The Stay-At-Home Parent

It’s funny how we can make different choices as women—choices that we’ve been taught to think of as opposite choices—and be very much the same. When I got pregnant last year, a small group of people on Twitter became my parenting circle of trust. We had similar philosophies, similar problems, feminist outlooks, and… generally acted exactly the way we did before getting knocked up (now with babies). These women helped me out so much that when I was feeling like a failure as a New Mothers Group dropout, Maddie pointed out to me that I already had my Mothers Group, it was just on the internet. Brandi was one of those ladies. The thing is, Brandi stays home and I have a kid in childcare. Those choices may seem different, but they both come from wanting what’s best for our families, and wanting to raise feminist boys. Earlier this week Liz talked about being a work from home parent. Next week I’ll talk about daycare. But now, Brandi is talking about being a Stay-At-Home Parent (which turns out to be not so different from me after all).


I am a stay-at-home parent.

There, I said it.

That feels a bit like a dirty little secret. At times I would almost rather lead with, “I like vampire romance novels,” than tell people I am a parent who stays home. Why? Like everything else about parenthood, it’s complicated and weird. I don’t plan to be a parent who stays home forever, for one thing, and I don’t think I’m the only parent in our house who is capable of being the one who stays home. In fact, at some point in the future, we’d like to switch places.

How did I become a parent who stays home? I was in school, pursuing a degree in nursing, when I began to feel like I was ready to have a baby. Not the best timing, admittedly. We talked it over for a while. I had this notion that we’d get pregnant in this tiny eight-week window, I’d have the baby over the summer, he’d be old enough for day care by the fall, and I wouldn’t miss a beat. I laugh at how cute I was. Getting pregnant took five months, putting my due date in the middle of the fall semester, so I now knew I would be taking at least one semester off. Then I started looking into the cost of childcare, and promptly fell out of my seat. At minimum, we were looking at $760 per month, but on average somewhere in the neighborhood of $1000 to $1200 per month. We are comfortable on one income, but we like to do things. Like eat. So a more indefinite break was in the cards.

Another interesting development occurred along with my pregnancy: the more we talked, the more apparent it became to both of us that we both wanted one of us to be able to be around for the baby for the first little while. “The first little while” being a very flexible term. He had a job that paid all the bills, and I did not and do not want to go back to the job I had before going to school. I hated it, hence the return to school at twenty-eight. So, mom stays home!

I like being a parent who stays home. Most days. There is magic to be found in between the feedings, diapers, tantrums, and naps. Some days, the magic is the nap, or when dad gets home and I can hide for a minute. Other days, its first steps, the first (or any) time he says, “Love you,” or when he leans over with pursed lips and “mwah” asking for a kiss. Which he thanks me for. To miss any of this would be hard.

I revel in those little things because they are magic, and I have to or else I would go nuts. The slapping noise of his chubby baby feet running down the hall can be the only thing that gets me through some days. I miss adults, and conversations that don’t completely revolve around kids. When I’m with people who do work, it can get awkward because I don’t have a “job” and they are unsure how to relate to me. I also tend to pull back because I don’t want to be thought of as that woman who is only capable of talking about her kid, but a little of that has to take place in order for my brain to move on to other things. Showing pictures or telling kid stories can begin to feel like a big taboo, and it just feels easier to keep my mouth shut. Or, if they are a parent as well, quite often they start down the “you’re so lucky to stay home” road. When I try to talk about things other than babies to other moms who stay home, or even attempt to discuss the general weirdness of parenthood (this tiny human danced in my belly for nine months, and lived solely off my boobs for six. Tell me that isn’t mind-blowingly weird?), most look at me like I grew something gross in the middle of my forehead. Then, to try to bring up the need for regularly scheduled breaks? Game over.

The pressure from both sides sucks. Being at home with my dude doesn’t automatically make me a more patient, better parent. Nor does it make my house any cleaner, or make dinner happen perfectly every night. I don’t have different activities planned out for my son every day, nor am I any craftier than I was before he came along. All the Pinterest and Facebook posts from parents who stay home making cutesy lunches and handmade toys for their kids in their very put-together homes make me simultaneously throw up in my mouth a little and feel like the World’s Shittiest Mom. Throw in the realization that I am not, as a whole person, completely fulfilled by staying home, and yeah. Many days with tears. Until I remember that my son doesn’t care about any of that. He’s happy. He knows I love him. That’s what matters most.

Life-role balance is something I’m working on every day. I’m a human, woman, wife, mother. I plan to go back to school and have ambitions of becoming a Nurse Practitioner or Certified Nurse Midwife. Will going back to work completely fulfill me? Nope, I don’t expect it to, just like being at home full time right now just mostly fulfills me. What makes up the rest of the fulfillment? Time alone with my husband. I like him. That’s how we made the little human in the first place. Time alone with myself, very very important. I’m eighteen months into this parenthood thing and am truly just beginning to figure out what I need to do to take care of myself so that I feel like a whole person. I need to be a whole person, not just mom, not just wife, to give both my husband and son the best of me. I believe my son benefits from seeing his mom as more than just mom, and he needs breaks from me just as much as I need them from him. I can’t be the end all.

Other parents, all parents, but especially those who stay home: do the things that make you feel whole. You’ll be a better parent for it. Other people: when you meet a parent who stays home: let them get the kid talk out of their system, then dig a bit and find out about the whole person. This gig is hard, and weird enough, without it relegating you to the sole role of someone’s parent.

