In the ongoing Mommy Wars, the stay-at-home mother has been, at turns, revered and demonized. But there's a third reality that rarely enters the discussion: Moms whose choices to do one or the other -- stay home or return to work -- are not really choices at all.
As long as expat homemakers are treated as nothing more than "extra baggage" in an international relocation, I will continue to refer to these unsung heroes as "trailing spouses."
In choosing to leave work and raise a daughter, I surrendered a partial self and discovered another side of my identity. Surprisingly, my years as a stay-at-home mother caused me to grow and evolve in ways a career could not.
The early days of daycare drop offs were uneventful and the children seemed accepting of this change in their lives. It was always a puzzle to me, however, when my children would break down in full sobbing tears the moment they set eyes on me at pick up at the end of the day.
When women are asked what we are doing all day, the next question, sometimes silent but almost always present, is, 'Why aren't you doing more?'
It's all a matter of perception and communication. When children are home they often see mothers preparing meals, helping with homework, folding laundry and doing other tasks that seem familiar, easy and routine. They're not as aware of what else mothers out of the full-time workforce do while children are at school.
I am a bad parent. And I am a good parent. I am your typical, average parent. I had four kids in five years and I'm pretty sure that was a bit insane for about three and a half of them. I am guilty of being bossy and I am guilty of shoving electronics into my children's hands if it buys me peace.
These are the things that should keep you up at night with worry about how you -- yes, YOU! -- broke your child. Or at the very least, made your job a heck of a lot harder.
My teenage son has begun looking at colleges. Recently, while we were looking at admissions brochures over breakfast, he asked me how I'd feel if he joined a fraternity.
These are the good days, the glory days, the slow-as-molasses days. These are the fast years, the wonder years, the how-do-I-find-words years.
I am, for now, a stay-at-home mother. People sometimes ask what exactly I do during the day and I never have any idea what to say.
If you are a Stay At Home Parent who can manage to care for your children, your house, and your appearance all in an 8-hour work day, I applaud you. If that setup is truly filling your emotional cup, and making you feel great about the job you do, that is fantastic. But please, do not assume for one second that the parent who can't take on all these extra roles is somehow failing.
I love having choices. I am a believer in letting each woman do what is best for her family and staying the hell out of it.
Here are a few lessons I have learned along the way that I would pass on to any man who is going to be a stay-at-home dad, just thinking about being a stay-at-home dad, or maybe already is one but is finding himself floundering.
When he leaves in the morning, I'm in my pajamas and the kitchen's a mess. When he comes home at night, I'm in my pajamas and the kitchen's a mess. How can I explain to him that, though the pajamas are the same, the mess is a totally new, fresh mess?
Right when I was getting ready to start saying yes to things again -- activism, organizing, a paying job, even maybe a regular exercise routine -- I found myself pregnant again. And life inevitably, and perhaps wonderfully, slowed down and shrank again.