On my morning drive to preschool drop off the other day, I was too sleepy for a podcast, too sensitive to listen to NPR, too indecisive to settle on an album, so I defaulted to the radio.
There is one morning show that I detest and avoid, even though I like the music on the station, because the banter is brash and mind-numbing, and the DJs think they’re brilliant because they’re loud and speak with confidence, even though they’re, generally, idiots.
But I found myself listening on this drizzly morning because they started talking about parenting. In particular, working parents versus (yes, versus) stay-at-home parents.
Whether or not you can/have to/get to work or stay home is an individual decision for every parent. It’s a nuanced and complex topic, so naturally these two morning DJs approached it with the delicacy of drunken bros at a frat party.
The dude started by saying that despite the sacrifice and hefty dose of guilt for leaving for work every day, he said, “I’m doing it for my daughter, for my family, so I feel good about it.”
I was almost finding myself endearing to this guy. But then he kept talking,
“She’s not seeing me home all day eating bonbons and judging all the working moms who don’t go to PTA meetings.”
“She sees me working and setting that good example. I’ll never have to worry about her work ethic.”
To summarize: stay-at-home parents, moms in particular, sit around all day, eat snacks and talk sh-t about working parents (because it’s always a competition, particularly among women, amiright!) and are unable to set good examples of work ethic for their children because only paid work is of any value or merit.
We are all doing our best as parents. We are all making sacrifices. Sacrifice is the first and foremost tenet of parenthood. Yet, when it’s about justifying a choice to parent one way, why does it have to be within the confines pitting it against the OTHER way of doing it? One doesn’t really have anything to do with the other! Especially when it’s not just a defense against, but a steady, subtle, and sexist undermining of the other way of doing it.
In that scenario he so dismissively painted, were you picturing a stay-at-home DAD eating bonbons and saying in a bitchy tone that Karen should have joined the PTA? Yeah, didn’t think so.
These types of comments are subtle attacks on women, mothers who stay home with their children, disguised as the championing of a choice.
I usually don’t take these types of comments personally. People are dumb, misguided, uninformed. Whatever. I’ve heard it in many ways over the past three years, from a surprising amount of sources, peppered through my experience as a stay-at-home mom.
I would have almost forgotten about the radio show entirely if I hadn’t later logged on to Facebook (always a bad idea, just, in general) and found a post in a mom’s forum I follow that started like this:
“Hi All! I’m a FTM– a FIRST time mom, not a FULL time mom.
Not that there’s anything wrong with that!!!”
Not that there’s anything wrong with that.
This mom is barely in the parenting game and already felt it important to qualify, to distance herself from the moms who stay home full-time because of internalized beliefs about stay-at-home motherhood perpetuated by idiotic morning show DJs.
Again, I could let this go as I have so many times before. Go on about my day knowing that these people’s opinions have nothing to do with me. That what I’m doing is right for my kid and my family and ignore anyone who doesn’t understand.
But, I’ve had it.
I’ve had it with the judgment, the misguided views of stay-at-home motherhood that we uphold as a society. There is merit and value to staying home and I’m tired of being told we are lazy and bitchy and boring because we do.
To be expressly clear: this is not a defense of stay-at-home parents against working parents. It is a defense of stay-at-home parents against the societal views of stay-at-home parents.
I could write a bulleted list of all I believe to be important about my staying home. But I will not justify why I am a stay-at-home mom. I don’t need to. None of us do. We are not here for anyone’s approval or judgment. It is a difficult job. A job I take pride in. A job I take seriously. A job I’m damn good at.
But I will write a bulleted list of what I DON’T do as a SAHM:
- Eat f-cking bonbons.
- Judge working parents.
- Worry about the example I’m setting as being anything short of loving, attentive, hard-working and present.
As “just” parents, we get very little validation, or even much recognition. We don’t know if what we are doing is right. No parent does. I can’t do much to change the narrative, but I can write this post and hope it finds you. I can tell you that what you’re doing matters. It counts. It is time well spent. It is work well done.
It’s not glamorous, it’s not understood by everyone, but it matters to you and it matters to your kids, and in the end, that’s more than enough.
There really is nothing wrong with that. Don’t let anyone tell you different.