When last I posted I made the statement that “I think that I resent the personal sacrifice, loss of ambition and de-valuing of myself by being a stay at home mom almost as much as I love my kids enough to do it.”
If I am totally honest with myself, I am the only one allowing myself to de-value myself as a stay at home mom. Yes, I can totally point to media and societal factors that help reinforce this de-valuation…but really, at the end of the day, its on me. Maybe its my (seemingly problematic) ability to allow myself to set a different sort of standard for what it means to be a parent and a person– was raised by a mother that worked and went to school and was a parent. A mother that brought home the bigger pay check. A mother that worked her butt off all day and went to school in the evenings (one of the first college degrees–both BS and MS in her family), and still managed to make sure the Brownies troop had a leader, that someone was at my ballet recital or chorus concert, and that taught me to value an education. I might add that my mother’s mother worked outside the home as well, even in a time where many women did not…so the idea of stay-at-home-mom (SAHM, if you aren’t familiar with the acronym) as an occupation was not one I was raised with.
My mother as fantastic as she was (and she was pretty damn fantastic) was not without her own faults–often she was tired, burnt out, and depended on me (an only child) to get the majority of the day to day housework done, which I often resented. I didn’t resent it because of the chores themselves (maybe a little bit)…but rather that my mom was the sort of person that looked at the mostly sparkling kitchen–mopped floors, shiny stove, etc and only saw the inside of the dirty microwave that I hadn’t noticed. Don’t get me wrong–I fully credit (now) my mother to making me mostly self sufficient in the home, minus some of the things that she didn’t have time (or perhaps inclination) to teach me (some of which were handled by my grandmother)…but its manifested itself in my adult life as this weird urge to justify anything that falls out of that *all-or-nothing* attitude. And in some ways, I would have liked more mom and less “I’m busy/tired/not feeling well”. (Mom, if you are reading this, I love you and I hope you don’t mind my talking about it too much, since its something we have discussed a bit.)
I would never think this about someone else choosing to do so…but emotionally my decision to be a SAHM feels like I’m choosing the *nothing* option–like I am wasting my experience (I was a damned good corpsman), my education and knowledge (which I worked damn hard to get), my ambition (I like working, and I have something I would actually like to do in life with my education and experience). Intellectually, I know this is bullshit. Part of our decision for me to be a stay at home mom is simple economics–the economy sucks badly enough that there just aren’t the sort of jobs available right now that would make working economical once the cost of daycare and other expenses is factored in. The other part is that I like my kids, and I (along with The Hubby) think they deserve the best sort of upbringing possible…they are bright, funny, energetic and genuine, and I think they deserve to stay that way as long as possible. I think they deserve to have the kind of upbringing that allows them to engage in the world around them (rather than to fear it), to have a variety of experiences that builds their character (rather than tearing it down) and builds upon their interests (rather than smothering them). I’m not convinced that the public school system is equipped any longer to accommodate individuals (if it ever was), nor that it contributes to the raising of the sort of future adult that I would like to see my child become (a topic for another day).
But…having a one-income family (particularly in this economy) is scary. My husband has been blessed with a good job (after two years of under-employment we are indeed thankful to have it), we have health care, he gets a pay check that puts food on the table, gas in the car and a roof over our heads…but it doesn’t offer the best job security (he’s been laid off twice, and narrowly dodged the bullet another half dozen times, including this past weekend, for which we are still keeping our fingers crossed). And, lets not forget the other stuff that can happen–illness, injury, relationship failure, or worse (not thinking about it as a possibility is just irresponsible, IMO). We don’t have the money for life insurance, and lets be honest, unemployment might keep food on the table, but it doesn’t keep the bills paid. Realistically, the longer someone is away from the job market, the less likely they are to be hired and the older one gets, the less likely they are to get hired…and my status as a female veteran does not help matters. Not only do we lack a realistic safety net, but if I were in a position where I had to get a job (rather than just want one that I can afford to be selective about), I would be stuck in the sort of job that isn’t likely to be advantageous to the economic security of my family. Plus, being the only breadwinner is a bit stressful for the hubby, and it puts a different dynamic on our relationship that we have never experienced before (and are still figuring out)–for most of our relationship we’ve both been in the military.
Do not get me wrong: I am not complaining*. We could be worse off, and other families are worse off all around the country and around the world (I stridently implore you to watch this–its only 15 minutes of your time). We have food on the table, we have a roof over our head, we have clothing, clean water, electricity, access to health care and most of the conveniences of modern life. Most importantly, we have each other. But I think, as a parent, and as part of a partnership, all of this is something that I need to deal with in one way or another and I owe it to myself and my family to consider all the consequences of this decision. The Hubby is awesome and supportive (and fully admits that he would rather work 2 full time jobs than have my SAHM job), but he can’t fix my feelings of inadequacy and indecision on the matter (the fiscal discussions and decisions on the other hand, are ones that we work out together).
*Hopefully this does not come off that way, or as too angst-y…there’s nothing more pathetic than an emo 30-something. I really don’t want my blog to be a downer, but I’d like it to be a bit more real (and less Good Housekeeping for Witches) as well. Either way, thanks for bearing with me…I’m finishing some less introspective ruminations, including a post on Yuletide preparations for tomorrow or the next day, so stay tuned.