Many of us have come to think of the term “stay-at-home mom” as the description of a woman who does not work and devotes all her time and energy to her children and her home (and hopefully her husband, too, if she wants to keep her marriage strong!).
I think this is a wonderful pursuit and a valid definition — in part. I also think “stay-at-home mom” can encompass those mothers who have jobs or careers but manage to still perform a lot of the functions that we think of being done by stay-at-home moms and not by working moms.
Take the errand I just ran. My daughter called at 1:15 in the afternoon a bit distraught that she had forgotten her dress, shoes and necklace for the talent show performance at school. I told her, “Don’t worry. I’ll bring it right over.” I knew just which outfit and where it was, since she just wore it last night for the parent’s performance of the show. I grabbed it, hopped in my car, walked it into the office, and came right back home. Now I’m writing my blog, about 15 minutes later.
And I’m a working mother with a career I love and a couple of side businesses I run to help pay the bills and prepare for the future. So I’m not the classic definition of stay-at-home mom.
I had just finished a meeting with a real estate partner (which I do right in my own town). I came home to return a few calls as part of my duties as a property manager, which is one of my side businesses. After that I planned to record some audio for a project that is part of my reporting career, the endeavor I have been passionate about for more than 15 years.
When I got home from my meeting, I had actually taken a break to eat when I got my daughter’s call. Instead of finishing the article I was reading while eating the last few pieces of ants on a log (celery, peanut butter and raisins for the non-moms reading this), I gobbled up the celery stick in my hand, put the rest away (I didn’t need any more peanut butter today anyways!), put down the paper and jumped into “mom” mode.
As I was driving home from the junior high, I realized this is one example of how I am a stay-at-home mom even though I am working. I glowed with delight, knowing I could be there for my daughter and not miss a beat in getting my work done.
Some might argue that I’m coddling her. “She should have remembered the outfit herself in the morning,” you might think. Well, many kids have moms reminding them of such things in the morning. I often don’t get up and take her to school in the morning; my husband does that much of the time because I am a night owl who feels my creative juices flowing after midnight many times. So if I had been helping her get off to school, I might have reminded her. But I didn’t, so she didn’t think of it (apparently. I didn’t ask her why she didn’t have it. Knowing my daughter, she may have decided in the morning she wasn’t going to wear the same dress, and then after finding out her friends were all wearing the same outfits they wore at the show the night before, she changed her mind). The beautiful thing was, the reason didn’t matter. I was able to help and glad I could.
Does that mean I’m encouraging her to be forgetful, to rely on others, to not be willing to accept responsibility for her mistakes? Possibly, but I went with my mother’s instinct — which is that she deserves a little extra help now and then because she is a straight A student in the junior honor society, two dance companies, taking voice and piano lessons, in drama club and on the scholastic bowl team, in girl scouts and in the choir at school (and that’s just this month). And she’s excelling at all of those. At 12 years old, that’s a lot on her plate. I’m willing to cut her some slack. I know how hard it is to juggle everything in MY life. In fact, I’ve been trying recently to convince her to drop some activities, but I feel like a hypocrite because I have an overwhelming amount of endeavors too. And like her, I enjoy all of the things I do, so I don’t WANT to drop any. I manage them as best I can and get help along the way.
I see nothing wrong with letting her know that I’m there to help her, as long as she is responsible and does what she’s supposed to — her chores, her homework, her music practice, etc. In our house, if you help me, I help you. But if you start slacking off, then I don’t come to your aid. So I don’t see it as coddling. And I love the idea that I CAN be that stay-at-home mom while I maintain my career.
What if I had a job outside of my home and couldn’t rush to her aid? I used to work two days a week in a newsroom that was 100 miles away from home. There would be no last-minute outfit drop-offs. I would have determined the extent of her anguish on the phone and looked into some other options if I was working away from home that day. If it really mattered to her that much, I would have checked with a few other people. Her dad often works from home, so that would be the first option. (Though it would have actually taken me longer to get him on the phone and explain where everything was and get him out the door than the 15 minutes it took me to just do it myself from home.) But of course, many women don’t have a husband who works from home. I am fortunate enough to have my father and stepmother only eight miles away, and they are retired. So if my daughter was really upset, grandpa would have probably helped if he was around and my husband wasn’t.
I might also have given her the “speech” about how she has to take responsibility for these things herself, and I can’t always help her especially when I’m away working and so is her dad. She may have accepted that, or she may have been even more upset. I like that I didn’t have to even consider that route. (I’ll still probably talk to her after school about why she forgot the outfit and strategies to implement to prevent such a mishap in the future. And I’ll of course make her realize that this was such a minor thing in the scheme of life. But for a 12-year-old, seventh grade girl, nothing involving her life is MINOR!).
But none of those options (her dad or her grandparents) would have made me feel like I was a stay-at-mom, just a caring mom who went into action to find someone in the “village” to pick up the slack while I was away at work. I like the feeling that I am wearing the stay-at-home mom hat nearly every day and still get to dress and act and think and reap the rewards of a career woman.
Can everyone do this? Well, not everyone is a reporter and property manager who can work mostly out of their home. But many jobs and businesses do exist that allow women to work from home some or part of the time. If your goal is to do more of the “stay-at-home mom” types of things for your kids, and you don’t like the job or career you are in, then you should look into changing that and pursue one that you can do from home. And the most important take-away from this blog is that YOU can create the future that YOU want no matter what job or business or industry or situation you are in. Nowadays, employers are more willing than ever to offer flexible hours or work-from-home days or job-share for GOOD employees. Make yourself valuable, and write your own ticket. But you must believe in yourself first and believe in the power of envisioning the future you want and then taking steps to make it happen!