Wednesday, November 16, 2016

Celebrating "stay-home-mom-ness"

A screensaver someone made on my computer one day...
It makes me a little crazy how stay-home-moms are belittled or ignored by society so much of the time. I've heard more talk shows and read more magazine articles about women finding themselves only through having a meaningful role in the work force rather than the alternative of full-time parenting. I've stood on the edges of conversations with women and men who delight in one-upping each other when it comes to stories about juggling home life, kids and work life. And I've watched many eyes glaze over when I've responded to the inevitable question about my career with the words, "I'm a mom." In my experience, people know how to engage in conversation around occupational activities -- that is, jobs -- but aren't very interested in stay-home-mom-ness. It's like they're afraid I'll fill them in on distasteful events involving toilet training or the latest school field trip if they show any interest in my daily existence.

But being a stay-home-mom is one of the most interesting and challenging vocations there is. Hats off to the women who work full-time and raise a family, too -- I don't know how they do it, though there have been times I might have liked to trade them places for a few minutes just for the sake of having an adult conversation or an unusual opportunity to express my intelligence and creativity with colleagues from my own demographic. Other than that, though, being a mom is enough of a vocation for me, though I almost gave it all up for the almighty buck.

Eleven years ago, when our youngest child started grade one, I was feeling some invisible, intangible pressure to get back into the work force, to develop a real CV, get a real job and make real money. Somehow, I had bought into the idea that staying home, cooking meals, running a household and looking after my children was like being a "kept woman," and I didn't like it. I overlooked the importance of making breakfast, helping with school lunches, walking kids to the bus, doing the laundry or other menial tasks, planning supper, driving to swimming lessons, helping with homework, getting food on the table by the time my husband got home, supervising the doing of dishes, making sure baths happened, reading bedtime stories, and saying night prayers. That stuff was all just routine.

That's when I met a new friend, Mark. When we had the inevitable conversation about my career and I admitted to being "just a stay-home-mom," Mark said, "Just? I'm sure you're so much more than you realize." When I told him I was thinking about getting back into the workforce because my youngest was in grade one and the kids didn't need me so much, he smiled and said, "Why would you want to do that?" He proceeded to lay out for me the hidden costs of working outside the home. The wardrobe. The meals. The after school care costs, and the fact that strangers would have a hand in raising my children. The transportation required. Less time with my family, and more of my time with them used for keeping the household running.

Somehow, I wasn't quite convinced. I didn't want to putter around a child-empty house for 6 hours a day doing the repetitive maintenance required to keep a family going. Working outside the home looked a lot more glamourous, and definitely paid a lot better! Maybe we could afford to take the kids to Disneyland if I brought in a salary! But I didn't go job-hunting right away because my resumé-writing skills were rusty...

A few weeks later I mentioned my lack of a resumé to Mark in an email, and he helped me out in that department, too, by sending me the following description of my "occupation" since my first child had been born 12 years prior:
- Family Life Coordinator, consulting in the areas of Childhood and Adolescent Development, with on-the-job training as Conflict Resolution Specialist. 
- Experienced Nutrition, Activity and Special Events Planner. 
- Active Household Sustainability Technician and Marriage Enrichment Technologist.
- Futurist and Community Development Expert employing Integrated Maternal Holistic Healing Skills, with continual on-site professional development. 
- Progressively more organic, planetary conscious, Spirit-channeling, omni-practitional, hyper-evolved and carbon neutral.
I laughed with delight. I was all that? I was all that! And some of those six hours a day without kids became a creative time for me, a time for writing and volunteering (especially with school field trips). None of it was glamourous, but my presence to my family was more important than an impressive CV.

And so what if I didn't get paid in cash? I was paid in hugs, and fortunately, my husband's salary was enough for us to live on. We didn't need me to work for the sake of trips to Disneyland if I could be with our kids and make our house a home with an attentive adult when they were in it. I suspect Mark wrote my "job description" to make that point.

Eleven years later, my family still hasn't gone to Disneyland, but we've managed pretty well on Lee's salary. Our home has been a place of sanctuary, sanity and stability (most days, anyway) because I've been around to nurse sick kids, welcome school chums, keep appointments, bake bread and cookies, grow vegetables, have repairs done, and run the household instead of trying to fit all those things around work outside the home. And I learned that it really doesn't matter what people think when I tell them I'm a stay-home-mom, as long as our family is happy.

My kids are pretty well grown up now, and I love and am proud of the young people they've turned out to be. Even more, I love that I chose to be with them over the money I could have made or the career ladder I could have climbed. I like to remember how we tended a brood of baby chicks together, our visits to the playground after school, teaching them how to make grilled cheese sandwiches, soothing fevered brows, singing and dancing to their music, driving them to piano lessons, having art sessions at the kitchen table, reading a zillion library books together, play dough parties, and the thousands of conversations about everything and anything when they got home from school. I wouldn't trade any of it for the world.

So today, I'm celebrating stay-home-mom-ness! And I cheer for all women (and men) who have made the choice to be with their kids rather than chase the glamour of an occupational title, especially if it has required the sacrifice of some of the less-important things that money can buy. You have given your kids a gift that will mean a lot to them in the future, even if they don't see it right now.

Plus you've got all those million-dollar memories to prove it!

3 comments:

  1. Applause for your most glamorous, most important vocation. The lack of recognition has always driven me crazy. Due to some necessary life choices, we weren't able to continue without a second income but my life is judged by my family - my inside work not my outside work. Thanks for this.

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  2. It's like a hug in words! I vow to treasure it more!

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  3. Not everyone can make the choice I did, I know. All moms are amazing. Consider yourselves hugged!

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