|My tidy child|
Still, I think she was also loading down her sherpa of class-warfare with the baggage of the Mommy Wars and she looks smart enough to know that she was also implying that Mitt Romney is some sort of square-jawed 50s throw-back with a trophy wife. Seriously. Couple her comments with the Draperizing of Mitt Romney and the War on Women hyperventilation and it starts to look like an intentional marginalization of Mrs. Romney.
Hey...don't they call that using dog whistles? (Silly. Only racist Republicans do that...)
Still, there are a lot of dumb myths that arise when the subject of stay at home mommy-ing comes up. Let's give Tenzing Norgay a chance to rest his dogs and off-load the luggage:
The Myth of War
Ah the Mommy Wars...I'm not much of a combatant. I won't smack anyone who describes themselves as a 'working mom' and say, clenching my manicured fingers, 'All moms are working moms!' and I'll only really bristle if someone calls me a housewife...they may as well go full nuclear and call me a Haus Frau. In the interest of full-disclosure, I was raised 'at home' by two women who worked outside the home at one time or another. My mother-in-law also became a single working mother after my FIL passed on. Call me Switzerland.
When my favorite baby sister became suddenly single, I went from being a pregnant mother of one to babysitting two little kids (2,4--neither of whom were potty-trained...so that makes three kids under four in diapers and a massively hormonal pregnant care-taker) while their mom was off at work. Neither of us want to repeat that experiment but the upshot is that, while I 'wasn't working' I was able to watch the children of a mother who was.
Lots and lots and lots of stay-at-home mothers do this. Lots and lots and lots of working mothers are thankful for it.
Very few of them shoot each other.
|Little Sister knew about power tools long before getting paid for a living|
The Myth of 'I Could Never Do That'
I get this one a lot. 'Oh, you have FOUR kids and you stay at home? I'd go crazy. I could never do that.'
When a teenager I wasn't the maternal type. I hauled my little brother Joe and sister Sara around with me grudgingly, and only babysat for the paycheck. I did not like children.
And, with no insult intended to my dear friends and relations, I still don't much care for the company of children...yours anyway. But I am often treated like someone who was hard-wired from birth to change diapers in an uninterrupted chain since July of 2000 until this day.
So, why can I do it? First, my husband and I believed strongly that we were responsible for the nurture of our own children. That's a big first. We were on the same page from the get-go and it informed nearly every decision we've made since.
Second...well, let me tell you a story about 'second'. When my brother started his career in high school teaching, my dad (himself a veteran teacher) told him that it would take three years before he felt comfortable and competent in his job. So, second, when I was handed a baby 11 years ago and told to go raise it, I didn't assume that I would feel competent and capable overnight and I tried not to be too hard on myself when Nathan came home to find me sitting on the laundry basket, crying in the walk-in closet. True story.
And now I've gotten really adept at managing large numbers of children...I hardly ever resort to pepper spray.
The Myth of The 50s
Sometimes people speak about homemakers as though we are a throwback to the 50s. And, putting aside the implied insult to me, I don't really think the 50s deserves the reputation.
A woman who was 35 in 1955 was 25 in 1945 and 15 in 1935. She weathered The Great Depression, sent men-folk off to possible death to fight and die in large numbers during WWII and became famous for aspiring to the serenity of the suburbs.
Maybe the 50s deserve scorn. I don't know. I wasn't there. But I try to remember what the adults of that generation passed through while they received the doubtful pleasure of having their lives described in "the most sanctimonious song ever written" as Ticky-Tacky.
|Gladys couldn't, no matter how hard she tried, scrub away that stuck-on condescension...|
The Myth of The Hardest Job on Earth
I hear this one. Sometimes it feels sincere, sometimes it feels like someone is patting me on the head.
But is it true?
Yes and no.
Zac screamed every day for two years. Not a little bit of every day. Not some of every day. Most of every day. Nathan told me later that he felt horribly guilty for feeling so happy it was him going off to work each morning. I don't blame him. If I could have left him at the curb for a roving band of gypsies, I would have.
