Wednesday, March 25, 2015

I'm Not Better Because I'm At Home

This award, it isn't a thing. There's no medal, no award, and no blue ribbon for a job well done.

Neither are there guarantees that what you do is going to provide you with the kid you always dreamed of.

But the reason that there is no Best Mom Award, is that it's not a competition.

I was reading an article today by Lydia Lovric called, "Dear Daughter, This Is Why I Don't Work." and was really bothered by a few things she said.

First of all, Stay At Home Moms work very hard. I know I'm up early, and often I don't get to bed until late.

There's school drop off, pick ups, practice for the school play, clubs, cub scouts, baseball, PTO, Special Education Advisory Committee, meals, shopping, cleaning, laundry, and so freaking much more. I am amazed I don't forget half the things I'm required to do, or that I've volunteered to help with.

Add to that I work part-time from home, and am trying to launch my Scentsy business (see sidebar for a link if you're interested) and I work almost all the time. But even if I weren't doing those things, I would be ridiculously busy. Being a mom is work, whether you have a job, or you're at home.

But that's not really what I take issue with in her piece. She says:
Recently, I came across an article written by Sasha Emmons, the Editor-in-Chief at Today's Parent, who made a startling confession about her eight-year-old daughter: "Not long ago you asked me if I love work more than I love you and your brother," she wrote in a piece titled "Dear Daughter, Here's Why I Work."
Such a question would break my heart and crumple my sense of pride and self-worth.
I think it's a pretty normal question for a kid. My kids have asked all sorts of questions like that. They don't really think I love anything, or anyone, more than I love them. They're just re-affirming their place in the world. It's an opportunity for a discussion, like so many things kids ask and say.You sit down, pull them close, explain how and why they're important to you, and ask what brought up the question, answering any more they might have. And then ask if there's something they'd like to do with you.

I call it parenting.

The mom who was asked that question, Sasha Emmons, I thought had some really great answers. Answers that affirmed that she was a person with her own desires and interests, and could continue to be that while still being their mom.

Well done, Sasha.

Lovric continues, with a harsh judgement of what I thought was Emmons' lovely response:
But Emmons -- who admits she left her daughter at just three months of age -- freely offers some rather selfish reasons for going back to work:
"I work because I love it."
"I work because scratching the itch to create makes me happy, and that happiness bleeds over into every other area, including how patient and engaged and creative a mother I am."
"I work because this nice house and those gymnastics lessons and those sneakers you need to have are all made possible by two incomes."
"I work because I want you and your brother to be proud of me."
Those are Emmons' words. Not mine.
The really harsh "left her daughter" comment makes it sound as if she abandoned her child to murderous circus clowns when she was barely old enough to hold her own head up. That tiny comment is fraught with a really disgusting attitude, and says so much more about Lovric than Emmons.

I have clients who are forced to go back to work when their babies are much younger. They're not selfish. They're just trying to survive. And I don't blame them for going back to work. I am instead frustrated with a system that creates a financial burden so heavy, that mothers are forced to go back to work when their babies are so young, and then shames them for somehow being bad mothers for doing so.

But, I honestly don't find Emmons' reasons selfish. I find them honest. Is she not allowed to love her work? Is it unacceptable for a person to find fulfillment and joy in  something they do? And, not that you have to have two incomes to survive, but I can tell you that without two full-time incomes in our house there aren't gymnastics lessons, and fancy sneakers. In fact, there's a lot of "No, we can't do that."

Don't get me wrong, I'm not always sorry about that. There are benefits and drawbacks to busy schedules. We hope that what they lack in lessons and activities, they make up for in relationships with their siblings. But I'm not going to lie, they do sometimes miss out because there are things we just plain can't afford to let them do.

Wanting to give your kids those things, isn't selfish. Neither is denying them. They're just different choices made by different parents, with different views of the world, and different priorities.

All that said, I loved Lovric's reasons for staying home:
I stay home because although I did love my job very much, I love you more.
I stay home because although writing and radio did make me extremely happy, I knew that you seemed happier when I was around. And your happiness was more important to me than my own. And making you happy also made me happy.
These are awesome reasons to stay home, if that is an option for your family. For so many, even though these things are true, that second income isn't about gymnastics and gym shoes. It's about a roof over their heads and food on the table. And I don't think any parent should ever feel guilty because they have to provide for their families.

Nor do I think any parent should feel guilty for following a career path that brings them joy, and allows that joy to spill over into their parenting.

I'm actually a big believer on abolishing the vast majority of parental guilt, which I find unnecessary.

Then she added this:
I stay home because I want you to learn that family and love are more important than material possessions. A large home or fancy sneakers will not make up for an absent mother.
Again, why the need to attack working mothers?  As I said, many moms work because they must. Will the food and clothing make up for the "absent mother"? Or does she not judge those who have to work?

And those who work because they love it? Well, why does that mean that they're absent?

Some families have a dad that stays home. Some people have amazing care-givers during the day, and when they're with their kids, they're so excited to spend time together. They have amazing experiences with their kids. There are also stay at home parents who are resentful and disconnected.

My parents were public school teachers. I would have loved to have had a stay at home parent. But I never felt like my parents were absent.

There isn't a one-size-fits-all answer to how to be a family, and I'm tired of women justifying their perfectly legitimate choices, at the expense of other women.
The feminists may not like it, dear daughter, but even if I made it to the very top of my profession, even if I drove a fancy company car and went on a slew of business trips, I would feel like an utter failure if any of my kids felt the need to ask me if I loved work more than I loved them.
I suppose it wouldn't have been complete without a subtle attack on feminism, while showing a complete misunderstanding of what the point of feminism is. That she would feel like a failure has everything to do with her seemingly myopic view of how to be a mother, and nothing at all to do with feminism.

As a feminist, I support the decision for her to stay home and care for her children. If that's what's best for her and for her family, I applaud her choice to make financial sacrifices and make that work.

My hope is that, should a time ever come when she has to, or would like to work, she is paid a fair wage, and not less because she is a woman. I would like her to walk down the street and have her personhood respected. And I would like her not to be demeaned as less of a woman, or less of a mother, because she works outside of the home.

In fact, there are a whole host of things I would like as a feminist. Not the least of which is a stop to the idea that there is only one right way to be a mother, only one right way to be a woman, or only one right way to raise a family.

It's not a competition.  

And I really wish that she could see that the ability to sit home and judge other mothers for not making the same choice she did, is an elitist luxury.

I'm so glad I've been home with my kids these last few years. But I would so much rather build up other moms, instead of making them feel doubtful or guilty about how they're doing things.

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  1. Lovric's tone in the quotes you pulled says so much, not only about how she feels entitled to judge others (and pass this on to her daughter - god forbid SHE ever make - or have to make - different choices with her life as a mother), but also, I think I hear an undertone of insecurity. Wherever it comes from, it's all sanctimonious horse shit. Very satisfying to have you call her on it.

  2. Good read Anne :) I work and I love it. I am not an absent mother. That's ridiculous. I've pretty much made my peace with working mom guilt and someone who needs to jump all over me to make herself feel better has a whole lot more issues than I do!

  3. No guilt! We have to do away with that. You're an awesome mother, and you should be so proud of yourself!

  4. It was very satisfying to write it.

    And you're 100% right. Thank you!


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