I am a stay-at-home mom. I used to think I made this choice because it was "best" for my children. I'm beginning to realize that even having the option to make this choice was nothing short of privilege.
Let's make this entirely clear: it's a luxury to be a stay-at-home mom. It simply means we make enough money to live on one income and don't have to choose between working to feed our children or staying home to raise them.
In other words, where I am today is largely the result of factors outside my control: my husband's good job and being born in an affluent area. It would be so easy to take the credit for all this, to say that I made these noble, virtuous mothering choices in the best interest of my precious children.
But that would be a lie.
The only reason I was able to make those choices in the first place was because I wasn't scrabbling for mere survival. Sure, I wanted to be an at-home mom. And as a young woman I made certain sober-minded choices that helped me achieve that goal.
However, life could have easily handed me a different set of harsher circumstances. And I probably would have had to make different choices; ie. work outside the home.
Would that make me less of a mother? Would I love my children less because I had to work to feed them?
Sometimes I think we lose sight of the fact that even having the option to choose what is "best" for our children is a luxury. Are our children really "best served" by being given the "best" of everything?
I have to be honest and say that in some ways I think being an at-home mom has actually placed my kids at a DISADVANTAGE. For one thing, they've started to take for granted that I'm always going to be here to wash their laundry, fix their meals, help them with homework and run their lunch to school if they forget it at home.
Don't get me wrong. I love tending their needs. But it's my job to raise responsible, independent adults–not molly-coddled leeches. Sometimes I wonder if they will lack the "street skills" (for lack of a better word) to fend for themselves, to solve problems on their own, to be independent without always needing Mommy's help.
In that regard, the child of working parents is building a skill set my kids don't have. Is that skill set qualitatively better? Maybe.
Let's just say I hope my kids don't fall apart in college because I'm not around to help them manage their lives.
Still, I don't regret my "decision" (insofar as it was a decision and not just a privileged option that happened to align with my beliefs and desires) to stay home with my children. It was awesome to be there for all their little "firsts."
But I also know that it was exhausting. And I couldn't have done it for much longer. As much as I feel guilty for saying it, the truth is that I'm a happier mother (and a happier person!) now that all my kids are in school everyday. Or maybe I'm just not chronically exhausted anymore and can actually feel again.
Either way, I feel better.
It's pretty cool to go pee without 5 kids barging in. And I can get dinner on the table every night now that I have time to prep it each morning.
CONFESSION: we ate TONS of takeout food when we had lotsa small children. I WAS TOO TIRED TO COOK! (and guess what? my kids ate the occasional mcnugget and the world didn't end)
Ultimately, I really enjoyed this recent article about motherhood in the Wall Street Journal: "Do the best you can. There are no rules."