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Tuesday, December 21, 2010

The Fake Career Woman

A beautiful blogger and great friend of mine wrote a post today about being a fake stay at home mom (during break as a teacher.)  She got a lot of well-deserved hits, and I laughed at myself, saying, "I'm going to post where you post, claiming that SAHM is a career."

But, then, I thought, what the heck, self?  SAHM is a career.

She writes: As a teacher "for several weeks out of the year, you can pretend like you don't have a job and stay home with your kids."

Now, anyone with half a brain knows what she means, but this is the message that society gives stay at home moms every day.  You don't have a job.  You get to stay at home with your kids.

You don't have a job.  You get to stay at home with your kids.

I think it's time to break this down.  Why do people insist on telling stay at home moms that they don't work?

1) They don't get paid.

Okay, you're right, world.  We don't get paid.  But we save money, which is basically the same thing.  By staying home with our children, we save thousands of dollars on daycare or babysitters.  The main reason I am a stay at home mom right now is that the money I'd be able to pull in working a job would be less than the amount I'd have to pay out to have someone watch my two babies.  I'd be working for negative dollars.  Stay at home moms also save on gas money because we have everything we need in our home.  We save on sanity because there's no mad rush in the morning or afternoon to drop off or pick up the kids.  We save face because when our kids are sick, we don't have to call out of work to tend to them.  We are already at work.  Stay at home moms save.

2) They don't have a boss.

Wrong.  I have two bosses.  And they are the most fickle, most demanding, most egotistical bosses I've ever come across.  No logic appeases them.  No project is done soon enough.  No amount of attention paid will sate them.  They ask for, and expect the impossible.  It's up to me to figure out the details.  Even the hardest boss has given me more logical duties than I have now.

3) They stay at home.

True.  We do stay at home.  But since when do you need to leave the home to work?  Several people operate businesses out of their home.  Some use a computer network and work from home, despite having an office job.  I fail to see how location impacts whether or not someone is holding down a job.

4) The work they are doing is not considered "a real job."

Actually, yes, it is.  While the stay at home mom is not getting paid for her duties, she is doing at least two, possibly more, jobs that others would be paid to do.  Childcare is the obvious job.  The next is house cleaning.  Several people get paid to nanny kids or work in a daycare.  Several more get paid to clean people's houses on a weekly basis.  By saying a stay at home mom doesn't do any real job, you are not only insulting the mother, you are insulting those workers who get paid to do what we do.  Who are you to say what job is real?

5) It's easy.

I can only speak for myself here.  There are some women for which, I guess, it is easy.  But for me, it's hard.  I have to teach my kids.  I am a teacher.  I have to teach them English, I have to teach them manners, I have to teach them how to think on their own, I have to teach them concepts like cause and effect.  I am a nurse  I have to keep them from hurting themselves.  I have fix them up when they do manage to hurt themselves.  I have to care for them through sickness that they don't understand.  I am an entertainer.  I have to come up with crafts, activities and games for them.  I have to ensure that through these various forms of entertainment that they are learning and not getting hurt.  I am a janitor.  I have to clean up after them constantly.  I can thoroughly clean and vaccuum a room only to have it torn to shreds moments later by grubby baby hands.  I am all things at all times.  I am an engineer.  It is up to me to fix the various toys, furniture parts, picture frames, and dishware that the babies break.  It's amazing how many things a toddler can break just by looking at them.

Now, this is not to say that working mothers and fathers don't have to do these things, too.  This is only to say that stay at home moms have to do them all the time.  And we have to do them while fighting the societal stigmatism that tells us we're not doing enough.  We have to do them without the perks a normal job comes with.  There is no bonus, no vacation, no time off.  The time that others "get to spend with their kids" we simply continue to spend with our kids, so that if we're sick, we're still working.  If we're on vacation, our work is even harder because we're responsible for keeping everybody in line in a new environment, in a new situation.  Our time off, namely nap time and bed time, we use to complete the other half of our daily work, namely cooking and cleaning.

