The first time I had to deal with the issue of being called a house wife/stay at home mom was during a weird season of my life. I had just moved to a new city because my husband started a great job. We had been trying to start a family. By trying I mean it had been two years and no kids later. I was also trying to find a job while knowing I just really wanted to be a mom. That season of life pretty much felt as comfortable as wearing soaking wet jeans, with sand in my unmentionable places, while walking on a beach in 90 degree weather. I had to keep moving forward, but it was awkward.
Anyway, the house wife label crashed into me while checking a box on a travel visa for an upcoming trip to India. I was freelance producing a documentary short. We were going to Mumbai and Kolkata to interview girls rescued out of sex trafficking. This was a big deal trip, with big deal outcomes, and I was stuck on how the only categorical documentation I could note on a visa was “house wife”. Some of the girls we were going to interview didn’t even have birth certificates. They were healing from a life no human should ever endure. Yet, in my selfishness, I was lugging around the pride of a label I thought was beneath me.
It’s taken me five years to walk away from any negative perceptions hidden among labels. Three of those five years I’ve actually been a mom. Yes, it happened! We finally got the chance to become parents after thirty months of infertility. It’s a bit ridiculous for me to have allowed semantics to hinder my walk in freedom, because for me and maybe for you too a label can really mess with someone’s true self.
This label also refined me.
I had to dig deep to figure out why answering the question, “What do you do?” bothered me. Strangely I didn’t realize I had to dig deep into the stuff of mothering to find out why I was ashamed to announce my stay at home status, even though said status was my choice. There I was on my knees loading dirty laundry into front load washer when the hard truth hit me. Somewhere along my journey through life I had adopted this belief:
Staying home to raise children is weak and anyone can do it.
Just typing that out feels disgusting, but it was a paradigm I carried around with me and didn’t realize I held it until I became a mother.
I have lived the answer and discovered my belief is all kinds of wrong. I’d even stand up in a crowd and say: being a stay at home mom takes tenacity and a lot of emotional intelligence.
It’s all on-the-job training without annual reviews or raises. A mom, working outside her home or inside her home, is a mom always. At 2am, 2pm, and 11:57p she is always there where her children need her. I had a warped view of what a stay at home mom’s role was, and how it differed from that of a mom who puts on a belt to accent her work pants.
We are raising people. Living, breathing, thinking and creative people. Who happen to love us more than is explain-ably possible. My mother-in-law (also a brilliant and educate woman who stayed home to raise three young children) referred to the early years of parenting in a way I had never thought about. She said, “You are their entire world.” I mean wow. The minute a baby is born into our world, is the minute you become a person’s entire world. This is true until they become teenagers, and then I hear you have to remind them that you kept them alive and cuddled them in the early years.
It took me a while to live a lot of icky feeling moments to realization my belief about mothering was being refined. Over the past year, as a mom to two, I’ve been chiseled into a new pillar. It bears the markings of strength, sacrifice, and love that is equal parts fierce and tender. Every challenging experience has marked my soul and made me a bold advocate of being a stay at home mom. It’s my current role, therefore I’m a fan. What’s your current role? You need to become a fan of yourself too.
So, if I had to check a box titled “stay at home mom” today, I’d do it without shame. I’d claim it on a public document by checking the box with a neon green marker. If I had to stand in front of a stadium of educated Ph.D. holding women with a visible career path, I’d still gladly answer “What do you do?” with “I’m currently a Stay at Home Mom, smartest vocation I’ve chosen to date and is providing me with the most on-the-job learning, and we are encouraged to hug and have dance parties where I work.”
If you’re a mom who struggles with staying home or going back to work, ask yourself this question: what is my current belief about mothering and how does that belief affect my behavior?
In my next blog post I’ll answer the questions:
Why did you think being a stay at home mom was weak?
What changed your mind?
What about when they go to school, what will you do with all your time?
Have you had any challenges with wanting to go back to work?