And for once I was SuperMom

Thursday, February 5, 2015

Don't Say That

"And what do you do?" She asked me.
"I'm at home with my kids," I replied.  She had just told me about the job she had.  The job she got right out of college.
"Well, that's hard work too," she said in a 'kind' tone.  Unfortunately, I almost burst into tears.  That's just so insulting.
I had this exchange with a young woman during a Super Bowl party at my house.  I've had this exchange before.  Someone you've just met tells you what job they have, and then in turn asks you you what you do.  When you say that you're a stay at home Mom, there's a fumbling silence and then they say something conciliatory.  Something like, 'that's important,'or 'that's hard work,' or 'well, that's the most important job.'

I am sure that this exchange never happens to doctors, nurses, lawyers, or teachers.  Or really a host of other occupations.  Just to mine.

If what I do for a living was really viewed as that important or that difficult, no one would feel like they have to tell me that what I do is important.
Is it because I don't make any money?
Is it because children aren't valued?
Because children don't make any money?
Is it because the traditional roles that women take aren't valued?
Is it because our highest cultural value is individual autonomy?
And children take that autonomy away from people and Moms give that up over and over again?

Think about it, though.  What images do these phrases bring to mind?
Mom jeans.
Mom haircut.
A woman that has given up.  Someone that no longer takes care of herself.   Someone that has subsumed her needs for others.  Both are derogatory as well.  They insinuate that looking like a mom is a bad thing.

The phrase MILF exists because it's a given that if a woman has become a mother she is no longer attractive.

Just as soon as I get comfortable with the choice that I made to stay at home to raise my children, something like this conversation comes along.  Or medical forms.  Have you ever been at doctor's office filling out the form and had to check 'Unemployed.'  Then when it gives you all the reasons to be employed there is nothing for you?  You can be retired, disabled, or a veteran, but a stay at home mom is not one of the honorable choices.
As a culture we highly value individual autonomy and earning power.  If you are someone who does not earn money you are of questionable value.  If you are someone who greatly interferes with someone else's individual autonomy you also are of questionable value.

Children interfere with individual autonomy.  The constant needs of an infant make you give up so many of your own needs.  Sleeping.  Eating.  Anyone that needs a lot of care.  We treat the elderly the same way.  Caring for children and the elderly are some of the lowest paid jobs.  People who major in Early Childhood Education have one of the lowest returns on their degree.  In fact people who care for the elderly or small children are often not expected to have much training or a degree.

What about a person that has chosen to care for those people with no payment in return?
I know that there are lot of assumptions that get pinned on me the second that I say I am a Stay at Home Mom.  That I am uneducated.  That I didn't know any better.  That my husband made that choice for me.    None of these are true.  Unfortunately when you have that little baby, when you fulfill the need to reproduce, that is inherent in all of us, you realize that someone needs to take care of that little human being.  Some women decide that they want to do it themselves. Some women decide that they don't want to or can't, so they go back to work.  A lot of women do the math and realize that day care costs as much as they would make.

I don't usually write posts like this, the 'stop saying this or that' kind of posts.  Most people are just trying to make conversation and are trying their hardest.  Rarely do people want to hurt others.  If someone offends you take a check with yourself, is it them or my anger?
This post does come from my anger.  I have been uncomfortable with my choice to stay home, I have spent a lot of time and money earning a Bachelors degree and a Master's degree that I am currently not using.  Except that maybe I am.  Maternal educational level is the main predictor of a child's success.  That's why so many development projects are focused on educating women.  If women are educated babies live longer and better.
I keep thinking,  'I should go back to work.'  But at the end of the day, I want to spend my days with my kids.

And I am really tired of complete strangers talking down to me.
So stop telling me that it's 'hard' or 'important.'  I know that.  I don't want my kids raised by someone else, I want them with me.  Don't degrade me by assuring me that my choice is all right.
I know it is.
I made it.

1 comment:

Stepping into Motherhood said...

Great post. I'm not a stay at home but I've definitely wanted to be one. One of the things that have always bothered me is when people say "just" a mom. As if that is enough to fulfill our lives or purpose on this Earth.
Angela @ Stepping into Motherhood