It seems that all too often I hear of some new blog in which a witty stay-at-home mom bashes her deplorable condition as the cook, housekeeper, and caregiver for her family. When did it become hip to use self-deprecating humor to trash one’s vital role in the household (you rarely, if ever, hear dads trivializing their boring office jobs that bring home the bacon!)? And why have some of us taken such a negative view of our responsibilities? Is it because so many women grew up to believe that their destiny was ultimately some amazing career outside the home? Because society tells us that the goal of generations of feminists was to get us out of the playroom and into the boardroom? Because being a stay-at-home mom just couldn’t be truly fulfilling for educated, enlightened, modern women? How ridiculous!
Having studied at a women’s college, where feminist theory was a constant topic of conversation in my classes and the dorms, I can’t see how feminism today could be interpreted as anything other than women having choices—the option to pursue any lifestyle, including those not previously open to them (i.e. working outside of the home) or not. So then, why are so many women, especially, unable to contain their shock when I announce that I voluntarily put aside my Ivy League education, master’s degree in Education, and years of work experience to raise my own child? Am I supposed to be embarrassed and apologetic about my lifestyle, particularly in a part of the country where two-income households are the rule? I simply will not.
At a recent visit, my doctor questioned me about how I liked being a stay-at-home mom, since many of her patients (apparently) come to her with complaints about an existence that center on “bottles and diapers.” Perhaps someone should explain the true intellectual demands of motherhood. Each day, I wake up to mold this blank slate of a child into a healthy, happy human being—not without great attention on my part. For instance, I have spent innumerable hours researching the dietary needs of children my daughter’s age and negotiating adequate substitutes for her since she has a dairy allergy. Imagine: How many servings of grains does a 16-month-old need, and what does a serving look like? Should I be giving her soy milk as a substitute for cow’s milk despite recent health concerns linked to soy? How many ounces of “orange vegetables” should she be eating each week (yes, there’s a government-recommended amount), and which varieties are the most nutritious. Do these questions not require the use of my faculties?
I have also found myself referring back to many of the educational theories I studied and later implemented in my own classroom when considering how to shape my daughter’s behavior (“disciplining” her) and even when picking her toys. Why is it, then, that people were impressed with my enrollment in master’s classes addressing Plato’s and Locke’s philosophies as they apply to educating teenagers today, but some of those same people scoff at my intense interest in developing a nurturing but firm parenting style that also fosters my daughter’s inquisitive nature? Why did I receive more respect from other adults as a working woman than I do as a mother? Perhaps the only people who will truly understand and appreciate my efforts and enthusiasm are my husband and, someday, my daughter.