I went to a movie premiere with my husband a few weeks ago and had a light conversation with one of the participants in the film. Small talk was initiated- how are you, really enjoyed the film, wonderful weather….And then the hotly anticipated question- What do you do for a living? She was in senior management at a finance organization, married with two children. She asked what I did and I replied “I stay home with my two children.” After a heartbeat of silence and muffled gasp she quickly smiled and said “That’s wonderful, I’m sure you have your hands full.” We spoke about how I previously worked at UNICEF and spearheaded projects on adolescent development and that I thought about returning to the workforce soon. She replied “That would be good because then you would have something to talk to your children about.” At that moment I smiled, nodded and bit my tongue. I didn’t want to roll my eyes, craft my carefully worded deconstruction of her faulty assumption, but most of all I did not want the Brooklyn girl to come out at my husbands “work” event.
Within this woman’s statement were the misconceptions of so many about stay home parents. I’ll name a few. Stay home parents: Don’t do much when they are home, Don’t care about their careers, Don’t have what it takes to make it in the “real world”, Don’t have much to talk to their children about, Are not as accomplished as those who work, Are limiting themselves, Do not make the same level of contribution as their counterpart who works.
Why is it so hard to accept that I would like to actually raise the children I birthed? I carried them in my body and would like to do all I can to make them wonderful people outside of my body. I want to watch them grow, give them the love and courage they need to be self-assured in this world. It does not mean that I am less than the mother that works or that I am superior to the mother that works. It simply means I am a mother who has chosen to give her focus to her children.
I’ve held several positions in the non-profit sector and I have never worked as hard as I have since being home with my children. The drive, focus and creativity required to cultivate imagination, curiosity and intelligence in another human being is immense. And it is my joy. I see the difference it has made in their lives.
To those mothers who work outside of the home, I applaud your patience, determination and vision. You give on multiple platforms and still take care of yourself. Women- we are all strong.
We bring children into the world, it is our responsibility to care for and love them to the complete capacity of our heart. Do not judge the way one mother chooses to love their children it does not do well to demean your sister simply because her choice does not mirror yours.
And BTW- along with staying home with my children I also run a nonprofit organization, pastor a church and implement conferences. I would have shared that with the aforementioned women had she not already presumed I had nothing else to say.