Time to Stop the War Between Women – There is Room for Us All
Last night I found myself telling my daughter – who is a senior in college and planning on attending veterinary medical school – that being a woman with choices isn’t always all it is cracked up to be. In fact, it is hard. And what makes it even harder isn’t this glass ceiling. It is other women. We place expectations on each other and at times are the last ones to offer support. We make it harder for ourselves and other women.
Women have bountiful education and career choices, for which I am so thankful. However, those choices come with frustrations and judgments, and most often from other women. Just as women 50 years ago were criticized if they purposefully decided to work outside the home full time, women today are shunned by many for choosing to put their careers on hold while they stay home to raise their children. At a party not long ago I kept overhearing conversations floating between a group of women – all commiserating with each other about how “boring” it would be to “just be” a stay-at-home mom. These women all work full-time outside of the home and all were agreeing that stay-at-home moms have too much time on their hands, not enough challenges, and just can’t be fulfilled.
Stay-at-Home Moms Under Attack
This attitude that women who choose to stay home are inferior has been reflected again and again, in the media, politics, and among women across the United States. Deborah Jacobs, in an article published at Forbes.com, attempts in a backwards way to defend moms who work at home by extolling the virtue of not judging by appearance. As a mom who works outside of the home, Jacobs repeatedly remarks in her article about how she fantasizes about the lives of stay-at-home moms who wear elegant yoga attire – but then goes on to say that,
“A lot of those moms may wish they were employed outside the home but can’t find a job, or can’t find one that would pay more than the childcare they would inevitably have to compensate someone else to perform. Or maybe they are in an abusive marriage with someone who controls them, won’t let them work, and belittles them if their body fat gets higher than that of a supermodel.”
Insert my eye rolling here. Her reasoning for why we should not judge stay-at-home moms is because they might not be able to get any other type of job that pays enough for a babysitter or because their husbands are abusive and controlling. That’s the kind of defense stay-at-home moms can do without.
Why Moms Choose to Stay Home
I know I don’t live in a bubble. I’m just too claustrophobic for that. Of the many friends I have who stay home with their kids, I don’t know any who do so because they can’t get a better job or because their husbands won’t let them leave the cocoon of the home. Stay-at-home moms choose their job because:
- They want to raise their children without outside help.
- They are fulfilled staying home with their children and thoroughly enjoy actively planning and participating in every day.
- They consider the care of the home and family to be of significant value.
- They can’t imagine missing out on moments they can’t get back – 1st steps, words, etc.
- They plan to pursue an outside career when their children are older and more independent.
- They want to homeschool their kids.
- It is their dream job.
This is my dream job. Staying at home, making the choice to raise my four children by being present every day in their lives, homeschooling them, making the choice to put my career on hold and meet whatever those consequences may be, these are all a part of my choice. These are all a part of my dream job. There are challenges and there are worries and there are downright agonizing moments. But I am guessing that is true for women all over the world, no matter how they spend their days.
In yet another article that devalues the choice a woman makes to be a stay-at-home mom, Judith Warner claims that when women choose to stay at home,
“Their position of equality with their husbands is by necessity somewhat eroded. They lose the sense of strength that comes from knowing that, come what may, they can keep themselves and their children afloat economically. They lose intellectual stimulation (assuming that they were lucky enough to have it in their jobs anyway), the easy companionship and structure of the workplace, and recognition from the outside world. And if they don’t have the money to outsource domestic jobs, their freedom from paid work comes at the cost of repetitive thankless tasks — laundry, cleaning and the like — that test their patience and can chip away at their self-worth. The pleasure in this life of course is time with the children, but school-age kids leave a void that many find hard to meaningfully fill.”
When women reflect like this on other women who make different choices, it creates an atmosphere of judgment, resentment, and worse. Let’s calm down a bit and ask ourselves two questions:
1. Am *I* happy with my choice for me, regardless of how the group of sneering women at the party feels?
2. Am *I* thankful for the women around me who have made their own choices, no matter if they are different from mine?
I am not just happy with my choice. I am a woman with no regrets who gets her dream job.
I am thankful for women who choose not to stay home.
Yes. You read that right. I am thankful for women who are working outside of the home. She is the doctor who cares for my children and who I trust with their health. She is the Autism resource provider who gives me support and resources for my child. She is the health aide who lovingly cared for my grandmother during her final days. She is the dance instructor who gives her enthusiasm to my child in the studio. She is the woman who works at church, developing community resources for those in need. She is the boss where my daughter works and who provides leadership and mentoring as my daughter pursues her own dreams. She is my sister who volunteers every weekend after working full-time during the week. She is my mother who was a teacher and who helped to influence the lives of her students. I am thankful for all of these women, and so many more, who give their time, talents, and dedication to entities beyond themselves in their unique ways.
And I hope out there exists a group of women who are thankful for the stay-at-home moms. These are the women who step into the classrooms as teacher-helpers. These are the women who volunteer during the day for community services, teaching the next generation how to do the same. These are the women who keep extra eyes on the kids in the neighborhood and have open arms for them when needed. These are the women you call when you need a babysitter at the last minute, a ride for Billy, or a place for Suzie on a snow day from school. These are the women who provide foster care. These are the women who stop for coffee with the elderly neighbor after time at the park – the only visit this neighbor will receive each week. These are the women who nurture, educate, and provide hands on learning experiences for the children who will eventually inherit the world.
Women – for all of their love, compassion, and strength – are also the harshest judges, the coldest critics, and the cruelest when it comes to other women. I’ve tried on many hats as a woman. Stay-at-home mom, work-at-home mom, and working mom. I know where I am happiest and where I believe I contribute most to the world. I won’t tell you what is best for your family if you don’t proceed to assume I’m bored, unfulfilled, lazy, or unhappy with mine as a work-at-home homeschool mom. It’s time to calm down, women everywhere. There is room for us all. There is need for us all. Let’s calm down, women everywhere, and take a moment to thank the women in our world, no matter what paths they choose.