We've all had those moments when we meet another mother and they say they're getting their Master's degree, or they're working full-time as something professional and impressive. They might think we're judging them, but more often than not--we're a little jealous. And we feel inferior. While we stay at home with the kiddos, the rest of the world keeps moving without us. How are we supposed to feel like we're not getting left behind?
Sure, You Don't Know The Latest Lingo
While the world often assigns value based on money, advanced degrees, and professional positions, it's hard to not feel self-conscious as a stay-at-home mother. Since having a baby and being at home, I feel a little defensive in social situations. I feel like I have to defend my choice, or even my intelligence--like I've lost my edge since staying at home.
But although I might not be as up-to-date on pop culture or even the latest slang, I certainly work hard. I accomplish a lot, just not in the way people might typically measure accomplishment. You've heard it all before: the laundry, the dishes, the meal planning, the housework, and all those diaper changes. And that doesn't even begin to cover the teaching you do with your children each day.
“The reason why we struggle with insecurity is because we compare our behind the scenes with everyone else’s highlight reel.” -Steven Furtick
We've all read those oft-shared blog posts that say "even though you're not making money, you're raising kids. And that's far more valuable." I'm not going attempt to put a value on a professional career versus raising children today. That's not my job. But here's something I want to emphasize to every woman: we are all in this together.
Whether you gain fulfillment from wiping noses and playing peek-a-boo, or making deals and kicking butt, it doesn't matter. In the end, we're all just women trying to make it through life. I can't legitimately tell stay-at-home moms that they have value unless I stop the "they do this, but we do this" comparison. Because it doesn't make sense to compare the gains from completely different situations when we're not talking about preferences and gains; we're talking about individual value, and value in the journey.
So what's the solution, then? I'm not a psychologist or The Grand Poobah of Motherly Wisdom, but I do know that each of us has value. And if you are a stay-at-home mom and are feeling behind, then maybe it's time to stop comparing yourself to other mothers. Maybe it's time to fully embrace your decision, and to let yourself flourish.
Stay-at-Home-Motherhood Is Not A Restriction
Just because you're at home doesn't mean you can't do things other than housework and childcare. You can take fitness classes and get certified to teach group fitness twice a week. You can volunteer on Saturdays at a local church or community center. You can take part in Boy Scouts or Girl Scouts and teach important life skills. You can become a tutor or online teacher or blogger. You can start a preschool or cut hair or do plenty of things--the possibilities are endless. Mothers have to be creative by definition, but the creativity doesn't have to end with mothering. I know that taking care of kids is a full-time job.
I know it takes everything out of you. I also know that I have more energy for mothering when I allow myself to look at the possibilities of stay-at-home motherhood. Here's what I'm proposing: that we as stay-at-home mothers don't pigeon-hole ourselves because of our choice (or financial need) to stay at home with the kids. Yes, we are at home and not currently in a professional full-time career. But why should we let this simple fact limit what we do, our how we define ourselves?
Loving Motherhood, Loving Life: They Don't Need to be Separate
Wanting to fill your time with a variety of things or trying to get involved elsewhere does not make you less of a mother. No woman's singular worth is to get pregnant and push out babies. I personally believe that motherhood is my highest calling, but it's not the end-all of who I am. When we assign ourselves a label and say "That is it, that's all," of course we get frustrated and overwhelmed. Please don't misunderstand me: I am a mother who stays at home, and I love it. I love being with my son each day and knowing that I am his main caregiver. But I also love the awareness that I am a person with many talents and abilities, only one of which is mothering.
A problem our society runs into is assuming that if a woman stays home with her kids, she is making a choice to be only that. But I know countless SAHMs who don't let this classification hold them back. They live their lives the way they want to, and do plenty in addition to childcare and housework. Are they busy women? Certainly. But more than their busy schedule, I admire their mindset towards stay-at-home motherhood. Life and motherhood isn't a race. It's an opportunity and a journey. So let's support each other in that journey, and give ourselves some credit. We are capable of it all.