I am a feminist. What that boils down to is, I believe that women and men should both have the opportunity to live a life that is fulfilling, without a lot of gender stereotyping getting in the way. I get really irked by people who denigrate my choice to be a stay at home, homeschooling mom just like I get annoyed by people who malign women who choose to work outside the home. Either choice is viable, valuable and important, but what matters most is that families and individuals have the ability to *choose the lifestyle that works for them individually, for their family unit, and no matter what that choice is, get some support from their community and from their partners. Ideally it means that they not have to claw through a lot of crap to do it or hit a glass ceiling or deal with discrimination in any form. That’s what I think, and ideally, the world would be moving towards that but I don’t know if it really is.
I would like to see equality for all, in all the forms equality could come in. And respect. I’d personally really like to feel respected and valued for what I do and it’d be nice if that respect was a universal thing for everyone.
I feel the need to state here, for the record, that stay home parents work hard too.
We cook, clean, do the laundry, the marketing, care for the boo-boos, chauffer our mutual offspring hither and yon, pay attention to where said offspring are at any given time of the day, pay the bills, keep the place tidy as the aforementioned offspring try to mess it up on a daily basis, we care for the pets, we care for you. We know when your sheets need to be changed, when you need a clean towel and we make sure there is toilet paper in the closet. Because we’re home, we spend a large portion of each day listening to an endless litany of stuff about Neopets, hair, and whatever our offspring find interesting in that moment, but which we do not.
For the record? I do not really care if S’s hair is behaving today or that her eyeliner fu is not working or that E’s Neopets are in a hotel or she is feeding them omelette. I do not care. I mean, I do care? But I care in an abstract way and I’m generally more focused on the fact that the puppy just peed on the sofa or I need to defrost chicken for dinner, or I haven’t paid the phone bill and yeah, sometimes I’m just upset that my eyebrows are overgrown and I look like a yeti but have no time to pluck them and can’t afford the eleven bucks to get them waxed. In the end, it does not matter, really, if I care or not. My kids will tell me anyway, in depth, about all of this and more, all the time, all day, every day. I smile and I nod and I listen and I ask questions because the nuggets of information that I do need to hear are usually embedded somewhere in the litany and it’s important that I catch the one thing in twenty that is truly needful of my attention. Let me tell you? It’s exhausting.
When the children or the puppy want to test boundaries or wear someone down so they get their way, 9 times out of ten, they start with me because I’m here. They also seem to instinctively know that I’m tired and that gives them an advantage in negotiating. Instinctively, they single out the weakest one in the herd for their attack. So I can’t really ever afford to be weak.
Then there’s school. I homeschool. That’s a pretty big job. S is going back to high school this year but trust me, I do not anticipate a cake walk. On top of schooling E, now I get to be the afternoon homework nazi. Trust me on this one? It’s tiring and you get really over it, really fast. You have to remember minutae off the top of your head for subjects that you haven’t studied in twenty years, there is invariably something horribly important and time consuming that they “forgot” to tell you that they need five minutes before it’s time to leave for school, you have to be the grammar cop and the spelling cop and you have to be on them every. bloody. second. of it or you know that the school will be calling you to complain about what a lousy job you’re doing. If that’s not stressy, I don’t know what is. Nobody plays judge and jury like a homeroom teacher wondering where the social studies report is and the stay home parent is the one who takes all those phone calls.
Now, try to be the teacher on top of that.
I do not get days off, I work 24/7/365. There is no such thing as mental time off. I am not given regular physical time off, as a rule, and never without negotiation – asking someone else to cover me, and often I am required to pay for this time off in cash. At least folks who work outside the home are guaranteed time off and get a paid vacation each year. Also? As much as a commute sucks, god, there are some mornings when I’d love an uninterrupted hour to just sit and chill in traffic and suck down a latte and listen to NPR with nobody whining at me. Just sayin. I do not get weekends off and I am NEVER able to leave the office because I live at the office. There is always a pile of things undone that I must attend to and someone who needs my attention now. My spouse leaves the office, and I am his shoulder, ear, counselor and cheerleader. And then we have to talk about the bills and the kids and the money or the lack of it and while we’re doing this, usually I’m trying to get the meal on the table and it’s a little chaotic.
Sometimes I feel completely devalued in my job, in my role in my family. Because I lack one thing. I lack pay. That is the only thing in this American culture that has any real value, no matter what conservative jerks like Santorum and Limbaugh say.
I respect myself. I value what I do. I stand up and I hold my head high because what I do is amazing and nobody else on earth could do it half as well as I do for my family. But I don’t get paid for it. I chose to do it for free and because of that, there’s a large portion of the population that doesn’t value what I do. I chose this. I want this. I love what I do, but that does not mean it’s not hard or frustrating sometimes. It does not mean that I’m not occasionally driven to tears or inundated with job stress because I am.
Wouldn’t it be great if there was some kind of Professional Mother stipend and you could earn money because the state valued what you were doing, ie, raising the next generation? How great would that be?
How sad is it that value comes down to money in the end.