Redefining the "Stay-at-Home-Mom"
Alright ladies, here are your choices:
Or the ever ambitious sounding-
It seems the importance of any career with children somehow gets downplayed in our culture. Childcare workers, I’ve observed, get treated like lower class citizens. Teachers get paid so little and are demeaned even more by being forced to buy supplies for the children they are teaching (the future of this country, I might add!). Then, mothers and fathers choosing to “stay at home” are either criticized or looked down upon as less professional than their counterparts with hired/paid occupations.
…but back to the title…
First off, should parenting even be considered a job?
Our culture seems to love defining one’s life by career, so much so that people lose their sense of self-worth without a conventional occupation. Suicide levels are highest among the retired and unemployed. Specifically, white men over 65 have the highest rate of suicide. This is believed to be because this demographic has put so much emphasis on career that the loss of identity is even more severe.
Because we have been fed since birth that our career is who we are, when someone opts out of a traditional paying job, society still feels the need to categorize the person with an occupation (otherwise, you’re “unemployed” and that is quite unacceptable in our culture) and in comes the “Stay-At-Home-Mom” job title.
Well, the problem with almost any title is that it does not define the person as a whole. This is most problematic with the “stay-at-home-mom” title because each parent and family is so individualized in their parenting and life that there is really no way to know what that “stay-at-home-mom” means. Many of us are involved in “work”, traveling, and spending time in areas of our lives that we are passionate about. We are allowing our children to see (and benefit from) the importance of knowing we are individuals outside of the parent-child relationship. However, we still don’t meet society’s strict standard of a “working mom” – no, no, we are simply “homemakers”.
Another reason I find “stay-at-home-mom” problematic is because I don’t consider raising my children “work” in the conventional sense. I am not saying it is easy to be a parent; you are guiding human beings into adulthood- not something to be taken lightly. This kind of human experience is not a job, but rather it is a relationship. I have the same problems with the word “housewife”. Being married to my husband is not (and should not be) a chore like the term alludes. I am in a relationship with my husband, which again, is not always easy. There is a constant movement and evolvement in each relationship. It reminds me of this quote by Steve Maraboli- “Look around you. Everything changes. Everything on this earth is in a continuous state of evolving, refining, improving, adapting, enhancing…changing. You were not put on this earth to remain stagnant.” There is no way to sum that up with a simple job title.
We also have the issue of the mothers who do work “outside the home” and how categorizing “stay-at-home-moms” could be utterly confusing to and wrong for everyone. We both are raising our children, so why is one of us allowed to claim that as a career and the other one must be defined by their paying job? Is it because we live in a misogynistic culture trying to repress women by falsely making us all believe we have the freedom of choice with this issue? Or because as humans WE MUST CATEGORIZE EVERYTHING? Probably a little of both.
This is a good time to bring up dad. He’s neglected in parenting, in general. Brian said the other day, “Mom get’s all the bashing, and dad gets no credit.” It’s true. If someone doesn’t like a particular parenting style, mom get’s blamed. In the rare instance that dad gets criticized it is never about the parenting style, it is always about how he must have been emasculated by his wife- yep, the woman’s fault, again.
There has been a movement of dads deciding to opt out of conventional careers (doubling in the past 10 years) while their spouses earn the income for the household. The “Stay-at-Home-Dad” has been named- equally as annoying of a title.
So, while people may have this strong desire to label me with a career to define and put value on my existence, I’m not going to do it to myself. When those little slips come my way and the space for “occupation” needs to be filled out, I have decided to start getting creative with my responses. My go-to answer has been “badass breastfeeder” ( Thank you Abby for your awesome blog and inspiration. ) However, now that my kids have seemingly weaned, I need to again change what I put in that pesky occupation box.
Try to describe “what you do” in one or two words. What would it be? And ask yourself if that describes you as a whole. If it doesn’t, use this as a reminder that our worth is quite more than career or how others define us.