Tuesday, November 15, 2011

"Overly Capable Women, Part 2" or "Stay-at-Home-Mom Glass Ceiling?"

  It absolutely perplexes me that Americans will pay virtual strangers really good money for childcare, housekeeping, laundry,  and even a chef but if a woman chooses to stay home and do all of these tasks for her own family, she is labelled as a non-working woman.  This so called non-working woman is often souly responsible for all meals, housekeeping duties, laundry, errands, financial management, childcare, volunteer obligations, taxi service, personal assistant duties for each family member, records keeper, appointment scheduler, drill sergeant, cheerleader, disciplinarian, activities coordinator, party planner, home nursing care, emergency handyman, lawn service pro, personal shopper, interior decorator, personal tutor or full-time teacher multiplied by the number of children in the household, spiritual guidance counselor and faith instructor, life role model, playmate, last minute assignment rescuer, pet care provider, family communications director, professional organizer and clutter removal service, re-location specialist, and any other duties that are not listed above but that may come up in the normal (or abnormal) course of any day.

     Initially, I intended on gathering statistics regarding the number of "working" mothers in the U.S. compared to the same in other countries and I even considered throwing out the theory that the feminist movement, a la burning bras, led us to this place in time where a woman's value is measured by her paying job status.  I was going to point out how when a mom does take a job outside the home, she is more often than not, still responsible for and expected to perform most if not all of the duties mentioned in my opening paragraph.  A mother, any mother, is all in...24-7...everything she does has an effect on every other member in her family. She knows and understands this and hopefully, acts accordingly.  Wow!  In that scenario, it sure seems like the man of the house is enjoying a tad bit of  having his cake and eating it too!

     Now, don't get me wrong, my intention here is not to judge any woman's decision on whether or not to work outside the home.  Certainly not!!  Whether a woman works because she has a career she loves or because she needs the income to support her family is absolutely not an issue!  My intention is to help broaden the spectrum in which the stay-at-home mom is seen.  Often, I think there is the vision of a woman in sweatpants sitting on the couch eating bon-bons and watching Oprah all day!  I wish!  Or do I?  Hmmm...but, I digress.

     Okay, maybe I will get a little heavy and go out on a limb and ask, "Has society's attitude toward the SAHM effectively devalued the noble endeavor of committing oneself to the soul and complete purpose of taking care of her family?"   I am imagining a Catch-22 situation.  Let me explain, no it will take too long.  Let me sum up.  Those of you who really know me will understand what that was all about.  Anyway,  picture a woman who has been devalued as a productive member of society because she has chosen not to take a paying job outside the home but rather she is there for her husband and her children at any time and at a moment's notice.  Now, picture the same woman but this time she has a successful career that she enjoys but that requires her children to be placed in a before and after school care program.  Good.  She is now a productive member of society and worthy of accolades and respect, right?  Okay, fine.  Let's say that one of her sons decides to branch out a little on his own and goes on a small crime spree.  You know, a little graffiti, maybe some petty theft or maybe something bigger.  Maybe he joins a gang, sells drugs, hurts someone.  I ask you to be honest, what will be one of the very first questions on most people's minds?  Come on, you know it is true, the question will be, "Where was this child's mother?"    AHA!!!  There's the rub!!  She was at work being productive, of course!  Darned if she does, darned if she doesn't.  Now, do not freak out on me here.  I did not just suggest that all children with working mothers will become criminals!  That is absurd!  Just as saying that all children whose mothers stayed home with them will not become criminals is equally absurd!  I am also certainly not qualified to pose the nature vs. nurture debate!  YIKES!  No, no, no.

      My intention is to point out the maddening assumptions and labels society puts on people, again from the outside, having no idea what life is like for a particular family.  How could you?  Each family is unique and each set of parents has the absolute right to choose how to manage their family.  What is so much worse, so hurtful and harmful to a woman and to her family as a whole, is when her own husband cannot see his wife's worth and chooses to demean her value to the family based on the monetary contribution she makes.   If the description of all the duties performed by a mother, working or not, did not make your head spin then I will go back to my opening statement and offer the monetary benefit of having a wife and mother perform the duties many pay strangers to do daily.  Go ahead, add it up!  Childcare times the number of children in the home, a housekeeper, lawn service, accountant, shoot...just childcare costs alone!  Personally, I have worked it out for my own family and if I had chosen to go to work before my oldest child could stay with the younger two after school, I would literally, literally have been working just to pay those childcare costs.  Work only to barely be able to pay someone else to be with my children and experience all the cool stuff?  Huh?  Now, I find myself in a situation where I can become a monetary contributor to my family but only because I have crashed through the SAHM Glass Ceiling!  This, I have decided, is the point when a SAHM can effectively shift some of her duties to the children.  In my case, I just need my oldest to be at home with the other two until I can get home from work.   This is my time to take up that career I set aside when we started having children, it is my time to start helping  build our nest egg in preparation for my husband's impending retirement from the military.  Yee Haww!  This is something to celebrate all around.  We have chosen what is best for our family and done it in a the time frame that is in our family's best interest.

     In conclusion, I chose to leave out the hard numbers and statistics about working women and child-rearing.  I will leave you to choose for yourself a reason society seems to have developed the attitude that women are supposed to work outside the home as well as manage the children and the home matters.  Gone are the days of June Cleaver.  While our culture looks to Mrs. Cleaver as the wholesome "every woman" of well-rounded and perfectly adjusted children in a nostalgic light, the same society has sadly decided that there is no longer any room for her.  Why?  The feminist movement?  Economic pressures?  Social pressures?  Male chauvinism , as in he couldn't possibly be expected to do laundry (HA)?  Of course, this is not to say that women should be held to the June Cleaver model..oh no..I love that my children have every opportunity open to them regardless of gender.  I wouldn't want it any other way.  I am merely suggesting that there is room and most importantly, a right to respect, for everyone from the June Cleavers to the Danica Patricks and the Sarah Palins of the world!

    As with everything, I humbly suggest that you take a moment to look around and really see the people in your life.  See him/her, the person.   See how they bless you simply by being themselves and for loving you.  Resist looking at anyone and thinking first and foremost, "What can this person do for me?"  I encourage you to look at your spouse and take notice of the wonder that is how he/she picks up where you leave off.


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