On any almost any given day, I read or hear something that makes me question my choice to be a stay-at-home mom. I never for a second regret the decision. I love getting a chance to have this fleeting time with my kids when they are little. It’s never the choice I regret. It’s the way I feel—my reflection of other people’s judgment about this choice, which I struggle with on an almost daily basis.
It’s usually a relatively innocuous statement or an article either hinting or overtly stating that by staying home with my kids, I’ve turned my back on the feminist movement, that I’ve lost my own identity, and that I’m some sort of throwback to a time and place that doesn’t exist anymore. And it usually makes me feel uncomfortable and not more than a little angry.
The one that set me off today was a throwaway piece written by a woman and posted by a female friend on how marketers today no longer market to the traditional stay-at-home mom because she no longer exists. Instead, they market to three new archetypes of female consumers: the modern career-driven independent romantic woman in her twenties, the hyper career-driven woman in her thirties and forties who magically balances her amazing career perfectly with her perfect family and is more likely to buy herself a Birkin bag before that new vacuum, or some other sort of urban chic retired woman in her fifties and sixties who is divorced or widowed and thriving in her growing independence. Here is what I think bothered me about the piece—it was claiming that a) I literally didn’t exist anymore as a type of person—that I was the last woman in my thirties and forties to be a stay-at-home mom and have purposefully exited my career (albeit temporarily until my kids enter school), and that b) even if I did exist, I lacked all mental and financial capacity and independence because the work I do doesn’t pay, and therefore I’m not even worth marketing too.
Here is the real deal. I’m not a whack-a-doodle throwback to another time. I’m a modern, thoughtful, independent woman who made a choice. I have both a college degree and a Master’s degree. When I exited the workforce I made well over 90K. And it’s because of feminism (and the fact that my husband and I have made financial choices together to make it possible) that I am able to be at home right now. And I hate feeling that because of that choice, the implication is that I have no voice as a buyer or a player in society or in my marriage. Regardless of whose name is on the paycheck, my husband and I make financial choices together. Abandoning me as a type worth marketing too is more than a financial error.
I have friends that work. I have friends that stay at home. In some cases the choice is personal, in others it’s financial. Regardless—I’m proud of them all because they are making it all work. None of us fit cleanly into any of the buckets above—I have the mom jeans but wear them with my urban chic Toms (reflecting my inner independent romantic twenty something). I might buy that designer bag before the vacuum, or I might by both. I am blossoming in a new world of opportunities and choices. I’m not none of these women—I’m all of them.
Happy mamas make happy babies—whatever works for you works for me. Just don’t judge me for my choice. Or at least don’t couch your judgment in backhanded belittling marketing pieces that you “like” on Facebook. Women and mothers always have a stronger voice in the workplace, marketplace, and the home when we stand together.