Becoming a mom has brought a lot of mommy-shaming my way. It can feel like I’m damned if I do and damned if I don’t in almost every decision I face as a mom. We’re so divided over things like breastfeeding, vaccinations, and sleep training. And the decision to be a stay-at-home mom is no different. I face a lot of criticism and I’m judged harshly because there are a lot of misconceptions out there about stay-at-home moms — we’re lazy, unambitious, and we are taking the easy way out. Worst of all, that we are bad examples of modern women, like we are anti-feminist or something. Being a stay-at-home mom can seem degrading or like a 1950s nightmare to some but more and more millennial wives like myself are choosing to be stay-at-home moms because it fits their lifestyles. Yet, I feel like there’s this tension between working moms and stay-at-home moms, like we are pitted against each other, as though one decision is better than the other.
As of right now I'm focused on my family. And people hate hearing that.
Though I don’t think being a stay-at-home mom works for everyone, it works for me. I never expected to face so much backlash in my everyday life or to have to defend my decision to be a SAHM. But I’m constantly doing just that, defending myself — to friends, family, and naysayers on the internet. Why is staying home to care for my child such a bad thing? Working moms are bashed for not spending enough time with their kids and I'm bashed for spending too much time with mine. We can't win. There's this stigma associated with being a SAHM and I’m here to tell you that you have me all wrong.
It was never my intention to be a SAHM, but after having countless complications during my first trimester I had to make the decision to stop working. At the time I owned a daycare and was unable to run it efficiently due to all of the additional testing and doctors visits. It was a difficult decision to make because I loved my job but I did what I felt was best. Shortly after my daughter was born though, being a SAHM became a choice. After much discussion between my husband and I, we came to the conclusion that it was what worked best for our family. And ultimately, shouldn’t we all make the best choice for our families? And so, here I am almost two years later and I'm still a SAHM. I'm not entirely sure how long I'll remain one, but as of right now I'm focused on my family. And people hate hearing that.
I'm constantly asked "when are you going back to work?" or "how could you just be a stay-at-home mom?" I even get guilt-tripped for "taking advantage" of my husband by putting all of the pressure on him to support us financially. Perhaps what stings the most is that most of my criticism and snarky comments come from other moms.
As a former daycare worker, I can say being a SAHM is way more demanding.
I wish we weren't so divided on this topic, but since we are, let me just say, all of the stereotypes out there about being a SAHM are wrong. To all of the critics who worry about what I do all day, let me assure you that I am not lazy. My days are far from a luxurious spa getaway sipping cucumber-infused water. I don't get to sit on the couch and watch daytime television at my husband's expense with a sheet-mask and a quiet child sitting on my lap.
As a former daycare worker, I can say being a SAHM is way more demanding. Just the other day, I had to hold a fussy wiggling toddler on my lap just so I could use the bathroom. Most of the time, I don't have anyone there to step in if I need a breather. I need a well thought-out plan to do basic things like eating, showering, or using the bathroom. I'm constantly cleaning up messes and catching up on chores with a baby on my hip and up until a few months ago, I sometimes had to get things done while attached to a breast pump. I don't get a lunch break or get to chat with coworkers. I don't have a nanny to step in for me so I can run errands or go to the doctor, my daughter tags along, and it can sometimes can be a hassle. It can feel very lonely and overwhelming at times.
Yes, I chose this but, just like any job, it has it's drawbacks even if you love it.
As for SAHMs not being ambitious, even though I'm streched pretty thin, I do have hopes and dreams. I might not have a career just yet but that doesn't mean I never will. And why should I be defined by my career or lack thereof anyway? I may not have a typical job with a steady paycheck, but I try to make some money whenever I can. Believe it or not, a lot of SAHMs work from home or take up odd jobs whenever they can. Some SAHMs even continue their education online. I have been freelance writing to help pays some bills and I enjoy it. Some nights, if I can muster up the energy I even work on writing the book I have always said I would.
More shockingly, I am a SAHM and a feminist.
I hate to disappoint any of you, but being a SAHM has actually made me more ambitious and driven than ever before. I only have a little time to do what I love, and I make the most of it. And as for my poor husband, he truly is a really hard worker and I appreciate what he brings to the table, but let's be honest, I'm not getting a free ride here. Because I am a SAHM, he never has to leave work early or call out sick because of a family emergency, doctor's appointment, or because our babysitter cancelled last-minute. I'm always there to take care of all of that. Having one parent that stays home is really helpful since a lot of jobs are not very family-friendly. Since I became a SAHM, my husband has been able to advance in his career and since I am able to adjust to his busy schedule, we see each other way more than we have in years. It's a win-win.
More shockingly, I am a SAHM and a feminist. I know, it's a lot to take in but it's the truth and it's very possible to be both. Feminsm isn't about avoiding any role deemed "too feminine" or about forcing a woman down a particular path, rather it's about equality. A woman should not have to opt out of choices, but should have endless choices. As a feminist, I hope all woman have endless opportunities regardless of their sex. Whether they want to be the president or a housewife, the choice they make is entirely up to them. In fact, having the power to make that choice is what feminism is all about.
I can't speak for all SAHMs but what I would like to say is, I am not better than or less than a working mom. We probably have a lot more in common than you think, like sleep deprivation, but this one difference doesn't mean we have to work against each other. Being a SAHM doesn't mean I am a better or worse mother, I'm just doing what is right for my family and I shouldn't be bashed for it.
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