Whenever someone asks me, “What do you do for a living?” at weddings, parties, reunions, etc. I cringe a little inside. Someone’s asking me that damn question again.
Recently I was at the gynecologist and the receptionist greeted me with: “Hello. Are you currently employed?”
Is there anything worse than going to the gynecologist? Oh wait, I know. Getting asked your employment status as you frantically rifle through your satchel in search of a photo ID and health insurance card.
I felt like my examination already started. It was as if the receptionist and everyone in the waiting room was scrutinizing me. (Of course, no one was judging me. I was the only one doing the judging.) But I was overcome with that awkward feeling you get while laying on a table, feet in stirrups, legs (and resumé) spread wide for all to see.
Why can’t I say “homemaker”, “stay-at-home mom” (SAHM) with pride or, at the very least, declare my status with a matter-of-fact tone? Instead, I end up feeling slightly embarrassed or as if I’m a disappointment to the person asking the question.
It’s always the same. I sheepishly answer, “I’m a stay-at-home mom, but I used to be a high school English teacher,” my voice galvanized. I explain (and over explain) that in my former life I had a career. “I was offered a full time teaching job, but it didn’t make financial sense to continue working after calculating the costs of daycare for two children. My husband generally travels for work Mondays through Thursdays, so I didn’t want two parents away from home.” The person who asked me the question really doesn’t care. His or her eyes are already glazed over by the time I start droning on about my future work plans.
Why do I feel the need to explain myself or justify my life (and my family’s) choices to anyone?
Why am I ashamed to be a stay-at-home mom? (I don’t look down on other stay-at-home moms.)
A motivational speaker once said something that really stuck with me. Everything you say before the “but” doesn’t really matter. Remember when I said, “I’m a stay-at-home mom, but I used to be a high school English teacher.” Why then does being a stay-at-home mom not matter to me, to critics, to society at large?
Somewhere along the line, someone or something (e.g. society?) made me feel ashamed about where I’m at in life. My experience at the gynecologist’s office made me wonder where some of my self loathing comes from. For the record, I loathe my self loafing. I hate feeling bad, but I admit many of my sentences begin with, “I feel bad…” or “I feel guilty…”
Some reasons I feel ashamed
- I feel bad some parents work eight or more hours a day and still have to complete the very tasks I do in my “work day” when they get home (e.g. cleaning, cooking, learning and enrichment activities/schoolwork, bringing kids to after school activities, bath times, bedtimes, etc.).
- I feel bad complaining about staying at home when other parents would love to switch places with me. I had the choice to stay at home. Not everyone is so lucky. (My mom worked full time and would’ve loved to be a homemaker.)
- I feed bad I’m not contributing to the household with a salary, which makes it difficult to spend money on personal needs and wants.
- I feel bad not being “busy” every moment of every day. Yes, most days are busy – from the first kid waking up until the last kid going to bed. But some days are slow and boring. (Our American society places such a premium on being “busy” and especially values individuals who have busy jobs and busy lives.)
- People will think I have no education or skills. (I have a Master’s. See look at me trying to prove my value to you.)
- People will think I’m not hirable on account of the big gap on my resumé.
- People will think I’m selfish for having me-me-me time during the work day, e.g. taking an exercise class, grabbing a coffee, getting my hair done, reading a book, etc. (As kids get older and attend full time school, there’ll be more pockets of free time – no doubt.)
We should all be encouraging one another whether we work inside or outside of the home. At the end of the day, we’re all doing the most important work of all: raising our children to be good people.
A Final Thought – From the Pillow
Who you are is enough. What you do is enough.
So don’t be ashamed of who or what you are. You don’t owe anyone an explanation of how you’re living your life if that life makes you happy.
Stop mom and dad damning/shaming. Maybe the shamer is you. Enough is enough.
Why is being a SAHM/stay-at-home dad (SAHD) not considered a “real job”, especially since you’d be paying for childcare if you had to/wanted to be a working parent? Does a nanny, an au pair, a daycare worker, a preschool teacher, etc. not have value? (They absolutely do!)