Photo Vivian Chen

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  • One More Sara

    OMG YES. THIS IS MY LIFE! I feel so embarrassed that I stay home sometimes. Like Brandi, I also kind of stumbled into it as well. We had an international move (to live with my partner/kid’s dad) in the first year, so for a while I wasn’t allowed to work or go to school while I waited for my residential status to be made official. After that, I needed to learn the language here before I could go back to school. Here, when both parents work/study full time, you get a big portion of your childcare costs covered by the gov’t. BUT, I didn’t have a job yet and couldn’t study until I learned an (entirely new) language, so for us, it was 1) not possible to get that subsidy from the gov’t 2) not possible to pay for childcare out of pocket, so we decided that I would stay home. Kid is turning 4 this month, which means he gets to start school (free childcare!) in September! So I am also going back to school this September AND AM SO FREAKING EXCITED [for the judgy comments regarding me staying home to end].

    Also, PLEASE never ask a stay at home parent “Well, what do you DO the WHOOOLE day long?” If you want to know what it’s like to stay home and raise a human, then ask that. But there is no question anyone could ask that makes me feel so small so fast as the aforementioned question.

    • Class of 1980

      Can I just say, the whole “What do you DO all day long?” question makes me want to give up on the notion that humans are endowed with common sense? It does. It does.

      For the record, I never heard anyone ask this mindless question until the 1990s when it became common. Prior to that, people effing KNEW what stay-at-home parents did all day long, and the unrelenting nature of baby and childcare wasn’t a deep dark secret.

      Oh God, I am cranky.

      • meg

        Funnily, I say similar things in my Daycare post. Wait for it… :)

      • Daisy6564

        My mom stayed home with my sister and I. When I reached that really bratty adolescent age, I used to ask her this question. My sister and I were both in school, so what did she DO all day?

        (Usually this was a bratty come-back when she asked me to clean my room or do some other house chore that I, in my 13-year-old, entitled brain, thought she should do since she was home all day).

    • Rosie

      I can’t even imagine how you deal with the ‘what do you DO all day?’ question: like, you’re a human and you have a baby; you are responsible for keeping a small person alive, but also you can still DO STUFF LIKE OTHER PEOPLE DO. Argh.

      • Class of 1980

        I don’t think I could be nice about it. I think people who ask that question deserve dirty looks and strained silence. ;)

        • I think they deserve a day spent learning first hand what happens all day long.

    • Class of 1980

      RE: People who ask … “What do you DO all day long?”

      What do they think nannies and daycare workers do all day long?

      How come no one ever ask those workers what they do all day?

      • One More Sara

        Right? Raising responsible humans is HARD WORK. If it was easy, childcare wouldn’t be so effing expensive!!

        (when I do get the question, I ask them what they have to do for themselves the whole day. Go to the bathroom, get dressed, make/eat food, have something to drink. Now, I have to do all the regular stuff for myself, and then do it all for another person slash teach him how to do it for himself bc small kids generally can’t dress themselves, go to the bathroom alone, cook food, pour a drink, etc etc etc. Why is this so hard for people to understand??)

      • i can’t help but think that’s the perfect response: “oh, you’re a ______? hmm. so what do you DO all day long?” i know a lot of folks have awesome answers for that, but there are a lot of us whose answers would be pretty mediocre if we had to describe our jobs like *that*.

        • Mira

          You’re so very right. Why is it so easy for some people to be condescending towards stay-at-home parents? Is it because their job is not paid and therefore apparently lacks any visible “status” in our society (which is pretty backwards at times, the more I think about it)? What on earth could be more valuable than raising a fellow human being?? Do nannies and childcare staff face the same stigma? No, they most certainly don’t. It’s nonsensical.

        • NotAMomYet

          Yup. I have a sexy-sounding title and get that question all of the time. “Oh! What is THAT? What do you DO?” I answer the phone and write email, just like everyone else with a desk job.

      • jessamarie

        This made me giggle, because I am a part time nanny and one of the moms in “art and ABCs ” class asked me this question the other day . In that totally different context the question was more, “I am so bored sometimes and at my wits end trying to think of things to entertain this child. Do you have any secrets because from the outside it looks like you have your shit together.”
        Maybe from now on just assume people are asking for your expert advice on playgroups legos and awesome childrens books:)

        • Emily

          I think this question also comes from people looking to keep the conversation going and relate to stay at home parents. It’s still definitely very rude, though.

          I just read a book that suggested instead of asking new acquaintances “And what do you do for a living?” You should ask them, “How do you spend your time?” That way people can answer however they want–they can talk about reading vampire novels instead of saying they are a stay at home parent, if that’s not what they want to define them up front.

          • Yes, I’ve heard the same advice, with the phrase “What keeps you busy?” (and I tend to add “what else keeps you busy, besides [whatever activity we’re currently doing]).

            Also, just asking people “How was your day?” or “What (else) do you have going on this weekend?” gives insight into what might take up a lot of their time, or connect to them in a more real way then generalized small talk.

    • Em

      Yes! I am a full time stay at home parent now, but I used to work three days a week. My co-worker would always say to me, “Oh, enjoy your day off tomorrow.” No. Just no. Frankly, I was more tired at the end of my days at home than I was at the end of a work day.

  • Emmers

    I don’t have kids now, but if I do I’d like to stay at home, but I suspect that if I do, I’ll have much the same feelings (that staying at home with my kid doesn’t completely fulfill me, just like my job doesn’t completely fulfill me). Thanks for sharing this!

    And I SO can anticipate being sheepish sharing about staying at home, just like I was sheepish about sharing when I was between jobs.

    Thank you for sharing!

    • Daisy6564

      As a child of a stay-at-home mom I often had to defend my mom. All of my friends’ moms worked. Even as young as elementary school my friends would call my mom lazy for not working.

      Apparently judgy-ness starts at an early age.