Being a stay at home mom is a thankless job, but a job nonetheless.  And I wouldn't have it any other way.  Now, somebody pass me the bon bons.


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  1. I see all these SAHM's protesting, justifying how they do have a career. And I admit, it is a job, it is hard to do.

    But so is being a Working Mom. I don't see the love and the companion ship as a Working Mom that I see for SAHM.

    Working Mom's work, but they also need to do almost everything that the SAHM does too.

    Nothing upset me more than when I said to a friend of mine that I was happy to get a day off work on Friday, and she replied that I was lucky because, as a SAHM, she NEVER got a day off. If what a SAHM does means never getting a day off, what does it mean when I take a day off "work" to spend it at home caring for my children?

  2. It's getting a break. I understand my husband comes home from his job and helps take care of our son...but he gets a change of pace. He talks to adults and has bosses who he can have a conversation with.

    The biggest difference...working moms get paid. Monetarily paid for what they do. So no one argues that they don't do a job because they get paid for what they do.

    People aren't saying working moms aren't just as busy, but you do get that change of pace and scenery.

  3. I was a working mom for the first 18 months of my kids' lives. It's hard to say which I prefer because both are so hard and both are so rewarding.

    TWF is right, in my opinion, about the change of pace. One of my biggest regrets when I was working was not having enough time to enjoy with my kids. One of my biggest regrets as a SAHM is not taking the time I have to enjoy my kids as I should. Really, it's a me problem, isn't it?

    Having been both, I can say that I THINK working moms have it harder. I really do. But that's not where I am right now. It also has nothing to do with the post, which is simply saying that easier or not for any particular person, SAHM is a job. It is a job.

    Now, you see all those protests, and defenses, and a wide network of support for SAHMs, right? I would venture to say that that is because we need it. Not only does the world put us down sometimes, sometimes we put ourselves down, too. We justify our existence because we feel compelled to do so. Some of us feel less than worthy. Another reason, I would think, that you see these support networks is that we don't have coworkers. So we find "coworkers" to chat with "around the water cooler" on the internet. For many, it is the only adult interaction they get all day.

    I assume working mothers don't have one so large (although there are support networks out there for WOHMs) because they are busy working for adults, with deadlines. I have no one to order pizza with in the break room, so I post online.

    Again, these things I am spouting have only to do with me. This is a very touchy subject and one that I still do not understand, despite having had both experiences. It's too personal to make generalities.

  4. Oh, it's totally the change of pace that makes it different. As a "Fake Stay at Home Mom", I get the best, and worst, of both worlds. I'm a working mother who gets to play stay at home mom for several weeks a year. Neither job is easy and neither job is perfect. I love my son dearly, but by the end of summer, I'm practically clawing at the door to get a change of pace. Whenever we're on break, I have no concept of what day it is and run out of Super Fun Things to do after the second or third day. I know I'd eventually get into the swing of things if I was a real stay at home mom, but I won't get that opportunity.

    This is just one of those Mom Olympics things. Working moms have it worse! Stay at home moms have it worse! As someone who regularly experiences BOTH lifestyles, neither of us have it worse. We do everything for the benefit of our children.

    If you read the entry that was linked, you'd see that I expressed being shunned by both working moms and stay at home moms. Working moms rally around each other, too. Some of them get into debates with me on how I must have it SO much easier since I'm not a "real working mom" anyway. The fact is we have to realize that both jobs are DIFFERENT and realize that attempting to outdo each other in the misery department just makes us more miserable.

  5. I have been on both sides. Working away from home was demanding. The house was never clean enough. The kids were never seen enough. I never had a day off then either because I came home and did everything I couldn't do while I was at work. I missed my kids when I was at work and I wished I could get a break from them when I was off for extended periods, such as vacations.

    But on the other end, I never really get to go anywhere, especially this time of year. It's too cold, we don't have the money, my husband needs the car for his job. I live miles away from my friends and they're all either in my same position of working outside the home. The park is closed for the season and I wouldn't drag toddlers there this time of year anyway. I still can't get anything done because I have to sit here and hold my high needs 15 month old. If I do get something done, the two year old comes behind me to mess it up.

