Unintended Consequences of Being a Stay-at-Home Mom
Like all moms, I often wondered if I've made the right decisions in how I've chosen to raise my children. Over the past year I've wrestled with the question of whether my decision to stay home with my children has sent a different message than I ever intended to my children, especially my teenage daughters.
I'm your typical over-achiever. Worked hard in high school to get into a good college. Worked hard in college to land a good job and do well professionally. My husband and I married at 23. While dating, we discussed how important it was to both of us that someone stay home with our future hypothetical children. After marriage, we lived on one income and saved the other for 7 years to make it possible for one of us (me) to stay home with our children.
I was successful in my professional life. I worked hard and enjoyed working and doing well in my job. I'll let my parents and husband brag on my accomplishments, but I am proud of my career. I took my work seriously, did my best and was successful at what I did.
Although I did work the first year of my first child's life and I worked part-time for 6 years, my children don't really remember the time when I worked for pay. They remember me in my stay-at-home mom role.
Over the past year or so, my children have made comments that make me wonder whether my choice to stay home with them has had unintended consequences. I've heard, "That's your money, Daddy. You earned it not Mommy." "Mom should do the chore she didn't work all week like Dad did." "Oh, Mom, you wouldn't understand because you don't work." These comments aren't said with malice, but they reflect a perception that is not at all what I ever intended.
Although the comments surprise me every single time, I can handle them because they can be addressed and discussed. My husband is great about that! He quickly "defends" me. Gotta love a man that defends you in any situation, no matter how seemingly small. The times that are tough for me is when I can see on their faces that my opinion is less valid because I don't "work." They give me the polite patronizing smile and then move on. It's hard to address what isn't verbalized. How do you correct the unstated misperception?
I wonder if my teen daughters and 10-year old son think that raising a family is less valuable than working outside of the home. I wonder if they think that I was a failure in my career and that's why I'm a stay-at-home mom (I'm just a stay-at-home mom 'cause I couldn't cut it at a "real" job). The irony is that my husband and I place such a value on having me stay at home that we planned how we could make it happen before we ever had children. As my mother always says, "Raising your children is the most important and most rewarding thing you'll ever do." I whole-heartedly agree with her.
I wouldn't change my decision to stay home with my children, but if I could, I would go back to when they were toddlers and start talking about why Mommy made the choice to stay home with them. And share more of the work successes and sacrifices we made just so I could be at home in my pj's making pancakes and having that talk with them.