  • Samantha

    “What makes up the rest of the fulfillment? Time alone with my husband. I like him. That’s how we made the little human in the first place. Time alone with myself, very very important. . . . I need to be a whole person, not just mom, not just wife, to give both my husband and son the best of me. I believe my son benefits from seeing his mom as more than just mom, and he needs breaks from me just as much as I need them from him. I can’t be the end all.”

    This. My mom was a stay at home mom for most of mine and my brothers’ childhoods (there is 12 years between me and my youngest brother, so she was home for all of mine and went to work when my youngest brother was in elementary school I think). But I never got this from here. She was an amazing stay at home mom and sincerely loved being home with us, but she definitely surrendered herself to her kids. My parents marriage failed (for whatever reason) a few years go and she has said that she gave up her career goals for her family. It always scared the shit out of me to think about that as the only way to be a mom. This community has given me a new confidence that motherhood can be whatever I want it to be. Maybe a part-time working/ full-time working/ work from home woman who happens to be married and has some cool kids.

    No matter what model for marriage/motherhood/career is demonstrated through these stories I always feel so inspired that these roles can be whatever I want to make of them! Thanks APW crew!

  • Rachel

    I really love everything you wrote about being whole. One of the things that I hate about the “teamification” of women is that it doesn’t allow us to be whole and makes us feel like we HAVE to pick a label and go all in with it. The reality is that every woman I know is complex and her roles shift and change SO much…but there’s a lot of guilt about that, and confusion. (“I thought I was on one team…but now I’m on the other? But…I kind of like it on this team? And I’m not sure I’m allowed to?”) I feel like there are just a few archetypes of women we see in movies or even in non-fiction memoir or blogs, and women are expected to be one of those and ONLY that and to stick with that FOR LIFE. Any sort of change is considered changing teams and we come down REALLY hard on women who do that.

    But…why? Is there anyone out there who is really just ONE archetype for her whole life? I doubt it. So I love the advice to dig a bit and find out about the whole person. I feel like we should let ALL women we meet be whole people instead of taking the first thing we hear about them and assuming that’s all they are.

    • Could you please write a post on THIS subject Rachel? I thought it was just me who was feeling uber confused trying to decide when to follow my single minded self and when to band together as a couple on stuff. Sometimes I feel like I need an organizer just to keep straight what my individual therapist advises compared to what my couples therapist suggests about the same damn situations.

      I’m glad to know its not just me who gets confused between when to be an individual and when to be in a couple, but I’d love to hear more!

    • I’m with you, Rachel. Every person should be whole, and we should take the time to get to know that whole person. I’d never really experienced the teamification thing until having a baby, then it became this huge and obvious horrible thing. I still spend a good deal of time, in my head mind you, jumping up and down shouting I’m more than just a mom. Also, I hate the word “just” when describing anyone. So demeaning, in any context.

    • jlseldon7

      I recently read Women Who Run with Wolves, which is all about the Wild Women archetype and how dynamic we really are as women. It took forever to read, but I’m glad I did so. It was both intellectually stimulating and psychologically challenging. One of the things the author really focused on was being more than just the labels that are assigned to us.

    • Class of 1980

      “Is there anyone out there who is really just ONE archetype for her whole life? I doubt it.”

      Good lord. My mother had me in 1958 and even then didn’t fit into one archetype her whole life.

      She worked until I was about three. Then she stayed home until I was in high school, went back to work part-time, then full-time a couple of years later. Then, when I was about 20, she started a whole new career that she kept until her late sixties.

      She’s in her seventies now. I don’t think she was unusual for her generation either. Seems like all her friends did both the stay-at-home and the work gig at different points in their lives.

      • k

        I’m nine years younger than you, but my mom is older than yours — 85. She went through a few archetypes, too — she worked until she got married in her late 30s, then stayed home with us until my parents bought a dairy farm when I was five. (After which there was no distinction between staying at home and being at work, for any of us.) Mom was a bookkeeper and has always done the books for all the various businesses they’ve owned together. However, as far as Social Security was concerned, she was unemployed all those years.

  • Rebekah

    This was a great read.

    I feel like parenthood is such a touchy subject because society as it is now kind of pits parents against one another, automatically starting them on the defensive when it comes to any discussion about their decisions. Like you said, “When I’m with people who do work, it can get awkward because I don’t have a “job” and they are unsure how to relate to me. I also tend to pull back because I don’t want to be thought of as that woman who is only capable of talking about her kid, but a little of that has to take place in order for my brain to move on to other things. . . Then, to try to bring up the need for regularly scheduled breaks? Game over.”

    What I’m loving about the (eloquently timed) posts about motherhood is that it answers the question I want to ask parents: How did you come to the decision that X was right for you?

    Because seriously, just like every wedding is unique to a couple and about a commitment and celebration that is right for them, parenthood is even moreso.

    Rock on, moms.

    • One More Sara

      You don’t really know until you try. Weigh all the pros and cons of a decision, make an educated guess about what will probably work, and then go for it! If it doesn’t make your life as a family unit better/happier/easier like you expected it to, I have good news! You are allowed to change your mind!

      • I went back to work committed to trying it for 3 months, and then seeing how I feel. Because it’s always easier to quit a job than to find a new one!

    • Laura C

      So, without taking away from the uniqueness of each decision, there are sociological studies that give us insight into one major pattern: Women who are in jobs that they love are more likely to keep working. Even if they’d gone into motherhood thinking they’d want to or should stay home. And women who are in jobs that they don’t love are more likely to stay home. Even if they’d gone into motherhood thinking that they’d want to or should keep working.

