I get judged a lot for my choice to be a stay at home mother and housewife. Sometimes it’s just a look, or a comment on facebook but I have also had one or two face to face interactions with these judgments. I’ve learned to have a tough skin. I know what is best for my family, and along with my husband, we made the choice to have me home with the kids. No one else’s opinion really matters at all. It’s unfortunate, but in this day and age it seems like judgment goes hand and hand with motherhood. I was going to title this post In Defense of Stay at Home Moms but then I realized that all mothers get judged, regardless of their employment status. I’m guilty of judging other mothers but I strongly believe it’s time to respect all mothers for who they are and recognize the value they hold for being mothers.
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The Judgement That Shook Me
I have been a stay at home mom for almost four years now. I couldn’t be happier. Yes, it is hard. Yes, the days feel so long and the chores are endless but I am so happy to do it all for my family. I feel valued by my husband each and every day. Like I said, I have received a lot of judgement for this choice. I get judged by working moms who are resentful of not being home themselves. I get judge by people who think both spouses should contribute financially to the family. I get judged by people who see me spending the money my husband worked for because they don’t see the value of the work I do for my family, inside our home.
As I mentioned above, I shrug it off and don’t let it get to me. Last night, however, I found judgement in an article from our local newspaper that shook me to my core.Michelle Quist writes many articles for The Salt Lake Tribune, one of our biggest publications here in Utah. I knew just from the headline how this article would make me feel. I immediately paused the show my husband and I were watching, and began reading it slowly. Bracing myself for what was ahead. Here’s the headline:
“Utah’s worship of stay-at-home mothering needlessly widens the gender wage gap“
I’m not going to discuss politics here. You won’t find any arguments for or against the gender wage gap below. I might address it in a future post. For now, I’m here to defend mothering, and most importantly, stay at home mothering.
Stay At Home Motherhood & The Wage Gap
Quist explains that the gender gap is greatly attributed to by women leaving their careers to have children, choosing low-paying careers, and women not graduating from college. Each of these are very disturbing to me and I’m sure to many other mothers, regardless of their employment status. My husband was the one who brought this to my attention and he was disturbed by it as well.
Fact Check: Most Teachers Love & Have A Passion For Teaching
She cites that Utah’s teachers are 71% female, and says the reason for this is because of the connivence of teaching and mothering at the same time. A mother working as a teacher has the same schedule as her children. I attended public school and every single teacher I had, male or female, greatly loved their job. Not for the ability to be home when their kids got home, but because they love teaching and being able to influence the lives of many children. I don’t know if teachers in other states have the same passion for their work as they do here in Utah, but I don’t think it is a profession one goes into simply because of connivence. To be a teacher, I believe you have to have a passion for being around children and a passion for teaching. Quist has never been a student in Utah, and she has never been a teacher, so it is very inappropriate for her to speculate over this.
“What might happen if higher-paying jobs regularly provided such flexibility?”
She mentions that a woman is more likely to leave during the work day to care for others. I might be wrong, but there are some professions where leaving in the middle of the day just isn’t feasible. A doctor, for instance. He can’t leave when patients are waiting to see him. A surgeon can’t leave during an operation. A CEO of a company needs to run the company, not leave during the work day. There are countless professions where flexibility just isn’t possible. A woman could very well do these jobs, many of them do them very successfully. It’s important, when pursuing ANY career, to understand the requirements of the job. Women aren’t “not entitled to a higher-paying, higher-status job because they went home to take grandma to the doctor when you wouldn’t.”
When a woman, or anyone, is looking at career options, they must take in to account their existing responsibilities and the responsibilities of the career they are pursuing. We must find balance and prioritize our responsibilities. If a person really wants or even needs a job that interferes with their other responsibilities, they must find alternate care for the people who rely on them. Some jobs and careers simply cannot provide this flexibility that Quist is searching for.
Communication might be the real issue when women want to return to work, but the job isn’t there for her anymore
Quist describes her own experience when she was working at a law firm in New York and became pregnant with her first baby. The reality fell short of her expectations to be able to work part time while pursuing motherhood. She says as soon as she announced her pregnancy, her responsibilities began diminishing till finally she had to leave. She says she would have preferred working part time and keeping her foot in the door.
I don’t want to speculate too much because then that makes me no better than her, but I believe we are able to create the life we want. If a career is important to someone, they should go to their employer and explain the situation. One could let an employer know of a change that is going to happen in their life and detail how it will work won’t effect their work. Maybe Quist was able and ready to keep up her work for the law firm and they misjudged her capabilities. Or maybe she wanted a part time situation but didn’t communicate that to them. Maybe the law firm is in the wrong by assuming she actually wanted to step away from her career. It’s all a lack of communication. On the other hand, maybe she told them of her wish to continue to work part time but that just didn’t work for the firm.