    Don't get me wrong. I'm not complaining. I'm so thankful for these years with my children. I'm so grateful for the ability to watch their milestones. One of the worst feelings in the world is having a babysitter tell you that your child reached an important milestone and you missed it.

    But that doesn't mean I don't deserve a pat on the back. I work just as hard as a WOHM, just not in the same way.

  6. Here's the thing: A working mom doesn't come home at the end of a 9-10 hour work day and then have to go back and make up those 9 hours of diaper changes, meal times, teaching, play time that the daycare worker provided. And most working moms I know don't cook healthy meals at home every night (a time consuming task). Sure it's a guilt-ridden thing. And stay at home homes are so lucky to be able to form that bond with their kids through the tears, tantrums, smiles, and hugs for 24 hours. And personal development for the mom? If you can survive those early years and early education at home, you'll be the strongest person you have ever met. I know plenty of women who tried staying at home and couldn't mentally handle cutting coupons, cutting down on vacations, going out to eat and pedicures to make it work. I've known others that hated feeling like they were disappearing from society and missed the regular appreciative comments form co-workers, bosses, and oh yes...regular, daily, adult conversations without a child pulling on your pant legs and whining. I've heard from career women and stay-at-home moms alike that nothing will challenge you more than parenthood. That's probably something we can all agree on. And it's a decision best reserved on the particulars of each family dynamic (and I would hope!) the children's needs.

    Our society pushes career ambitions, improving monetary position, and acquisition of material goods over successful nurturing and attachment of our children (which have scientific proof of helping individuals become successful members of society and forming lasting intimate relationships.) A working mom and form those same lasting attachments--but yes, they do have to work that much harder at that. Otherwise, it is just as hard. By the way, I'm a stay at home mom who also works from home part-time.

  7. "3) They stay at home."

    That's the one that drives me to feeling overwhelmed and depressed on, at minimum, a weekly basis. Good grief, I would LOVE to not feel like these two babies and toddler are keeping me trapped in my house. We're (hubby has the week off) taking all three kids to Ikea today. We hope to leave in two hours. We're already trying to get everyone ready. Yes, it's a two hour task.

    When I visited my former coworkers after officially resigning from my out-of-home job, I told one of them that I keep thinking I'm coming back at some point. She has two small children herself. She smiled and said (rather sympathetically), "Whatever helps you get through the day."

  8. I love being a SAHM, but it's a lot of work. It's work that never gets done, either. I never finish my work before I go to bed. My tasks are always more than I can do.

    I have never been a WOHM, but I do know that it's not a competition. We all work hard. I am lucky to personally love the hand I've been dealt, even though I feel lonely and overwhelmed often.

  9. Well posted, I work because I am not strong enough to be a SAHM. This is the toughest job there is, in my opinion.

  10. My mum was a SAHM. I remember once asking her to do something for me. She asked me to ask my dad (who worked outside the home). I said that she could do it (and I quote) "since she didn't work".

    DEATH GLARE FROM HELL followed by a reaming out I will never forget.

    Note to self: Don't tell a SAHM that she doesn't work. 30+ years later, I still remember that rule.

  11. As I said in my blog: I made this for those who believe that to form a human being, in all its dimensions,intellectual, physical and transcendental is the most complex and important task in which someone can commit to. I still haven't found a job that's more important than this one! We're raising children to become good citzens and that's is a full time job if you want to do a good job. If you only do it so so, then it's a part time job. And if you don't care, leave this job to someone else.

  12. By the way...You're are doing a great job, darling! ;D

  13. Lol, you cant see me but I am giving you a standing ovation for that well written and very candid summary of the average SAHM. A great read.

  14. I could not be a SAHM, I think it would drive me nuts. So I have much respect for you. However, I do not have the option of staying at home either and just wanted to address what anonymous posted. It isn't a matter of wanting my manicures or my vacations, it is that in this economy it is just not affordable for our family.

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