I never imagined that I would be a ‘stay at home’ mom. I don’t even really like that term. I feel very lucky to be with my kids all the time, but I just didn’t imagine that that’s what I would be doing. It is such a different kind of work than traditional jobs and sometimes I feel like I get defensive about what I do. I just feel like our society doesn’t really acknowledge all the work it takes to raise children, and that’s a bummer.” — Ari Serrano Embree via Mother Mag
I couldn’t agree more with this statement, especially the part about society not acknowledging the work it takes to raise children. My path to being “just” a mom happened as life often does, unplanned and kind of out of the blue. After my company suddenly shut its offices, I found myself six months pregnant and out of a job. Whatever “plan” I had had in mind was safely out the window, and with few options, I decided to embrace my impending mom role. And that’s still where I find myself today, as “mom” or more precisely, as pop culture dictates, “stay-at-home mom.”
Being a “stay-at-home” mom really is amazing. To be able to watch this little life grow, day by day and watch every milestone — from the mundane to the magical — has been such an incredible blessing. But, as with anything, it’s not without its challenges. I’ve said to people that the “mom thing” I love, but the other stuff — the whole maintaining and running a household while also mothering a young child — is tough, to say the least. And there’s not a day that goes by that I don’t think about my current path and if/when I should change it. I’m the only one from my group of girlfriends to stay home with my daughter, so I wrestle with thoughts of inadequacy and compare myself to my friends and family. Am I setting a bad example for my daughter because I’m “just” staying home with her and “not working” I wonder? (And yes I’m using quotes because I know firsthand how challenging this role is.)
Why do I constantly feel the need to apologize for my role? And defend it? It’s ironic, isn’t it, for women: we’re truly damned if we do, damned if we don’t. Moms who go back to work sooner are often criticized for “leaving their babies” while moms who stay home with their kids are criticized for taking the “easy road.” We can’t win. In reality, every family’s situation calls for a different solution. What works for some doesn’t work for others. But perceptions (and opinions) remain. Yet I struggled with my own perception of a role that I had waited my whole life to play.
Stay-at-home moms all know how beautiful, exhausting, frustrating, amazing, silly, and outrageous being at home can be, but how is this getting lost in the greater societal picture? I know I’m not the only one who has tremendous respect for stay-at-home moms, knowing personally what the role requires. But I also know I felt insecure and ashamed at times, and that’s not right. I know that as more time passed, I started to panic over whether I would be able to find work again when I was ready. I also know there are many people out there who still don’t believe staying at home demands much other than a physical presence. — Shayna Gehl
Like the author above, I too have felt that insecurity and the anxiety about finding a role when/if I would be ready. I’ve been freelancing since my daughter was a couple months old, but since I wasn’t in a 9-5 job I worried if employers would judge me for the time I spent raising my daughter? Would they hold that against me? As time went on (and finances started to get pinched) I slowly started to look for work, but these thoughts were constantly on my mind. Along the way, I’ve had people make comments to me along the lines of, “Oh, so your husband works and you get to be on vacation.” WTF, am I right?! Or the remarks about how they wish they could “just” stay home with a baby and not have to “work.”
Needless to say, these comments always got under my skin and really proved to me that the stereotypes of what some may view being a stay-at-home mom is, cannot be further from reality. Raising children is no easy task and so important on so many levels and I think respecting and giving credit to the role these women play in society is pivotal in changing the societal picture of stay-at-home moms.
I wish someone had told me, back in the days when I was home all day with a newborn, not to worry so much about what everyone else is doing. I was afraid to miss out on a career. But there’s always time to start something new, and sometimes all it takes to completely change your life is to write an e-mail. — Kate Lao Shaffner via Design Mom
Ultimately, I came to the realization that being “just” a mom is a beautiful thing and I couldn’t be prouder that I’ve been able to be home with my daughter for the past 17 months. I got to see every moment of my daughter blossoming from a wiggly little newborn who pretty much just pooped, slept, and ate, to a rambunctious toddler who can now walk (rather run!) laugh, play, communicate, etc. The shift has been tremendous to witness.
It certainly wasn’t (and isn’t) easy financially, but I realize that not everyone has the ability to do this and I’m so grateful. It was a sacrifice on my career I suppose (or was it? Only time will tell), but I don’t regret it. After all, my daughter will only be this young once and raising good people is arguably the most important work there is. People will always judge and will always have an opinion, but I’m no longer apologizing for my role and instead embracing it wholeheartedly. So here’s to ALL the mamas: stay-at-home, working moms, work-from-home, etc., we are all on this journey together, and though our paths may be different, ultimately loving and raising our babies is what binds us together.
This article first appeared on The Motherland Blog and can be seen here.