Double standards are something a lot of women face, myself included. I've been told to "embrace my curves" when the media says I should lose weight. I've been shamed for my choices as a mother — such as the decision to stay home with my children — because others think it means I'm supposed to choose a career over family, even though that choice would label me "selfish." The idea that I have to live up to a certain image in order to be a "good" mother is ridiculous and only contributes to the total mindf*ck double stands society has about stay-at-home moms. It infuriates me, mostly because the prehistoric ideals are unfair and absolutely not a realistic portrait of what it means to stay at home with your kids.
When I had my oldest child, I had no intention of going back to work outside of the home. While it was an easy decision for me, my partner wasn't exactly thrilled to be the sole provider at the time. However, with my childhood being a turbulent one, it was of the utmost importance (to me) that I became the primary caregiver and be with my children when they were young at at home. It was, in a sense, my way of righting some of the wrongs in my own past. Financially, it was a difficult start, but in the years since we've thrived as a family unit which has only solidified my choice to stay home.
Honestly, mothers have it rough. We're judged no matter what we do while, at the same time, our partners are often praised for their actions. Why are we held to such a high, double standard? In the decade I've been a stay-at-home mother, I've learned a lot, including what it actually means to stay home versus what society tells me it means. With that said, here are a few double standards we stay-at-home moms face on a near-daily basis.
You Should Spend Every Waking Moment With Your Child...
If you've decided to stay home with your children, as opposed to leaving the house for paid work, you shouldn't take your eyes off them for even a second. You shouldn't pursue a career outside the home or have your own personal goals because this means you're not focused on motherhood. You're expected to revel in the joy, nonstop, without a break and without other desires. If you don't, you're a bad mother. You're ungrateful and taking this important task for granted. You may even hear "they're only little once," which will further remind you that even when you're going to the bathroom alone, you're doing it all wrong.
...But If You Don't Do Anything Else, People Wonder Why
In addition to being home all day with your children, you're suppose to be constantly available to run errands, attend mid-day events or help a friend out when they're experiencing some sort of crisis.
The mere thought of a stay-at-home mother spending longer than a few minutes in the shower or crossing off a to-do list is simply not OK. You have to be 100 percent present for everyone in and around your life because if you don't, you'll continually hear, "I wish I could do nothing at home all day. You know, like you," from people who don't understand what staying home means.
Being A Stay-At-Home Mom Isn't A Job...
Obviously you're expected to maintain a laundry list of expectations, just as you would in the workforce, only without monetary pay. You're to be the master of scheduling, payroll, HR, and other countless work-type roles and still you will be told — repeatedly — that staying home with your children is not a job and you should be grateful to do it.
...But If You're House Isn't Spotless And Your Children Aren't Fed And The Laundry Isn't Done, You're Not Doing Your "Job"
Likewise, if you don't get much done (because you're spending time with your children), you're told you aren't doing "your job." So which is it, society? People will remind you that you chose to stay home so it's "expected" these things get done but in the same breath, they'll refuse to admit all this stuff is "work" when it so is.
You're Expected To Have A Full To-Do List...
All the grocery shopping, bill-paying, doctor visits, and random time-wasters; it all goes on your list. I can't remember a time when my partner had a mile-long list of duties the way I do on a daily basis. Why is this all on me? Because I chose to stay home to raise our children? Well, apparently.
...But You're Expected To Constantly Be Available Because You "Just Stay At Home"
If you get a phone call and your partner asks you to run a last minute errand, saying you can't isn't an option. You're home all the time which means you are free to do whatever is asked of you. Oh, except when it it takes time away from your child because you have to be "superwoman."
You cannot outsource these last-minute tasks because it's not their job! It's yours, because you're home! You also can't procrastinate because those things needed done yesterday so there's no luxury of time here. You'll just have to figure it out because this is what you wanted, remember?
You Should Focus Completely On Your Kids...
Why in the world would you do anything other than dote on your children all day? There's no time for sleep or exercise or really anything outside of them. They are your world and to deny this is to deny motherhood. If you never take care of yourself, it doesn't matter because your kids' happiness is all that matters right now.
...But You Should Always Look Put Together And Have Time To Work Out And Do Whatever You Need To Do To Hide The Physical Evidence That You Had A Child
You're also required to get dressed, work out, wear makeup, and look put together at all times. If you've not yet lost your baby weight, do that immedialy and so no one condescendingly asks when you're going to but, honestly, why haven't you yet? What else do you have to do?
If you've not started your day with an hour-long yoga session and salon blow-out, you must be lazy. Others will assume you don't care about your appearance and if you don't care, why are you home at all?
You Should Do More Than Just Stay At Home...
Before I was a mother, I had all sorts of dreams. I wanted to write songs for musicians and books that were turned into movies and whatever I could do to inspire a new generation.
Once I had my children, the dreams didn't die out but, instead, shifted a bit to accommodate the needs of my offspring. Being a stay-at-home mom, I was expected to push my desires aside in the spirit of giving my all to them. When you take on this role, you're not supposed to want for a career or, really, anything else at all. To do so is wrong and a disservice to your child. When home, you should push these thoughts aside and give all your focus to raising these little humans the best you know how.
...But If You Do, You're Selfish
The biggest double standard lies in a mother's choice between going to work or staying home. If you leave your child in daycare or with a sitter to do something that may be considered more fulfilling to some, you've somehow chosen a paycheck over motherhood. False. Some, like myself, appreciate having a job that allows me to express myself and utilize creative outlets. When I gave all my attention to my children, all the time, I felt I was doing them (and myself) a disservice. While some don't feel this way at all — and rock the stay-at-home thing — I have a hard time connecting or giving my attention completely and totally to my children when my drive to create interferes. That, at my core, is what drives me.
Our culture claims when you choose to pursue an occupation or dream, and you're a mother, you're not a "good" mother. Society says you're supposed to devote your all to your children if you're a woman, but fathers and other partners are not held to the same unrealistic standard. All aforementioned things are meant to make mothers feel bad about their personal choices, whatever they may be, why are we the sole victims in this debate?
If you want to work, you should be allowed to do so without judgement. If you want to stay home, you should be allowed to do so without judgement. We're all doing the best we can, right? It's hard enough without society telling us what we should or shouldn't do. As long as your children are cared for, it's no one's business. If you're a stay-at-home mom (or working mom) reading this right now, keep doing you and forget all the outside noise.