Monday, September 26, 2011

This is what you do all day?

When I was in graduate school and then doing social work, the topic of stay-at-home moms came up fairly frequently.  Everyone repeated to each other that they, too, hoped to stay home with their children some day. Stay-at-home moms were like Peace Corps workers; they could do no wrong.

One of my mothering heroes with her family in 2008.
(Baby #5, Emma, just arrived on Saturday!)

In April of this year, I became a full-time stay-at-home mom (or SAHM, if you will). Now when I meet new people and everyone says what they do (because that's how we define ourselves in these United States), I say, "I take care of Peter." An awkward silence falls.

When people say their career, it opens another avenue of safe small talk. What do you do there? Do you know this person/company? How has the recession affected you?

When I define myself as Peter's mom, no one knows what to say. Some people flounder, then change the topic. Some quickly suppress looks of annoyance/disgust (really?!) and turn to another speaker in the group, essentially ignoring that I spoke. Some try to continue the conversation, but it's as if every answer brings them farther away from their comfort zone until they subside with a confused, "Oh."

"So when are you going back to work?"
"I'm not sure. Certainly not for a long time."
"Once he's school age?"
"Well, we might homeschool for at least a few years, so probably not."
"But by the time he's about ten, right?"
"Maybe. But we also don't know how many more children we'll be having, so it could be another 20 years or so!"
"...Oh."

One of my friends, talking with me while watching me play with Peter, actually said, "This is what you do all day?" Um, yes. I take care of my son. See, I'm his mom. We like each other and have fun together.

I wish I could always find this funny, but I must admit to just being frustrated sometimes. What happened to all the cheer-leading for moms deciding to stay home? Why are "homemakers" cool in the abstract and unfathomable in reality?

Why can't you talk to me unless I earn a paycheck?

4 comments:

  1. My thought is that people are uncomfortable with SAHMs because the reasoning behind staying home (or not) has changed. In the past mothers were *expected* to stay at home, whereas now mothers - and sometimes fathers - are *choosing* to stay home. That's a big difference, but we're still catching up with the times. At least that's my two cents. :-)

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  2. Could be. Jeremy also posited that people support SAHMs for the first year, but then assume everyone wants to return to the workforce.

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  3. I get this a lot, and feel the same frustrations. I take comfort in the knowledge that I'm doing what makes me happiest and what I feel is best for my son! My answers are silmilar, too..."well, it depends on how many kids we have..."

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  4. Thanks, it's good to know I'm not the only one.

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