I have had a battle going on inside my head for several months now over whether or not I would broach this subject at all, but you know what? It needs to be broached, plowed through, ironed out, and buried in the compost pile where it belongs. I know someone is going to get their panties in a wad about it, but we need to talk about these things ... so let's put on our big-girl panties and deal with the wads as they come, shall we?
Sometime late last year, I mentioned on one of my random "this is my crazy life" status updates on Facebook that I'd essentially run myself through the wringer on what was one of my "Crazy Thursdays", and in a mental response to a flippant comment from another grocery store patron, I added that "no one had better say I'm not a working mother". Wouldn't you know it, someone I know in real life took MAJOR offense to this. Not just eye-rolling offense, but responding with a "You've GOT to be kidding me!!!" offense. She then proceeded to detail her own day, spent in the office and then doing various and sundry around-the-house "wifely and motherly" tasks when she returned home, as opposed to what she perceived as the simplistic day of a stay-at-home mom (who had not been home from 8am till 6pm). In the rather confusing dialogue that ensued (because I knew it was my statement that had her so upset, I attempted to explain that I in no way, shape, or form was attempting to take anything away from what she does), it became glaringly obvious that there is something very serious going on under the surface. Had I not just been told by that grocery store guy that "You'd better be glad you don't work!", I might have taken it a little better, but alas, I did not. And I was exhausted. From what, though, if I hadn't WORKED all day??
What defines a "working mother"? Better yet, what defines "work"? Desk work? Standing and teaching a class of twenty-five? Construction? Making sure all of the diners in a restaurant have full iced tea glasses? In the dead-end dialogue I had with the offended party, I learned that anything I said about what I had done during that day was taken as a direct insult on the sacrifice she and her family had made to have a career and a successful life. I couldn't win that battle, nor was I even trying, because I wasn't trying to take any of the respect or prestige away from her job-for-pay, and I was simply trying to gain the same respect for my chosen career-not-for-pay. My question is this: WHY, ladies ... WHY are we beating each other up over whether or not someone is "working", and why on earth would we EVER assume to say that what one of us does is work while the other one does not work, based solely on the single matter of a paycheck? Why do we DO that????
I, as a stay-at-home mother, do not envy those who work outside the home. Period. I wouldn't want it. It's not for me, I know that, and I'm perfectly okay with being "just a wife and mom". Yes, it requires certain sacrifices, and yes, I understand unequivocally that my choice is a PERSONAL one, based on not just personal beliefs, but personal convictions and personal preferences. I don't do "team player" well, and that doesn't lend itself well to a job that requires working with people. I know this, and to some extent, this played a big part of my CHOICE to occupy myself in the work I find in my own home and family. I do have convictions that cemented this decision, but they are MINE. I don't dare assert my convictions on others, because we are individuals! I do value the career (albeit unpaid in any form of income that is monetary) that I have chosen above any other I could have chosen, because I see the value in it to my own family. Does it mean I look down on other wives or mothers who have chosen other paths? Heavens, no! I know the vast majority of people in this world would not choose to be a stay-at-home mother of seven who homeschools while her husband frequently travels the globe for weeks on end. I know that! But ladies, just because I have opted out of spending six years in college to get a Master's degree in fill-in-the-blank (other than music and the challenge of being a combat pilot, nothing else ever interested me) and I don't spend my days at an office, in a classroom, or whatever else I may find to do, does NOT mean what I do all day is not "work". I absolutely guarantee you that I work--sometimes from sunup to long past midnight, and not just at "normal" tasks like laundry and dishes and getting a heater fixed while dealing with a belligerent home warranty company. I do some things--some for myself, some for my family, some for others--that I would never have the time or energy to do, were I putting in 40+ hours working somewhere else. I enjoy that 'luxury'.
Ladies, we have GOT to get past this idea that a paycheck defines work. We have got to stop thinking that because a woman has CHOSEN to stay at home taking care of her home and family full time, that she is somehow less successful or "busy" than a woman who works outside the home for a paycheck. It's ludicrous, and it's demeaning to the many girls and women who desire a simple domestic life. I can't even begin to tell you how much it hurt to have my oldest daughter be lectured over and over again when she graduated from high school about going to college and finding a "worthwhile career" and to be told she was "wasting her life" and "taking the lazy way out" simply because she desired to be "just" a wife and mom.
I'm not a feminist by any stretch of the imagination, but isn't it a bit self-defeating and completely hypocritical to say that a woman can be "anything she wants" as long as she "works", but yet we define work as something that brings in pay, instead of being honest work that can benefit a family in other ways? Why are we doing this to each other?