From the time we begin our education, people ask us about the endgame. My personal fear of this question is proportional to the number of times I am asked to answer it. What do you want to be when you grow up? I can remember answering the following ways: a princess, a mermaid, a firefighter, a teacher, a vet, a doctor, a missionary. Now, as a high school student, I just laugh nervously and rub my clammy palms on my jeans. I could give the answer that I'm sure any adult is looking for: I want to pursue a degree in law, I want to enroll in the police academy, I want to work on Wall Street. The problem with the career I want to pursue is the misconception that it is not a career.
I want to be a stay-at-home mom. Parenting, of course, isn't some sort of new and exciting job that may have mixed reactions attached to it, but from the bewildered and sometimes even frustrated reactions I receive, you might think I'm announcing that I intend to teach at Hogwarts. I'm certainly not ashamed of my choice, but why should I have to defend my career choice? I feel that I'm frequently being lambasted with criticisms such as "You're too smart to be a stay-at-home mom," "So what you're saying is, you're a gold digger?" "You're setting the feminist movement back 60 years," and, best of all, "You're just lazy."
Succinctly, I would like to provide a rebuttal for each of these statements.
To the teacher, who I'm sure has my best interest in mind: Are you suggesting intelligent people shouldn't invest in the next generation?
To the woman quoting Kanye West: No, what I'm saying is, kids grow fast, and I want as much of the precious time with my children I can get before they decide that mom is no longer "cool." I don't plan to force my future husband into working 80-plus hours a week to support us, either. I intend to work before becoming a stay-at-home mom.
To the hypocritical feminist: I want to be a stay-at-home mom. If my right to pick my own career negates your movement, then the flaw lies there. Isn't the point of feminism to give me the right to choose my own career, even if others may disagree?
Finally, to those who think that being a stay-at-home parent is a cop-out: Baby-sit a fussy three-year-old for an hour. Imagine that for years. Now add cleaning, cooking, keeping up with friends, making time for your significant other and maybe a few more kids into the mix. I don't even think it is possible for a stay-at-home parent to be lazy.
Although I am prepared to deal with the backlash I receive, I often wonder: would I have to go to such lengths to justify my career if I wanted to be a physical therapist? An accountant? An office worker? My conjecture is no. Physical therapists, accountants and office workers are all seen as having "real" jobs. They put in time and receive monetary compensation, as well as, generally, benefits such as insurance and dental plans. The message the world is sending out through these oppositions is that the value in your career is in the number of zeros on your paycheck. We teach our children not to be greedy, but show them that the value in their adult life stems from their money. Is monetary gain the only gauge of worth?
If there's anything that the precious time I have spent with my three-year-old niece has taught me, it's that for the time I put in, I will receive compensation and benefits of uncountable value, and when my kids begin school, and I join the workforce, I will miss those moments so much more than I will appreciate any dental plan. My compensation will include kisses, cuddles and endless games of peek-a-boo, and my benefits will be hearing my child's first giggle, watching him or her take their first steps and embarrassing them on the first day of elementary school with a giant kiss on the cheek before the bus drives away.