by DEVON CORNEAL
I don’t think anyone sets out to be rude or judgmental, but I’ve been surprised at what well-meaning and generally thoughtful people say to mothers who aren’t staying home full-time with their children.
There’s a subtle hostility or judgment that comes through in some of these statements that makes me wish that everyone would, every so often, think before they speak.
Before anyone freaks out, I completely and totally support stay-at-home mums. They work. They work hard. Their choices are valid and awesome and please stop glaring at me. There are days I envy them more than you know.
1. Can’t you afford to stay home?
Let’s assume for a minute that I can’t. Let’s imagine I work to help pay the mortgage and buy groceries and send our kids to college. Where does this conversation go now? Awkward, right? Next thing you know, I’m going to be asking you how much your husband earns so you can stay home. Let’s agree not to go there.
Then let’s say I can afford to stay home. The question assumes the reason I work is entirely financial. Which is part of it, to be sure. If I could make money watching bad reality TV and doing yoga all day, I would. Since I can’t, I work at a more traditional job — but it’s not all about the money. I value my education and the years I’ve devoted to my career. I think it is good for our boys to see me working outside our home so they know that a woman isn’t confined to being a wife and a mother.
I also know that some day our kids will be off at college or started on careers of their own and I want to keep a foot in the working world so when that time comes, I’m not staring at a big gap in my resume that makes it harder for me to get a job. I also like the equality that exists in my marriage because both my husband and I put money in the bank. That’s just me. But this particular question devalues all of those considerations and, in turn, my choices. Please don’t do that.
2. I’d give anything to get away from my kids for an entire day.
If you really mean it, I’m happy to help you polish your resume. You can be away from your kids all day, every day! Of course, along with that “freedom” you’ll feel guilty about being away from them and will wonder if they’re ok because they’re home with a babysitter or in day care. Going to work every morning and waving to my kid from the upstairs bathroom window isn’t a spa day.
It’s sort of like doing a triathalon. You start each day with a morning plunge into icy water, getting everyone to school/work then do an an eight-hour bike ride, all topped off with a half-marathon of dinner, homework, baths and bedtime.
During your bike ride not only will you be expected to pedal hard, you’ll also have to take phone calls from the school, the babysitter, and the doctor, respond to birthday party invitations, take a quick side trip to grab supplies for an art project, order groceries and a new pair of jeans and remember to return library books because it all needs to get done RIGHT NOW. If you’re lucky, there’s some wine left over in the fridge.
3. I’d miss my child too much to be away from him all day.
I know. I completely understand. You get over it. Because you have to.
4. The problem with this country today is that not enough mums are home raising their children.
I know! I couldn’t agree more! Oh, wait. You’re not advocating for paid parental leave, flexible work schedules or telecommuting, are you? You’re not picketing in support for working parents (because, let’s face it, some dads would like to be able to spend more time with their kids too) so they can make good choices for their families, right?