      There are obviously many, many exceptions to that, and for some women staying home just is not an option for financial reasons. But it’s one of those things that will sometimes help in understanding a decision that isn’t quite what you’d have expected of someone. I know I see it playing out among my friends. The reasons they’ll tell you about are different from person to person, and I’m not taking away from those reasons at all — the reasons that don’t mention this are totally real — but I look at my friends and they definitely fit those studies.

      • meg

        It’s interesting studies show this, since it’s clearly true in my personal life, and in the lives of people I know. In fact, I delayed kids till I loved my job… because I knew damn well I was going to quit otherwise, and I wasn’t sure that was right for me. (Not, of course, negating that it might be right for others.)

      • Emmers

        Yes!! I don’t have kids, but I’d always thought I’d stay home with them until they went to school (if I were to have them). Now that I really like my job I’m not sure if I want to 100% do that because of how hard it is to break into this particular field (& stay current once you’re here).

        I’m now contemplating some eventual part-time (or maybe even full time) work (yinno, for these kids I don’t even have yet- getting ahead of myself much?), which is so crazy from how I always thought I’d approach things.

      • Yes so much to this.

        I have a job I don’t mind. If I had a baby tomorrow, I would not be in any rush to go back to it. Why pay someone else to spend the day with my child if I don’t really want to be at work anyway? If I stumbled into a dream job, though? I don’t know that I’d give that up to stay home

  • that is so cool ( i’ve always been amazed by the things that spur disdain in our culture. raising humans? bah.)

    also, thanks for this. i am trying to weigh whether stay-at-home parent is something i could/want to do, so i am in serious research mode (because research is clearly the least scary way to interact with a scary new idea).

    • Class of 1980

      “(i’ve always been amazed by the things that spur disdain in our culture. raising humans? bah.)”

      x 100

      Especially difficult to swallow when you remember when it wasn’t so.

    • jess

      Research is TOTALLY the best way. I spend about 3 weeks after my fiance and I first talked about engagement (since I didn’t think marriage was for me) consuming everything I could possibly find on the subject. Books. Blogs. TV Shows. I ruined my Netflix suggestions permanently, I’m afraid. Eventually I found this blog and didn’t feel quite so alone, then a few other books. Three weeks later, I had processed, and was ready to be engaged NOW.

      Did the same with puppy, and I’m sure I will do the same with baby. Should note my patterns and make sure I’m financially ready for that before I get into research mode. :) Happy researching!

      • Another Annie

        You sound exactly like me! Are you me?!

        High-five for research, self.

  • Class of 1980

    “When I’m with people who do work, it can get awkward because I don’t have a “job” and they are unsure how to relate to me.”

    When did we become so blind and unimaginative as a society that we can only talk to people who live the same lives we do?

    Very discouraging.

    • I was recently working a job I was actually sort of embarrassed to have (I know- a totally crappy thing to even say) and people kept asking what I do and bringing it up. I had to really fight to get people to relate to me on some other level. Like, hey! What I do does not define me. No one thing defines me. I’m a culmination of many things. Blergh.

      • Class of 1980

        Blergh. Yes.

      • meg

        Try having a job that people have decided is culturally unacceptable AND people don’t understand, and welcome to my awkward awkward life at cocktail parties. At the end of most parties, I’m usually 99% convinced people thing that I have a hobby I pretend is a job. I’ve tried everything: I have a book, I have a staff, I run k small C-corp… NOTHIN’. They would really really like me to be a lawyer or a teacher or a janitor, or something they can peg in their heads. Peg in their heads and assign a status too, I’m increasingly convinced. Sometimes I think, “What do you do?” is actually code for “What do you make/ are you important/ should I pay attention to you.” HORRID.

        • That is it- that’s it exactly! “Peg in their heads and assign a status too…” It’s all about status. How do I stack up against this person?

          Insecurity. Which is a whole different can of worm when it comes to parenting and the way parents tear each other down instead of create a community for everyone to feel supported and make bold choices that could actually influence things in a positive way!

          Sheeeeit, even grandparents do it (*sara, why haven’t you dug up that tree in your backyard so that Duncan never ever trips over the roots* +oh, I don’t know, MOM because that tree is older than you and was here before us. And Duncan can usually not fall over roots.+). Are you worried because you are trying to make up for what you perceive were you parental shortcomings?

          Sad, sad, sad. Just support.

          • meg

            SARA. Trees are the number one killers of children, I’m surprised at you. I personally was killed by at least five trees before I was old enough to climb them, and then of course it was all over.

            Tsk, tsk.

          • Class of 1980

            OMG, Meg. Killed by trees. That sounds so Edward Gorey.

            I needed that laugh, being that I’m so cranky today. ;)

        • Class of 1980

          Sometimes I think, “What do you do?” is actually code for “What do you make/ are you important/ should I pay attention to you.”

          Because it is.

          God forbid they should expend effort on anyone perceived to be “beneath” them. They’ll nip that in the bud if they think you are. They’re not looking for friendship; it’s about social climbing.

          That’s your cue to know they aren’t worth YOUR time. ;)

          • And this is why I so often give the extremely simplified and self-deprecating answer when asked this question.

          • k

            Well, I think often it’s not that sinister, it’s just a conversation opener. In college it was “What’s your major?” which could I suppose mean “I want to categorize you as a greedhead if you say business” but usually was a way to find out on some level what the person was interested in. Jobs are a little different as many people aren’t all that interested or invested in their jobs, but it’s somehow not the done thing to say, “What are your passions?” to someone you meet at a party, unless it’s a party where you already know everyone there is into theatre, skiing, Civil War reenactments, or whatever. I’ve taken to responding to the “What do you do?” question by asking, “You mean for money?” and most people are more than happy to switch gears to my other interests I’m more into talking about.

