There are a lot of people — politicos, authors, strangers at Starbucks, my mother, to name a few — who question the absolute value of the work of a stay-at-home mother. While most people will acknowledge that it’s a tough and worthy job, a woman is not expected to be fulfilled by it; at least, if she is, this sense of fulfillment should be temporary (they helpfully imply). Linda Hirshman, Author of Get to work: A Manifesto for Women of the World famously said:
“Women who quit their jobs to stay home with their children [are] making a mistake… the tasks of housekeeping and child rearing [are] not worthy of the full time and talents of intelligent and educated human beings. They do not require a great intellect, they are not honored and they do not involve risks and the rewards that risk brings.”
Hirshman and others imply that while she might feel physically and emotionally drained at the end of each day, any mother with a little pride and education should rightly feel her brain atrophying, her intellect curling up and dying, just a little, at the dearth of the real, adult, respect-compelling components of her days. So of course stay-at-home mothers themselves struggle with the intellectual depth of what they do. Many, while feeling that child-rearing is the best and hardest thing they’ve ever done, and ultimately the most important, still worry about their lack of an “adult” occupation.
They worry about not using their brain, as if parenting was something just anyone could do well, as if at wasn’t phenomenally challenging to to keep one or more small children happy, active, and healthy, day in and day out. But really? Is full time parenting truly such an intellectually poor occupation? I suggest it is not, and that anyone who views it this way has a sadly narrow view of what constitutes intellect, and the use of it.
Just watch a mother unload three children from car seats at the grocery store, coordinate who will be sitting where in which cart (the regular cart, the cart attached to the fire-truck which seats only one small fireman-in-training, the cart shaped like a fire-truck that seats two small firemen-in-training, but is almost impossible to steer and will almost definitely cause a slower shop and surplus of nasty looks from the elderly), determining who may need snacks or a potty break; watch her enter the grocery store and buy everything necessary for a week of nutritious meals everyone in her family will actually eat, circumvent potential meltdowns on the way, avoid buying anything from the multitude of candy and toy displays calling to her children, pay, and successfully pack all the groceries and children back into her car, and tell me the whole experience doesn’t involve a staggering amount of intelligence, time management, and organizational skills.
Might one argue that such tasks, while organizationally challenging, cannot truly be considered intellectual hurdles? To you, I suggest answering a curious four-year old’s questions for a day. Just a day. You might need to explain to his satisfaction how we can be sure that other people exist in the way that we do, and are not actually robots that behave like humans — a question many great philosophers take on and answer to the satisfaction of no one. Or you might need to name your favorite carnivorous and non-carnivorous dinosaurs, with reasons and supporting examples. Or provide a convincing answer to the question of whether anything truly lasts forever (Note: a four-year- old will not be satisfied with the answer “Love.” They’re smarter than that.)
Anyone who spends time teaching, molding and influencing a couple of small, bright, and curious children (read: any children at all, for they are all, with a little bit of encouragement, excessively interested in learning about the world around them), uses their brain in as many acrobatic academic and esoteric loops and figure eights as your average accountant, customer service manager, family lawyer, or executive at a major coffee company. I offer up my own brain for examination to anyone wishing to take the challenge. Though I warn you it is prone to leaving its keys in the refrigerator, and does possess the attention span of a piece of tuna, after five years of stay-at-home-parenting, I’m pretty sure it’s as intellectually agile as the one next door.
Bio: Peryl Manning is a freelance writer and stay-at-home-mother to two small boys. She juggles her home and her boys, her writing, and her volunteer work with varying degrees of success, and is convinced of only one certainty: Parenting is really, really challenging. Since being blindsided and overwhelmed, overjoyed and then at times underwhelmed by the whole business of motherhood, she has had a lot to say about it, and says some of it here. ’Parenting ad absurdum’ is now on twitter: @momadabsurdum. Should I be following you? Let me know! And if you would like to be on my highly classified secret double-lockdown mailing list to be advised of new posts, leave a note or send an email to parentingadabsurdum AT gmail DOT com. Visit http://blog.seattlepi.com/parentingadabsurdum/ .
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I remember when I was pregnant and many well-meaning friends said to me, “Get your sleep now because once the baby arrives…” I did not get enough sleep once my daughter arrived. I would stay awake watching her breathe. I loved seeing her stomach move up and down and I smiled at each breath because she was alive, she was here, I was a mom.
What does it mean to be a mother? It means to laugh when I find green Play-Doh smashed in my pocket. To not worry or care that I haven’t washed my hair in a five days because all the other moms haven’t either. To enjoy all of the children’s music that plays over and over again in the car while we drive and get excited by a different interpretation of “The Itsy Bitsy Spider.”
My life has changed and it has grown bigger, fuller, and richer. I have someone in my life who spontaneously runs up to me, hugs me, kisses me, and tells me she loves me just because. Just because. How lucky am I!
Bio: M.J. Kang is a stay at home mother based in Santa Monica, CA. She was born in Seoul, Korea, raised in Toronto, Canada and has lived anywhere work has taken her. Prior to being a SAHM, she was an award-winning playwright with seven produced plays and a recipient of multiple awards, grants, and several playwright-in-residencies. She has been named in Canada’s Who’s Who since 1997 for her work as both a writer and actor. The photo above was taken the day before they hiked Machu Picchu. M.J. Kang blogs at Natural Traveling Mama.
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by: Scattermom aka Stephanie L.
I was backing up my photographs–the laptop is making a clicking noise. (Seriously. And it’s still new. /shakes fist/) In the process I ran across my last resume.
Around the same time I also read a post about how staying home with your kids is a career choice not a moral imperative.
Right on! I don’t think I am morally superior (really, people?) for staying home to raise the Small People. I agree completely that this decision was conscious choice made the day I quit my job when Zach was 14 months old.
Then there was finding the resume’ which made me start to consider how I was going to document my current employment. Because what I’m doing is actual work–there is no bon-bon eating while my delightful children play neatly and quietly together on the floor. The stereotypical response to that statement is “yeah, but it’s not work/work. How much cerebral activity is there in Duck, Duck Goose?” To which I am now going to start responding with: “Hold up a second. Sure, being a part of drug development research (and the myriad of tasks therein) was full of mental challenges. But let’s stop over-selling the degree to which most people, on most days, use their full mental capacity at work.” There are many pretty phrases–Coordinates preparation of study materials –to describe making binders. Most of the work involved with binder-making is copy, collate, and ship. Yes, you can screw that part up (raises hand) but that’s carelessness, not brain-activity. “Writes internal and external correspondence” means I emailed people. A lot of times those emails didn’t even require thought on my part–virtual paper shuffling. This is mental challenge? Sitting through hours of planning meetings? Bo–ring.
Now that we’ve cleared all of that up. In 2012, my kids will be 6 and 4 years old and Zach will start kindergarten. As I see it, this will be my first true opportunity to go back to work. For us, the thought of paying for two kids to go to “school” (aka daycare) doesn’t make financial sense. I’m never working for free again. But since Zach will be in public school (free! social program! yay!), our cost would just be for Elliot. That’s doable.
I had the following three thoughts in short succession.
Um, 2012 is less than 2 years from now–I need to hurry up and decide what I want to be when I grow up.
OMG, by 2012 there will be a 4 year gap in my employment history. No one’s going to hire me!
What is the best way to sell my current activities as beneficial to a potential employer?
Entire Article : Scattermom: A scatteredmom’s daily life