Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Is stay-at-home parenting undervalued in Western society?

(Me & Maya at 10 weeks, August 2012)

I'm a stay-at-home parent - by choice. 

In Western society (particularly in Canadian society) this is not "the norm". The norm is to resume working after maternity leave is over (1 year) for personal freedom or just to bring in income. The norm is to leave the child at daycare / nanny / grandparents (although many grandparents are typically more detached in Western culture). In the U.S. it is a bit different. Many American women HAVE to return to work because there is no maternity leave / outrageous medical bills from childbirth / high cost of living / saving for high cost of U.S. colleges.

But being a stay-at-home mother is not a popular decision. For some reason society thinks that makes me lazy/no ambition/bored/watching TV all day...when it could not be further than the truth (if I was watching TV all day, then I wouldn't get overwhelmed so often, that's for sure!) Stay-at-home parenting is not for everyone, but it definitely is not the mainstream choice for parents nowadays. It was more the norm in our grandparents generation of post-war Canada.

Now that I am a stay-at-home mother - and realize how important this job is - I often wonder why we don't get more respect from society at large. Why are we looked down upon for making the choice to raise our children full-time? If a parent (either mom or dad) is willing, able & happy to do it - if that is their personal calling - then why is that parent looked down upon? Isn't raising the next generation to be polite, thoughtful, kind, emotionally intelligent citizens at ALL important? It baffles me. It really does. Parents are the most hard working people - and stay-at-home parents get no breaks at all. For the parent, staying at home is seen as this big "sacrifice" of one's own personal freedom until the child goes to school. What do you plan to DO after? people ask...What are YOUR hopes, goals, and aspirations? 

To be honest, I see being a stay-at-home parent as a career path - just like any other job. When someone starts a new job, nobody asks them, "Well, what are you going to DO after it gets over?".... I don't f***ing know! I'm just seeing what happens and where it leads! Becoming a mother has given me so many life skills, including: more patience, ability to multitask (like an 8 armed goddess), better focus for the bigger picture, and energy level that is similar to the Energizer Bunny. Just like any other job, it has given me skills. The only difference between the "job" of motherhood is that it takes the meaning of "full-time work" to 24/7 - with no holidays!

If you do make the choice to be a stay-at-home mother, it has lots of benefits. It benefits the family as a whole, the parent/child bond, and even society as a whole. What's more beneficial than having a constant caregiver to the family - who does UNPAID work?

Last week, I came across a fantastic article online by Matt Walsh praising stay-at-home mothers. It was so refreshing to finally read an article that praised us and validated the important work we do!! FINALLY!!!

The article had some wonderful points, including:

"my wife is JUST a mother. JUST. She JUST brings forth life into the universe, and she JUST shapes and molds and raises those lives. She JUST manages, directs and maintains the workings of the household, while caring for children who JUST rely on her for everything. She JUST teaches our twins how to be human beings, and, as they grow, she will JUST train them in all things, from morals, to manners, to the ABC’s, to hygiene, etc. She is JUST my spiritual foundation and the rock on which our family is built. She is JUST everything to everyone. And society would JUST fall apart at the seams if she, and her fellow moms, failed in any of the tasks I outlined. Yes, she is just a mother. Which is sort of like looking at the sky and saying, “hey, it’s just the sun.” "

I thought it was a fantastic article - it was refreshing to hear a fellow parent stand up and show some appreciation. And that's what it was - an appreciation - where appreciation is due. Because the fact is, we are looked down upon in society. And we shouldn't be...

To my surprise, the article got some major backlash. What the hell... really? Can't us stay-at-home mothers get some appreciation without people getting offended? He didn't even mention working mothers in the article, and now everybody has turned it into this SAHM vs. working moms battle. Ugh...is that really necessary?


Some of the negative comments the article got were:

- "I am tired of the assertion that stay at home moms are full time mothers and working mothers aren't."
- "As a working mom, I often feel contempt from stay at home moms."
-"No one gives working moms enough credit. Stay at home moms need to get off their pity pot"
- "A stay at home mom gets an entire day to do what a working mother has to do in a smaller time-frame. This does not make a working mother less of a mother!"
- "Being a SAH is hard, but for me working is harder because of the guilt of leaving them! Something can't be right if you feel so bad about it!"

But, judging by the comments...it seems working parents are also feeling unappreciated by society, too. So I guess it's not just us stay-at-home mothers - it's all parents. It's parenting - in general - that is undervalued by society. The fact is...ALL PARENTS ought to be appreciated. Stay-at-home parents (moms and dads); working parents (moms and dads); and grandparents, too....

I know the article is about mothers, but the same can be said about the totally undervalued stay-at-home dads, who are basically viewed at by society as "deadbeat dads"or "lazy", when that totally could not be further from the truth! If anybody should be put on a pedestal...it's stay-at-home dads...of all people. Because they are going against the grain of what society says about masculinity / fatherhood / the provider syndrome.

(Husband-ji & Maya at 12 weeks, September 2012)

One of the most common "feminist" arguments against stay-at-home-mothers is "It'd be miserable to be financially dependent on your husband" - and to that, I'd say: I don't see myself depending on my husband. I see my husband depending on me. I'm raising our child and he trusts me to do so. Yes, he is the one financially supporting our family - but I am the one emotionally supporting our family. And they are equally so important.