          • Audrey

            I don’t remember if I stole this from here or somewhere else, but I’ve taken to asking people “How do you spend your time?” or “What do you like to do?” rather than “What do you do?” Even though the two queries are very similar, I find that it doesn’t have the connotation necessarily about being about work.

            Then if someone loves their work and spends all their time on it they might happily talk about that, but someone whose secret passion is knitting socks for mailboxes can tell me about that instead.

          • “you mean for money?”
            oh, k, thank you for that. i am using it forever.

          • I absolutely loathe the what do you do question. And when people ask, I always respond by telling them what I do in my spare time. And you’re right. People are asking what you do for work and know they are asking it. It’s confusing for them when you choose not to answer the question that way.

            At Thanksgiving one year my cousin took my sister and me to a bar to meet some of his friends. One of them was an international lawyer and she made a point to mention it not once but three times. We were chatting for a couple of minutes when she abruptly asked me what I did. I responded by saying that I was really into yoga and I was working on practicing every day. At this point my cousin elbowed me and said to me in an exasperated voice: She meant what do you do for work? I replied, I know what she was asking. I preferred not to answer that question. She got flustered and said we don’t have to talk about that! Tell me about yoga! Two seconds later she stopped talking to me altogether.

      • When work (or lack of work) is the last thing you want to discuss this is the most painful question ever. Especially given how hard some people latch on to the importance of an answer.

    • KC

      I agree that it’s a totally irritating “first question”.

      But a lot of people are recycling the same social scripts, and for them, trying to break out of them is a bit like having only eaten at diners and then being faced down with the menu at a Cuban restaurant – the “I don’t even know what that *is* or where it’s supposed to fit in the meal! Where do I even start?” thing. Which is sometimes kind of terrifying and sometimes scares people off from trying.

      And then there are the people who only *want* to eat at the diner with people exactly like them and consider all other options innately inferior.

      I’ve sometimes answered the question (with a job people have difficulty grasping and categorizing) and then followed up with “and I’m also interested in X, Y, and Z” or “and the reason I find my work interesting is…”, which can give the former category of people something of a conversational lifeline. The latter… can go mingle amongst themselves.

  • I’m not really sure what to say. I think it sucks that any parent ever feels pressured one way or another to stay home or go to work. I totally get that finances play a major role in the decision to stay home. And that just is what it is. And I totally get that some parents just want one or the other as their life. Finances made my decision. So poop. I would give anything to stay home with my dude, but would I get tired of it? Would I go bananas? I don’t know. It’s the great unknown–the grass is always greener…
    I don’t have anything smart to say. I just wish there wasn’t this “you have to be the best mom ever” thing in our society/ generation/ country. Ugh. And I want to be able to talk about my son a lot and not annoy people. Then talk about how funny Happy Endings is. And about my research in small business search marketing. And about how much I freakin’ love Birchbox. And how I’m so sick of Slate scooping my article ideas. And most of all, I want to be able to have an intellectual conversation about the importance of Sesame Street as a cultural institution teaching children the literacy of the world and literacy of the word simultaneously.
    Life-role balance is rough. I haven’t a clue how to make it work. You have to nurture yourself as a whole and still make sacrifices for your family. The only thing I have learned in 2 years is that the grass is just the damn grass. Water it if you want it greener. <–The watering- that's the hard part.

    • Class of 1980

      “And I want to be able to talk about my son a lot and not annoy people. Then talk about how funny Happy Endings is. And about my research in small business search marketing. And about how much I freakin’ love Birchbox. And how I’m so sick of Slate scooping my article ideas. And most of all, I want to be able to have an intellectual conversation about the importance of Sesame Street as a cultural institution teaching children the literacy of the world and literacy of the word simultaneously.”

      Sounds interesting to me!

      • KE

        Yeah, that all sounds fascinating. Sara, come sit by me!

    • meg

      I need to figure out what I have to say about the joint phenomenon happening: the cult of (phenomenally annoying) over parenting, and societies rampent agression towards people with children (Except in Utah. I would like to only travel to Utah ever with the baby.)

      We pretend we’re family friendly in this country. FALSE. We create cartoon islands of stupid where we ant all families to go to live, and the rest of the world is off limits. Every place I’ve traveled in Europe is actually family friendly (and mostly free of over-parenting). Going into a public space with a kid here is actually something I tense up over. It’s a countdown to being treated with barely concealed anger. It’s horrible and fascinating.

      • So true. And you know what? People get even more hostile when the kids are mobile and curious. For a while I would practically have an anxiety attack about going public places with my very curious child, but now I’m like dude, what do you expect? Of course he licked that glass on the display case. That’s the obvious choice for a toddler. And of course he just pulled down all the clothes from that rack, dum dum. You would too if you were bored in a store and mom wanted to just look at that blouse one more time. Kohls is boring, stupid.

        I clean up after him, but I also act like they are crazy for expecting a child not to act like a child.

        My MMJ doctor told me to do that. (it’s for migraines)

        • meg

          “Of course he licked that glass on the display case. That’s the obvious choice for a toddler.” <-- <3

        • “Of course he licked that glass on the display case.” The amount of disgusting things I’ve seen children put their mouths/tongues/fingers in, on or around is disturbing. And yet they all still managed to survive their toddler years. Imagine that.

          When did children stop becoming the norm and start becoming an oddity?

          • My child is, at this very moment, seeing how much duplo she can fit in her mouth. Kids are weird. It’s hard to imagine people can forget that.

