Last night, after too much time on Pinterest, I ventured out to the local craft store and bought some supplies to make a springtime decoration for our front door (if I build it, will spring come? I’m looking at a three-foot snowbank on my back deck right now).
I have never “crafted.” I can barely put an outfit together – when it comes to the visual realm, I am creatively challenged. I rely on store mannequins to show me how this goes with that. Which is why I’m always laughing uproariously on the inside when my husband asks me if this tie goes with that shirt. It’s the blind leading the blind, really. (I actually think he does it just to stroke my ego, or maybe to see what hilarious combinations I will suggest.)
But I digress. I was quite proud of the finished product (see it here, on Pinterest). And I sent a picture of it to my best friend, with the comment, “I can’t believe I have time for this stuff.”
Which leads me to a more serious topic – being a stay-at-home-mom, one who DOES have time for this stuff. Time for blogging, time for yoga, and time for exercise (but just because I have time for it doesn’t mean I actually do it). I have time for this stuff on top of my regular stay at home mom “jobs” – you know, parenting, housework, grocery shopping, cooking for my family. I’m not gloating. I know how lucky I am.
You can watch the “mommy wars” play out all over the internet. Stay-at-home moms vs. moms who work outside the home. Breast vs. bottle. Attachment parenting advocates vs. everyone else. Everyone has an opinion on what everyone else should be doing. (For a fascinating, controversial, and eye-rolling read on this topic, see this article in New York magazine.)
I’m not going to presume to know what is best for other people. I only know that we made the choice that is right for our family, based on a whole bunch of factors like the cost and availability of daycare for two babies, etc., that I won’t bore you with right now. But I’m going to say something that’s going to make me unpopular with a certain segment of my stay-at-home mom peers: Being a stay-at-home mom isn’t that hard. In fact, it’s a pretty sweet gig.
Certain parts of it are definitely hard. Namely:
- The isolation, particularly when your children can’t yet appreciate your witty jokes.
- The lack of feedback or validation, beyond crying fits when you’ve got it wrong and adorable smiles when you’ve got it right.
- Struggling with one’s own identity. I loved (LOVED) the career I had before I became a mom, and being good at what I did (and getting a decent paycheck for it) defined who I was. Losing that and having to redefine myself has been hard.
- The financial sacrifice of living on one salary instead of two. It means we have to watch our budget closely and forgo luxuries like vacations, a bigger TV, and dining out. I’ve had to curtail my shopping habit (easy, since my wardrobe is now made up almost entirely of yoga pants). I clip coupons, shop in bulk, and cook with what’s in season. (Sometimes, I fail – like when I have a mental breakdown at 3 pm after the boys have skipped their nap, and I call my husband begging him to pick up takeout on the way home. But this is happening less frequently.)
- Being a parent isn’t easy. It’s emotionally, physically, and mentally demanding, there are no breaks, and the hours are…undefined.
But here’s the thing. That last point – #5 – goes for ALL parents, whether they work outside the home or not. I look at people like my husband, or my best friend, and countless others – who go to work all day, and then come home and have to switch off “work” and switch on “parent” for the next several hours and I think – that looks really hard. I remember coming home late with a pile of work still to do, or being glued to my BlackBerry all evening, or having to travel for work and I can’t imagine having to do that while trying to be a good parent too.
Some stay-at-home moms like to complain – loudly – about how hard their job is. I get it. I’ve complained too. But really, being able to stay home with my boys for a few years is a tremendous privilege. I love playing with my boys and getting to see all their “firsts.” I love being able to focus all my time and attention on my family. I don’t even mind that most of the cooking and cleaning fall to me right now. That’s my contribution to our household, and for now, it works for us. This makes me a traitor to certain feminists, I know, and that disappoints me, because I’ve always considered myself an unapologetic feminist. The feminist in me would argue that the lack of available, affordable childcare is a factor that needs to be addressed because it forces some women to leave their jobs and become unwilling stay-at-home moms.
But I didn’t have to be forced. Now, I’m an unapologetic stay-at-home mom. And having time to break out my glue gun from time to time, however incompetently – let’s face it, that’s a huge perk.
(Image credit: Durova [CC-BY-SA-3.0-2.5-2.0-1.0 ], via Wikimedia Commons)