I was recently at a party and I kept overhearing the conversations floating between a group of women – all commiserating with each other about how “boring” it would be to “just be” a stay-at-home mom. These women all work full-time outside of the home and all were agreeing that stay-at-home moms have too much time on their hands, not enough challenges, and just can’t be fulfilled. Those are fight’n words!
Stay-at-Home Moms Under Attack
This attitude has been reflected again and again, in the media, politics, and among women across the United States. Deborah Jacobs, in an article published at Forbes.com, attempts to defend moms who work at home by extolling the virtue of not judging by appearance. As a mom who works outside of the home, Jacobs repeatedly remarks in her article about how she fantasizes about the lives of stay-at-home moms who don elegant yogi attire – but then goes on to say that
“A lot of those moms may wish they were employed outside the home but can’t find a job, or can’t find one that would pay more than the childcare they would inevitably have to compensate someone else to perform. Or maybe they are in an abusive marriage with someone who controls them, won’t let them work, and belittles them if their body fat gets higher than that of a supermodel.”
Seriously? Her reasoning for not judging stay-at-home moms is because they might not be able to get any other type of job that pays enough for a babysitter or because their husbands are abusive and controlling? That’s the kind of defense stay-at-home moms can do without.
Why Moms Choose to Stay Home
I know I don’t live in a bubble. Of the many friends I have who stay home with their kids, I don’t know any who do so because they can’t get a better job or because their husbands won’t let them leave the cocoon of the home. Stay-at-home moms choose their job because
- They want to raise their children without outside help.
- They are fulfilled staying home with their children and actively planning and participating in every day.
- They consider the care of the home and family to be of significant value.
- They can’t imagine missing out on moments they can’t get back – 1st steps, words, etc.
- They plan to pursue an outside career when their children are older and more independent.
- They want to homeschool their kids.
- It is their dream job.
Just because it is a dream doesn’t make it easy. Yes – there are financial and future considerations. But there are those no matter which job a parent takes. The parent who takes a lower-paying job so he can get to the after-school activities on time might risk his job and financial security. The working mom who spends more time at the office than at home might risk missing out on the little moments in her children’s lives.
Probably most challenging and frustrating for parents making decisions about work and family time are the judgments of others. In yet another article that degrades stay-at-home moms, Judith Warner claims that when women choose to stay at home,
“Their position of equality with their husbands is by necessity somewhat eroded. They lose the sense of strength that comes from knowing that, come what may, they can keep themselves and their children afloat economically. They lose intellectual stimulation (assuming that they were lucky enough to have it in their jobs anyway), the easy companionship and structure of the workplace, and recognition from the outside world. And if they don’t have the money to outsource domestic jobs, their freedom from paid work comes at the cost of repetitive thankless tasks — laundry, cleaning and the like — that test their patience and can chip away at their self-worth. The pleasure in this life of course is time with the children, but school-age kids leave a void that many find hard to meaningfully fill.
If women were truly choosing to be home full-time, I think there would probably be a whole lot less emphasis on the hard work involved in doing so and a lot more talk about the privilege that choice would then clearly be.”
The speculations of women who judge other women, such as Warner’s, only creates a larger divide among families. Those are the families who should be able to turn to each other within in communities, but when these types of judgments are passed that fellowship is thwarted.
For more than a decade I considered myself a stay-at-home mom (even though I occasionally did freelance work, I never quantified myself as a work-at-home mom until about 5 years ago). I chose that role. I was offered my supposed dream office job, and instead pursued my real dream job – Mom. And I never had too much time on my hands, felt I wasn’t challenged enough, or wasn’t fulfilled. Sure – stay-at-home moms some days probably wish they just have an office in which to escape for a few tantrum-free hours, a paycheck for all of the work that they do, and respect for the value and commitment they place on their family.
Women – for all of their love, compassion, and strength – are the harshest judges, the coldest critics, and the cruelest when it comes to other women. Perhaps what women need is to take turns doing all jobs – stay-at-home mom, working mom, work-at-home moms – and then settle down and let each other choose what works best in their own unique families. I’ve done all three – and I know where I am happiest, best for my family, and comfortable as myself. I won’t tell you what is best for your family if you don’t proceed to assume I’m bored, unfulfilled, or unhappy with mine. Let’s get back some respect, fellow moms.