          • Apparently, there are scientists who think that children putting their mouths on so many things is an innate behavior that works to stimulate the development of the immune system and populate the digestive track with a wide variety of microbes.

          • @Kathleen
            Excellent. It’s good to know that my standard response of “Meh. Builds immunity…” has scientific backing.

            My children will have excellent immune systems. (Probably not, considering what mine is like and all the disease I’ll pass down but it’s nice to have nice thoughts.)

      • You got me on a roll today.

        I worked for years with my roller derby league making things “family-friendly” for fans. Half of it was genuine, the other half was a marketing ploy. I wasn’t a mom then and really didn’t know what would be totally inappropriate for different ages to make it truly family-friendly. But I was literally on “panty patrol” so kids didn’t learn about where babies literally came from.

        Oh, to do it again.

        • meg

          Seriously, right? If I can keep the kid from stuffing panties in his mouth, we’re good. Just don’t treat him like he has a communicable disease (childhood) maybe. Be respectful of the fact that he’s a small person with slightly more demanding needs, and yeah, I might need to feed him. And yeah, if he screams, you might hear it for two seconds before I’m able to bundle him up and get him outside.

          BUT FOR GODS SAKE JUST DON’T CURSE AROUND HIM. What???!!! Society. Pull yourself together.

          • One More Sara

            The JUST DON’T CURSE AROUND HIM thing? I totally get it. I immediately tried to curb my cursing when Kid was born, bc I knew eventually he would start repeating it and I needed time to adjust my reaction-cursing. But I never told other people not to curse.

            My real problem with cursing now (Kid is turning 4, and repeating EVERYTHING) is that we live in a non-English speaking country, and apparently cursing in English doesn’t count as cursing here. So, I’m curious how that will turn out.

          • Samantha

            But this is because you are a self-aware mother. If your child is screaming or making a fuss – which babies do and will happen – you do bundle him up and take him outside to calm him down and meet his needs and then return to your location/activity. I think there are a lot of moms out there who do not have this kind of courtesy or who demand special treatment (outside of the regular consideration that should be offered I mean). I was in church one week and this woman was in the front row with her daughter (who was not that young – 5-6 maybe?) and who was making such a fuss. She was loud and completely disruptive and the mother just sat there and shushed her the whole time, which of course was making the who thing louder. Eventually even the priest was looking at her. Unfortunately I think mothers like this give all mothers and kids in public spaces a bad wrap. I know I’m always pleasantly surprised when I see well-behaved young families out and about.

            I don’t have kids. I want kids someday. I like kids in my family. Other peoples kids in public frustrate me a lot of the time. I think there needs to be a better social dynamic between families with children and those without definitely.

          • meg

            It’s complicated, but that’s what I’m saying. It’s MUCH like bride-dom. Society works really hard to make women crazy, and then mocks them for being crazy. There is tremendous pressure on women to be over the top moms who give their kids everything and anything (resulting in parents behaving absurdly in public). But then there is a counter pressure to hide your kids away, because parents behave absurdly in public.

            It’s actually NOT that I’m a self aware mother. It’s that I’m a deliberately counter-narrative mother, and I work really hard (and take a lot of flack) for not doing all the things I’m supposed to do, and hence not parenting in a way that I find to be over-parenting and self absorbed, but we’re taught is the way “good moms” parent.

            But your last line is where it’s at for me. We no longer function as a society that’s a lot of ages (because societies in fact, include people of a lot of ages). We sort of hide kids in one place, and hide the elderly in another, and then act like the rest of the world is for “adults.” Which… is bullshit. Obviously the world belongs as much to babies and old people as us. IE, I think the fact that we’re taught to look at it as “families with kids” and “people without kids” is wrong. I’ve thought this for a long long time. I’ve always been of they “hey, let me help calm your kid down for you while you juggle that other stuff” person. But the idea now is A) Moms do everything by themselves, and can’t accept help, (and kids are allowed to behave absurdly) and B) People with kids are on a different team from people without kids, and should not ever have to be exposed to the unruliness that is even the best behaved small humans.

            I think it’s unhealthy for everyone.

          • meg

            Yeah, I don’t get it. Here is why: I think my job is to raise kids who can understand and navigate the world as it is, not to expect the world to bend around my child.

            There are lots of adult things out there. My kid can’t have a drink. Sorry kid. That doesn’t mean you can’t drink around him, because it’s my job to make sure that he understands that some things are not for him. My kid also can’t curse. That doesn’t mean you can’t curse around him, that means it’s my job to parent him so he gets it.

            But yeah, when they’re learning to speak ALL little kids repeat cursing. Usually I just try to control my hysterical laughing long enough to tell them no. I remember when my little honorary nephew was in his carseat saying, “Ohhhh, DAMN it.” at two and a half. I just. Couldn’t. Pull. It. Together. But you do teach them in time.

      • Marisa-Andrea

        Yup. We went to a late lunch this past Saturday actually and our normally quiet baby was talking up a storm and quite loudly. A couple sat next to us and spent the entire hour or so sliding glances our way– not the kind where they send cutesy faces to your kid but the ones where they look like they might complain to the waiter that your baby is interrupting their meal. That’s the first time I’ve ever been anxious about it and I hated every freaking second of it.

        • meg

          It’s funny. I’m always tense flying (though he’s pretty good on planes). But when another baby cries on an airplane, I’m always like “Awww, poor baby.” BECAUSE IT’S A BABY. They cry. They can’t help it. Full stop.

          So you know, perhaps our perspective is a little… fucked. Currently.

