Something’s been bothering me and I have to get this off of my chest: I was a stay-at-home mom for 17 years and I’m proud of it. I feel really lucky that I was able to stay home. I’m so tired of other moms giving me that deer-in-the-headlights look when I say it. Yes, I graduated from college (UCLA, no less!) and yes, I had a career before I had kids and I am back at work now because my kids are moving out and attending college.
I didn’t stay home because my salary didn’t cover the cost of daycare. I didn’t stay home because my husband wanted to keep me in the house. I stayed home because my own mom worked when I was a kid and it was difficult to not have her around. So, I made a choice that when I had kids of my own, I would stay home if I could. It was as simple as that. Don’t look at me like I’m stupid, lazy, and unambitious. Just being a mom is ambitious. Raising a human being is freaking ambitious.
And, you know what, staying at home was hard, like really fucking hard. You can’t be good at it every single day. You don’t have any training or review process to improve your skills. There isn’t any data to evaluate your performance. You wing it every day. Day-in and day-out you’re guessing what the hell the right thing to do is. The worst part is, no one is right all of the time, because everyone has a different version of the “right” way to parent.
It’s freaking miserable and super challenging and I had a lot of days where I thought “Jesus, I am failing at this.” And then in an instant, you get a thrill because your kid aced a spelling test you helped them study for or finally hit a solid single at their softball game after hours of practicing hitting with you in the yard. And you’re back, killing this mom thing. I doubted myself a lot over those 17 years, so I really don’t need someone I don’t know looking down their nose at me because I didn’t work.
I’m not a prima donna looking for a free ride, weekly manicures, and trophy wife status. I worked as a newspaper reporter and an editor at a publishing company before I opted for mom-life. I was trying to raise compassionate human beings that knew who they were and knew that their parents loved them. Shove your judgement up your ass. I don’t need it, and frankly, your judgement holds women back from doing what THEY want to do. Yes, some women want to work and guess what, some don’t. Deal with it.
There is a saying that you either parent exactly as your parents did or you parent intentionally different than your parents did. I veered off from what my parents did. I remembered many times wishing my mom was home when I was a kid or on a field trip with my class or at our swim club and she wasn’t. She worked. She worked a lot. I wanted to be the carpool mom and the field trip mom.
I scrapped my career and bought some loungewear and hunkered down for 17 years and I loved it. I exercised, I cleaned my house, I worked in the yard, and volunteered in the classroom. It was hectic and simple and great. So roll your eyes at someone else, angry lady. I support your decision to work. Keep your “well, you don’t work, right?” comments to yourself. Yes, my dinners sucked. My cupcakes weren’t the best looking things. A Pinterest mom? Not a chance. A dedicated mom? Hell yes, so back off.
Financially we sacrificed my income when I chose to stay home and that meant going without some conveniences we were used to, but my husband and I agreed it was worth it. We felt if we were going to have kids, one of us should be present and available to them all of the time. I earned less money, so I quit working. We also felt we were the best people to raise our kids. I didn’t want daycare or babysitters. It was a choice I made. It’s not the only way to raise kids, but it’s how I wanted to do it.
Now that I’m back at work with one daughter at UC Berkeley, one daughter off to UCLA in the fall, and one daughter still in high school, I miss those long days in sweatpants and those afternoon playdates. But I love being back in thick of working and seeing adults everyday. I swapped out my slippers and flip flops for high heels and cute wedges, and it’s good!
So hey you, stay-at-home mom, I see you, and I applaud you for making that choice. No judgment here. Net-Net: live your life the way you choose to and don’t make any excuses for it. So, to the mom that gave me the condescending glance every morning as I walked my kids to their elementary school classrooms, direct your judgment at yourself. I’m older and wiser now, and I don’t give a crap what you think about my choices.