Hello there, and welcome. This is the second part of my conversation on the incredibly redundant term, “working mother”. If you are just joining the read, it might help you to catch up by reading yesterday’s post here, where I left off talking about my journey out of self-righteous feminism.
When one of my best friends, someone who vigilantly linked arms with me in our efforts to empower women, decided to leave the workforce and stay home, we both had some philosophical wrestling to do.
One of the primary goals of feminism is empowered and educated choice for both genders, not just one. So when my friend chose to stay home, not because of an imposed feminine ideal, but because of her own desire, this resonated with me. She retained her choice, and therefore her identity and calling. This was massively important to both of us.
But the real truth of calling surfaced: no longer was a life purpose relegated to participation in the workforce. I’d always known this, but now here was the tangible evidence. My friend, a former workforce laborer and social worker, was now a stay-at-home mom. No more business cards. No more work hours. No more titles. Her calling was going to manifest in her new role, in her home, as a parent and a wife.
Suddenly, calling myself a “working mother” felt like an edgy face-slap to my friend. Phone conversations about her day and mine revealed who had the more challenging gig. It wasn’t me.
I listened as my friend explained her new schedule: consoling her infant daughter, rocking her daughter to sleep for literally hours, only to realize she didn’t know what to make for lunch, or dinner, educating her almost preschool-age son, wondering when she would fold the never-ending load of laundry, all while trying not lose a body part navigating Lego landmines and trying to remember where she left the binky. Nevermind alone time or date nights. When would that ever happen?
She never once regretted her choice to stay home – the rewards were far too many. But as far as challenges go, she’d reached the max.
Being a stay-at-home parent sounded impossible. In fact, my day job felt like an escape. I got to run off into my area of competency all day, got to look knowledgeable and pretend to be “the expert”, with opportunities for acknowledgement for all my contributions.
Meanwhile she woke up to the same rewarding yet difficult labor, day after day. She wanted to do it, she chose it, and she didn’t miss her work. But she’ll tell you – this mommy life is not for sissies.
Yup, her job is way harder than mine.
So back to the “working mother” business. This term has got to go. It not so subtly implies that stay-at-home moms like my friend aren’t working, that they are just sitting there catching up on 30 Rock episodes while their Roomba vacuums and a nanny totes the children about to various activities. Hardly.
And what’s worse, I’ve heard many women answer the question, “So what do you do?” by saying, “I’m just a mom.” AACCCKKK! No! Just a mom? Come now.
From now on, when someone asks what you do for a living, you should answer, “I’m just doing one of the most difficult and thankless jobs on the planet every day because I really wanted to be the one to educate and empower my children for the short time I have them. I was fortunate enough to have that option so I chose it, and it’s hard, but I wouldn’t do anything else.”
Yes, that’s what you should say.
So stay-at-home moms, and part-time stay-at-home/part-time work-out-of-the-home moms, I’m sorry for being a hater. I’m sorry for being so myopic and committed to my cause of feminism that I failed to see your empowered choice in your life. I hope you’ll forgive me.
I commend every man and woman who makes fully-informed choices to work or parent their children. I know some parents like me have no choice but to work outside the home, away from their kids, although they would love to stay home. And they are making giant sacrifices too.
But I especially want to honor the women who shirk off the social pressures to “matter” or “lean in” into the workforce and instead stay home with their children so they can be the ones to educate and raise them.
You are powerful people.
You are pioneers.
You are awesome.
And you have my sincerest respect.
Now I need your help: instead of using the term, “working mother”, what are we going to say if we work outside the home instead of inside the home? And while we’re at it, I wonder if we need to rehabilitate the stay-at-home mom term too. What do you think?
For more on this subject:
If you feel like you don’t matter any day, or most days, or every day, visit Lisa-Jo Baker’s blog. She talks about motherhood in the most honest yet noble way. She has a gift to infuse life back into your weary mom soul, and help give you back the vision for the great, great thing you’re living in motherhood.
And if you want to hear what a guy thinks about women who “just” stay home, you better hear from Matt Walsh. This guy holds nothing back in his opinion of those who misunderstand stay-at-home moms. I love what he has to say. It’s all Bam! In your face!