A few weeks back, I came across a trending article questioning whether stay at home moms were destroying feminism. I made the mistake of reading it, and I’ve been stewing over it for a while now.
Unfortunately, the job that stay-at-home parents are doing is grossly undervalued by our culture. It’s not so bad here in Fort St. John where many mothers and fathers are choosing to stay home, but in larger centres (such as Calgary, where I’m originally from), there is often an attitude of women needing to have it all- the career, the social life and the family. This article suggested that mothers who choose to stay at home and be a “kept woman” are destroying all the ideals and rights that women fought so hard to get.
I think this might be one of the biggest mommy shames I’ve ever read.
Feminism is about equality, and having the ability to choose to do whatever a woman is passionate about while getting valued, treated and paid the same as men. So if you are lucky enough to have the ability to live off of one income and can choose to stay home to care for your children if you want to, shouldn’t your choice be respected by the same women who fought to give you the ability to choose for yourself? Not everyone wants to wear the power suit, choose a trade, sell stuff on Etsy or open a bakery.
The thing that really baffles me is why this is a career that you can hire someone for- whether it be a nanny, a daycare provider or a live-in caregiver- yet, when you tell people that you’re a stay-at-home parent you automatically get the question of, “What do you do all day?”.
Being a stay-at-home parent is a choice and it is in fact, a job. It is a 24-hour a day job with no holidays, no lunch breaks and no annual performance reviews. It’s a job where you have no idea what is expected of you, your boss can’t communicate but is happy to scream all day long when you’re getting it wrong and you do everything from janitorial work to the legal documents. It’s the kind of job most sane people would quit after just a few days, but yet hundreds of thousands of parents are happily doing it day after day. Why? Because it’s what is best for our family.
Somewhere along the line, that message has been lost. Childhood development experts agree that there is no better option for children than the consistency and nurturing they receive from parental care, especially if the alternative is low-quality childcare. I’ve heard many complaints from parents about bad daycare or babysitters; ones who just plopped the kids in front of television, ones who didn’t supervise play, ones who didn’t have any idea what young kids needed for development.
Two studies highlighted by BabyCentre.ca (one conducted by the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development and one by the Institute of Child Development of the University of Minnesota) showed that kids who spent all day in daycare had higher levels of stress and more aggression than kids care for at home. That’s not to say there aren’t great childcare providers out there (because there are), but it’s so hard to judge the quality of care when you’re not there and your child doesn’t know any better.
With this message being lost, other messages have slipped in. I distinctly remember having lunch with a college friend a while back when we were beginning to think about starting a family, and I was gushing about how excited I was to be a stay-at-home mom. My friend told me she admired that I could want that so openly, as she thought that is what she wanted to do but felt like if that was “all she did with her life”, her parents would be disappointed because they raised her to be “so much more”.
Personally, I think raising our kids to be good, socially-responsible and intelligent people is an extremely important job. One that my mom, my husband’s mom and that particular friend’s mom had done a great job of. So why in the world did she feel like she was letting her mom down if she was to follow in those footsteps?
Opportunities are endless for women now. We can be a CEO of a global company, own a small business, be a lawyer or a doctor, build houses, fix cars or open a little art studio. We get to go to school and take post-secondary education and our earnings are on par with our male counterparts. I don’t personally feel like we’re fighting for our rights anymore, but I do feel like we’re fighting each other when we tear down another woman’s choice on how to live her life. If business is your passion, that’s fine. I support your choice to go after it. I support whatever you feel is best for YOUR family.
But my children are my choice, and all I’m asking is that you respect that.
Brianne Zwambag is a full-time boo-boo healer, snack artist, janitor, referee, master storyteller and child stylist in Fort St. John, B.C. who sometimes gets a chance to sit down and write about life, mommyhood and the issues that surround it.