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Stay At Home Mom

When I found out I was pregnant in June 1999, all of my assumptions about my future changed. I had more than 10 years invested in an Information Technology career, and lived a "double income no kids" lifestyle with my husband, Mark. For me, the impending arrival of a new person brought into question my assumptions and my lifestyle, in a way nothing had before.

When I first came home, my thinking about coming home was focussed on the sacrifice involved, and reconciling my former achievement-oriented self to my new role. I asked myself questions like:
Does it really make sense to be a highly educated person, to bring a new life into the world, and then have that child raised by someone else... who almost certainly has less education and does not share my parenting philosophies? Does it really make sense to have only a few hours involvement in my child's life every day? On the other hand, I know that I'm probably going to be paying a penalty the rest of my professional career in terms of earning and advancement potential for taking the time out to get this baby off to the best start. While this would not be the case in a society that truly valued children, it is true in the society I live in.

By the time I had been home 4 years, I was aware of how my political awareness had increased exponentially in the time I'd been away from the world of paid work. Frugality necessitated by moving from two incomes to one began to bring us baby step by baby step into a more sustainable lifestyle.

Nine years out from having a baby, we still have a LONG way to go, and I'm much more aware than I was of how much I don't know. I still believe that this has been the right choice for my family, but there is no single right choice for everyone. One thing that is constantly missed in all the media hyperbole about mommy wars - few people are permanently SAHM or paid-workplace moms for their entire lifespan. I know in my case I have been a childless "ideal worker" professional, I have been a part-time telecommuter, I have been a SAHM, I have been a full-time student mom, and am currently a mom in the paid workplace again. I take none of the "sides". There are no "sides". Care is work. I have been working all this time. Only some of it has resulted in an increase in bank account. But I never stopped working. I just went through a period of time in which society said what I was doing was essentially a vacation, was not actually work, no matter how exhausting. One of my greatest learnings over this time has been the intellectual poverty of our culture's story of what "work" actually is.

Had I not stayed home and learned the value of frugality, I would have never have had the courage to look at a career with less monetary earning potential than IT, but more personal fulfillment. I feel like I have finally found right livelihood for me.

I no longer believe in the fiction we're all taught that revelation always hits like a lightning bolt. We stumble along, experimenting with this thing, trying that thing. Adjusting little by little. The true poverty in most of our lives is the time to think and experiment, and the permission to do things that we are initially unskilled and bad at. It's OK to look foolish. But if you are never a beginner, you can never be an expert. Being an expert is overrated. There is far too much worship of credentials, covering up a cultural proclivity for living unexamined lives. Whatever benefit having a stay-at-home parent may have accrued to Tim, I will always be thankful that it was an option I took for my own journey.

Fundamentally, I'm an optimist. I believe that when the chips are down, this culture will finally shift to a sustainable one. I dream that transformation from a world of greed and violence to one of generosity and giving will be as swift and complete as the "computer revolution". Today they may be primary foundations of the mainstream belief system, but I believe that greed, material possessions, self-centeredness, and dominion over nature will not be the drivers of my son's adult life. It would be cruel not to prepare him to live by the values of the sustainable culture I believe he will inhabit as an adult: equity, security, sustainability, responsibility, giving, and sacredness. And if it hasn't happened by then, maybe he can help make it happen.

As Bucky Fuller has said, "You never change things by fighting the existing reality. To change something, build a new model that makes the existing model obsolete."


Some of my own Domestic Arts pages
Geographically Local Parenting Links
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On-Line Resources for SAHM
  Mothers and More
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Household Technology Links
"We are mothers who have chosen to be the primary care givers of our children and believe that the ability to exercise this choice without the threat of social or economic penalties is part of the struggle for equality.
"We believe that the work of caring for our children, for our families (however we define them) and our communities must be recognized, respected and valued.
"We maintain that until the unpaid work done by women in the home and community is understood and valued as work there will be no real equality for women."
- Mothers are Women


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7/16/00 Mommies On The Web award


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Copyright © 2000-2002 Joan Schraith Cole.
Updated June 2006
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