Sunday, August 28, 2011

Career: Mom

Are you a stay-at-home mom? Or a work-at-home one? Does anyone else get the feeling that such positions are looked down upon, instead of admired? I'm sure this is a topic discussed and revisited many times among moms, but it's something I've been thinking about a lot lately.

Growing up, I had dreams about my future. Depending on the day or my mood, I wanted to be a lot of things. A teacher, a nun, a doctor (for about two weeks), an occupational therapist, a Marine, a costume designer, a yoga teacher, a dancer, and of course, a mom.

I still remember being about 8 years old, talking to another little girl about what we wanted to be when we grew up. I told her, "A mom."

"But what else? You can't just be a mom."

Back then I could become pretty indignant when challenged, and I remember saying, "Um, yes, I can. My mom's just a mom."

"But my mom is a mom and she has a job."

I remember this very clearly because even back then, I didn't see anything wrong with becoming "just a mom." But apparently a mindset had already been pressed upon this little girl that being a mom wasn't good enough. As I got older and started to make life decisions for higher education, everyone talked about college and what they were going for. I started off my journey by going for two years in the Early Childhood field. By then, I knew all I wanted was to get married and be a mom, and stay at home with my children. I figured since there was no actual degree or training for this path, this avenue would at least help.

I'm very glad I made that decision. I'm no professional, but I learned different viewpoints and strategies that I apply to my everyday life with Little Olive. You are a teacher in every sense of the word. Not that it takes a teaching education to raise a child, but it gave me many ideas.

Which is why I get defensive and offended when people look down upon the life of a stay-at-home mom. When I announced to a well-respected teacher that I was engaged, she wouldn't even look at my ring. She wanted me to get my master's degree and become an English teacher. She knew once I got married, I wouldn't. But being a mom was something I wanted more than to become an English teacher. She understood, but the hurt I felt from her views on my choice stuck around for a bit - as if I had done something horrible to disappoint her.

I'm happy that I didn't go to graduate school and bury myself more in debt, when all I wanted was to stay home. I wanted this life, not because I'd get to lay around in my pajamas all day and talk on facebook with my friends, but because children grow up so fast. Have you ever met one person in the whole world who has said, "My kids grew up so slowly. Time dragged by." ?

No. Ask anyone and they will tell you the exact opposite. You have a darling newborn in your arms, you lay down to take a nap, and the next thing you know, she's a spunky toddler poking you in the eyeballs saying, "Weebean??"

(Weebean is how Little Olive asks for "one jelly bean.")

Deciding to stay home is not an easy decision. You know a second income would be glorious. You know "time away" would be great. But being there for your kids 100% of the time is irreplaceable. I have never missed a first, a milestone, or all the little things that happen every day that I consider to be amazing.

I wish our society would embrace this fact instead of looking down on the moms. Or pitying them. Or thinking we have it easy because we don't have to leave our house every day. Or that we have tons of time to do things that we want. (How I wish some days that were true!)

Mommyhood is one of the hardest, but most worthwhile, jobs ever. We don't get paid, at least not in money. But the compensation is beautiful.

Share the best thing about being a stay-at-home mom. Then, if you want, share the hardest thing. :)


lindsayb said...

I agree that there are many that don't appreciate the choice to be a stay at home mom, but personally, now that I have a child, I am dreaming of staying home with her instead of working full time. Now I just have to figure out the "how" of it.

Brit B said...

It is unfortunate the view that society places on mothers. Since I have been pregnant, women I work with say "Oh are you going to take 8 weeks for 'bonding'" and then proceed to giggle. I feel that in the working arena women are expected to have their "priorities" straight. This would mean work first (of course), then fit your family in where-ever and whenever you are able. I refuse to abide by those standards. Unfortunately I will not have the ability to stay home with my children full time. However, that is my dream job and I will be working hard to attain that goal. To me that would be the equivalent to "climbing the ladder" and making it to the highest position possible.

Sheila said...

One thing I love about being a SAHM: I am the expert on my baby. No one knows him like I do. I know what he likes to eat, how to get him to sleep, what his newest achievements are ...

One thing I hate about being SAHM: I am the expert on my baby. No one else can really fill in for me. My husband likes to help, but he seems to need constant advice -- he can't seem to remember when naptime is (he only remembers when it was *last* month) and he never seems to realize when the kiddo would like a snack. I never intended to be one of those moms who can't step back and let their husband help out -- it just happens when I'm the one with all the know-how. He can sit at the computer with his back to the baby and not even realize how many times I'm dragging him off the dog, getting him down from chairs, feeding him snacks, and so forth. I can't blame him for not having instincts it's taken me 16 months solid to acquire, but ... >sigh<

Natalie said...

Great post, Maggie. Now that I'm homeschooling, I hear the "just a mom" thing less (more often, it's incredulity that I could actually take that much time out of every day to *spend on* my children and have no alone time for myself) but still - "just a mom" seems to be the prevailing attitude. I agree with Sheila... sometimes the very reasons we are grateful to be SAHMs are the same reasons that being one is so tough. You can't ever really answer "What DO you do all day?" for someone who simply can't imagine that just about every single minute of your day is - and has to be, for their safety and well-being - involved in the lives of your children. Yes, that may mean that you can't even go to the bathroom or shower by yourself. ;) But in the long run, these times will seem so short...... and we'll be so glad that our children didn't grow up in front of the eyes of a stranger instead of our own. Yes, there are times when a mom absolutely has to go back to work, and when she does, it is for the good of her entire family. Those moms are taking care of their families to the best of their abilities and despite the various stresses that juggling a career and a family can bring. But I'm glad that I have the opportunity - as stressful as it can be - to be with my kids and be part of the day-to-day, ups-and-downs of their lives. These are moments we'll never get back... yes, even the very stressful ones... ;) and we get to be a part of our children's lives in a very special way just this once....... And for that, I am very grateful. <3