Wednesday, September 7, 2011

All Worked Up

I'm super sensitive about being a stay-at-home mama. I can't help but feel like I'm being judged by women--and men--who have small children and work outside of the home.

So many people who've met me for the first time in the past two years (since Sabine) ask me what Kadin does for a living or where he went to school. These same people have asked nothing about what I've done or what I do in addition to take care of Sabine.

Now I volunteer my work and school history in an effort to shatter what I fear is some lame stereotype of women who stay home with their children.

I know or have met working women who make comments about those women who are at home with children: "She's bored" or "Well, you know, they're traditional" or "Those women do nothing all day."

In my case, nothing could be farther from the truth. I'm anything but bored or traditional, and in my twelve-year career as a magazine editor and writer, there were not even a handful of days that compare or come close to the levels of difficulty and tirelessness that are present when you parent a baby or small child all day every day. And I've worked for start-ups and well-established magazines alike, enduring my fair share of lunatic bosses that make you want to jam a number two pencil into your eardrum so as to never have to listen to them again.

I know women who go to work because, financially speaking, they have to; and I know some who work because staying home is too much for them.
I think putting food on the table and a roof over your child's head is more important than staying at home with them; and I think that if being home all day alone with children is too wearing or difficult, putting them in another person's care is only going to benefit the entire family's well-being.

On the flip side, I know women, like myself, who choose to stay home. My specific reasons for not working while Sabine is small include the following:

1) I am her mom--I don't want to pay someone else to care for her if I'm able. I want to be there for all of it and not miss a single disgusting or beautiful second because before I know it, she'll want me to leave her alone.

2) She's not old enough to speak effectively so if something happened, I wouldn't know.

3) She just turned two and is still not potty trained--I don't want something that personal being managed by strangers if I can help it.

4) When I first graduated college, I studied early childhood education and worked at a preschool, where the director and two of the teachers hid in the bathroom and did crystal meth during naptime.

5) As discussed in this older post, I had my own unfortunate experiences as a small child and I'm going to make sure the same thing never happens to Sabine even if it kills me.

And for all the judge-y people out there who think that stay-at-home moms are watching soap operas and eating chocolate all day, you're dead wrong. I challenge you to one day in my stay-at-home shoes that never come off--not even when I sleep, which is with one eye open now. When Sabine is in school full time, I will work outside the home again so I can help earn as much as I can to give her every opportunity that I can. In some years, I will have gone from successful career to at-home motherhood to career again. I will have run circles around you and you're judge-y, never-changing shoes.

Image via Huffington Post

Image via BSRM


Wikes! said...

I know you're mad at those that judge. People will judge your regardless of what you do.

If you were working outside the home you'd find most parenting books asking you if you really, truly need to do that. You'd find parenting sites judging you as well at stay at home mothers. You would read posts like yours and can't help but wonder a little if the reasons you put for being a stay at home mom aren't a little judgmental of work outside of the home moms.

Just like sahms read posts of reasons a wohm does so and wonder if they're being judged. Well as long as the reason is something else besides financial and the wohm doesn't beat her breast and cry everyday about not being able to be a sahm.

We are all doing our best as mothers. We all have reasons for our choices. It would be nice if we could all realize and remember every adult is different, every child is different and support people's choices rather than tearing them down.

Laura Mauk said...

@Wikes! I've just read your comment and am honestly thinking about whether or not I'm the least bit judgmental of working moms. Intellectually speaking, I'm most definitely not. I've close friends and family who work and have perfectly happy and well-adjusted children. But I do think that when I list my reasons for staying home, I come off as defensive--verbally or written. And again, it's only because I feel judged by some of the moms' comments that I mentioned. I honestly agree with you--we're all doing our best and I believe that for some families it's better to have working parents. In my case, I have the experiences that I mentioned and am overly emotional/sensitive, sometimes to a fault. These two things are what make me a stay at home mom--and they're completely individualist. But I think your comment makes me realize that as mothers, we can and should support each other vs. being defensive about our own choices/differences. Thank you for your well-thought out and well-written perspective.

