"Hi! Have I cut your hair before?"
"No. This is my first time here."
"Oh, okay. So, where do you work?"
"I don't. I'm a stay at home mom."
That's right. It's a conversation stopper. I can't imagine what effect it would have had on a woman whose dream in life was to become a stay at home mom. I think it would be even more insulting than it was to me, a woman who questions her choice weekly. I know, in my case, it caused worry and self-doubt. I wondered, yet again, if I was doing the right thing by staying at home with my toddlers. At two, they're certainly old enough to go to daycare. If I were bringing in a second income, we could perhaps afford it. We may even be able to afford a nanny, who would most likely be a better housekeeper than I am. And I like working. I like my field. I'm educated in it. I certainly feel like my degrees and my years of experience are dwindling, melting away, diminishing a little more each day I opt out of the working world.
Would I be better off if I took a job? Would my kids be better off? Should I once again venture into the working world and become a productive person? Maybe then people would stop looking at me with pity and slight disgust in their eyes.
But what of those who never question their desire to stay home with their kids? Are they not productive members of our society? Of course they are. Of course I am. Whether or not others understand, a stay at home mom works just as hard if not harder than those who put eight hours in on the clock. We're luckier in a sense because our bosses are cute, they'll never fire us, and they love us, unconditionally. On the same token, we can never quit. We can never call in sick. We can never have an off day where we hide in our office and goof around until our shift is over. Personal days? Mental health days? Vacation? They never happen.
Not to mention, the scope of our duties are more varied than any working person without kids (for those mothers and fathers who work and also have kids experience this, too, just in a more limited time frame) could ever understand. We are the ultimate multi-taskers. In the span of five minutes, we could be a chef, a janitor, a teacher and a nurse. People don't see that because it all falls under the word - the category - mother.
The conversation at the salon could have easily transitioned into talk about my kids. What are their names? How old are they? Oh, they're twins? How interesting. But the conversation didn't transition. It stopped. Because the truth is, to some people, it's not interesting. People, in general, are not interested in my kids. Rather, they're mildly interested, but they could never be as invested as I am, and perhaps they feel a bit uncomfortable talking about things they don't understand.
The problem with my feelings as stated above is that they don't even remotely resemble reality. There are dozens of people who are interested in and who would talk to mothers, regardless of their working status. But, give a mother enough conversations like the one above, and they will start to shy away from talking about their kids, their day, their life. Perception is powerful. Stay at home moms perceive the outside world as looking down on them, or pitying them, or, at the very least, not being interested in them - a perception probably based on just a very few instances like the one above. It doesn't take much to hack away at someone's self-esteem, even if it's not intentional.
We need not shy away from who we are. Just like those punching a time card, we are evolving, and we will be promoted. Soon our kids will go to school. Our lives will change just like everybody else's. There is no divide here. We are all people. We all have the same broad goals and feelings. It is only the specifics that change from person to person.
We need not be ashamed of what we do. People will understand or they won't. Either way, it has nothing to do with us. We are performing important, life-changing tasks everyday. We are shaping the future of the world. Whether we do that from an office, a hair salon or home is completely up to us.
Be happy with your choices. You made them for a reason, after all.