Mom, with pride.

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

12 thoughts on “Mom, with pride.

  1. As your mother, I felt most fulfilled staying home with you and your brothers and having cookies waiting when you came home from school and a meal ready for dinner so we could all sit down together. Working outside the home was not an aspiration of mine. I must say though, once I did start working, it was a good feeling to know that I am very capable and could have been an accomplished career women if that is what I chose. I’m proud of you Tatum. Whatever you have been dealt in life, you have championed. Love Mom

    • Mom, make sure you’re not selling yourself short, either. You ARE an accomplished career woman. I loved coming home to cookies and full meals at the table.

  2. I too made the same choice as your mother did and am glad that I was there for my children getting them ready for school , being there when they were sick, having them wake up every morning knowing that there mother was there to take care of them and not a babysitter. Luckily your Uncle was wonderful during this time providing for our little family, but we always worked together to accomplish it. I didn’t have to worry about what was happening at the sitters or if our children were being cared for and treated right. I always wanted to raise our kids on our own and not have a babysitter raising them when they were little. Your one of the lucky ones to be able to stay home and raise them. Cherish every moment. You don’t need to make any excuses for being a stay at home mother. You have proven your worth as a mother and in the workplace!!

    • Leanne, I like your perspective that this path is a privilege. Had Owen been born three years earlier…or even a year earlier, or has Kyle not had as good of insurance or had the portion of the healthcare reform that made it so insurance couldn’t drop the seriously ill or any number of scenarios not fallen into place, we could not have made the same choices without very serious financial implications – short and long term. While not our first plan, being a stay at home mother happened at time that it was feasible for us and that is lucky. I’m glad you too, had that privilege…even if your kids had to suffer bad broccoli soup with the occasional sitter Lol

    • Becca, Thanks for letting me know that you’re here too. Each Therapy Thursday is a little scary for me, but when I do and someone says, “yep, me too” it gives me courage for the next week.

  3. I heard a discussion on public radio one day recently about a similar issue. It seems some people think men should be favored over women in acceptance into medical schools because too many women doctors take time off to raise their kids or work only part-time (so as to have time with their families,) thus depriving the rest of us of the opportunity to receive their medical care. Hmmm…I think those people forget the value to society of having well-raised children. I think that a person, or persons, who becomes a parent owes their FIRST obligation to their children. Children do not raise themselves. There are many ways to fulfill this obligation well, but if a parent is able to support the child and decides to stay home with the child that decision should be respected and honored by all. All parents are “mothers” or “fathers.” It is our vocation in life. The other things we do to make a living and contribute to society are also repectable and honorable, but not as important as caring for our children. You will always be a mother, Tatum, and have many other roles also. Right now that role is stay-at-home caregiver. How lucky that you are able to do this for your family!

  4. Thanks for sharing, Kay. I may look up that NPR story. My OB-GYN works part time and I’ve never had an issue with it. Sometimes I end up seeing other people in the practice, but I love to see smart women who find solutions to managing their career and family on their own terms. And you’re right, I am luck to be able to do what I am doing. I hope my post did not come across as complaining about being a mom. I am surprising myself how much I like being home with the boys. It’s more of an identity crisis – I’ve spent 34 years working towards one thing and right now that’s not my focus. It’s the right place to be, but it is a little foreign.

    • Don’t worry, you didn’t sound as if you were complaining. I know just what you mean. Every summer I enjoy my days off of school soooo much. But one summer, when I was staying home with my kids because they were little and I wasn’t going to go back to school in the fall, I discovered that the summer felt just too ordinary and seemed to stretch ahead of me forever. I guess I didn’t treasure it as much when it wasn’t a limited experience. It seemed as if I needed to be doing more that “just taking care of my kids.” Identity crisis. And now that I’m contemplating retirement, I wonder just what I’ll “be” when I’m not a teacher any more. I guess identity crises arise more often than one would have thought…

  5. Kay, hmmm – I smell another blogger entering the world! “How to retire gracefully”?? Change is mostly good – we’d get pretty bored with ourselves give ourselves a new identity here and there. Good luck with your decision!

  6. Tatum. Your blog really hit home with me. I know I would have had the same feelings in that situation. I have worked my way out of poverty and my career is my security, my life blood, my identity. I couldn’t let go of security when Wyatt was born. I always thought he would be coming home. So I continued to work and go to the hospital everyday. Thinking I was doing what was best for my career and my family. I could of quit my job but I didn’t. Most days I was at he hospital for 4 hours. That is not alot in a 24 hour day. I would give anything now to change my decision. Being a mom is the greatest joy and the most trying job of all time. Sometimes I think if I would have been there for daily rounds and given Wyatt more hours of mommy time, he might have been stronger, felt more loved, drugged less, etc. And maybe had a different outcome. Cherish all the time you have. It is a blessing and an honor and a great privelidge to be a stay home mom. Thanks for sharing. Kathy

    • Kathy, I know you and I have talked a lot about the “what if we had done it differently had we known” questions. I have a feeling every mom struggles with it, but not every mom has the ultimate “what if” like you. For what it’s worth, Wyatt’s strength amazed me time and again. I truly believe that he fought as long as he did because he knew you were coming at 4. He wanted every last moment he could get with his mom. And you are right, there are two Angel babies that I think about daily and on the harder days they remind me to appreciate my blessings. Wyatt is one of them.

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