Friday, March 21, 2014

Mom Shaming

I have been a stay-at-home-mom for the last seven years. Seven years of diapers, spit up, peanut butter and jelly sandwiches every. single. day, boo-boo kisses, seemingly endless pushes on the swing, laughter, hugs, and milestones I wouldn’t have missed for the world. And laundry. Always laundry. Lots and lots of laundry. For seven years full time parenting has been my number one job. My number two job was cleaning up other people’s number twos, and my number three job was running a feminist organization.

I’d be lying if I said it was easy for me when young professionals would straightening their sharp, black, little Ann Talyory blazers, extend their business card clad hands and ask, “So what do you do?” Why did that question always catch me off guard? “Uh, um… I guess… basically… I’m JUST, like, a stay-at-home-mom... yeah...” And I always immediately hated myself the second that came out of my mouth, as though I had to excuse my lowly human molding profession. And I, better than anyone, knew what complete bullshit that was and how harmful the “oh you JUST stay home and raise the future of the world” mentality is. I hated that mentality. Yet here I was playing right into it… feeling not enough.

To be fair though, domesticity has never come naturally to me. Not that I’m above it. I’m actually below it. Very far below it. I lack so many of the basic skills needed to be a decent wife and mother. I did not grow up in a family that cooked. My husband did. I was raised by a single mother who worked outside of the home. To this day she is my hero, so I do not necessarily think it’s the world polluting my view of womanhood as much as me growing up into what I know. I know working long hours at an office, and I know mac and cheese. To me mac and cheese is love. To my husband it’s a cop out. Not because of some weird gender role indoctrination, but because of our individual upbringings. His mother worked outside of the home as well, but her mother cooked and that gift was passed down to all subsequent generations. Packets of powered cheese were passed down in my family.

If we’re being honest I’ve always felt like my husband would be better as the “stay-at-home-parent.” And if we’re being super… intensely… I might need to convert to Catholicism after an epic confession like this… I was always sorta afraid I’d lose respect for him in that role. It’s in no way acceptable, but monetarily compensation is so deeply ingrained in us, whether we want to believe it or not. That’s why every year there’s a new story about how much the stay-at-home parent is “worth,” with graphs and diagrams showing just how much a maid, laundry service, and daycare would cost the working parent. It becomes this pissing contest of who's time and effort is more valuable. And therein lies the problem. What the stay-at-home parent does is not monetarily quantifiable. At all. So you're comparing apples and oranges. As I said above, we. are. raising. the. future. So why the shame in my game? Why such a strong urge to validate our "worth?" Why not wear the SAHM title as a badge of honor?

Well, I’m sure some of you do, but I didn’t. Even though I knew better.

It took a lot of soul searching, and finally, ultimately, getting a job last week to help me understand why. I’m not ashamed of being a stay-at-home-mom because of some societal stigma. I’m ashamed of it because I suck at it. hard. It took the contrast of a job I was able to master in a week to show me that I had super failed at a profession I’d spent SEVEN years trying to master.

My husband in his first week on the job took our kids the freakin’ zoo, yall. That’s hot. How on earth did I think watching a man, my man, spend time with our children day in and day out would cause me to lose respect for him?! No, just the opposite. First of all I know just how insanely hard it is. Second, he is enjoying his life, bonding with our children, and using his inherent strengths for the first time in seven years. Yeah, he can manage people and function in corporate America on the daily, but he’s outside of his comfort zone most of the time (just like I was). Which is what we’re always hammering into people right? Get outside of your comfort zone, that’s a good, positive thing. But what if it’s not? What if maybe, just maybe, it keeps us all miserable and only achieving our personal status quo? What if we’re just working at bringing a weakness of ours, on a scale of 1-10, up from a 3 to a 5, when we could be operating in a vocation we love, are already natural inclined to, and take that from an 8 up to a 10? I don’t know about you, but I’d rather have my children raised by a 10… and I don’t just mean that because he’s kinda fine.

