I am a stay at home home (SAHM). My husband is able to do the job he does and work hard at it because I hold down the home front. That is my goal--to be the best wife and mom that I can be. Every day I work very hard. I may not get paid for my work monetarily, but that makes it of no less value.
Hilary Rosen's comments about Ann Romney this week grieve me deeply. They are just another sign that our culture does not value women who want to stay home and raise their families. About 9 or 10 years ago, I read a book called Miserly Moms by Jonni McCoy. One of the chapters of her book addresses the costs of working. At the time I calculated the cost for me to go back to work. I would have to make $48,000 gross just to break even. I calculated it again a few weeks ago and that number has risen to $56,000. Wow! That's really all I can say. That is a lot of money. Now, my husband and I have adjusted our expectations of what cars we'll own and where we'll live in order for me to stay at home. We budget every month and do our best to stay in that budget. I am thankful every month for God's provision for my family. There were some very lean years for us when my husband made around $30,000 and I still stayed home. We owned a house (with a mortgage) and 2 cars and stretched what we had as far as it would go. I watched in amazement as God provided.
But, really, there's three hot buttons that Ms. Rosen's comments bring up to me.
1) Do I have compassion for my friends who are moms and work, either part time or full time?
Yes! I do. I have a good friend who just had her first child and went back to work part time. I've been asking her questions so I can better understand the challenges that she's facing juggling her home life and work. One of my favorite books is Feminism: Mystique or Mistake by Diane Passno. One of the last chapters is about the grace moms who are at home need for moms who are working and vice versa. They both see what they long for about being in the other shoes, so we need to have grace and understanding for one another. She does encourage moms to really consider their motives for working, though, which I think is a good thing. I have encouraged several young couples to consider basing their income on the husband's and none or only half of the wife's when considering what kind of home to purchase. I have encouraged this so that they will have more options when they start having children. I just lent a friend my copy of Miserly Moms the other day so that she and her husband could really consider how much her going back to work would cost them and figure out the best situation for them. My husband and I know several couples who are balancing their home and work demands by working (or going to school) on opposite shifts. My grandparents did this 50 years ago so that someone would always be home with their children.
2) Is my work at home less valuable than if I worked in the workplace?
NO. I know this deep in my heart and both my husband and I agree on it. I homeschool my children. We don't spend our weeks frantically running to and from school and to and from daycare. I parent my children and it's hard work. I can't check out. One of my good friends runs a daycare and her observations have alerted me to a very disturbing trend among working parents. It used to be the case that moms wanted to be teachers so they could stay home with their kids during the summers and be off when they're kids were off. I have heard several stories (and I only live in a tiny corner of this world) about moms taking their kids to daycare all through the summer from 8-6 pm when they're off and not picking them up until late in the afternoon--long after they're done with school. One of the parents in my friend's daycare sent her children to daycare when both she and her husband were unemployed. Parents lament day care worker's days off because that means they have to take care of their children another day.
What does that say about parenting? Well, I think it admits to the fact that parenting is hard work! Therefore, being a stay at home parent is HARD WORK! I regularly walk through stores with my 3 kids and people make comments about being so glad summer is almost over and it's time for their kids to go back to school. I'll comment that I always have my kids--I don't get a break. Of course, the response is "Oh no!" and a sympathetic "Poor you!" and I'll respond that it's just fine. In fact, this is the way I want it! It breaks my heart when I think of sending my kids away and missing them all day--even with all the frustration I have to deal with and how hard it often is.
3) Our culture's expectations of how and where we should live are often unrealistic. Many parents do have to work. I understand this. But, many families choose a bigger house in a better neighborhood over having time with their families. I was talking with a friend recently and we were discussing the challenges of working and the financial costs. One friend had 3 children at the private school she taught at. I observed that basically she was working to pay for their schooling. I said this matter of factly--I wasn't being unkind. It was just something I realized because I had considered it at one point for our own family. We just moved to another city recently and I have gotten a lot of comments like "I'm so glad you got out of there." I constantly fight in myself these grandiose expectations that I am shocked creep into my mind at moments. So, I am not criticizing others but saying that I think we all struggle with this and our culture encourages these expectations of what we "deserve" through all the propaganda and marketing we are inundated by every day.
I went to an article or two about Hilary Rosen's comments to understand what it is that she actually said. On one of the articles I scrolled down to the comments. I realized after only a moment that I shouldn't have done this. For all of the cries, that "she doesn't understand what it means to work hard", I realized that the people making those cries also weren't acknowledging how hard it must have been for her to raise 5 kids. So, I looked Ann Romney up on Wikipedia. She had 5 kids in 11 years. She put off finishing her BA because she had two children right after she married--while she and Mitt Romney were still undergraduates. She finished it 3 years later while having 2 children and another one on the way. Personally, I think that's a lot to juggle at one time.
So, those are my thoughts at the moment. I know I can't change the world's minds. But, I wish that "tolerance" went both ways. I find that it's often a one way street.