Wikes! said...

I didn't think you were dissing wohms, honestly.

I do think it's interesting how our own childhoods govern how we parenting choices so much. My mother was a resentful stay at home mother so part of the reason I work is b/c I worry I would be a resentful stay at home mother, heck I know I would be. I'm sorry you went through what you did at age 5 and of course it's going to influence how you parent your child.

I've found it can even spread from parenting choices to how I view my child and her experiences. I was never part of the popular crowd in high school and due to my own prejudices about this I worry about what would happen if my daughter is one of the popular kids. Talk about borrowing trouble, she's only in 2nd grade.

But I do think if we can realize where our choices and reactions come from and maybe in the process heal some of our childhood incidences it makes it easier to recognize that other people have had different experiences and thus are going to parent differently.

All of this said it won't make me stop judging the mothers on the one episode of Dance Moms that I watched. ;)

Alice B. said...

If you're a stay at home mother, you're missing out on a workforce that doesn't stop while you take care of your children, and if you are a working mother, you're missing out pn being there constantly to care for your child. Each side wins something AND loses something. You have to do whatever is right for YOU.

Anonymous said...

I hear you. It seems that working mothers assume that mothers who stay home are mindless or less intellectual or something. But I suppose that many moms who stay home think that working moms are abandoning their kids.

lagitti said...

I know exactly how you feel. Assumming is one of the worst things anyone can do. I wish I had had that chance when my daughter (now 7) was born. If I ever have another child I hope I can arrange things so I can stay at home for at least, first year (or two).

Nanciful said...

Like you, I feel like I'm being judged for being a working mom and a full time working mom at that which is even worse according to some people.

When they ask me what hours I work and if I work everyday, I get very defensive. Maybe they are just curious but most of the time, i feel like they are calculating how many hours I spend with Olivia.

People are idiots when they think SAHM's have nothing to do. It's the most tiresome job. I don't think I have the stamina and mental capacity.

Miss A said...

When I have my own kids (hopefully), I'm hoping to be a stay at home mom as long as I can. I might not be able to, but ever since I was a little girl, I've always envied and wanted to be one.
I'll probably be teaching french to two young young kids, and I'm planning a lot of fun activities, and I do hope that one day I'll be able to do the same for my own babies.
Kudos to you. You seem to be a great mom. You are a great writer, you've got a great mind. And a supportive and caring husband. Right now, nothing else matters.

Michelle Ruvalcaba-Peko said...

You know Laura, I started out very young having children and stayed at home mostly and then took a very partime job that was a few minutes away from my house. People judged where I worked people judged where I lived and people judged how young we were when we had children. When it all comes down to this. You can never get those years back, those most precious developemental years. And who better than yourself should raise your most precious treasure? Soak this time up I did. And I have not one regret. I finished my degree when my kids were older and now I have to work. No matter how much I love my job or how "Important" I become to the hospital I work in, I know my most important job is bieng mom and how much time I get to spend doing so. ENJOY because it goes so fast.

Hannah said...

I'm a working mom and I feel the same kind of judgement from people. I've three children and it's too much to be the sole caretaker all day every day. It just is. But I never could've known this before I was in the situation. I do my best. When I come home, I can give them my everything rather than being overwhelmed by taking all of them on by myself all day.

Laura Mauk said...

To each and every commenter, I have to say that your feedback has been both comforting and enlightening. I realize through writing this and reading what you have to say, that everyone is different and is doing what is best for them. Each of us doubts and feels criticism from the other side. How could we not? We're raising babes to be happy, healthy people and therefore will probably always question because that's just a huge responsibility. There's no right way or right answer. Again, we do what we know or have learned and/or what we believe is best--and that's going to be different for each of us. Again, thank you for sharing your varying opinions, being honest and offering comforting words and wise perspectives. xo Laura


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