“So, what do you do?” She says in a break between talking about her world travels and her fulfilling job working with refugees.
“I am a full-time mom”
“Good for you. How old is your child?”
“She is nearly two years old”
“Oh. That is a long time. How important that is…” Her eyes drift as she looks for somebody else in the crowd… anybody to talk to.
— — —
Am I alone in this? I have been noticing since I gave birth – and especially since I decided to ‘stay home’ and care for my little one myself – that it seems as if people think my IQ has dropped several dozen points, that I have now no interest in world affairs and that even if I do, what I have to say about them is of no consequence, because, you know, I am only a mom.
Arrgh. That irks me. I don’t write ‘irk’ posts very often, I don’t think, but this got to me and I felt the need to share, to vent.
I am still the same person, guys! My memory might be slightly addled by hormones and yes my first love and interest is my child, but I am still me. I still love photography, spirituality, nature, travel, world politics (with a very small ‘p’). I am still me. I’d like to think I am still as fascinating, engaging and funny as ever (the dellusion may be in thinking I was ever any of those things – lol) and that my thoughts are as as insightful, thought-provoking and challenging (in a good way) as they were a couple of years ago. But it seems some people phase out before they have a chance to find out. Even some people (uh… men) very close to me seem to talk to me slightly differently, slightly more slowly, now. It would appear, the consensus is that the onus in now on me to prove I can keep up.
Somehow, it reminds me of when I went travelling around Central America with my (then) very blond boyfriend who did not speak a word of Spanish. Invariably, people would address themselves to him. I would speak to them in near-fluent Spanish and, for example, ask for some information about some local curiosity. They would respond by looking him straight in the eye and giving him their full answer. I’d have to kind of wave at them while thinking, “Hello, over here! Can you talk to the one that can talk back and, you know, understand you?”
My breasts are tiny… but I imagine that is the issue big-breasted women face: “Hello… I am up here!” Now it seems the distraction, that keeps people from talking to me, is not my breasts or the fact that there is a man, nearby (who must be more competent and capable than me at receiving information). Now, the distraction that makes people’s eyes wander and assume I cannot possibly contribute to this exchange is my job or lack thereof.
I know I am preaching to the converted, here. Most of my readers are women. Most of you are moms, some of you stay-at-home (and go out a lot) moms. But I just want to remind everyone that if you have a degree, a Masters or a PhD it does not expire when you give birth. If you held a powerful job in a big organisation (or a meaningful job in a non-profit or what have you), you did not lose those skills over-night by chosing to care for a child. If you were able to string conversations and interesting thoughts together, before you got pregnant, you probably still can now.
We could be having a different conversation here, about the equal value of different roles in society. We could point out that in a post-feminist world, we have CHOICE and that intelligent women can and do chose to stay home; and that the world needs all these roles to be filled – and with passion… And that, in fact, the world may even be a better place for women being able to chose to stay home and educate their children themselves, rather than leave them in the care of well meaning but over-stretched, underpaid care workers who divide their attention between your and a host of other children and whose main agenda is likely to be to minimise crying, rather than light the fire of imagination, discovery and self-‘discipline’. Some of the most interesting people out there, were not the products of mass education but were lovingly home-schooled. Here’re some CNN chose to highlight. Here are some more. And here is a big old list that includes Einstein, Mozart, Monet, Alexander Graham Bell, FDR, Washington among many others. Was the world enriched because their mothers (and sometimes fathers) guided them rather than handing over their education? Were the men and women who raised their kids at home less because they were not also working a job?
And I am not even a ‘homeschooling mom’. My child is, as I said, not even two yet! But in any case that is not my main point, here. My point is only this: don’t talk down to stay-at-home mums, you don’t know if they indulge in astrophysics as a hobby.
And, to be clear, my hat is off and tilted in the direction of working moms, too, both those who do it because they have to for economic reasons and those that ‘have to’ for themselves because it is their right place, to be back in the millieu, contributing to the world in that way. I am in favour of free choice (if only we all could have that). I am for honouring everybody who follows their passion, their dream, their Heart and knowing that we each contribute, when we are true to ourselves in this way, we do truly help to make the world a better place.
So come on, talk to me like an equal, like you used to, like I matter, like caring for a child doesn’t mean I can’t do anything with my brain in a ‘real’ job, in ‘challenging’ situations with high level decision making that affects many. Know that I (and many) chose this path because we feel it is our higher calling, not because we can’t do anything else or because it is in some way ‘easier’, softer, less… In fact, having talked to lots of working moms, I think many would agree a day at the office, as stressful as it can be, is often a blessed relief from the non-stop, draining intensity of caring for a baby. Plus, relinquishing a job and a second income often means many sacrifices for the whole family. I know that in our case, chosing to stay at home, meant downsizing, living in a flat, rather than a house, going out less, having less holidays and less ‘nice things’. But it is okay, this was our loving, happy choice. We think we are helping to change the world, one child at a time. People… society seems to think we are dropping out, being boring and have nothing of value to share.
And with this, let us for a moment celebrate our differences, the incredible gift of choice (for those of us that truly have it) and the enlightened age we live in that is able to recognise the vital role that ‘full time’ moms play – and that when we make that choice, the hospital doesn’t say “oh, you are chosing to be a stay-at-home mum, shall we excise a part of your brain then, while you are here?”