To stay home or not to stay home?

Posted by Saraline , Tuesday, April 20, 2010 9:48 PM

I'm currently a stay at home mom. In September, I will be going to school when my son will be a month shy of two years old. I never finished getting a university degree; I now plan on getting getting a technical diploma at a CEGEP.

I don't know if this was exactly my choice. I was planning on staying home for the first year of his life and returning to work when my maternity leave was finished. My plan was disrupted a few months into my leave when I found out that everybody at my job was getting laid off, myself included.

I've looked at job postings, sent out CVs, and gone to job interviews. I saw a job counselor who suggested that I try McDonald's. My son is still on waiting lists for the $7 a day daycares, so a big chunk of my hypothetical McDonald's paycheck would go to a private daycare. This plan didn't seem to be worth my trouble; my time would be better spent at home taking care of my son. Staying home was my choice when I was looking at the alternative. If I hadn't been laid off during my maternity leave, I probably would have chosen to go back to work (I was a relay operator for the Deaf and hard of hearing, which I would prefer to being a burger flipper.)

Regardless of whether or not this was my choice, being a stay at home mom is an option that many mothers choose. It's a valid career choice. I've mentioned this on my blog before, but in this piece the author recounts a story about meeting a stay at home mom who handed her a business card:

Those four words on that business card speak volumes about this woman. Some people will think, "Oh, that's sad that she feels like that's all she is now: Greg's Mommy." But I could tell this woman obviously thought her baby was the bomb, and she saw it as a real privilege to be attached to that radness. Seemed like the words on her card were there to say, "Yeah. I made that with my magic lady body. Jealous?" Or maybe she just made the cards as a public service to every frazzled mom she meets who's got zero chance of remembering her name, let alone her kid's name.

Some may feel that this is a silly idea, but why not? They may not work in offices, but stay at home parents are still important people making a valuable contribution to society. It's wonderful that women have more choices than they used to and that they now have the option to work outside of the home, but it's crucial to remember that staying home with the kids is a choice for some mothers, too.

This sums it up quite nicely:

Feminism is all about the power to choose. Half a century ago, it is likely that my current stay at home status wouldn't have been mine to accept or reject. Instead it simply would have been the way it was. That was the case for the brilliantly stifled Betty Friedan, an Ivy League educated genius who launched the modern women's movement when she wrote The Feminine Mystique after finding herself literally imprisoned by societal expectations that she confine her interests to home and hearth. Twenty years later, Friedan re-explored the lives of American women in The Second Wave, in which she argued that the assumption that every woman should construct a life centered primarily around earning a wage could be just as limiting as previous social paradigms.

5 Response to "To stay home or not to stay home?"

the regina mom Says:

Fifteen years ago I seriously struggled with the entire concept of SAHM. On the one hand, there was nothing I wanted more than to be at home with my two little ones, then 3 and 1. On the other hand, I believed I wouldn't be acting in a feminist way, that I would be forsaking feminism, if I stayed home.

I haven't a clue why I felt that. But when a friend said that for her feminism is all about choice. That was all I needed to hear and I decided to stay at home. And I loved it. It was a lot of work, that's for sure, but I don't regret a minute of it!

Saraline Says:

I think that a lot of mothers feel that way at one point or another. Maybe it's because earlier feminists worked so hard so that being a SAHM wasn't the only choice that people forgot that it was still a choice.

Pamela Says:

Saraline: This was just awesome and you are so right, yes it is a job. The SAHMs I know were rarely "at home". Most of us volunteer for many programs that run in communities that benefit all families or simply help out at our kids schools by chaperoning trips fundraisers etc. Some would provide a service such as picking up sick kids or something as simple as making sure ALL kids have a safe place when school gets cancelled mid-day. Most folks can't just up and leave their job at a moments notice to deal with these things and SAHMs fill this void in a lot of communities. Keep up the good work. I have been a SAHM for over 20 years and have added SAH-Nana to my resume!

brebis noire Says:

Oh saraline, my heart goes out to you. I struggled with this as well, I was nearly torn in two by my desire to be at home as much as possible, and to get out and be a part of society and do what I was educated in, and good at. I found the stay-at-home part (which I did full-time for the first year of my first son's life) to be very difficult. I felt cloistered and exhausted, yet it was also the most important thing I could do at the time - I took a year off school for my first kid. Taking him to daycare the first few times when he was 1 yr old was difficult: that is an understatement.
But as a SAHM, I was perpetually exhausted and unfocused, because childcaring is really not my thing. When my second son came around 4 yrs later I was very fortunate to have a wonderful (subsidized, family-based) daycare to take him to. I felt like I was taking the kids to a second family every day, where they would learn things I couldn't teach them. They were very happy there, and so was I.
In a lot of ways, I feel like I had the best of both worlds, because I developed a job that I could do at home, plus another part-time job out of the house, plus excellent and affordable daycare. I couldn't have done it without the daycare, for which I will be eternally grateful.

Saraline Says:

Pam, I didn't even think about the volunteer work that SAHMs do. Schools need parent volunteers, and SAHMs are usually the ones who do it. They do so much more than people give them credit for!

Brebis, I'm glad that you found a good balance, and I hope that I find one when I'm back at school too. Finding daycare is the biggest obstacle so far.