
I could go off on some incredibly cheesy rant on how I am paid in the hugs, love, and kisses of my beautiful doe eyed children. And sometimes, this is indeed true. But most of the time, at this stage of toddlerhood, it’s sort of a thankless job. I mean, when I’m wiping Man’s poop covered tushy, rarely do I hear a, “Thanks mom, I was feeling soiled and you really did a bang-up job making me feel clean and fresh. That might have been a little gross for you, and that makes me appreciate it that much more.”
I am not a feminist by any means. I’m ok with letting my husband manage the household budget; he cooks a delicious meal, and changes a diaper with skill equal to my own. He embraces my decision to stay home, and will support me if/when I decide to go to work.
My friend is correct; this is where I need to be right now. I’m not sure where I am going tomorrow, but whatever I choose, it will be hard work, paycheck or not.