The house is dark and quiet. My offspring are asleep. I tucked in the last one (again) ten minutes ago. It's well past ten, nearing eleven, and it's finally my "me-time". I'm wasting it messing around on the computer. I always have a mental to do list of things that I should be doing instead of checking Facebook or reading blogs, and when I "waste time", I feel guilty. I guess that guilt is the "Mom thing."
I read a blog post tonight. My cousin-in-law shared it on her Facebook page. And my sister-in-law commented that she loved it. And somebody else liked it. And somebody else shared it. But I didn't. I didn't like it or share it or comment or even poke it. It just didn't work for me. And it shouldn't have annoyed me, but I guess its because I couldn't identify with it the same way that they could. Both of them have something in common. They have two children. Their husbands have professional jobs and work long hours so they can have comfortable lives. And they stay home with their children.
They are stay-at-home moms.
It was an interesting read, and at first glance, was very empowering and flattering to the stay-at-home mom. But as I absorbed it, it bothered me. I suppose I'm not used to reading things that call me out for the choices I've made. Namely, the choice NOT to be a stay-at-home Mom.
I work for a living. I have since I was 15 years old (13 if you count my paper route.) But I've also dabbled in domesticity. I've had almost four years worth of time off for maternity leaves. I've treasured that time with my children and used it to hone my household abilities. But it certainly never came naturally to me and I'd find myself bored and wasting time doing things that didn't make me happy. I like working outside the home. Using my brain for things other than playing with blocks and reading books with one word per page. Or singing along to the Wiggles while I scrape dried yogurt off the chair legs. I'm not saying that's all there is to the life of a stay-at-home mom... but for me, that's pretty much all there was.
Maybe if my stay-at-home years extended beyond babyhood, I'd find them more interesting. With all of my children immersed in the public school system, I'd have the time to do all the things I wish I could do for them. I could volunteer at my children's school as a playground monitor or hot lunch cook. I could attend every sports day and be their best cheerleaders. I could sew funky costumes for them to wear in the school Christmas concerts and I could adorn my house with decor that seasoned pinterii would drool over. I could grow my own produce and serve them sandwiches made from bread I'd kneaded myself.
Instead, we eat a lot of packaged foods, we step over the clutter, my kids live out of laundry baskets full of clothes that rarely see the inside of their drawers, and my daughter frequently leaves the house with a jumbled rat's nest of hair on her head.
That's just how we roll, Monday to Friday.
I've been asked how I do it. How I can possibly work outside the home with four young-ish children (although my oldest is getting pretty independent these days) to look after. And I can sense the disdain. I know I'm being judged for my selfish decisions. We live in a community that is very traditional, very religious, and dare I say it, somewhat narrow minded. There are a lot of families that believe that the woman's role is to raise the children while the heads of their households go out and earn a living for them. Those are the women I get to know when I'm on maternity leave. Those are the ones that sing the praises of being home all day raising their children. The ones that cast their judging glances or pitying stares when they assume that I drop my children in a daycare every morning.
When I'm not on maternity leave, and I'm living in my working world, I meet the other women. The ones that don't have children or those like me who've turned our backs on what is the expected norm in our town. Those like me that chose to juggle a career and family. Although I'm not really juggling. I do both at the same time with a minimal amount of fumbling. My career and my family, they co-exist. They are both halves of what makes me a whole. The mom-me and the professional-me.
And these other moms raise their eyebrows when I tell them that my children are not in daycare. That my children are not even being baby-sat. They're home with a parent every day. Because I can hold down a career while raising my children at the same time. That's what I do. And that's what my husband does too (although arguably he would NEVER say that his job was a career). I work during the day. He works during the night. We share the childcare duties. Neither of us is a stay-at home parent, but one of us is always home with the children. It's a good system; not without its flaws, to be sure, that's been working for us so far.
Our daughters are going to grow up knowing that they can marry and have children if they want to, or they can have a career; or they can do both at the same time. Our sons are going to grow up knowing that its okay for them to take their toddler to story time at the library and sit cross-legged in a circle and sing "Row Row Row Your Boat" with gleeful abandon with all the other daytime parents.
So I'm going to say it. Yes, your life as a stay-at-home parent is rewarding, rich, and busy. You are raising the future generation and you are doing the most important work that there is to do.
But so am I.
Just because I work outside of the home, doesn't make me any less of a mother than you. We have chosen different paths, temporarily, but we're going to end up at the same place, watching our children walk down that aisle to pick up their diploma and turn and thank us for being there for them when they were younger (kids do that, right?).
What's so bad about that?