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My husband had just gotten back from a
prospective job for his new side woodworking business when he skipped up to our
bedroom, where I was applying my nightly pound of lotion. (I have a thing
against dry skin.) He was brimming with excitement as he relayed the details of
the job to me: A full custom kitchen! Rows and rows of gleaming, glistening
cabinets! An unlimited budget!
I wanted to be happy for him, I really did. But instead, all
I could do was think of was the hours and hours of solo weekend parenting time
this was going to mean for me.
The thing is, I’m not the world’s greatest stay-at-home mom.
Here’s my truth bomb: While I love staying home with my kids, I do not love the
fact that staying at home usually means long days of being totally alone and
hours and hours of drudgery, cleaning and other household tasks. I do it because I believe it’s right, I do it
because I can’t imagine doing anything else, and I do it because who could
afford four kids in day care?
But I don’t do it
because staying at home comes completely naturally to me.
In fact, I happen to believe that our modern-day image of a
stay-at-home mother is completely and totally unnatural on almost every
possible level. And here’s why:
1. Being alone all
day is a form of torture.
Human beings aren’t mean to be alone all day, period.
What does the jail system do to the worst of criminals? Puts them in solitary confinement, that’s what. And what does that to do to people? Makes
them crazy, that’s what. And if you’ve ever lived the life of a
stay-at-home mom with babies or really young kids at home, you would know this
to be true. Human beings aren’t mean to
be alone all day, period.
2. Mothers were
historically never alone.
I mean really—do you realize that our modern day image of a
stay-at-home mom is but a blip in the time of historical motherhood? Moms
didn’t really start with the “Leave It to Beaver” stay-at-home mom thing until
after World War II, and even then, it was for reasons such as lack
of employment and child care options, not always a burning desire for
mothers to stay home and hawk Tupperware.
3. Your mom didn’t do
OK, so maybe a lot of us had moms who stayed home—but think
very carefully about this one. Did the way your mom “stayed home” look anything
like what you think being a stay-at-home mom should? Did she ever spend hours
reading to you? Plop down on the four and build an elaborate universe out of
Legos? Make you homemade Play-Doh? My mom worked full-time as a teacher when
I was growing up and during summers and weekends, I can still remember her
literally kicking us outside—and locking the door on us.
4. It’s not good for
kids to grow up with the world revolving around them.
Listen, I stay home with my kids, but I make a conscious
effort not to drop everything for them the instant they ask it of me. (Within
reason, of course, I’m not talking when someone is hurt or crying, for
instance.) If I’m feeding the baby and my 4-year-old needs help, she may
have to wait a minute; similarly, just because I’m home with them does not mean
I’m here to serve as their personal slave 24/7. What kind of message is that
5. Women never had to
run households alone.
post over at The Happiest Home about the myth of women doing it all changed
my life. Historically, no one ever, ever expected women to stay home and “do it
all.” Women always helped each other, matriarchs always had some sort of
household and childcare help, and even though there was a huge division of
labor for men and women, women’s work wasn’t trivialized by any means—it was in
many literal ways an entire empire on its own. Having another set of hands in
the house wasn’t something that was considered optional or a luxury; it was a
necessity for all mothers to survive.
Here’s my final theory—historically, women have stayed home.
They had tons of help, other adults around to do crazy stuff like talk to, and
they worked in various capacities that weren’t full-on childrearing, like
gardening, sewing and running businesses. That was all normal and natural, and
instead of making it a job of just taking care of children, family life was
integrated into the other household tasks. Babies were strapped to backs, kids
learned to play in packs, that sort of thing. So in my mind, I think it’s more
natural for children and stay-at-home parents to focus on seeing staying at
home as part of a larger package of combining work and family, rather than just
the solo task of raising children.
What are your
thoughts? Do you think our modern-day image of the stay-at-home mom is just as
crazy as I do?