Friday, November 08, 2013

Stay-at-home-mom, bullied at bus stop




The headline was enough to grab my attention. I was willing to jump in and defend one of my own. What kind of person bullies a SAHM?? The article was written by Jessica Stolzberg for Salon on Nov 7th.

I read the article and found...very little bullying. What I found was a huge chip on the shoulder of the author. I read a story of an over defensive reaction to one woman’s inquiry. Perhaps the tone of the question was wrong but bullying with a question? That’s a bit oversensitive. I think the real bully is Stolzberg, and she is bullying herself.

The author and I have something in common, we both have issues with being a SAHM. We both have feelings of guilt that we aren't working and contributing to our full potential. How we deal with that guilt is very different. I have felt the weight of explanation as to why I'm a SAHM of school age children. When someone asks what I do all day I do not interpret their inflection of "Can I ask what you do all day?” as an attack. Like Stolzberg I became a SAHM out of necessity, not choice. I would love to be in the workforce building a career and working with other adults. However I'm not the main breadwinner and my husband has the opportunity to earn a large salary in a major company. His job is demanding and requires travel. Traditional marriage roles came into play and I took on the role of full-time homemaker and full-time parent to our two children to allow him the chance to be fully be engaged in his career*. I was frustrated at first, feeling like I had to take the back seat to his career to become a housewife.

Don’t think for a minute this doesn’t jar with my feminist ideals on a daily basis. I also had a mother who worked full time and tells me how I “Lucked out” in my situation as a SAHM. Always toned with dash of jealousy and a pinch of disappointment. How hard she worked to give me education and opportunity and I chose motherhood and wifely duties. It’s like she’d birthed me right into the 1950’s she’d been emancipated from.

Here’s a fact: Feminism was fought to give women the choice; the choice to have a career or family or both. There should be no judging for which path we choose. We make these choices because we now have the freedom to make them. I am grateful that one day I can still go out and work and have a career - our lives are not on hold or interrupted because we are now being responsible for raising children, even if they are teenagers. Equally we should not judge ourselves harshly for choosing the traditional path. Being mother, partner, wife, supporter is not going backwards. It is selfless in face of the opportunities we could have to be the support for our loved ones so they can grow and develop.

This is not something to be ashamed of or made to feel lazy for choosing. Stolzberg and I have a job that is 24 hours on call. We are at the immediate disposal of the family 24/7. All the jobs a parent does, all the jobs of home management and organisation. We are the personal assistant and representatives of our family.  No one judges the fireman as lazy because they’re not fighting fires 40 hours a week and only a moron would think a fireman does nothing in the hours between fires.

Stolzberg doesn’t need a ready answer or excuse when someone asks her what she does for a living. She doesn’t need to feel guilty for not earning a wage. She doesn’t need to feel second class to career women. Doing these things perpetuates the lie that SAHMs aren’t valuable or worthy. I’m glad she has a large group of friends who support her because it sounds like she needs them. But really what Stolzberg and what other SAHMs need, is to give themselves credit for the work they do. To understand that those women who have to work full time and don’t get the level of quality time with their kids as we do, probably feel a lot of guilt too. Perhaps they’ll act out and it’s reactionary and in no way should have an effect on how we feel about ourselves. And if the other woman is a genuine nasty person who judges SAHMs as lesser beings who are lazy for not having a career then really, she’s the one we should be feeling sorry for. She’s not being valued as a parent herself or feels being a parent is unimportant because she’s lacked good role models. Who knows, it’s her problem.

SAHMs are not the norm anymore. Being available for our families 24/7 is a luxury that we should be thankful for this chance; grateful that we have this unique opportunity. Many families do not get to have this precious time with their kids. We should embrace this time to be with our children while they’re young because they’ll be adults and on their own before long. I don’t want to be looking back on this time thinking I should have been with my kids more. You can’t get this time with your kids back. Someone who thinks staying home to raise the kids, even when they’re older, as unmotivated has some serious issues; but their real issue isn’t with the parent, it’s with themselves.



 *He is not a bastard for this, by the way. He’s hard working, devoted and loving and has his own guilt issues about not being as available for the family as he’d like to be.