I used to think that being a stay at home mom in our 21st century society was a luxury. I have had several people tell me that it is a luxury that I stay home (even though I also work to earn an income from home). However, like most things, looking from the outside in gives a very distorted view of the real picture. Things can look very rosy when you’re not doing it every day. Once we decided that returning to work for me wasn’t a good option and I thus began my “career” as a stay at home, full time mother, my view changed quite a bit.
Yes, it’s true that I can sit in my yoga pants all day. I don’t have to actually fix my hair. But I also go days without seeing or talking to another adult but my husband. There are some obvious things to be grateful for, but like anything, comes with some sacrifices. Moms who work outside the home can give a laundry list of items they are sacrificing to take care of their kids. You do what you have to do. But just because one is an obvious struggle (some moms enjoy their careers, many would love to quit their jobs), doesn’t mean the opposite life choice is opposite in hardship.
For our particular situation, weighing how much it would cost us for me to return to work versus my wages, it didn’t make any sense. After the cost of childcare and commuting alone, my check would have been eaten up. So I was lucky and fell into work that I do when my daughter naps. I earn slightly more each month than I would have if I worked outside the home.
So I am in the home all day. Our day starts early, between 5:30am and 7am, and The Hubs has some morning coffee time before getting ready for work. We don’t often think about what kids do all day in day care except play. But playing for kids is exhausting for adults. When is the last time you ran in circles 30 times, yelling random syllables, just for the sheer fun of it? My job is to make sure she doesn’t accidentally kill herself, which she comes close frequently throughout the day. I also spend time teaching her things like her ABCs, numbers, colors, how to draw with crayons and markers, play-dough, the kitchen, bath time, how to treat the cats, books, outside at the playground, outside at the park, running, spending time with her friend/our neighbor who is almost a year old. In between these tasks, I nurse her to sleep, or rock her in the Ergo carrier if she fights the nap, and then I do regular work instead of napping with her – publishing for a website and transcription. So I am, like now with some free time, rocking back and forth with her in the carrier, typing away, waiting for her to wake up. (Only this week she is sick, adding to the fun of it.) When she wakes up, she will need to eat, get changed again, and have some activity time before her nap this afternoon. After which, she will need to eat again, play some more, nurse several times in between that.
I used to work in corporate for years. I also worked in real estate, construction, food and beverage, retail sales, and volunteer work for charities. I get how busy one can get on the outside. But while you are working on your spreadsheets or you are getting reports ready for clients, or maybe you’re delivering a tray full of hot plates with hot food on it, I am just as busy as you are. You just don’t see it, so you don’t realize. It’s just like anything else. You don’t realize how messed up your friend’s marriage was until she files for divorce. You don’t realize how sick your mom is until you go with her to the doctor. You don’t realize how much you love your child until you have them.
Stay at home moms are painted by our society as having a luxury as compared to other moms who have to work outside the home. This thought diminishes the role of the mother, as if her staying in the home to raise her children is somehow undesirable. It is preferable that the mother give her babies to strangers, to stay with other babies all day, separated from mom who must go work elsewhere. If the role of the mother was taken more seriously, society would be doing more to help moms and support moms who do stay home. We can have multiple views that support moms who want to go back to work to nourish their careers, as well as support moms who stay home. We CAN have two schools of thought.
On the other hand, we do not go out to eat as frequently as many other working couples I know. My daughter often receives hand me down clothing or I buy from the consignment store. For the first six months of her life, I ate a peanut butter and jelly sandwich every day. Every. Day. (Now we know she is allergic to peanuts and so I eat different sandwiches…) There’s no popping over to the food court or running up the street to get something off the dollar menu in the local drive through. It’s leftovers for me. I’m not complaining. I’m just saying. I don’t have a budget for clothes, because I don’t go anywhere, I have a couple nice things to wear if we need to like, go somewhere where I need to wear something other than Yoga pants. But the grocery doesn’t count. And need I repeat that sometimes, I don’t even communicate with another adult, outside of Facebook, for days sometimes, save for my husband. It gets lonely.
Outside of saving money and taking care of this little one, I can only conclude that it is a complete lack of understanding of what life is like for a stay at home mother, that others consider it luxurious. It’s certainly a blessing to be with my baby all day long, and no one can care for her or love her like I can. But you know, that’s true for every mother and her child. But from sun up, I am going and going, playing with her, helping her learn, feeding her and cleaning her, helping her sleep, and all the other things you pay the day care lady for. Then, my job continues when my hubs gets off work. We both need a break of course, and some time to decompress. And I don’t get upset with my hubs that he gets more than me – it comes with the territory of being mom.
Then we get in the tub, do our night time routine and get into bed. And then the fun of cosleeping begins. My daughter sleeps like a drunken starfish making snow angels. So much for a break overnight. At least I don’t have to get out of bed to tend to her.
Stay at home moms and work from home moms have this stereotype foisted upon them that just doesn’t reconcile with what daily life is like. And a luxury it isn’t. Getting a pedicure is a luxury. Eating steak regularly is a luxury. Hell, a candle lit bubble bath is a luxury. Which you will not get again until your kids move out.
Let’s call it what it is. It’s just a job, like any other, no better or worse than the next, but the rewards, benefits, and job satisfaction tend to outweigh the lack of monetary compensation. But it’s just a job, and it happens to be mine. There are many other women in my profession. And we work hard to do a good job.