Sometimes I do find myself saying "I'm JUST a mother", which kind of irks me. What is it that I don't do, actually? Not only do I teach & care for this miniature person, but I'm also the emotional rock of my entire family. And I think that's pretty damn important...I just wish society would view me that way, too. I also dislike the terminology "stay-at-home" mother - as if I am imprisoned in the house or something...when in reality, I'm always out with my daughter all around town (park, library, swimming, play-dates, errands, walking) until dinnertime. I'd prefer to be called - simply put - "mother" (either that, or "supermom"!! duh!)

The truth is, I never thought I'd be a stay-at-home mother. I never ever pictured it. But then I had my daughter, and I was just so attached to her, and it never faded. Everything about being a mother - I love it. I am just obsessed. Some people's fantasies are being a CEO of a huge company - my fantasy is being surrounded by children. It is my calling. Even in the tough times, it's all worth it...just to be with my daughter.

I'm a stay-at-home mother fully by choice. I could be a working woman...but I just don't want to. It's a personal choice - but for me (as an individual) - it's a no brainer. Would I rather go and have a career? Hell no...why? I'd just miss her too much. I'd rather be hanging out with my mini-me & teaching her about life. Besides, I'm only going to have her for 3-4 years before she goes to school. I can't predict the future - maybe by the time we have our next child, I will crave to be out in the workforce, but for now...it's no rush. I have the rest of my life to have a career. And although motherhood is the toughest & most rewarding job - there's no place I'd rather be...and it IS important work...because it is important to me...

(The best feeling in the world - when your child falls asleep on you...)

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What about you, dear readers? Do you feel like your role as a parent (either SAH or working) is undervalued by society? For those of you who are not parents yet, do you plan to stay at home or continue work? And father readers, do you feel your role as a father is undervalued by society?

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7 comments

  1. "8 armed goddess" :D that made me chuckle..especially for the fact that I have referred to my Mom and other Moms I know by that title more than once.

    All Moms are supermoms IMO.

    Loved this post. :)

    Take care.

    K

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    1. Thanks K, yes they are! We learn to juggle it all in the first few days of parenthood - when we are simultaneously breast feeding, breast pumping, changing diaper and eating at the same time...lol :D

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  2. As a stay at home myself, I am irked by the constant comments and remarks that hint at the fact that we do nothing. Apparently we are traitors to the feminist cause, lazy, non-ambitious and the question I hate the most is "Are you working or do you stay home"...Yes I am working AND I stay home! And its sister insulting question "Are you planning to go back to work when she is older?" BACK???? I haven't ever stopped working...ever.

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    1. I totally agree, and you can also be a feminist and a SAHM too. And it is true, we never stop working! LOL!

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  3. I used to get so angry at people making comments like "what do you do all day?" It's as if the world thinks a home cleans itself, dishes automatically get clean and food is beamed down with a laser like on the Jetsons. Grr!!! Someone has to do the work at home even if both parents are working and no one ever gives out much credit for it. Yet, we're expected to have pristine houses when guests come over. We feel embarrassed if toys are on the floor or the dishes haven't been done after the last meal and a guest shows up unexpectedly. It's ridiculous.

    Being a mom you do more work than someone who goes to a job from 9 to 5. You don't get 15 minute breaks scheduled into your day like a typical US worker and there's no 30-60 minute lunch mapped out for you. Your life is constantly on without much reprieve. You have to be the master at managing your home, your finances, your time, their time, their finances, etc. I really think this role deserve so much more respect than it gets.

    In the US a woman is lucky if she gets a full 6 weeks recovery time after giving birth. Some jobs don't even allow for that! It's absurd when the body pretty much requires this time to heal. A few professions can take up to 6 months but that's about it. It's like producing a life inside of your body isn't a worthy accomplishment yet without women having babies the world clearly wouldn't keep going.

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    1. Yes, I agree - there is just an endless amount to do around the house, as well as entertain the children. There's not much room for much else unless they're passed out, and even then I'm non-stop!
      I find other parents to be more understanding but it is hard for me because many of my friends here do not have kids yet, so they have certain opinions on things they know nothing about...lol! But slowly I'm making more parent friends.
      I also think that a SAH parent does generally more work than a working parent for the mere fact that we don't get bathroom breaks or lunch breaks. But it is also hard for working parents to cram everything in after work too.
      The US has one of the worst maternity leave policies ever. I cannot believe that a developed country does this to it's people. You guys are getting absolutely ripped off! 6 weeks is not enough at all, I didn't even get the hang of breastfeeding until around 5 weeks!

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  4. I woke up and felt compelled to write about this topic and then came across your article. I am a home school SAHM who also works less than 10 hours a week at a flexible job. I hear it at work all the time. Why don't you work more? Do you work somewhere else? I couldn't be at home all day. You must have lots of free time. It appalls me that people envision that I have tons of free time and that I simply sit around inside my house day in and day out. Being a parent has been the most challenging and rewarding position of my life. It has required much self reflection and change. I work hard everyday at a sometimes thankless job of cleaning and attempting to keep all in order. Raising little humans to be responsible,kind people and keeping my cool when things turn to chaos. I take my kids out to explore the world, involve them in the community and helping others. I hear the negativity toward stay at home parents in little comments and most people don't even notice because it is ingrained in our society. We can look around at people who have lost their way and the the degradation of our society as a whole and think maybe if we don't minimize the importance of parenting, our next generation and guiding little humans we can make a difference. The moms I know whether stay at home, or work outside the home are some of the most hard working people I know. Even if you don't get a paycheck for parenting and raising the next generation, it is by far one of the most important jobs to be had. Our society has a distorted view of what is truly important.

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