One afternoon not long after Caleb, my oldest, started kindergarten, I was picking him up after school, and he asked me about the YMCA program where several of his friends went after school got out.
“That’s daycare, buddy. They stay there until their mom or dad is done working.”
“Can I go there?”
“Well, no, your mama doesn’t go to work, so you can come home after school.”
“Oh, man. Why can’t I go to daycare!?”
The comment threatened to nullify my existence for the last six years as a stay at home mom. (It has now been almost ten years. Gosh, it is weird to type that.) I laughed instead, tucking the story away, thinking that if I ever got around to starting a blog this would make a great entry. And here we are.
Our decision to have me stay home with the kids came with a lot of thought and planning. It made sense for us, it was what we wanted for our family, and we were willing to sacrifice for it. And it has been a sacrifice. It has also been a blessing. Had I continued to work, it would have been a sacrifice. It would also have been a blessing. A lot has been said in the media lately about working moms and stay at home moms, so let me make this part clear: My decision to be a stay at home mom is not a judgment on your decision to be a working mom any more than my decision to wear a red shirt is a judgment on your decision to wear a blue shirt. Staying at home doesn’t mean I love my children more than you love yours. Staying at home doesn’t mean I am lazy or out of touch with the real world. Staying at home does not make me more selfless for giving up my career. Staying at home does not make me ‘lucky’ for bagging a rich husband so I can afford not to work (I can hear Rusty’s voice: you got that right.) Staying at home does not mean that I have all the time in the world to do whatever I want. Staying at home does not mean *insert your positive or negative stereotype here*.
It has taken a long time for me to come to terms with my identity as a stay at home mom. Even in writing this post, I am battling ferociously to try to stay neutral, trying not to defend my choice. But I keep telling myself the truth: I do not have to defend my choice any more than a working mom has to defend hers, any more than someone who needs to inevitably pipe in with “Well, at least you have a choice!” Or the someone who calls me sexist because I have left out the stay at home dads. We need to stop defending ourselves.
And I truly think that this is where the problem lies- not that we have differing choices, but that we feel the need to defend them. I will tell you something that every mother knows: moms are judged. We are judged often and judged harshly. As far as all that judging goes, I got some great advice when Caleb was small: There’s more than one right way to raise a child. Be prepared for people to tell you why their way is better than yours. Nod, smile, take in what is useful, release what is not, then move on.
So, Mama, turn off the noise of society damning you for your decision. Know with certainty that those on the other side of the argument are feeling judgment for their choice, too. And because you will be on the receiving end of this judgment, try not to be on the ‘shoveling out’ side. Barbra Bush said it best: “Life is good. Women who stay home are wonderful, women who go to work are wonderful. Whatever.”Other posts by Nicole: Man Plans, God Laughs Observations from the Amusement Park