It’s nothing new “housewife”, “stay at home parent”, “full time mom”, are all given lip service as something somewhere between “the hardest job on earth” and “must be so nice”. I say “something” because it is not often regarded as a job in the traditional sense.
The Oxford English Dictionary has two definitions of job:
A paid position of regular employment.
A task or piece of work, especially one that is paid.
Stay at home parenthood lacks one of the aforementioned things: pay.
A recent post by Erin Almond on Cognoscenti Why Do We Continue To Stigmatize Stay at Home Moms? written as a reaction to a story about back stabbing housewives in Boston Magazine, has brought the topic up for discussion again. I don’t have any answers and I know it is a very complex issue. Parenthood and work are two very touchy issues especially for women. Some of the problems have to do with just parenthood and others have to do with just work. Somehow, we think they can be intertwined and that we can figure out one perfect solution and an answer the ultimate question: Who is better than whom? which is as we all know a totally misguided question.
All I really want to say on the topic is that many years ago, if I remember correctly it was before children or I may have just had my daughter, I was at a work party with my husband. After already being mocked for not being “one of us” at this business world holiday party, I was a teacher at the time and apparently stuck out like a sore thumb, I moved on and continued the horrific task of small talk with a bunch of people with whom I had nothing in common. I met a woman and asked her what she did, and she replied “I raise three girls.” Those four words made the room feel just a bit brighter and just made so much sense to me. I swore I’d use that reply when the time came, but for some reason I rarely do.
Yes, most of my job is to be home for my family and raise my children. I chose to do so. I love that I have the freedom to do so. I also choose to do other work on the side for my own sanity. My choices are not a judgement on anyone else’s choices or lack thereof. Just like Erin, I hesitate to use the word stay at home mom because, just like teacher, just like chef, just like baker, just like engineer, just like dancer we have a stereotypical image of what that looks like in our minds. The truth is I don’t know what my husband does for a living. I don’t know what it means to be an engineer. I don’t know what it means to be a chef (or a #WomeninWhite). I don’t know what it means to be a dancer. We bring assumptions to our mental picture of each of these jobs.
Let’s just admit that we really don’t know each other all that well. Sometimes what we do for a living matters. Sometimes what we did for a living mattered. Sometimes who we are as people, employees, community members matters a whole lot more.