Tuesday, Kellen was participating in a child language development study at the University of Minnesota and as he was in the study, I was asked to fill out some voluntary demographic information. I always catch my breath a little when I can no longer check the 25-34 age group but the question that really threw me for a loop was “Mother’s Occupation”.
Please, please, please fellow Stay at Home Mom’s, please, don’t be mad at me, but I couldn’t do it. In that moment, I could not write out the word “mother” as my occupation. What’s more lame is that I, instead, gave a description of WHY I’m at home.
“Stay home with special needs sibling”
Really, Tatum? It was, as if, my qualifying it that I only stay home because I have a special needs child that staying home should be acceptable. Not just to the reader, but also in my mind.
What bums me out most about my response is that I just degraded all the women who choose to stay home with their typical or special needs children because it’s something they value and want to do for their family.
They We are CHOOSING to do the hardest job (okay, maybe, behind President of the United States) for no pay and no accolades and I, and way too many people in society, are treating them us like they we sold out and could be so much more. WHY? Why does our society not value those that dedicate their lives to raising their young – raising all of our futures?
As a grad student, I had the honor of being one of 3 students to attend a conference of women executives. We were at Harvard University and the discussion was why women still have so much further to go in reaching equality in pay and executive positions. The number one thing that upset these women was that the generation after theirs (my generation) was going to grad school then working their way up to senior level / middle management positions and then choosing to take a few years off to be home with their kids. In the minds of the women at the conference, the women who chose to stay home for a few years immediately took themselves out of the running for executive positions, for the near term and the future. Essentially, it was felt that taking time out of your career to stay home with your children is in direct conflict with advancing women in society.
I was really uncomfortable with that discussion. I quietly said to one of the women next to me that I was so thankful for what their generation did, because they gave me the choice; the opportunity to both work and/or stay home. I saw that as the ultimate advancement of women – the ability to choose your own path. I still believe what I said is true, but I also realize that the choice doesn’t come without consequences. Deep down, I feel like a work force drop out. Apparently, not so deep down, I feel I need to explain why I stay home.
The fact is, we could get a highly qualified nanny to stay with Owen and I could still work. Kyle and, mostly, I made this choice because we thought it was what was best for our children and our family. Many families make similar choices for a variety of reasons. We shouldn’t feel the need to explain ourselves. We shouldn’t feel like we are working against women’s advancement in society.
I need to change myself and my views of women who make being a mom the focus of their career. It’s clear that I need to reconcile what I thought I believed and how I truly feel. I ask that you, too, dig deep down. How would you have felt filling out that questionnaire and labeling “Mother” as your occupation? I hope pride is what you would feel. I hope that, in the future, I do not hesitate or cringe or qualify. A simple and proud “Mother” will do.© Copyright Tatum, All rights Reserved. Written For: Ain't No Roller Coaster