Like I said above, sometimes a career just doesn’t provide flexibility and that needs to be understood. I find it interesting that she next talks about her time spent clerking for a judge and how it worked better for her as it was a more flexible position. There are plenty of jobs out there with flexibility, but some simply cannot provide it. Communication is important between an employer and employee at all stages of employment to make sure everyone’s expectations are understood.
Sharing the responsibilities of parenting
Quist next speculates that women aren’t finishing their degrees because they leave to have children. She says “a disproportionate share of what’s required falls on them.” This is so obscure to me. A man can’t share in pregnancy. He can support his wife emotionally, physically (hello foot and back rubs!), and financially, but that’s it. I’m sure many men who see their wife struggle with a difficult pregnancy wish more than anything that they could share in the responsibility but it’s just not possible. Then, after the baby is born, if the mother is breastfeeding, there isn’t much for dad to do. For most of my babies first year of life, especially the first few months, they didn’t want anything to do with dad. Mom has the food and that special comfort that can’t be replaced, not even by dad.
After the initial pregnancy and baby stages of parenting, it is easier to share the responsibilities that come with parenting but each set of parents get to decide how it’s delegated. The older my kids get (now 2 and 4) the more dad does with them. However, he still mostly gets the easier fun jobs. My husband spends all day at work, I don’t want him to have to come home to thousand responsibilities. He mostly relaxes, plays with the kids, and watches tv.
Since my oldest was about 2, my husband has also had the responsibility of putting him to bed. This works for us so well and we are all happy with it. The responsibilities of motherhood didn’t “fall on me,” I chose them. My husband and I are the only ones who decide which portion of the work we each do. Yes, I didn’t finish my degree because I chose to stay home with my baby, but it wasn’t because I HAD to. My husband was more than willing to be home with our baby when I had my evening class and he was happy to pay for child care while I attended my day time classes. I was the one who suggested me leaving to stay home and it wasn’t because of necessity, it was because I WANTED to be with my baby. I hated being away from him.
Choosing to be a stay at home mom
Next, Quist questions whether or not women actually make the choice to stay home, or if it is made for them. She says the choice is a luxury of “mostly white and middle- and upper-class women.” This statement is stereotypical and racist. I fit this stereotype and I resent it. When you look at me, you see my skin color and my social status, but you don’t see my history. You don’t see where I came from. You don’t see how hard I worked to get where I am today, or how hard I work each day to live the life I do. I am more than my skin color and more than my social status.
I also greatly disagree with her speculation that only this sub-group of women choose to stay home. I have many mom friends and acquaintances. They very in social status and race but they all have made the choice to stay home. I know many mothers who could easily improve the financial well being of their family by working but they CHOOSE to stay home because it is important for them to be with their children. I am not religious but I do have a solid set of believes that I hold to. I value our freedom to make our own choices and I believe it is at the core of who we are. We are all a product of the choices we make each day. Yes, sometimes things happen out of our control but ultimately it is still our choice to decide how to react and how to proceed in any situation. To say we don’t have a choice in any situation, is to surrender your choice to someone else.
The Value of Motherhood
Quist’s final speculation really hit hard. She claims that the reason for many stay at home mothers here in Utah is because of our strong religious culture. She says, with great disgust, that because of this strong culture, “motherhood is divine.” She cites an LDS quote and claims that because of the culture of religion here, we are behind the times here in Utah. I find this very offensive. Like I said, I am not religious. I grew up LDS but I left shortly before I turned 18. My desire to be a stay at home mom and to be with my children is not a product of my environment. In fact, most of the mothers I interact with are not LDS either and they each have their own complex reasons for staying home with their children.
Excuse this small speculation, but it seems like Quist is pushing the stereotype herself that there is no value in motherhood, unless the mother is also pursuing a career to prove her worth to society. In another article, she claims that women are undervalued by men. I can tell you with absolute certainty that my husband values me above anything else in his life. I don’t work outside our home, but he sees the value I hold, working in our home. He sees the endless work I put in every single day raising our children and making our house a Home. He values me, and honestly I don’t care if anyone else sees my value. I hope someday my boys see the value in how they are being raised, and value their own wives regardless of her employment status.
All mothers are different, unique, and valuable in their own way. Whether she is working out of necessity or choice, or whether she is staying home out of necessity or choice. Motherhood is valuable, precious, and sacred. Motherhood should be celebrated. I don’t know where I would be without my own mother. We had our struggles and challenges throughout my childhood, but I know she did her best and I wouldn’t be where I am today without her. We shouldn’t blame motherhood for contributing to the wage gap or any thing else. Motherhood needs to be valued as a it’s own entity and not a byproduct or some burden that falls on women.
Thank you for taking the time to respond to Quist’s misguided article and support mothers in their choices! SAHM are every bit as valuable as working moms–and neither mother’s value should be determined by her income. Great post!