And then there's the cough. Zac coughs for three months out of the year. In public, if I am stupid enough to venture there, I get the pleasure of being told I'm a bad mother. That's one heckuva performance review.
So we stay inside...all winter.
|But this is a good father|
So, my highs are higher than Nathan's and my lows are lower and I thank God every day that he has a job that can support FIVE other people in relative comfort.
But he'd agree that my job is more important than his. That's why he works so hard to make it possible.
The Myth of Nothing to Do
So what do I do with myself all day? Thanks to modern conveniences I'm not slapping my laundry against the rocks.
I get up, make a good breakfast for the kids, send some off to piano practice, get Zac changed, run errands, work-out (unless Zac has that cough and we have to avoid the gym), work on my church responsibilities, often I babysit for women who are more inclined than I am this year to volunteer at school, answer questions about EVERYTHING, change diapers, shuttle kids to T-ball, read a bit, listen to podcasts or chat on the phone while I clean my house and repair it from the ravages of four children, prepare dinner...
|Working hard or hardly working|
The Myth of Mental Stultification (see what I did there?)
I hear this charge laid at the door of stay-at-home-motherhood quite often--that it's an intellectual cess-pool--that you find yourself sucked into a swirling primary-colored vortex of Tinky-Winky, Dinosaur Train and Yo Gabba Gabba! (but don't knock the Gabbs--I love that show.)
That's true to a certain extent. Some mothers think that staying home with their child means entering into everything that child does and loves. I was brought up in the Frankie Hanna School of Advanced Parenting so that's not really how I roll. But if you ask me if I've had days where we watched The Emperor's New Grove back to back to back I won't be able to say I haven't. (And those were fun days.)
But while Nathan is off coding in the salt mines, my mental life isn't stagnant. I get to read books (classic and un), listen to political/philosophical/theological podcasts, avoid cable news (seriously. I love TV but I'm convinced that TV is the worst possible medium to consume intelligent commentary from...unless we're talking about Brian Lamb. I love Brian Lamb.), and even get riled up about ill-advised magazine articles.
The acme of my life was and probably always will be my letter to the editor of The Economist that made it onto their online site:
Sep 25th 2007, 16:59 by The Economist | LondonSIR—
Perhaps I ought to, as you suggest, get over this hang-up I have of dropping my children off at the nearest day care centre to become self-actualized in the workplace. Since it is merely misplaced maternal guilt guiding my choice instead of thoughtful deliberation I am happy to lay down my shackles and rush off to a utopian ideal of ambitious bliss.
Perhaps, though, it would be wise to consider that a sizable segment of the population would not respond as directed to financial incentives and institutionalized government child care. Moreover, the whittling down of a woman as “lacking ambition” or not setting “lofty goals” is a cheap shot to stay-at-home mothers. Or didn’t you think we read your magazine?
And it really is all down-hill from there...But some people are sure--just sure--that I don't know about Maslow's Hierarchy of Needs or that if I do, I'm doing it wrong.
The Myth of 'We can't afford that luxury'
In The White House Forum on Women and the Economy, last month, President Obama said that when his children were born, his wife could not afford the 'luxury' of staying home with the children.
Hmmm...If two crazy Harvard-educated lawyers can't do it, what chance do I have?
It's not my place to judge the priorities of the president's family. He might have felt that they needed the money to pursue the political offices that would get him into a position to help others. I'm not being snide here, I honestly don't know what he thought was the most important thing nor am I interested in everyone following the same path.
But please don't fob us off with the 'I can't afford that luxury'. I know a lot of women staying home to raise their kids who don't eat out, don't live in big houses, get by on one car, cut corners everywhere they can, shop clearance sales or second-hand...
Again, I don't really have an opinion on why both parents choose to work outside the house but I do have an opinion on the economics. If having a parent stay at home with the kids is the highest priority for both spouses, MOST people in two-parent households can still make it happen and deserve to see that it is an entirely reachable goal.
P.S. I totally ignored my children while I composed this. ;0)