Guys, I have a confession to make: I have never called myself a stay-at-home mom.
A few weeks ago I was filling out some paperwork. Everything was fine until I reached a box that read “occupation.” After a bit of hesitation I wrote “editor”—my job title before Little G was born. And I’ll admit, that wasn’t the first time I’d been less than honest about how I spend my days.
A String of Excuses
That dreaded question, “What do you do?” always seems to come up when making small talk. And it never fails to cause me anxiety. In casual conversations, especially with strangers and acquaintances, I will usually answer it with something along the lines of, “I work from home as a freelance editor, but I haven’t been taking as many jobs since G was born.” That’s when I launch into my usual string of excuses and apologies: “Well, you know, Geoff travels for work so I’m on my own through the week…”; “The long hours and short deadlines really aren’t conducive to working with a toddler at home, and it’s not a great time for a career change”; and of course, “If I really hustled, my income would only maybe cover the cost of full-time childcare… so staying home just makes financial sense right now.”
Why do I keep doing this? I’m an opinionated person who rarely cares about what other people think. Why do I feel the need to justify my choices to strangers, as though being a stay-at-home mom is something to be ashamed of? Before becoming a mother, I knew all parents were rockstars. Whether they worked or stayed home, they were undertaking the immense responsibility of caring for and raising another human being. And there was no doubt that that was to be applauded and respected.
From “I’m a Mom!” to “I’m Just a Mom”
During G’s first year, I felt this surprising sense of pride that I was now part of that exclusive club. I was a parent! But once the moms in my circle began, one by one, making their way back to work after maternity leave, I began to feel less and less proud of who I was. The word “mom” no longer seemed synonymous with “superhero.” It started to feel shameful. Derogatory. Especially when I found myself thinking about how I was just a mom.
And I’ll tell you something: the word still feels negative. And that anxiety is still there in the pit of my stomach, like it is any time I think too hard about this choice I’ve made. Tonight I’ve been asking myself why that is.
There are a lot of little things. I feel like somehow I’ve failed by not finding a career I was dying to return to after maternity leave (whether it covered the cost of daycare or not). I worry that since I now spend my days making LEGO towers and doing housework, there’s nothing about me that’s interesting to adults who don’t have kids. I’m embarrassed that I’m not contributing financially to my family.
Science Says . . .
But a big reason I can’t admit I’m a stay-at-home mom is this article I read after G turned one. The title was Science says parents of successful kids have these 16 things in common. Almost a year after reading it, I only remember one of those 16 things: “The Moms Work Outside the Home.” It referenced this article from the New York Times, which stated, “In a new study of 50,000 adults in 25 countries, daughters of working mothers completed more years of education, were more likely to be employed and in supervisory roles and earned higher incomes.”
Reading that article planted a seed of doubt in my mind. And the doubt continues to grow as G gets older. Have I already impeded her success by staying home? Have I doomed any future sons to the belief that a woman’s role is exclusively domestic? Am I a bad feminist for choosing this path?
Intellectually I know the answer is no. G will rule the world if she wants to because her father and I will do everything in our power to give her the tools she needs to make that happen. We will raise G and any future siblings to know that their mother stayed home because it was the right decision for our family at this time in our lives. My partner and I will explain to them that we live in a society where women fought, and are still fighting, for equality. And that equality means both women and men should be able to work or stay home, depending on what their particular situation calls for.
I’m a Stay-at-Home Mom
So I guess this is me, silencing my doubts and owning my choices. I’m a stay-at-home mom. There. I’ve said it, and I can’t take it back. The hard part is over now. It’s time to start working toward rebuilding that sense of pride I felt after G was born. Because I’m doing exactly what I want to be doing, and I am lucky as hell for that.
Have you struggled with being a stay-at-home parent? Have you had a hard time as a working parent? Tell us how you feel about where you are on this parenting adventure. Wendy wrote a great response to this post here, so check it out!