CC image courtesy of Flickr, Jay Morrison.
HA note: The following is reprinted with permission from Jeri Lofland’s blog Heresy in the Heartland. It was originally published on September 3, 2015.
“And what do you do?”
It’s an innocent question, neither nosy nor rude. One that pops up in the most casual of introductions all the time. And yet it can haunt some of us for hours afterward.
Why am I a stay-at-home mom?
I found myself mulling uneasily over this question after a conversation this summer exposed my own doubts and I got defensive. When I am uncertain, I tend to flounder and feel guilty. Should I want a career? Should I want to stay home?
When I was homeschooling, the justification was simple. I was already doing a “job”. (In hindsight, it’s apparent I wasn’t aware I had other options.) I have no regrets about those early years of pottytraining and naptimes and going to the park and teaching my little bookworms to read. Still, now that they’re older and in school all day, I’ve felt the need to rethink my reasons for not earning a paycheck.
My feminist values tell me that I need to be pulling my weight, that I should have the resources to support myself instead of being financially dependent on a relationship. I’m also afraid of perpetuating an outmoded patriarchal family model or unhealthy expectations of what a mom should look like.
However… not working does not automatically put me in the same category as Michelle Duggar. 🙂 And I’m privileged to know other ardent feminists who are unemployed, by choice, for various personal reasons. And so, I ponder.
As for expectations, my children see me pursuing knowledge and new skills. They see me involved in the community. They see me actively promoting equal rights for women. They see that Chris and I have independent interests and relationships. They know women working in a variety of fields. And they know every family operates by its own rules.
Chris and I have shed patriarchy gradually and embraced gender equality together. While there has been some shading and blending as we’ve adapted to these values, he remains our household’s breadwinner. And yet, we are a symbiotic team. We eat better food less expensively because I stay home and cook (our meals average $1.25/person!). He can focus on his career from eight to five and college classes on weekends because I can run the errands, take the cars for service, schedule appointments, shop, and sign the field trip forms. I can take classes, volunteer, exercise, help kids with homework, and cultivate supportive friendships because he brings in the income. And since he currently works at home, we get all kinds of extra moments during the day to connect as friends, freeing us to better focus on the kids when they are at home.
While extra income could ease some stresses, we are financially comfortable enough. If I worked part-time, my earnings would quickly diminish in higher food, fuel, and insurance bills. If I worked full-time, we would have more stress around daily school pick-ups and drop-offs. I would have much less time for the self-care that helps me manage my mental health. And instead of relaxed evenings together, we would have to pack all the laundry, shopping, organizing, and meal prep into that time slot.
To us, that time to just “be” after dinner and homework is worth more than we would gain if I went to work. It is a matter of what we value most this year. Our schedule and priorities are always evolving and we are open to change. But for now, we are savoring that closeness and flexibility.
On a personal level, overcoming years of emotional trauma and cult mind-control has been a long journey and there are still days when the demands of motherhood on top of that seem overwhelming. I’m grateful that I’ve had the option of concentrating on those aims without trying to hold a job at the same time.
Reflection on my domestic role has been time well-spent. These days I find myself prouder than ever of what I do and of the ways I contribute to our family’s well-being. I am a feminist homemaker: a cookie-baking, jelly-making, youngster-shuttling thriving woman who thinks for herself while advocating for the right of every woman in our community to make her own choices.
In all of the discussions of stay-at-home vs employed mothers, never once have I seen a mention of the needs of the individuals who will be most affected by the decision to have both parents in the work force. What about the babies and young children? What about illness? What if the school is not a good fit? Does anyone care for how the decision for both parents to work meets the needs of the children depending on those parents?
One of my sisters-in-law stayed home for the good of her children. As soon as the youngest was kindergarten age, she got a part-time job, also for the good of her children. She was a much nicer mom if they were all up in her business for fewer hours per day!
I’ve heard people discuss this from the perspective of the kids a lot, actually. I haven’t seen a particular shortage of that. But then, I read a lot about this topic 🙂
In fact, the place where I see the imbalance is not so much in whether people consider the children’s feelings, but the way in which fathers are not brought into the picture. Nine times out of ten–perhaps more than that!–when the debate of whether a woman should work comes up, no one mentions the option of a husband staying home with young children, even though for some couples–such as the pairing of an ambitious wife and a laid-back husband–that might work better than putting the ambitious wife through the rigors of carrying childcare decisions alone.
Reblogged this on lifeofgraceandpeace and commented:
I can relate to this!