Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Stay-at-home mom stigma?

While scrolling through Pinterest recently, I came across a someecards poster sarcastically teasing stay-at-home moms. The message was that working mothers do double duty—working out of the home all day, and then performing all the same duties that take stay-at-home moms all day to accomplish, in just a couple of hours at night. Pause...And while I shouldn't care what a snarky internet poster has to say, the truth is that it sent me into a defensive rage. In an instant, I felt belittled and marginalized by the Victorian Era woman staring at me from her pink background. Yes, it was just a poster. But, it got me thinking about two issues.

Number one: Why do women like to divide themselves instead of stick together? And number two: Why does staying home to raise your babies have to carry a stigma (or does it)?


I was never great at connecting with those of my own gender growing up. In fact, not until I found myself pregnant, did I feel truly able to bond with any woman. But at that point, I felt like I was part of a sisterhood….finally. I was doing the most womanly thing possible and I suddenly found myself able (and wanting) to connect with other women. My birthing experience only furthered my love of the sisterhood, as I labored in bed with several women holding my hand, brushing my hair off my sweaty face, and massaging my feet. And then, in navigating the challenging waters of motherhood, I found my sanity in groups of mothers who allowed me to be a mess…..to admit my struggles….to be real, all while encouraging and supporting me. Yes, this sisterhood is pretty great, I have found.

So, why are there so many sisters still out there trying to knock other sisters down? Other mothers. This is a oft discussed topic, but for as many wisely written articles I have read, there are just as many moments that still leave me feeling baffled by this phenomenon.

Why can't it be as simple as: motherhood is difficult. Period. The end. Because, it is difficult….for us all.

We all have the right to chose our own approach to motherhood, and in so doing, take on a unique set of challenges and benefits that other options might not carry. And thank god. Because, some of us would fully lose our minds staying home, and thus need a separate (non-mama) identity to visit every day. While others would fail in the workplace because we'd be so consumed and distracted by our faraway babies. Etc. Etc. Etc. There are about as many reasons for and against staying home as there are mothers out there. So, why can't we respect each other's choices?

Furthermore, how can we speak to the experience of other mothers who are living opposite lives? How can we be so quick to invalidate one another?

And that's just it. My experience felt invalidated and misunderstood by a someecards poster that I only assume was written by a mother living an opposite life from mine. It felt so unnecessary. Where's the sisterhood in that? At the end of the day (however you may have spent that day), we are all still mothers and women. Which brings me to my second issue...


Growing up, I was always the girl who needed everything to be equal. In high school, I was told I could not join the boy's swim team, because I was a girl. But, I joined that team anyway (after much debate and insistence). I rarely saw the divide between genders. And while I often attributed my army of male friends, desire to someday become a lawyer, or belief that I could do anything I wanted to do in life to my father raising me in a very gender neutral manner, my father insists that I was born with a strong feminist edge. Either way, I saw things going a certain way when I looked to the future.

There were several enormous life events that occurred during my formative years that led to some drastic changes in my way of life (i.e. leaving behind my male friendships, discovering and embracing my much softer, artistic side, etc), but for the sake of brevity, I will skip to the part where I became a mother…a stay-at-home mother.

I certainly wasn't one of those girls who always dreamt of having children and staying home to raise them, but when the time came, that was the decision that felt natural. And I felt so good about that decision, because it was right for me, and my family. But, as psyched as I was about my new role, I was surprised to find that I was judged at times, misunderstood often, and invalidated by my own kind (other mothers).

So, I wonder, at what point did we hurl past a more accepting reality for women? Why must we work outside the home to assert our woman power? Why must we renounce our roles as mothers to be seen as strong, intelligent, impressive women? Why does mothering the children we carried and birthed have to be a stand against feminism? Are our only choices the 1950's or super feminism?


Perhaps a great portion of these debates is internal. Perhaps the trivial internet poster I saw doesn't speak to a general consensus on stay-at-home moms living easy, less important lives. But, I know I can't be the only mother out there struggling with her identity. Becoming a mother saddles every woman with a new set of challenges to work through. We must find a way to be this while being that, make sacrifices that we sometimes second guess, and make decisions in a sea of unsolicited opinions. So, wouldn't it be nice if we could at least have another sister's back? I think so.

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