Transitioning from working mom to stay-at-home mom was one of the hardest changes of my life. Most of my struggle came from the shift I felt regarding my sense of identity. Ultimately, though, I realized this wasn't anything internal, but instead my fear of what other people thought of me. If you don't think there are unfair stay-at-home mom stereotypes, become one and you'll see. People don't even realize they're doing it half the time, but there are things you shouldn't say and questions you don't get to ask stay-at-home moms.
Look, this isn't a contest between working moms and stay-at-home moms. When you're a mother there's just no winning. Someone is always going to judge you for the choice you've made, even if it's a "choice" born of necessity, and if you let them get to you you're always going to feel like some kind of a failure. Today, however, I want to specifically about stay-at-home moms and the ridiculous questions people ask that hinge on the most absurd, sexist, and sometimes hilarious assumptions about what it means to stay home with your kids. Sometimes these are honest misunderstandings but, most of the time and frankly, people should know better.
If you don't know better, though, or if you ever feel one of the following questions bubbling to the surface about to escape your lips, swallow it down and keep it to yourself.
"Didn't You Say You Were A Feminist?"
Once more, for the people in the back who apparently haven't received the message yet: being a stay-at-home mom is not incompatible with feminism. Assuming a woman can only be a feminist if she is striving for success in the board room isn't feminism: it's capitalism with a pink bow.
Besides, being a feminist and a stay-at-home mom means I'm in a position to indoctrinate my two little feminist foot soldiers every hour of every day. Mwahahaha! Matriarchy!
"How Much Does Your Partner Make?"
I'm actually someone who believes talking about money is far too taboo in our culture and, in many cases, serves to keep people from earning a fair wage. (Remember Lilly Ledbetter, or any one of a bajillion other women in the workforce?)
That said, I find that asking a stay-at-home mom what her partner makes is almost always rude. For one, if you're oh-so interested, ask them. For another, it's often a thinly veiled way to suggest that they must make a ton in order for you to be able to stay home. Like, it's never really a question so much as an assertion that the person "asking" has already deduced something about your finances.
OK, in general, yes: having one parent stay home often demonstrates a degree of some sort of privilege, but that is hardly a foregone conclusion. In some families, one parent (usually a mom) stays home because their paycheck would not cover the cost of childcare.
Point is: don't presume and don't try to wheedle information out to try to figure out another family's budget. It's rude.
"Since Your Home, Could You Do [Insert Request Here] For Me?"
Ah yes, the "well, since you're there anyway" presumption. Nah, dude.
Stay-at-home moms aren't just sitting around all day hoping that someone will call and ask them to run errands for them (with a child or children in tow, might I add). "Being home" doesn't mean "unoccupied." In addition to my children and my own household needs and errands, I've got my hands pretty full as it is. I don't have time to sit at your house and wait for the cable company to send someone over sometime between 9 a.m. and 6:30 p.m.
"Oh! You Got Out! Is Your Partner Babysitting?"
Parents can't babysit their own children. Parents. Can't. Babysit. Their. Own. Children. Parentscan'tbabysittheirownchildren. PARENTS CAN'T BABYSIT THEIR OWN CHILDREN!
OMG, seriously, you guys? Seriously? We're still not clear on this, either? This isn't difficult. When a parent is caring for their own child, that is parenting. It's only babysitting if the kid isn't yours. Just because I stay home with my children doesn't mean I am the only person allowed to stay home with my children. Their dad is actually really good at caring for them, too.
"When Are You Going Back To Work?"
Look, you can ask me if I plan to go back to work. Just try not to sound judgmental about it one way or the other. Some people don't like that question, but I don't mind it as long as it is asked in good faith.
Asking when I plan to go back to work, however, indicates that you think I should. Maybe I'm not going back to work. Maybe I'm going to focus on, say, pursuing my passion for acting. Maybe I'm going to volunteer for an organization I love. Unless you are somehow subsidizing my staying home, whether or not I return to work is really none of your business.
"Aren't You Worried About Your Career?"
Honestly? Yeah, sometimes. Becoming a stay-at-home mom often takes its toll on a woman who wants to re-enter the workforce. This is a fear you should let me bring up, though, and not the other way around.
"Does Your Partner Let You...?"
I don't need my partners position to do anything. For example, I do not need his permission to tell someone off and, well, I'm about to.
Seriously, you silly people: yeah, we have a pretty traditional-looking set-up, but that doesn't mean I want to be Serena-Joy in The Handmaid's Tale or anything. My partner and I stand on equal footing and recognize that both of our contributions to our family are crucial in enabling us to build the kind of life we want for our children. Together. There is no "head of the household." In fact, we're kind of like the Two-Headed Monster on Sesame Street. We co-exist independently but work together to achieve our goals. Yay cooperation!
"Do You Know How Many Women Would Love To Be Able To Stay Home?"
People feel completely OK spouting this one in my direction when I "complain" about the not-so-joyous parts of staying at home, and I really do try to be understanding. Having been a working mom who would once looked wistfully at stay-at-home moms, a part of me gets it. I know this comment usually comes from a place of pain and innocent ignorance. This also comes from a place of idealizing the daily life of a stay-at-home mom, though, and forgetting that they have struggles just like everyone else.
Of course one should always maintain perspective and count your blessings, but if you forget to count your blessings when one child has pooped their diaper until it's leaked to their collar, the other is screaming in your ear because they can't eat birthday cake for lunch, your just-cleaned house is a wreck again somehow, and your cat is scratching the furniture to shreds? Well, I would hope you'd forgive that and just let the poor lady vent.
Everyone is entitled to their own pain, people. Trust me, you don't want to enter the Misery Olympics on this one, because you will never win your right to moan about anything ever again.
"Shouldn't Your House Be Cleaner?"
Saying a stay-at-home mom's house should be clean because she's home most of the day is like saying someone hosting a party shouldn't have to clean their apartment after everyone has left.
For real, have you ever tried thoroughly cleaning a house when children are present? It's basically like trying to sweep in the middle of a hurricane. Oh sure, you might be able to get something done in the eye of the hurricane, but that's not going to last. Inevitably and against no matter how hard you try to change the weather, more winds are going to come through and destroy everything again in a few minutes.
"What Do You Do All Day?"
Either you have not spent any serious amount of time with children or you are willfully pushing aside everything you know about little ones in order to believe I am lazy. Either way, you are beyond my help. I'm out.