Hmmm, this would be an interesting Celebrity Death Match, wouldn’t it? The mom wearing the rumpled pantsuit and pearls swings her Blackberry into the face of the mom wearing stretchy black yoga pants and Nikes. Stay-At-Home Mom deflects the jab with a sippy cup while Working Mom uses a long-since manicured hand to pull Stay-At-Home’s ratty split-ended tresses.
And so on and so forth. The point? Nobody wins.
Here is my choice: As a mother (wait, let me restate that: As a married mother whose husband agrees with her), I have never considered working outside the home an option. This has as much to do with my desires for Seabass – that he would have a mother who is present in his childhood every step of the way – as much as it does for my own desires – to be recognized and to recognize myself as a person of worth and value without having to prove it with a big fancy career.
That last part probably rubbed you the wrong way. That’s okay. It’s Controversy Wednesday!
A lot of opinions supporting working moms say something to the effect of “why spend four+ years of your life in higher education just to turn around and raise children from home?” I don’t like that argument one bit. Since when did education serve the sole purpose of placing people in jobs? (Footnote: That wacky girl from the Bronx who is suing her college for her unemployment.) The whole “student-as-worker” metaphor just doesn’t sit right with me. Sure, I’m saying that from the luxuriously bourgeois position of having received a degree from a good school.
But there is data demonstrating that college graduates are happier than non-college-graduates, and I have to believe that it isn’t ALL about the money. Isn’t it possible that the simple act of learning is valuable for more than just making big bucks?
And speaking of making money, yes, I do make a little, but it sure ain’t what it used to be. Working as a freelance writer from home during Seabass’ four napping hours a day doth hardly a career make. But here’s how much we wanted him to have an ever-present mom:
- We sold our home and pay less in rent than we did on our old mortgage.
- We drive two cars that we own outright, which are 11 and 17 years old, and both of which have over 150,000 miles on them. (Hooray for Japanese durability!)
- Jake brings his lunch to work.
- We don’t have TV.
- We don’t have data plans on our cell phones.
- And a righteously fun night out most often includes a double feature at the drive-in, a bottle of white wine and take-out Indian food.
This isn’t a pity party. It’s just a reminder that sometimes, the best things in life don’t require installation, APR financing or a 3G network. Do I want to own a home, a new car, and a plasma TV? (Is the Pope Catholic? Does a bear potty in the woods? Is Murph’s breath rancid?) Of course I do. But I’m not willing to give up my time with Seabass for it, so the price had better be right.
See, I don’t want to have to define the time I spend with Seabass as quality time. I just want to spend time with him – even mundane time. Even just being near one another time. I really like how Penelope Trunk put it in a recent blog post – ironic, because I don’t often agree with her.
This is not a decision that a woman makes on her own. It requires the unwavering and critical support of her partner….or his partner – I’ve also seen this work for stay-at-home dads. I love reading stories about people who gave up “the golden toaster” to make less money in creative ways so they could stay home to spend time – not just quality time – with their kids.
Have I alienated you yet? Well, with all of that being said, I should also share that I have many friends who are terrific parents AND work outside the home. The kids are well-adjusted and well-loved, and the parents are living full (VERY FULL) and fulfilling lives. Maybe it’s a case-by-case thing. Maybe not. [Awkward pause]…what do you think?