My husband and I recently began attending a new church, which means we are surrounded by a crowd of people we don’t know. Now it’s time to make new friends and ask those common small talk questions. As I’m standing there, in a sea of unfamiliar faces, someone asks me, “What is it you do?”
“I’m just a stay at home mom,” I reply, as I try to gauge the reaction on this person’s face. Does she approve? Have I suddenly lost her interest?
Suddenly, I realize I’ve done it again. I’ve told the world that I am just a stay at home mom, as if it’s a position that makes me less worthy, important, or valuable.
I greet another woman with small children, and I instinctively ask her the same question, “What do you do?”
I watch her pause as a mixture of fear and shame crosses her face before she hesitantly answers, “I actually stay at home with my kids.” That answer is swiftly followed by comments like, “but it really is a lot of work,” or “I keep really busy taking care of the boys and supporting my husband in his small business,” or “I plan to go back to work sometime soon.” No matter the reply, each is given as a defense. Women, like myself, feel they must justify themselves, as they stand on trial before adults in the workforce.
Why? Why do moms feel they have to justify their decision to stay home?
Our culture is infused with a “women can do it all attitude.” As a result, women are given the freedom to pursue whatever they want. She can be a mom, a wife, highly educated, and a working woman. When a woman tells you she is a lawyer, people recognize her accomplishments. When a woman informs you that she works as a telemarketer, people are curious about the commission structure. When a woman announces that she is a barista at Starbucks, people ask if she gets a discount on the coffee. But no one asks any of them to justify their career decisions. No one thinks less of those women. Women who pursue careers are considered important and valuable. They put in the hard work. They contribute to society. I applaud the women who have used that privilege to find their way in the workforce. I know they have worked hard to get there.
What bothers me about this “women can it do all” attitude, is that it’s a double edged sword. Women are given the incredible liberty to pursue a career, but they are still expected to maintain all the traditional domestic duties. I think it’s unfair to expect these women to complete the work of two full-time jobs. If I were in their position, I would fail under the weight of those responsibilities. But hey, I’m not a working mom. I don’t pretend to understand their struggles. What I do know, is when a woman chooses to stay home and devote herself to her family and household instead of pursue a career, it’s not considered enough. For some reason, she is made to feel inferior for her career choice. She can’t just be a stay at home mom. She has to do more. She has to try harder. It doesn’t matter what side of the sword women are on, it still cuts.
As a stay at home mom, it often feels like I am being questioned or judged. People wonder what I do all day. For some reason, my role is seen as a cop-out. People automatically assume I wouldn’t want to stay home, so they ask when I plan on going back to work. It often feels like people silently look down on me, consider me less important, or think I’m lazy. For some reason, being a stay at home mom isn’t enough. And I know I’m not the only stay at home mom who feels that way.
So to all you stay at home moms out there, let me tell you something. What you do is enough. Who you are is enough.
You don’t need to justify your decision to stay at home with your kids. Every career choice requires effort, sacrifice, and mastering a certain set of skills, even being a stay at home mom. Stay at home moms just chose to master hotel management, day care, event planning, catering, cleaning services, budgeting, interior decorating, laundry services, conflict resolution, first aid, counseling, teaching, and scheduling. Moms are great at what they do. They just don’t have a salary and no ones gives them a job title with the possibility of promotion in the future.
If you are a stay at home mom, don’t justify your decision to anyone. You don’t need to defend yourself. Your career choice is enough. What you do is enough. You contribute to society, the world just hasn’t seen the fruit of your labor. But someday, your children will be well-adjusted, kind, compassionate, hard-working, adults who understand the value of family and home. They will enter the world, and everyone will finally see and experience your contribution to society.
Most importantly, you are enough. It doesn’t matter how many kids you have or how long you decide to stay at home. It doesn’t matter if you live in an apartment or if you are the world’s best cook. You are enough. You’re not enough because of what you do. You are enough because of who you are. No one can be the wife you are. No one can give life to the children you gave birth to. No one can be the mother you are. No one can be you.
That makes you enough, over and over and over again.
Being a stay at home mom is enough. Being you, is enough. Don’t let anyone tell you otherwise.
The next time someone inevitably asks what you do, tell them with pride that you are a stay at home mom. If people don’t know how to respond, just give them a taste of your awesome employee benefits. Pull some snacks out of your diaper bag and ask, “Would you like the Goldfish or the fruit snacks?”