A SAHM's dirty little secret
These days, bringing up the "mommy wars" is as potentially explosive as a faux pas at a Middle East peace negotiation -- except everyone is a lot less diplomatic.
I happened to grow up in a family of political junkies who loved to philosophize and argue at the family dinner table about all the supposedly taboo topics -- politics, religion, the Arab-Israeli conflict. So as a SAHM, the emotional minefield of the so-called "mommy wars" is familiar and fascinating territory and I read just about everything I come across on the subject whether I agree with it or not.
One of the latest releases in this genre is Linda Hirschman's Get to Work...and Get a Life Before It's Too Late. No surprises here. It's standard feminist fare; you know, boomer feminist rails against Ivy educated SAHMs for not taking their rightful positions of power and leadership in politics and commerce, thereby shirking their duty to improve conditions for less fortunate working-class women. With educated women home caring for toddlers instead of working to change the world, who, asks Hirshman, will fight for gender equity? Shame on all you over-educated, ungrateful, Pilates-toned, Starbucks-swilling moms! Now get back to work!
It's harsh stuff, but nonetheless, she may be on to something. When she demands that I "get back to work" I start to feel guilty. Not because I'm not out in the world fighting feminist battles, but because after eight years of being a SAHM, my dirty little secret is that truthfully, I like it! I would rather be home than working for pay anywhere else, even if being home entails mopping the kitchen floor and wearing PJs till noon (I actually love that part).
I'm no slacker -- who can be with five kids under the age of eight? -- but despite the diapers and the dishes, I rather like the autonomy and freedom of being a SAHM because I like being my own boss. My home is my castle and I run this enterprise I love so dearly with little outside interference.
I'm a neat freak, so I clean, but I don't have anyone watching over me to see that I'm doing it right or on time. I have time to read and blog, though I'm occasionally sleep-deprived. If I want to spend an afternoon at the park or a rainy day watching movies with the kids, I can and do. No need to run that by my supervisor. As for cooking, it didn't take long for me to discover that I love it; far from drudgery, it's a passion I get to indulge in daily. And kids, well, I like them too and I'd rather spend the majority of my day with them than anyone else. I won't apologize for that.
My life is not for everyone, but it's the life I choose. Isn't that the point of female advancement? Never mind that I sincerely believe that I AM changing the world -- one child at a time. Look, there are some real perks to being a SAHM that even we SAHMs are afraid to admit to, lest someone accuse us of being lazy, ungrateful, or lacking in ambition for temporarily dropping out of the rat race to raise kids.
I think it's healthier to be honest about the upsides of staying home, and to own them rather than throwing a pity party because we wipe noses and counters unlike those glamorous, professional Sex in the City women. Oh wait, Hirshman has a problem with them too. Come to think of it, maybe she's right to tell those perennially lunching women to "get to work!"
Start by teaching him that it is safe to do so.