Tuesday, November 6, 2007

Just A Mom

A few weeks after Henry was born, we attended a bar-b-que with some friends from high school. As we caught up with our friends, one new mother replied that after having her baby, she had quit her job, and was now "just a mom." Another friend immediately reprimanded the new mom, and, after extolling the merits of motherhood, said the answer "just a mom" belittled the role of mother.

Of course, this friend couldn't have answered that she herself was "just a mom", as she not only took care of her two children, but ran a successful home business as well.

Since joining the roster of stay-at-home moms, I've been struck by the ambivalence with which women approach the role. It has been said that "it is the fate of women everywhere to be miserable always", and I think motherhood has much to do with this misery. When it comes to choosing between working or staying home with the children, it's a damned if you don't, damned if you do situation. If a mother decides to work, or must work for economic reasons, she inevitably will feel guilty about time spent away from her children. If a mother decides to stay home, she inevitably will experience isolation, lose additional income, and struggle to feel validated.

There are 2 opposing views of stay-at home moms. The first maintains that stay-at-home moms lead lives of ease, spending days reclining on the sofa while watching soap operas and eating bon-bons. The second maintains that stay-at-home moms lead lives of deprivation, a sleepless, bleary-eyed, unshowered breed of women who spend isolated days changing dirty diapers and subsisting on scraps of toddler food and diet sodas. Speaking from experience, I can say that the job is somewhere in between these two extremes (I have yet to eat said bon-bon).

The level of scorn or sympathy one extends to stay-at -home moms most likely depends on if the individual is a stay-at-home mom herself. On declaring myself a stay-at-home mom, I have received responses that illustrate both views of the position, from "Oh, you're one of those women" to "I wanted to slit my wrists when I started staying home."

Scorn and sympathy aside, sometimes I am hesitant to say I am a stay-at-home mom because I'm afraid the term will define me. Stay at home mom = minivan and Winnie the Pooh diaper bag = boring. I'm afraid that the term doesn't allow for everything that was me before Henry came along. That the sum of me can be distilled into the phrase "just a mom." Maybe we women tend to focus on what we lose when we have a child rather than what we gain. We become so absorbed in mourning our former selves that we fail to fully enjoy our new lives. We forget that the "mother" hat isn't one-size-fits-all. We forget that as much as motherhood defines us, we define motherhood. We forget that life was often difficult and hard and tedious before the baby came along.

So I'll say it, I am a stay-at-home mom. And I'll gladly take all the time I get to spend with Henry. And hopefully when he's grown, I'll find that I've not only retained the things that define who I am, but improved and added to them. I am more than a mother, but I also am more because I'm a mother.


Denise said...

Oh how true it is... the last few months I have tried really hard to define my role in life and who I am as a "stay-at-home mom." Then about 2 weeks ago I was on a walk with my little girls, one sleeping in the stroller the other one running through the sprinklers and laughing so hard she couldn't get herself back out and I thought "no amount of money or status could make me give this up... its worth all the dirty diapers and neverending messes." I get to be a part of their growing up and experiencing life. We really are blessed to not only be able to stay at home but to enjoy it (at least part of the time.)

Stacy & Mike said...

Great Post!!! I can't help but wonder if the scorn or sympathy comes from questioning whether or not we are doing the right thing if others are not doing the same thing we are. If others are doing something different then one has to re-evaluate whether they are doing what is "right". If we are doing what is "right" then why isn't everyone doing it? Not everything is black and white. It's hard to refute that the best thing for a family especially the children is to have a "stay at home mom" but that term is broad and could mean different things. A good mom instills confidence in a child and teaches doing what is right even when the crowd isn't, and tolerance of others. So as mom's why don't we practice what we teach. Be tolerant of differences and do what we know is best for our family, be confident in that decision. Then there should be no guilt. I am not "just a mom" "I am more for being a mom" and love every second of it.

ps. Are you coming home for Christmas?

Vic and Lindsay said...

This sums it all up. I feel like we don't get the credit we deserve. I am sooo exhausted by the end of the day, yet we never get a break or a weekend off. But on the other hand I wouldn't change it for anything it the world. It depends on the day, sometimes I wonder if I can make it through without going insane. But I guess that is what keeps you on your toes.
P.S Cute pic of you and Henry. You look darling!!

Paige said...

Hey Kimmeroo,
I am printing this entry and distributing it to my Philosophy of Feminism class. If I owe any royalties, please let me know.

Miss you!

Kim said...

Paige - I am flattered that you would consider using this for you class. What an intersting course - Philosophy of Feminism - I bet it is very intersting (and heated) to discuss a feminist take on stay-at-home moms. Let me know how it goes. Miss you too!

Kimberlee said...

Why is it that those who try to be more like men, are labeled "feminist." I consider my self a "feminist," one who tries to fulfill my natural role as woman and mother.

Brooke said...

That post made me want to be a mom! Someday...