'Stay at Home Mom' Isn't My 'Most Important Job' -- Stop Saying It Is

stay at home mom

I have been in and out of being a stay-at-home mom for almost the entire 10 years since my first child was born. For the few years that I did have a full-time job, it was from home and flexible. Then this past year, I ended up losing my part-time, from-home editing position and am now pretty much a yoga teacher and SAHM to my three children who are 9, 8, and 2.

And sometimes that really bums me out.

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The truth is, I love my kids. I like being home when they get back from school and taking them to their activities and supervising their playdates and watching them ride their bikes. But I am not creatively fulfilled by being with them. I need to write and teach yoga for that. It has taken me a long time to accept that truth, but there it is. I need something more to be a happy person. But others tell me I need to embrace it.

"You are doing the most important job in the world by being home with your kids," a friend told me last week, trying to cheer me up about this momentary career crisis. I appreciated the effort.

But I also know he is wrong.

Because being a stay-at-home mom is a lot of things -- loving, boring, frustrating, heartwarming, fun -- but it is not a "job." We don't get paid for it. And, even if it were a job, would it really be the "most important one"?

Look, I get it. We mothers want to justify all the things we give up by telling ourselves these lies and platitudes. But can we honestly say that staying home with the people we made is more important that working for the UN? Or being a firefighter? Or teaching kindergarten? Can we honestly say that making lunches for our own children day after day and playing with Play-Doh and taking our kids to a museum matters more than a cardiologist's job? She saves lives. We are just raising children.

It's not that it doesn't matter.

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Caregiving is far undervalued and what we do matters immensely within our family and to our children. Maybe by raising good children we are also doing something good for the world by putting out solid, loving future taxpayers. But let's not pretend we couldn't do that while also earning a paycheck. Let's not pretend that being a mom and doing something meaningful in the world for pay are mutually exclusive.

The truth is, we do moms a disservice by continuing to say this job is "more important" than any other. It is a platitude. And like most platitudes, it is designed only to condescend and appease. Being a stay-at-home mom matters, but it's like when your husband tells you you are the most beautiful woman in the world. Are you really? Are you more beautiful than Gisele? Maybe other women can let that go. But I can't. I don't want to be lied to. I am obviously not the "most beautiful woman in the world." Even if to him it is true. So let's not tell each other lies to make each other feel better.

For some women, being a stay-at-home mom is creatively fulfilling. For some, it isn't. For others, it isn't a choice at all. To keep telling women that staying home is "most important," we conspire to make that choice for them. There is nothing in this world wrong with being home if it feels fulfilling and matters to you and your family. But there is also nothing wrong with working if that is what you need. And quite frankly, a working mom is able to be just as good a mom as one who stays at home. It's the cold, hard truth I accept even as a mom who has made different choices.

For my family right now, it works for me to be home. We have three kids and I can write essays from home when they are at school, and teach yoga on the side. But it is hard. There are many times I am envious of the women who get to have full careers even though I know being a full-time, in-office working mom is hard, too.

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The truth is, there are many important jobs out there. Some are well paid, others are not. Being a stay-at-home mom is a wonderful privilege and something I am deeply grateful to be able to do. But I also don't kid myself that what I do matters more than so many other very important jobs.

We'd all get along a lot better if we stopped feeding each other platitudes -- and started supporting each other's choices.

 

Image via Yuganov Konstantin/Shutterstock

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