A friend of mine wrote an essay that was published in the book Torn. I bought the book and buzzed through it. Many different moms contributed but the vast majority were women of educational privileges (read: ivy league college graduates) and who were either stay-at-home moms or moms who worked but didn't really have to. That is a very sweeping generalization but not inaccurate. I'm sure from the title you can tell what the editors thought the theme was.
I ended up commenting on the Motherlode about the book and I wanted to expand on my comments in my blog. I usually avoid controversy by posting cute kid stories but I feel riled up.
In books like this one I think there is often a missed opportunity to examine the economic realities of SAHMs whose children grow up or whose circumstances change. There was one essay that spoke to me - a woman who was divorced and with two almost grown kids and she was trying to work to pay the bills after being out of the workforce for a long time.
This story probably struck me because as a child I worried that my parents would get divorced (they are happily married 38 years today) and then what would happen to my mom? Even with alimony and child support it is expensive to pay for TWO households on one salary. What would she do for a job? I don't think this is the only reason that my sisters and I are all working moms but I think it is a contributing factor.
I often mentor associates considering the "balance" of work and family and ask them to consider what the implications are for relying on a spouse with a JD/MD/MBA to provide for you - not just the economic realities but contingency planning. What if your spouse is laid off, disabled or what if you get divorced? No one wants to talk about the last one but honestly, if half of marriages end in divorce, shouldn't one contingency plan?
And what about the "balance" in your spousal relationship? For all that Husband and I do to play to our strengths in household duties neither one of us feels like we have to do things because it is our "job". Are SAHM ever held hostage by their unpaid "job"? That they have to cook dinner every night or do all the errands because they are "home"? Do SAHMs ever feel like they might have to suck up a bad event (infidelity, abuse, etc.) because they wouldn't be able to have another option? I am not saying these are realities for my friends that are SAHMs but it is something I've thought of in those moments when I've considered ditching my job for the joys of "fulltime parenthood" (don't get me started on that term).
Consider also the the lost earnings for the period of time that a SAHM is out of the workplace and the missed advancements that won't be made up when you try to come back full time in your 50s. It may be expensive to think of daycare for 2 or more kids but that is not a forever proposition and despite so many SAHM's thinking that they will "find something" after the kids are in school that is not what usually happens - certainly not at the income levels that they were at pre-kids.
Consider how hard it is to opt back in or try to spin volunteer work into something employers consider relevant. Consider how hard it would be to go back to work "fulltime" - 40 hours a week for 50 weeks a year and probably a commute.
Yes, it is crazy working and trying to do what is right for your kids. As a working mom I do "miss" little moments of joy but I have no problem savoring those that I have in the morning or on the weekends (my memory isn't long enough for that many anyway). Our kids are only young for a short period of time - and while there are precious moments missed there is also valuable career development time and opportunities that are missed. Opportunities that will need to support you in your old age when your kids are starting families and working about saving for their kids' college educations.
I respect my friends who are SAHMs and I KNOW how hard a job it is. Part of my ability to work is because I truly feel like being around kids 24/7 doesn't meant that they will turn out any better (absent disabilities and other particuarly high needs kids). The SAHM phenomenon did not start until the 20th century and only for middleclass people who could afford it. I had a SAHM and I was grateful for what she did but she also encouraged (through her philosophy of benign neglect) us to figure everything out on our own - breakfasts, lunches, walking to school, homework.
With young kids they love me unconditionally. I know that one day I'll deal with a kid (or two or all three) yelling about how I missed some event or could take care of something for them. I have consciously given up going to a million school events (and my kids aren't even in school yet), a neat house, laundry that doesn't pile up, scrapbooks and photo albums and thank you notes and a million other things. I don't punish myself for my choices.
I love my kids and I work. I have a healthy relationship with my spouse who respects me more and co-parents equally because we both work. I am paying for my retirement so I won't have to rely on the government or my kids to do so.
One day my kids will join the working world and I am just as much a role model for that future as my husband.
Why should I feel guilty (or "torn") for taking care of them and taking care of myself?
1 week ago