I watched the whole exchange take place. I was sitting in my local coffee shop, close enough to hear their conversation, and at the exact moment I heard it (and I just knew I would), I cringed.
“It’s so good to see you! How have you been? What are you doing these days?” she asked.
She was so put-together — with her pressed slacks, well-manicured nails, and freshly blown-out hair.
“It’s nice to see you too! I’ve been good, busy of course, but good. After Hannah was born, I quit my job, and now I’m just a stay at home mom,” she replied, shoulders shrugged and looking apologetically away.
Just. Just. Just. Just.
There it was: the “just a stay-at-home mom” tagline.
Can we just stop with the just already?
Mothers, please, I am begging you! Can you please remove the word “just” from your vernacular when you’re speaking about your chosen vocation? Just take it out completely because nowhere in what you have chosen to do with your life does that little, self-condescending, minuscule, and meager word “just” have a place. Like, zero place.
You’re raising a human for God’s sake! Just a stay-at-home home? JUST NO.
Just is for sentences like, “‘Eh, I think I’ll just wear jeans to the party,” and “We’re just gonna have pizza for dinner tonight.”
Think about it. Do you ever hear anyone else use the word “just” when they’re describing what they do for a living? Like anyone? When was the last time you heard someone say, “I’m just a teacher, just a nurse, just an electrician, just an attorney, just a chef, just a financial planner, just a massage therapist, just a project manager, or just a child care provider?” So why do women who choose to stay home (and in reality, actually do a little of all of the above careers while staying home) continue to unconsciously demean and slight themselves by inserting that little fucker of a word — just.
And as added insult and incomprehensible irony, have you ever heard a stay-at-home dad say, “Oh, I’m just a stay-at-home dad?” Nope, me neither. Usually it’s something along the lines of, “She works and I stay home with the kids and take care of the house, the meals, the errands, the homework…” and then neither of us bats an eyelash at that because more often than not, we can actually empathize and are well aware of what that dad is just really doing at home.
He’s doing the same hard-ass work that we are, yet his inherent confidence combined with a total lack of self-doubt, and the fact he is doing something atypical, means his natural reaction is not to say, “I’m just a stay-at-home dad.” Dude knows what’s really up. This shit is not for the weak, and he’s not gonna portend is it. High-five right back at ya, DAD.
Own what you do, mothers. Own it hard. And once and for all, say it with pride. Own it like the dads who stay home do. Own it like every other working person owns their career.
Sadly, it’s probably gonna take some practice, because for some reason, many of us women have an instant reflex to instantly shame ourselves in some way or another. Even our body language when answering tells a story of inadequacy and defectiveness, as if it’s our default career choice. Imagine saying, “Oh, I didn’t make it as a [insert any career choice here], so I became just a stay-at-home mom instead,” because that is basically the message you’re sending out when you continue to compare and disparage the vitally important work you do at home to anything else.
You can have your GED and be a stay-at-home mom or have your PhD and be a stay-at-home mom, and both women deserve the same merit, appreciation, and respect from society for their chosen field of work. You can be just a secretary, or just a school principle, but we know for a fact, both of you are necessary to keep the school running efficiently, so neither of you is a just anything.
But you know who women (both those working and staying home) need to receive support and appreciation from the most? Other women.
So the next time you hear someone say, “I’m just a stay-at-home mom,” or “I just work part-time,” or “I’m just a school secretary,” stop them immediately and say, “Now I know for a fact you’re not a just anything.” Tell them the women before us who fought for years so we could have the ability to make our own choices, choose our own paths to happiness, and decide what is right for us and us only, are turning over in their graves every time they hear us say, “I’m just…”
And then remind them that nobody is put on this earth to spend their lives (or even one second) feeling like they don’t matter in the big picture. Because they do. I just said so, and I know the rest of you will back me up.
United we stand, ladies.