As a mother of three who also happens to run a full-time child care business in my home, I endure the daily pressures of both societal labels “stay-home-mom” AND “workaholic mom.” Sadly, these labels most often derive from other women. While it’s true that in many families the man is the head; the woman is the neck, and every decision she makes directly affects the entire family. Perhaps this article will shed some light on both roles and allow each woman who reads it to make an informed decision about her employment status.
“Wash this, find that, help me, buy me, take me, fix me, bring me, and after all of that you hear, “By the way mom, what’s for dinner?” Do these sound like the scripts of your daily life? If so, you are not alone. According to a US census conducted in 2009 and released in 2011, the majority (82.2 percent) of custodial parents were women. Furthermore, in an article published in Child Health USA 2011, it was estimated that 71.4 percent of women with children under the age of eighteen were in the work force (either looking for a job or already employed), which emphasizes that women in America, regardless if they hold a job outside of the home or not, maintain the role of primary caretakers in their homes.
Women are genetically charged to be the nurturers and givers. And while being a mom can be one of the most thankless jobs in existence, most mothers would attest that they wouldn’t give up that role for all the money or prestige in the world. This is not to say that these same women don’t also harbor occasional resentment or frustration within their roles, which usually stems from self-neglect (http://www.workingmother.com/special-reports/what-moms-choose-stay-home-or-work). Because women are givers by nature, they often experience guilt (whether self-inflicted or outwardly assigned by others), if they elect to spend some time or money on themselves. We women feel lazy if we sit down for a moment to catch a favorite television program, (notice in their 100 plus years of business La-Z-Boy Furniture has yet to produce a chair called La-Z-Girl. They know it wouldn’t sell). We feel unproductive if we haven’t crossed most of our to-do items off our lists for the day, and less worthy if our homes and daily lives don’t at least appear to be organized and clutter free.
How did we get to this place as women? Was it the introduction of women’s rights? Did all of America (women included) interpret that to mean because we are allowed the privilege to speak up for ourselves or vote that we must also be superheroes? Yes, we are allowed to work if we choose but the price we have to pay is enduring scrutiny from society for being a “workaholic,” thereby abandoning our children if we aren’t able to keep a perfect home or be present for all of our children’s activities.
Then there is the other extreme end of the spectrum where working people (especially women) criticize those who do choose to be stay-home-moms for being “lazy and unmotivated.” Either form of this labeling can be a detriment to the self-valuation of women, and a lot of pressure to live up to.
Why can’t we appreciate both roles that women play? Why not support the stay-home-mom’s choice to be more materially present in her children’s lives without making her feel like a second class citizen for not bringing home a paycheck? And every once in a while, offer her a complimentary child care session which gives her a much needed break from baby talk (whether she feels she needs it or not). Allow her to return to her family as a well-rested, more compassionate mother.
In contrast, what gives anyone the right to label a working mom as uncaring, self-involved, or materialistic? I say commend her for having the courage to penetrate a predominantly-male-identified work environment, and stop refraining from inviting her to birthday parties or PTO fundraisers because you think she’s “stuck-up.”
We women are so compassionate and considerate of our husbands and children and even other people’s children, but we treat other women with a spirit of jealousy or vindication due to fear of competition. Whether you are organizing the school bake sale, homeschooling your teenager, or leading a team of employees in changing the parental guidelines for children’s television; know that you are making very important contributions to society. Each of you, in your own unique way, are creating a more stimulating, comforting, safer, and healthier world for all of our children to live in. I would say that deserves a little bit of guilt-free “me time” every now and then.