Every time I make this mistake, I cringe. Still I found myself repeating the mistake, and as soon as the words were out of my mouth I regretted it. Here’s the sitch:
Having just met a few new people this past Sunday, the inevitable questions revolving around where you’re from and what you do popped up sooner than later. And, just like I always do, I kind of gave a half-shrug and murmured apologetically, “Oh, you know… I just stay home with my kids.”
Did I really just demean myself and my children like that?
I think that’s what really annoys me about this: I always sound that way when I answer that question. As if I’ve bought the fable that “just” raising my kids to be decent human beings isn’t enough to make my life worthwhile, or to count as a contribution to society at large.
The funny thing is, being a Mommy really is like any other job. I have set hours (7 a.m. to 7 p.m.) with occasional late nights and overtime. I have a job title by which my subordinates (and co-workers) refer to me during work hours. I even have a benefits package. In fact, if I had to advertise for my job it would go something like this:
Job Title: Mommy
Job Description: General pillar of love and organization. This includes feeding, changing, bathing, dressing, laundry, dishes, floors, windows, etc, but these are only side duties. Of major importance are instilling in small children appropriate communication skills, confidence levels, and generally preparing these children for life, the universe, and everything.
Hours: Variable. Overtime is not only expected but required. It is also completely unpredictable, so be prepared to turn your plans upside-down at a moment’s notice.
Experience/Skills Required: Ability to love deeply and still discipline. Organizational skills a must. Financial skills a bonus.
Compensation: Not deliverable immediately. Pay can be collected when children become adults and begin contributing in a positive way to society. You will have to share your pay with all of mankind, but this will not diminish its value.
Benefits: Health and life insurance of a non-traditional but still useful sort.
Similar Positions: See “Daddy”
…Yes, I think that would do quite nicely. I personally am most fond of the benefits. My health benefits for the weekend came in the form of laughing with Strawbee as she made up a new game. I know it added several years to my life, and probably lowered my blood pressure too. And life insurance? I can promise that having Ladybug spontaneously hug me and say, “I love you too, Mommy!” is enough to guarantee that I will not only keep living my life, but try to live it better everyday.
As I’ve mentioned before, I don’t believe Mommy-hood should take over an entire person. It is a huge chunk of your being, your time, and your heart, but it is, in the end, a career from which we retire. Fortunately even after retirement there are plenty of young workers in need of advice and a bolster, so children will (I hope) never be completely out of my life. Heaven knows I lean heavily enough on the retirees myself!
But I also believe very strongly that this is not a profession for which I should apologize to others. It doesn’t make me stupid. Or uninteresting. Badly educated. Lazy. A freeloader. Bored. These are all things I’ve heard more times than I care to count, but they simply aren’t any more true of mommies in general than they are of lawyers, business professionals, secretaries, or bull riders in general.
People are what they make of themselves, and I don’t think I’m going to allow myself to apologize for my chosen field of work again. I refuse to be a part of the devaluing of parenthood as legitimate work. I will not get embarrassed, or shrug, or fail to meet people in the eye. Just because I’ve heard a million times that I’m selling myself short by “just staying home” doesn’t mean I have to buy it–or sell it.
The next time I hear “So, what do you do?” I will reply with a happy smile, “Oh, I love my job! I raise my kids. How about you?”