GUEST POST By: Tiffany, wife, mom to three kids ages 6, 4 & 6 months, corporate operations manager, and PhD student. Tiffany blogs (irregularly) at Sarcastickle but she’s @TKPhD on Twitter pretty much every minute of everyday. She’s also a proud member of the #ppdchat army, having battled PPOCD with her first, PPD with her second, and Postpartum Anxiety with her third.
When I was ten, my mom wanted to teach me how to cook. I wasn’t interested in learning that skill; I was too busy playing “Teacher” or “Business Woman” or “Retail Clerk” (what can I say – cash registers were way fun). My exact words to her (for shame!) were “Mom, I don’t need to learn how to cook; when I grow up I will have people to do that for me”
My mom was a SAHM, and a darn good one. I saw first hand how hard she worked – my sister has special needs, and mom never got a moment off. She cooked, cleaned, helped with homework and still freshened up pretty much every single day before my dad came home from work.
I always thought I would do the same.
When my daughter was born, I was ready to be a SAHM. I had a good job, but no career to speak of and certainly nothing that couldn’t be put on hold. My husband also had a good job. There was just one problem. I missed working. And it shocked the hell out of me. I have never felt such guilt, or failure, or shame. Ever.
I was the mom who counted down the days until her maternity leave was over, desperate to go back to work, and desperate to hide that fact from everyone. I was also the mom for whom it has taken years to be able to say: I am not a bad mom because I choose to work outside the home. If anything, I’m a better mom to my kids for being brave enough to make this choice.
I think I have a fairly unique perspective. I was raised by a SAHM, and recognize at home parenting as a job I simply cannot do well. I have nothing but respect and admiration for stay at home parents of any stripe. But I know that it is detrimental to our family for me to stay at home and send my husband to work. When this was our arrangement our entire family was miserable.
We recognized that societal norms shouldn’t dictate our choices as parents, but that having both been raised by SAHM’s, the value of the stay at home parent was paramount. So we switched. I went to work and became the sole breadwinner for our family. My husband is now a SAHD by day (and man ALL NIGHT.) 😉
We have had this arrangement permanently for almost three years. It has worked perfectly for us as my husband experienced the corporate world and did not find it suited him. He would cry when he dropped our kids off at daycare, hating every second of it, and counting down the minutes until he could return to pick them up. Honestly, I dropped them off in the capable hands of our SAHM friend and felt a strange mix of guilt and glee – guilt that I wasn’t providing the care, but glee that I had found someone who loved my kid almost as much as I did and treated her like family. I don’t take for granted for a single minute how lucky we were to have the care providers we had, and yet I am thankful every single day that my kids are now home with their dad.
To not acknowledge the adjustment this has been would be to only tell half the story. It is amazing how many people will ask our children “what does your daddy do?” and assume that his decision to stay home was the result of being a victim of a tough economy, or that he must be otherwise unable to “get a real job” – and these are the comments from others who have also made the choice to be home with their children! Internal to our relationship we both struggle: I struggle with feeling a lack of femininity and he with a lack of masculinity because of our respective roles. We have had to be one another’s champions and guardians on many occasions.
If you meet a family like ours, please, don’t assume. Don’t apologize and feel bad for me that I “have to” work – I get to work. This is my strength; it is how I contribute to my family. I am really happy. Don’t call my husband “Mr. Mom” – he is Dad, Daddy, Father, Teammate, Coach, Wrestler, Sword Fighter, Tea Party Partner, and Yo-Gabba-Gabba Watcher extraordinaire. He juggles the entire household (cooking, cleaning, laundry, yard work, car washing, trash taking out, and so much more) and three kids ages six and under. He does this 24/7. When the kids wake up in the middle of the night, he handles it. When the infant needs to be fed at 5AM, it is all him. He is my hero because he was brave enough to make the choice to be at home because he loves it, judgment be damned.
And I am not Not NOT a bad mother for choosing to work outside the home. Instead, by embracing our strengths as parents and as people, we are rock stars.
If you are a parent, regardless if you work outside the home, or if you work your ass off in it, and certainly regardless of your gender: I salute you. Rock on.