With the exception of one job (the first one I had out of college, which to be fair, sucks for a lot of people), I’ve always really enjoyed working. Don’t get it twisted: There were days when I would call in “sick” (look, I was suffering from severe Detective Benson deficiency and the only prescription was a Law and Order: SVU marathon), and Fridays usually couldn’t come fast enough, but I felt a sense of pride and fulfillment in my career. However, upon the birth of my second child, I decided to take a break from all of that to be a stay-at-home mom. It's not something I ever though I would do, but as the great prophet Sheryl Crow once said, "Every day is a winding road." It's ended being a move that not only worked best for our family, but felt surprisingly awesome for me personally. So there I was.
In deciding to be a stay-at-home mom, I was following not only in the footsteps of my mother, who was the baddest bitch ever to rock the SAHM mantle, but of my husband, who had left his job when our son was born to stay home with him for the first two years. Both were able to offer me a lot of practical and encouraging advice: Try to get into some kind of routine, don’t expect everything to get done every day, and take advantage of the few moments you will have to yourself because your well-being is more important than doing the dishes. My mother also offered a foreboding warning: Some people will be absolute idiots about the fact that you stay home, and it’s best to remember that it speaks more to their ignorance than who you are as a woman. Really? I’d gotten some choice stupid and hurtful statements as a working mother — “I just couldn’t let someone else raise my children,” or “I guess I just had different priorities after I had children.” Now I was going to get hit with judgement as a SAHM? Really? Oh. Oh yes, I was. Here are some of the best things I’ve heard. (And by “best” I mean “WTF are you people thinking?”)
“It Must Be Great To Have Time To Do [Hobby] Now.”
Oh, totally. Some days, I even have a whole hour to fold laundry! Oooh! And sometimes, occasionally, I’ll get to unload the dishwasher! It’s so great. Wait: hob...bies? What is “hobby”? Oh! Do you mean the fun things I used to enjoy doing in the time before children? Riiiiiiiiiight! Yeah, I really don’t have time for those things. At least when I worked in an office I could read for an hour on my lunch break or on the subway. Now? I’ve been reading Wuthering Heights for about three months, and most of what I’ve read was done while on vacation. Even kids who are playing quietly and independently in the same room (and those, I assure you, are rare times indeed) need you to do something for them every five minutes. Let me put it another way: My mom was a SAHM my whole life and had four children spaced out 9 years. In the 14 years she had at least one child at home with her, she wrote one book. After the last of us went to school full time, she wrote 14 books in 7 years.
“Are You Annoyed You Wasted All That Time And Money On College?”
Totally. Now me home with children, books learning no much important. Education are best left to others. *eyeroll* Are you kidding me with this? First of all, do you know how awesome college was? If all I got out of it was an enriching, super fun experience that transitioned me from gawky high school kid to adult, I wouldn’t regret having gone. Secondly, yes, I went to college to pursue a degree that would facilitate getting a job in my desired field, but didn’t go to college exclusively to get a job lined up afterwards (and if you are: good luck with that). My other majors (yeah, I had three because #overachiever) were Literature with a focus in the Medieval period and History focused on the Ancient world — I was never under the illusion that I was going to immediately land in a career poring over illuminated manuscripts or lecturing about the court of King David. Learning for the sake of learning is never wasted, and the process encourages critical thinking and intellectual curiosity. The experience of going to college and the things I learned there changed my life for the better and makes me a better human.
“What Do You Do All Day?”
God, I wish I knew. No. Really. I wish I could give you an itemized list, but it’s mostly just putting out one metaphorical fire after another with activities catering to the children or maintaining the structural integrity of the house along the way. Do you ever have a day at the office where you’re running around like a crazy person but as you pack up to leave at the end of the day you’re like, “I got absolutely nothing accomplished”? Being a SAHM is like that, but every day, and instead of your boss flinging emails at you nonstop, it’s your child flinging food at your head and laughing. Honestly, if this question were asked in genuine curiosity, it would be one thing, but it always just reeks of judgemental condescension. Trust: We do a lot all day. A lot. But one thing SAHMs learn quickly is to measure success and accomplishment very differently than our cohorts in office jobs.
“I Thought You Were A Feminist.”
Yeah, well it turns out that once you become a stay-at-home mom they make you forsake all your feminist values in an elaborate ceremony where men in robes force you to burn your copies of bell hooks’ Feminist Theory after which you start dressing and behaving like Betty Draper. *eyeroll* The idea that one has to strive for professional success in order to be a feminist is so myopic and ridiculous. Women from all walks of life, not just those climbing the corporate ladder, are capable of effecting and fighting for positive social change.
“You’re So Lucky You And Your Partner Can Afford To Let You Do This!”
Presumptive much? Sometimes being a SAHM is a choice. Often, staying home with children is a more economically viable option than having both parents work, since one income would go exclusively to childcare. You might even wind up losing money by working, especially if you have multiple children. And even if you think you know which boat a family falls into you absolutely don’t. Don’t be gauche. Don’t speculate about people’s financial situations, and certainly don’t do so out loud.
“I Could Never Be A Stay-At-Home Mom. I Need To Be Challenged.”
Thank you for implying that SAHMs have it easy at best, or are dim idiots at worst. Look, if you don’t want to be a stay at home mom, that’s fine. I would never want to be, say, an investment banker. But I don’t tell investment bankers, “I could never work in finance. I just couldn’t give up my soul.” Do you see how obnoxious that sounds?
“Must Be Nice…”
Is it also nice to be a passive-aggressive, smug douchebag? Because that’s what you sound like.
“Well, It’s Really Your Partner’s Money.”
No, it’s the family’s money. Sure, it’s my partner’s paycheck, but it’s going into a joint bank account. The money we have not budgeted for joint use or savings is evenly distributed between our personal bank accounts to spend as we each see fit. (We also did this when I was the working spouse and he was the stay-at-home parent.) We’re a team and we each have important roles to fulfill.
“Why Is It So Messy In Here?”
BECAUSE I HAVE TWO SMALL CHILDREN! Yes, I’m home all day… but so are these two destructive maniacs. It’s like asking Sisyphus, “Hey, weren’t you supposed to push that boulder up the hill? You had one job, dude!”
“I Wish I Could Stop Working.”
Yeah. Me too… but for now, it’ll have to wait. I think I my son is trying to put a saddle on the cat...
Images: Pexels; Giphy(9); Jamie Kenney