A recent visit to Baby T’s doctor proved what I’ve been fearing: I am judged—and looked down on—for being a stay at home mom. Since it was a new doctor my husband and I filled out forms, including our occupations. Although I put “stay at home mom, former Tobacco Control Coordinator,” the doctor’s verbal assumptions made it clear that she missed that second part. While explaining the science behind her reasoning, which also sounded a lot like lecturing ironically (or not), she directed her speech mostly at my husband, assuming that his job title meant that he understood the physiology and anatomy behind the human body and function of immunoresponse. She even went so far as to say to him, “with your job title, you understand, right?” “Uh, no,” he answered, “That’s actually not what my field is in.” His answer barely phased her as she continued, and he turned to look at me with a “Wtf….” expression.
Because of my Master of Public Health degree, I have some background knowledge of the human body. I understood more of what she was rambling on about than my husband did. When we left, he said to me “That was pretty insulting to you to assume that you knew nothing. You know a lot more about this stuff than I do.” And he’s right. I do.
Why is it that “stay at home mom” is such a dirty word[s], and one that brings about so many assumptions—more like accusations—about a woman, her intelligence, her drive, and her priorities? It’s odd to me that a country like this one that puts so much emphasis on women as nurturers and givers and shames women who chose to not have kids, also has created a stigma about stay at home moms (SAHM). I am educated beyond the standard college degree and have work experience, and am [most days] intelligent, and yet when I say that “what I do” is be a mom, I’m met with a lot of “Oh”s. I can read the expression on your face and can interpret it, by the way, as I just told you, I’m far from an idiot.
Being a SAHM doesn’t mean that someone is lazy, has it easy, or has given up. I hate answering the question “Will you go back to work one day?” I’m sure I will one day, I say, but what I really want to say is “I’m not sure, will you ever get a better job?” But I never would, because that would be an asshole thing to say. Which is kind of what I hear when I get asked that question.
I’m a stay at home mom, not a housewife. A stay at home mom has chosen a path that she believes is best for her family. She has prioritized her role as mother above all else, and performs that most sacred of jobs, to nurture and raise her children as the sole caregiver (for most of the day. Until Dad gets home. Then the baby is all his!). Her house is messy because her job isn’t to cook and clean, it’s to stimulate tiny brains as a teacher. Her job isn’t to fold laundry, it’s to be a nurse on call 24/7, whether it is changing diapers or kissing booboos, or freaking out over baby’s first fever. Her job isn’t to look perfect with a martini in hand when her husband gets home, but even with oily hair and dark circles, she is the most beautiful creature.
Would you ever tell an in-home nurse that her job is easy because she gets to be at a home all day? No. Would you ever tell someone that is on call 24/7, even in the middle of the night, that her job is simple because she can “sleep during the day”? No, you wouldn’t. That would be asinine. Being a mother is no different. And BTW, I don’t get to nap during the day, because Baby T recharges on just a few minutes of sleep. I’m not convinced he wasn’t switched at birth and was meant to go home with the Energizer Bunny.
Please also know that I am by no means judging moms who return to work. There is definitely a strength in that, too. Sometimes forced by necessity, sometimes because a woman is more complete with work-life balance, women who go to work and can be full-time mom off hours is another form of powerful superhero. Some days I think it would be a lot easier to go to work and not be at my infant’s constant beck and call. It might be easier to eat lunch in peace and take leisurely bathroom breaks. But I would never tell you, working woman, that it is easier, because I haven’t walked your path and would never take the presumption to say such things. So in all fairness, don’t judge us SAHMs either, ok?
No matter what your path of motherhood looks like, it’s often hard AF. If you’re not a mom, if you’re a guy, or just someone with an overinflated sense of self, just keep your opinions to yourself—not that you will, keyboard warrior.
Every day I try to not be embarrassed or doubt my decision to become a SAHM. I don’t believe I or any other woman should feel like that. Why am I even embarrassed? Because of judgy-mc-judgersons like the doctor who make assumptions about me. As strongly as I believe in my decision, there is still that nagging critical voice in the back of my mind that makes me susceptible to outside criticism. It shouldn’t matter what someone else thinks, but realistically, many of us are affected by others’ words. We hear our own self-criticisms in their voices. It can be very hard not to internalize such negativity.
What I do know is that I work my tail off every day, on very (VERY) little sleep. I am also very (VERY) proud of my occupation. It’s definitely all not cakes and rainbows, although if you ask me, it’s the best career in the entire world.