This won’t work for everyone, but right now, this is what works for us. Both of us are feeling good at what we do, for once, which is so underestimated in our “just get a paycheck” culture. But the shame is still there. The shame now comes in the form of well intentioned friends asking, “So…you’re working outside of the home now?”

Yeah, I am. And I don’t love my kids any less or suck as a mom any more… than I always have. (insert smiley emoticon here) Because when I see my kids at the end of the day, and my slightly frazzled husband (which yes,  I’m not gonna lie, is kinda validating) I love them more than enough to make up for the time I was gone. I’m also so much more patient than my burnt-out self used to be. My new schedule embodies the definition of quality time vs. quantity time. I loved my kids enough to give them what’s best for them, and I shouldn’t be ashamed of that. Their father is just much more gifted in that role. Like I said, a lot has to do with our upbringings. He was raised by teachers… gourmet cooking, patience having, teachers who don’t believe laundry is the bane of their existence, and so neither does he. He was made for this. And I was made for working outside of the home. Because I just can’t hack it as a stay-at-home-mom. And there’s no shame in that statement. At least, I’m trying hard for there not to be…  


Post by Destiny


  1. Whatever works best for your family is what you should do. Life is hard. As long as you are there for your children (which, you obviously are!) then I see nothing wrong with going outside of the norm and making your own normal :) btw, I bet you really didn't suck at being a SAHM. I bet you were fantastic at it. But I am glad that you are feeling more comfortable now! :)

    1. Thanks. I definitely don't think I did any long term damage (fingers crossed) and my kids all have great senses of humor that I'm pretty sure stem from our time together... now if only they could read and do math and sterf, ha! All joking aside though, I cherished every moment I was able to stay home with them, and didn't take one second for granted. :)

  2. Yeah. I agree with Ookami. I bet you were better than you think. And I know your kids think you're just the awesomest!

  3. It's funny when you see someone a lot like yourself heading in the complete opposite direction.

    "To be fair though domesticity has never come naturally to me. Not that I’m above it. I’m actually below it. I lack so many of the basic skills needed to be a decent wife and mother."

    This is me to a tee. My husband is the exact opposite so when the kids came it seemed natural that he would be the one to stay home with them while I worked. That's what we did and have done for seven years. So what's the problem? I am utterly and completely miserable. It's not that I'm not good at my job or that it's a bad fit or anything like that. I just can't for the life of me shake the feeling that anything going on at work is better than picking up my kids' messes.

    We are now trying to get him back in the workforce so I can quit my job. How did you find a job that would support a family after not having one for seven years? This is a big problem for us. Well a problem for him and agony for me.

    " I’m ashamed of it because I sucked at it. hard. It took the contrast of a job I was able to master in a week to show me that I had super failed at a profession I’d spent SEVEN years trying to master."

    The thing is I completely expect to suck at it too. I honestly have no idea how I will manage if I ever get to do it. But I hope it will be a cheerful, happy incompetence instead of the lonely soul-sucking competence I get to experience now.

    I'm glad you are in an arrangement that works well for your family.

    1. Jenny,

      That is really interested! And I hope your husband is able to find something soon too.

      The key, for me at least, was to never fully give up working. I think that's how I was able to jump right back in. I've always had something I've done from home (even sometimes for free) so there would not be a blank spot on my resume, and I've also made networking and volunteer work a high priority. Most of the time it's not what ya know, it's who ya know...ya know? :)

      This might only be a temporary thing (my husband just got laid off, but if he finds another job making more than I am then obviously we'll have to consider switching back). Perhaps that's why I'm cherishing it so much right now, because I know it might be fleeting. But I guess... I just feel like when I'm with my kids now it's the definition of quality vs. quantity time. They miss me and so we all soak each other up much more than we ever used to when we saw each other 24/7. I'm sure that plays a big part in why I love this new arrangement so much too. For now at least it feels like the best of both worlds.

    2. He has kept his fingers in different projects over the years so that gives us some hope, but we have found who you know seems to be more important than what you know. We apparently don't know the right people. :)

      It is true that when you are the one out of the house all day, you are a rock star when you walk through the door. That never gets old.