16 May 2014

Working Women v. Stay-At-Home Women

I've recently gone back to work after being a full-time stay-at-home mother (SAHM) since 2005. Prior to that I was a part-time SAHM since my son was born in 1998. Before that I was in college. After he was born I decided that I needed to be home. Even though I was super ambitious in high school and college and had big plans (that did not include children), once I became a SAHM I was all in. I became Super-SAHM. I'm blessed that I have been able to stay home, but now, it's time to go back to work. An opportunity literally fell into my lap.

My sister works zillions of hours at work (she's an IT Manager in a large insurance company-so proud of her!), church, daughter's dance team coach, and goes to school. I've lived a different life. I chauffeur children all day, cook foods from scratch, teach my children, blog, and write letters just as much as email (though I text more than anything). She doesn't judge me and I don't judge her. We do what each family thinks is right. My children needed me to be home (blended family). My sister needed to provide insurance for her family. I'm not here to judge y'all for your decisions either. Last I checked, here in the democratized West we have the right to choose. Now we do not earn as much as men yet, no woman president, and last but not least...the SAHM does not have a way of impressing people with their fabulous occupation.

Since I'm back in the work force, I've been reading books and blogs on time management, getting ahead, and balancing it all. In a recent book, Lean In, I found this quote that I think warrants sharing:

"In a letter to The Atlantic in June 2012, Barnard president Debora Spar wrote about this messy and complicated emotion, exploring why she and so many successful women feel so guilty. She decided that it's because women "have been subtly striving all our lives to prove that we have picked up the torch that feminism provided. That we haven't failed the mothers and grandmothers who made our ambitions possible. And yet, in a deep and profound way, we are failing. Because feminism wasn't supposed to make us feel guilty, or prod us into constant competitions over who is raising children better, organizing more cooperative marriages, or getting less sleep. It was supposed to make us free-to give us not only choices but the ability to make these choices without constantly feeling that we'd somehow gotten it wrong.

Stay-at-home mothers can make me feel guilty and, at times, intimidate me. There are moments when I feel like they are judging me, and I imagine there are moments when they feel like I am judging them. But when I push past my own feelings of guilt and insecurity, I feel grateful. These parents-mostly mothers-constitute a large amount of the talent that helps sustain our schools, nonprofits, and communities. Remember that mom who pointed out that my son should be wearing a green T-shirt on St. Patrick's Day? She is a tireless volunteer in the classroom and our community. So many people benefit from her hard work.

Society has long undervalued the contributions of those who work without a salary. My mother felt this slight keenly. For seventeen years, she worked more than full-time as a mother and on behalf of Soviet Jewry. She understood that the compensation for her efforts was making a difference in the lives of persecuted people halfway across the world, but many people in her own neighborhood did not consider her work to be as important as a "real job". She was still regarded as "just a housewife"-undercutting the very real but unpaid work of raising children and advocating for human rights.

We all want the same thing: to feel comfortable in our choices and to feel validated by those around us. So let's start validating one another. Mothers who work outside the home should regard mothers who work inside the home as real workers. And mothers who work inside the home should be equally respectful of those choosing another option."

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