Tuesday, December 07, 2010

Coming to Terms

Since the "shaky fist at the grocery store cashier" incident, I've been thinking a lot about stay-at-home mom stereotypes. That was certainly not the first time I've had that sort of reaction to my working status, but my attitude and confidence about the whole SAHM thing has certainly changed in the past four years.

When I first quit teaching to stay at home with Jak, I was pretty uncertain about my decision. Strike that-uncertain is the wrong word. I knew that what I was doing was right for our situation and our family. I knew it. A better word for my feeling is embarrassed. I was embarrassed to *just* be a mom. I felt rather insignificant. Like I had nothing to contribute to conversations but diaper stories. My mind's picture of a stay at home mom included big hair (not sure why), pajamas, glazed over eyes, and those little vinyl letter stick people on the back of a mini van. I remember going to our ward in Phoenix the first couple of weeks and thinking, "No one here has any idea that I'm an educated woman. They just see a fat girl with a baby." Part of that feeling likely stemmed from my being in the depths of post partum depression.... but I digress.

Another problem was that everyone else seemed to {LOVE}, big puffy heart, staying at home. I would read blogs and the moms would go on and on and on about how fabulous it was to stay at home and tickle kids all day. I often thought, "Am I missing something? Is there some sort of website that shows you how to puffy heart the SAHM life and I don't know the URL?" Because seriously, there are parts that are fun and happy and great, but sometimes it just SUCKS. I needed moms with real in the trenches my kid pooped and spread it all over the wall and I hated cleaning it up, let's sell them to the circus stories. It helped that I finally made friends with a couple of other moms that tell it like it is. And their children aren't always angels. That's one of the reasons that I try to keep it real in my posts. Motherhood is messy.

Eventually I found myself in motherhood. And I found confidence in my role. I realized that all mothers feel inadequate and judged at times, whether they work or not. I also discovered interests outside of the career I had (and devoted ALL of my time to) before kids. Politics, sewing, running a business, using coupons, finding deals--subjects that crept into my conversations, making them slightly more interesting than before. Mostly, I became even more convinced that I was where my family needed me-where my kids needed me.

I've continued to evolve my views about staying at home and motherhood in general. I know staying at home is not for everyone. For me it is, but I have noticed that too many times we judge each other without knowing the whole story. That goes for not just the decision to stay home or work, but whether or not to breastfeed, send your children to preschool, eat organic food, play with wooden toys, and a number of other ridiculous attacks---every family is different. I've learned that all moms (well, most) are trying to do their best at raising children and finding a balance between me and them.

As for staying at home--I'm no longer embarrassed or ashamed to admit what I do as a full time job. I have made (many) sacrifices so that I can play dolls and witness every meltdown. It has been a conscious choice for me, one that I feel I have been blessed for because I followed what I knew to be the correct path for us. Aren't we lucky to live in a day when women have the opportunity to make such decisions?

17 comments:

[AnnieR] said...

HERE, HERE!

jabnogorham said...

Thanks for writing this. I think you nailed it on the head. I have been a SAHM for 11 years now. I also have a Bachelor's of Science degree in Business. It took me a long time to "find" myself as a SAHM. When the kids were smaller I had a great support group and we were all doing the same thing. There were lots of people who understood and were willing to step in and "save" me when we had a "sell the children to the circus" moment :) Then we moved and it's not quite the same here. I still have a 4 year old at home. Now I find myself questioning what's next? Do I keep staying at home, even when they are all in school? But at this point it's hard to imagine working full time and still providing the "home" that we have all become accustomed to.

Lisa said...

I love this post.
I think that I could have written it myself!

Erin said...

AMMEEEENNN sister!!!!!!!!!!! Yes girl :)

j&krosser said...

Since your last post it has made me think too. I hate how people assume SAHMs are uneducated. It bothers me when people say I'm "lucky" to stay at home (which is true, but they say it not realizing the sacrifices families make for the mom to stay home like not going on vacations that they do or owning the things they have). And last of all me and my sister always laughed at the stay-at-home part. With as much as moms run around there isn't much staying at home.
Sorry to rant. Great post.

Catey said...

I big puffy hear this post. ;)

Seriously-it took me a while to find myself when I started my SAHM journey too. And the interesting thing is that over the past 12 years, I have found that what I thought was me even just a few years ago, wasn't as much me as I thought. I love all the craziness, the hard times, the messy moments....because they help me love and appreciate the good.

I think I've learned more being "just" a mom-about life, about medical conditions (and anatomy), about teaching, about learning, about everything, than from anything else I've pursued in my life.

Catey said...

(that was supposed to say "I big puffy heart this post". Darn typos!