      • rys

        Last night, a fellow grad student asked a group of grad students if it was ok to bring her baby with her to the microfilm room so she could work with a newborn. To be honest, I was sort of astounded by the question, as I don’t think all work spaces are inherently baby-spaces (cue over-parenting) but I also think there are plenty of spaces where kids are or should obviously be welcomed (hello parks, house parties, etc). I didn’t know what to say, but I actually think another friend’s response was fair: in the microfilm room, your baby is like an ipod. If it doesn’t get in the way of anyone else’s work, then no one will care. But the second anyone hears it, like the moment someone can hear the beat through ipod headphones, you have to leave. And don’t ask about bringing your baby into the manuscript room; pens aren’t allowed in there, so babies hardly represent a radical exclusion.

        • meg

          ” And don’t ask about bringing your baby into the manuscript room; pens aren’t allowed in there, so babies hardly represent a radical exclusion.”

          HA. I don’t know how I feel about this kind of issue. On one hand, I want moms (because it mostly seems to affect women, not because I’m excluding dads) to be able to work and have kids, and sometimes that means kids in work spaces to make it happen. (My baby isn’t currently working in his office in my office, but it’s not unusual). And the idea that kids can always be excluded from work spaces is, in a sense, patriarchal. Women are not men, right? Reproduction needs to be accounted for.

          On the other hand, there are places don’t belong, and inconvenance others. And over-parenting is… the norm at the moment.

          So I totally don’t know where I stand on this sort of thing, at least at the moment. But I REALLY appreciate the pen comment. So there is that.

          • rys

            Yeah, I don’t know where exactly I stand on the work-space issue as a whole, but I loved the pen comment — and I’ve gotten in trouble for holding, rather than wearing, a sweater in a manuscript room, so, yeah, it’s strict in there.

    • OKAY seriously, who on this thread works at Slate? They just published an article about Sesame Street.

    • I feel like I’ve just figured out where to hook up the hose so the watering can happen. I had this crazy notion that parents bonded easily over this shared experience of having children, regardless of how they approach it, that they could help me figure out how to water. At least in my area, that has not been the case. I’ve been making it up as I go, and have gotten pretty okay with being a good enough mom. Or at least admitting out loud to someone, usually the husband, when I’ve had a bad mom moment that was completely irrational. There have been many, and they have thrown me for a loop.

      We’ve recently moved into a new neighborhood full of families, which has helped. I’ve started a babysitting coop, and a few of us are working on a playgroup coop. Sadly, I think the playgroup coop is destined for a spectacular implosion (one mother at the last meeting wanted to make sure we all understood her child is never to cry, ever. I’m not sure this is even possible), but there’s a sense of community here, and desire to support each other as parents that I didn’t have before. We are still trying to figure out how to deal with all the differing parental “styles”, but I feel hope.

  • Rosie

    Me and my husband want to have kids in a few years, and at the moment we think that I’ll stay home with them. This is one of the best things I’ve read about being a stay at home parent, just so down to earth and sensible!

  • Martha

    I think a major problem is that for so long women were expected and/or forced to stay home that now when a woman chooses to do that it’s like she is spitting in the face of all the amazing women who fought for the ability to work and have their own careers and goals outside of our families.

    Obviously this is not the case – women have the right, choice, and privilege to choose what they want for themselves, their family, and their partner. The problem now is when we as women – hell, we as people – criticize someone for their own choices. We need to work against this, especially to help empower the women who are potentially in oppressing situations with no agency.

    • Marisa-Andrea

      Well I think sometimes a choice a woman makes IS spitting on feminist work that’s been done before when it’s an anti-feminist choice made in the name of feminism. I am very critical of THAT. You have the right to do whatever you want, even make anti-feminist choices, but I don’t go for anything being labeled feminist because a woman CHOSE.

      The article by Lisa Miller about the Retro housewife is a perfect example of this.

  • what i wouldn’t do to only have to pay $1000-$1200 a month for child care. Around here, prices start at $1500 and come along with 1 year long wait lists (and those are the cheap/fast centers…no one told me to register for child care prior to conceiving a child…wtf?!).

    but that’s not the point of this post, and that’s not what i got out of it.

    as a woman/professional/wife who is 5 months pregnant, i say THANK YOU for sharing your journey. i’m not sure what path mine will take, for now i’m working on enjoying the daily baby dances and keeping my fingers crossed that everything works out well.

    • meg

      This is actually a whole other interesting conversation to me, that I hadn’t really thought about. We pay that for childcare, and I literally say several times a month that it seems so affordable. I mean, YES, it’s rent. I am in no way minimizing that it’s one of the biggest checks we write. But also, having done childcare my whole life, I know how hard it is, and I want the people watching my kids to have training (and they do). And that seems like such a crazy affordable monthly salary to pay people.

      NOW. I think it’s a travesty that we don’t have much government support for childcare and schooling till you get to pre-Kindergarden. (Those are my politics.) I think that childcare should be something that has far more regulation, and has sliding fees based on what you can pay, so people are not forced out of the workforce. I want that to be what we value as a society: women, and our tiniest citizens.

      But. Just in terms of non-underwritten cost, $1,000-$1,500 a month for 40 (or in our case up to a possible 50) hours a week of high quality care seems like… a deal, I suppose. I worry a lot that the daycare salaries and healthcare are probably not what I think they should be for such a foundationally important job. I mean, I worked with some guys making huge sums of money at an investment bank, and what these women do is at least 100X more important.

      So. It’s an interesting question. And one I didn’t really think through this way till right this second! So thank you for that! (More on daycare to come…)

      • Class of 1980

        I was thinking the same about the cost/salaries.

        Why on earth would we expect them to earn less? How would they live? We don’t value childcare nearly enough.

