“What do you do all day?”
It is an age-old question. Also, it is a frustrating one. However today it is not being asked by whom you would expect. That is, by the Ward Cleaver-like guy who works all day and expects his hot dinner on the table by six, and his hot wife in the bedroom by nine.
Rather, it is a question being asked by women, especially by those who work outside the home, to other women. Asked by those who claim to do and have it all, immediately shaming the stay-at-home mom into justifying to others how she spends her day. But, the real question is, is today’s modern woman really justified in asking?
Whether a woman is raising one, two, or 19 children, she is not immune to scrutiny. In an era where more and more women bring home the bacon, fry it up in a pan, and then attend four travel soccer games and three birthday parties, drop off and pick up from two soccer practices, and serve as a judge for a high school forensics tournament all in a single weekend, the woman who does not fall into one of the #girlsruntheworld categories — doctor, lawyer, executive — is immediately placed on the defensive.
She is told, though usually not directly, that she does not measure up. Cannot compete. She is scoffed at. Scorned. Dismissed. Lambasted by other women — working women — who say that her husband cheated with the woman at the office because, as a stay-at-home mom, she could not possibly sate her husband’s intellectual curiosity with conversations of preschool curriculum, birthday cake, and idle gossip. That her frivolous days filled with child rearing, mindless errands, and household chores can in no way compete with the rigors of a working mom’s schedule and the dynamic existence her full life engenders.
But is that really the case?
Anyone who has ever been a stay-at-home mom knows it is not. Yet women continue to tell other women differently. I recently came across an article published by the NY Post last spring discussing how to spot a gold digger. In it, matchmaker Janis Spindel, founder of the high-end matchmaker service, Janis Spindel Serious Matchmaking, Inc. explains, “My clients need to know that the women are upscale, professional people and they have a job — they don’t really care what the job is, but they have to have a real job.” And, as Spindel elaborates, that job needs to pay at least six figures.
By real I am assuming she does not mean raising children full time, the job I have held for more than a decade. Because that position, as we all know, does not constitute gainful employment according to the IRS and, if it did, would likely not be of the six-figure variety. Applying Spindel’s criteria here, that would mean the stay-at-home mom (presumably now divorced if vying for a spot in her coveted pool of eligible singles), would not be considered a desirable candidate for her matchmaking service which prides itself on discerning those women looking for true love from those looking for money, a.k.a. gold diggers, because the stay-at-home mom does not earn her own.
Pretty harsh words, I would say, inasmuch as most of the stay-at-home moms I know are highly educated, articulate women with varied interests who, though possessing Spindel’s qualifying earning potential on paper, either put their careers on hold or left the workforce early in lieu of raising children full time before their earning capacity was fully realized. Women who, using their education and skills, apply their knowledge to making their schools and communities flourish on behalf of everyone, including those women working full time whose schedules do not always allow as much contribution. Go to any PTO fundraiser, often run almost entirely by women, and you will see the equivalent of a well-managed, profitable business in action.
As Spindel goes on to illustrate, it really is not difficult to spot a gold digger. A lack of a job is a telltale sign a woman is looking for someone to support her. “Women must have [jobs],” she elaborates. “It gives them a sense of confidence, allows them to support themselves and keeps them busy during the day.”
For the past more than 14 years since first becoming a mother, I do not recall many moments when I have NOT been busy. As for confidence, well, it is sometimes difficult to feel confident when the primary yardstick by which success is measured is money. And that is the real shame in all of this.
The stay-at home mom’s success is arguably not always as easily quantifiable as it is for the woman working outside the home who may receive a commendation from her boss for stellar performance on a complicated presentation or for the lawyer who wins a high profile trial on her client’s behalf.
Instead, the stay-at-home mom’s success comes in those often unexalted rewards such as witnessing the joy on her child’s face as he makes a new friend during a play date she arranged or the sense of pride her child exudes after doing well on a math test for which she and her child spent hours studying together. And then sometimes that reward simply comes from getting through a tiresome day, one that will inevitably lead to yet another tiresome day during which that mom will continue guiding her children into adulthood, to hopefully one day grow into decent people and contributing members of society.
The man I end up with will value those triumphs. He will not see me as a gold digger because I did not support myself during those years when I was married and raising my family. The fact that I have not been gainfully employed in a number of years will not be considered evidence that I do not now desire to be. And he will not assume that because I am not employed full time outside the home that I am looking for someone to fill my ex husband’s shoes supporting me.
Staying home to raise children is a personal choice made between a husband and wife in consideration of their family’s individual needs and circumstances. It is no more or less noble a decision than that made by a woman who chooses to work full time while doing the same. There are benefits and sacrifices involved in both. However, what women who work outside the home need to stop doing is condemning women who choose differently from themselves, and resultantly pressuring those women to apologize for the legitimate choices they made.
To anyone who argues that girls run the world, I say absolutely. Only some of us have chosen to run it from our minivans. And that counts, too.
How has being a stay-at-home mom defined you?