Sabrina said...

I am right there with you Beth. Well said!

West Family said...

Love that you "keep it real". That way I know I am not alone in feeling that at times my children are terrors! :)

Anna Knowles said...

At this moment I'm listening to my son have his second meltdown of the day- his voice is traveling through the house from his room. Don't get me wrong, I can't imagine working right now. But this is not a breazy, stay at home and fold the laundry in front of the TV, job. I'm a new mom with 4 year old twin boys and for the first couple of years people asked me what this was like compared to teaching. As Beth knows, because we taught together, I taught 7th and 8th grade- ALL subjects.
Everytime I responded that teaching was like a Bahama cruise compared to this! Seriously, it is. :) Nothing prepares you for it. It is worth it, but there are definitely days it just kicks you in the butt and you're counting down the minutes, not the hours, until your sweet hubby comes walking through the front door. When he finally does your eyes get a little misty and for a moment he resembles Superman! My hats off to single mom's- there must be a special place in heaven for all of you. :)
Aaaaaahhhh, there is peace and quiet coming from my son's room. There is a God. :)

Anna Knowles said...

Okay, I just have to write a disclaimer. After having twins my capacity to do anything intellectual flew out the window. I use to grade papers every day for spelling and grammar and I was great at it. Now . . . not so much. So as to my previous entry- yes, "breazy" should be breezy and there are about one or two confusing sentences. I'm sure all of you Mothers can relate! :)

Nan said...

Not judging is huge...there are many that don't choose to work, but must work and try as best they can to be there for their children. Their jobs are just that "jobs" not in or at places that makes them happy. I would have loved to stay home full time, but that wasn't an option. It was difficult to try and meet the demands of being a mom with working, but I didn't have the choice. There were times, I looked longingly at mothers that could make that choice. It isn't easy to be a SAHM, but it isn't easy to try and work and be a mom either. There are definitely "moms" who would rather work and let someone else do the mothering, but there are others that would love to do the mothering however not working isn't an option. There are many who have said we are worldly because I work full time instead of staying home. The judgment goes both way, so everyone needs to be supportive of one another.

sewdelightful said...

Amen to that!

Gina said...

You are such a great writer Beth. I love the raw and real you are.
Great post. I heartily agree!

bethany said...

And I big puffy heart all of you!!

Nice to know I'm not alone in not loving motherhood every minute of every day.

And Nan-I understand what you are talking about, which is one of the reasons I made sure that I wrote that it's not something everyone can do. Mothers who stay at home shouldn't judge those who do not and vice versa. Moms who work aren't doing it because they are greedy just like moms who stay home aren't all uneducated. It's these preconceived notions that need to be broken down. Moms should support other moms because mommying is hard!! And everyone has their individual trials--we (normally) have no idea what the situation is.

In a way, I understand being judged like that because Jak's autism is outwardly many times not visible- he looks like most other kids. BUT his behavior is a lot different and often I feel very judged for it. Obviously those people don't know the whole story. Just like you shouldn't have to explain your financial situation to everyone, I shouldn't have to yell "this kid has autism" every time I walk into a public place to keep from being judged. :)

Veronica said...

LOL, for the longest time I hated feeling that I HAD to say "I stay at home now, but before that I worked in a distict program for at risk kids in 7th grade." Like otherwise, my education meant NOTHING.

I wish we lived closer because I'd come over and sit on your couch and we could trade stories of who had the worst day with kids!! :)

Anna Knowles said...

I completely agree with Nan about the non-juding of mothers that work and don't work. I am very grateful I can stay home and when I say that my job was a breeze compared to this it's because for me it was. We also need to not judge and compare ourselves to one another as to how well we mother or who has it harder. When my twin boys were a year old, a friend of mine, Ashley, was talking about how hard it was for her to take care of her little girl. Then all of a sudden she looked at me and apologetically said she shouldn't be complaining or talking to me about how difficult her life was when I had twins. I looked at her and said absolutely not. This is your level of "hard" right now. This is the hardest thing you're experiencing and you have every right to be frustrated about things. I said if I had just one baby I would have struggles because that's what I knew and hadn't been put through anything more. I told her it drove me crazy when women would come up to me and say, have you heard of that show where they have many sets of twins . . . now that's hard. You should be glad you don't have that many. Or they would talk to me about someone they knew who had triplets, or twins after having two little children . . . you get the picture. It's funny that sometimes women act like it's a competition. Why? We're all trying to have wonderful, cared for families. If my friend Ashley has a beautiful family does it mean I don't have one unless I point out the supposed flaws in hers? So silly. We just need to love and support each other.

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