I wasn’t always a stay-at-home mom. I had a great career once, but after juggling both jobs – mother and professional — I was fortunate to be able to choose one as my full-time occupation.
I expected the cut in our family income, the occasional drudgery of the less glamorous aspects of that decision (like laundry and carpools), but what I didn’t anticipate was the bias, mostly from other women.
It’s subtle. Like when a good friend who went back to work after years at home with her own children implies that I have more time than her for personal phone calls (the phone works both ways). Or when my son’s teacher doesn’t apologize for not remembering to hand out the cookies I baked for a class party, as if that time spent doesn’t count.
There are less subtle moments, like when my own mother laments that she thought I would be more ambitious. Ambitious is defined as “having or showing a strong desire and determination to succeed.” By that definition, I’m an extremely ambitious mom. I cringe when my extended family asks the question, “So, are you working now?” to which I defensively answer, “I work 24 hours a day at home.”
Just because I don’t go to an office, doesn’t mean I have a lot of free time. Most of the stay-at-home moms I know volunteer regularly, having been roped into a few things because we have trouble saying no. I see a lot of the same faces at the school events and meetings. We are the designated carpool drivers, the repeat room moms, the class bakers and the field trip chaperones. Sure, many of my “working” mom friends participate in these activities too, but it’s the stay-at-home moms who are the fallback when you can’t find anyone else.
Many stay-at-homers had careers at one time, and we understand schedules. Now, we follow schedules that rotate around other people. Our time is not our own. My husband’s work schedule means I’m on my own until sometimes 8 p.m. or later. I don’t have family who live close by to call on when I’m stretched thin. So, when someone recently tried to schedule a meeting time to accommodate working moms, I explained that the time she suggested was just when I start rolling up my sleeves at home to help my youngest with homework, cook dinner, and run out to carpool kids to and from practices.
I am an educated woman who chose to be a stay-at-home mom because it was the best decision for my family. Please respect that decision. I am not home eating bonbons.