Friday, April 12, 2013

Soap Operas and Bon-Bons

Recently, I read an article about how women, who have taken time off from paying work to raise children, should "lean into" their careers, meaning, they shouldn't feel guilty using child care or letting their children play on their own a bit while Mom tends to her payin' gig.  There were a ton of comments on the article, a lot of praise and sympathetic voices, but also a lot of angry women who felt the article denigrated the stay-at-home mom.  There were several self-righteous declarations stating how deciding to stay home with children was the best thing the commenter ever did, yadda, yadda, yadda.  I read all eighty comments and came away with this:  wow, do we parents ever feel guilty, no matter what our choices are.  If we work, we worry we're neglecting our children and not being the parents we should.  If we stay home, we worry we aren't using our intellectual talents or we are lazy, bon-bon eating soap opera addicts.
I could say I work outside of raising children, but that would be, while not entirely false, a bit misleading.  My father and I have a business we run out of my parents' house, which requires, at most three hours of my attention per week, and I take the kids with me.  For all practical purposes, I am a SAHM.  I have a ton of respect for parents with full or part-time paying jobs.  That is a lot to juggle.  I don't think they are any worse parents than I.  In fact, some parents who have paying gigs are way better at spending quality time with their kiddos than overwrought ones who stay home all day.  That being said, I'm going to address the stay-at-home parent guilt, because that is what I am most familiar with.  
One of the comments I read on the aforementioned article pointed out that some stay-at-home parents work really hard at making sure their job is really hard, like ridiculously over-the-top hard.  They run themselves ragged to play dates and soccer practices and mom and tot swim classes, because they have a need to prove to themselves they work just as hard, if not harder than their spouses or friends with paying jobs.  I know because I used to be kind of like this.  I felt guilty if I had a relaxing couple of hours with the kids, where I just watched them play in the back yard while I drank coffee and did my own thing.  We should be off learning Spanish, or how to knit, or climbing on colorful objects at some indoor play-place, while a teenage employee blows bubbles and talks in a loud, over-the-top, syrupy sweet voice!  I'd feel like my choice to stay home was somehow the lazy choice because I wasn't, at the moment, schlepping my kids all over town to organized activities,  exhausting myself.  That's kind of messed up.  The reason I wanted to stay home was because I love hanging out with kids.  I love watching them play and learn and grow, and not because I love strapping kids into car seats and listening to "Wheels on the Bus," on repeat, as I drive all over town.   And I didn't choose to stay home necessarily because I thought it would be better for them than being in child care.  I chose it because that's what I wanted to do.  That's what I knew would make me happy, so I feel very lucky to be able to do what I want.  It doesn't feel like sacrifice....well, not most of the time.  Sometimes, though,  having a glass of wine in the afternoon on the driveway with my neighbor while our kids play, more or less on their own, running between our two yards, I feel a twinge of guilt, like I should not be enjoying myself this much.  This staying home with kids stuff is supposed to be thankless, grueling work, with no respite!  But how ridiculous is it that I can't relax before nine PM without guilt?  I have a job.  That job is raising my kids, with whom I stay home (or at the park, or at a friend's house, or at the grocery store) all day.  I love my job - not one hundred percent of the time - but all in all it's a pretty sweet deal, and how lucky am I to be doing what I love.  I am not going to feel guilty for being content anymore.  It's the best thing I ever did....yadda, yadda yadda.

No comments:

Post a Comment