        • I think some of the not valuing childcare enough stems from not valuing parenting enough. At least seeing parenting as this individual occupation, which it’s not. If we don’t value a parent’s right to be a whole person, I think it’s tough to see value in, and put a value on the help a parent needs to be a whole person.

        • meg

          I’ve been chattering/ ranting at Maddie about this for the past 10 minutes, in a way I didn’t clearly think through before. My mom is a now retired teacher, and talk about people that we underpay and undervalue (and arguably, it’s getting worse. My mom went into teaching because as a women she din’t have a ton of options. Now that women have lots of options, fewer bright people go into a field where they’re going to be underpaid and looked down on… WHAT ARE WE DOING?) Anyway. Before she was a teacher, she worked in daycare. She says that if you think teachers are undervalued, you haven’t seen ANYTHING till you tell someone in a social situation that you work in daycare. And if you think teachers are underpaid… holy shit. But that’s where we’ve set our cultural markers of value, and we absorb it so throughly that it takes moments like this for me to step back and think Oh My God.

          Our daycare ladies are some of the people I think are most important in my life right now. I mean, of course, right? But as a society, we don’t think they’re important at all. We don’t fund daycare, we don’t value it. It. Is. Nuts.

          • Class of 1980

            Oh, gee, it’s ONLY your own flesh and blood they are taking care of. You know, those little people you have so many hopes and dreams for.

            I was once in a situation where I watched a lady with no intelligence or training take care of a baby and a very young boy in her home.

            I was horrified by what I saw. She screamed at the little boy and accused him of things he didn’t do. He cried and cried. His mother never knew.

            This just reminded me. I went to a kindergarten run by a church my parents didn’t go to. The man who was in charge used to come into our classroom and stomp his feet and scream at us little five-year-olds.

            I don’t remember what he said or what the point was – he just came in every few months and did this. I was baffled by it. My mother found out later how abusive the place was AFTER my brother and me went there. I hated going there and used to say I was too sick to go.

            Yet, our society seems to believe childcare can be done by just anyone we care to throw a few pitiful dollars at? There is a sense that ANYONE and their dog can watch kids. So wrong.

            This is the same phenomenon that makes people say that women who get a degree and stay home with the kids are “wasting” their education.

            I can’t figure out why we don’t think raising kids requires knowledge.

          • Martha

            Seriously – my sister works in a daycare and is essentially a pre-school teacher and get’s paid almost nothing. It is horrific!

          • SarahT

            I just reported Meg’s comment-ha!
            The attitude toward taking care of children is not only about children. As someone who owns a business taking care of the elderly, it is exactly the same thing on the other end. I employ people who do some of the hardest work around-physically transferring people, personal care for adults, etc., and I try to pay them as much as I can. That works out to about $10 an hour. And just like childcare, it’s about so much more than taking care of a person’s physical needs. It’s not a job that requires a lot of formal education, but lots of patience, perseverance and social intelligence. And these dedicated women are embarrassed to call themselves by their job title- caregivers. Sadly, it carries no status. Why don’t we value taking care of people?

          • And the bright people who do go into teaching get so much grief about it. When will you go to law school? What do you really want to do? As if teaching is some sort of play job you take before you start your real work that actually demands intelligence and creativity. Society holds teachers responsible for so many of its problems, but also wants the job done by people of middling intelligence. I can live with the pay, but the lack of respect from other professionals and feeling like a punching bag every single campaign season are what really get me down.

          • Sass

            Add foster carers to teachers and day care staff. I’m a stay at home carer to an almost two year old who will be going home to one of his parents (we hope). People see me as either a Saint caring for tiny beautiful angels, or someone who is clearly throwing her life away on these worthless children who will amount to nothing. I’m neither of those things, neither are the kids.

            So few people even consider becoming carers. It’s certainly not seen as a valid career, the ‘pay’ doesn’t cover costs and most carers I’ve met have great intentions but not enough training or understanding of the complicated needs of damaged little people. Parenting is bloody hard, and adding in attachment disorders, developmental delays, a history of abuse and neglect, makes it seemingly impossible some days. We do okay and I know we get the tough kids because we’re more skilled than most, I’m pretty sure most days I do more good than harm. But honestly, most kids in care deserve better care than what they’re getting. And most careers deserve better training and education so they can do better for these kids.

            We need qualified, intelligent, skilled people to care for all our children in whatever situation they need it. I don’t understand why people can’t see that without that kids don’t do well, and that has a cost not just to them, but to all of us. It could be a day care worker who hates her job, a teacher who is exhausted and struggling, or a foster carer who meant well but has found herself entirely out of her depth – they’re all going to have an impact on the kids they care for.

          • this strain of comment reminded me of a poem i’ve always loved:

            also, sass, your comment has sparked my interest. i had never thought of it that way (as a form of profession like daycare work or teaching). it makes sense: on the one hand, we couldn’t do it without the money/benefits (ex. it would cost my whole salary – our sole income – to put our kids in daycare if they didn’t get free daycare as foster kids). and we’re required all sorts of training before and during to keep our certification up, just like the social workers (but i have yet to see training that is not entirely worthless; everything i’ve learned has been from my wife or my mistakes). but at the same time, i feel strongly that something doesn’t have to be a career to be important, relevant and worthwhile. and, as neither of us are stay-at-home parents, it is on top of our jobs, and in that respect much more like parenting than a career. (though i read some research a while ago evaluating alternative approaches to foster parent retention, one of which was, in fact, salaried foster parents. can’t remember how that fared.)

          • Sass

            Lady Brett, I’m in a different country to you and we don’t have the same requirements for training. What we have is fairly shallow in my opinion although there have been huge improvements in training made available to us since we were first approved 6 years ago. Also over here, there’s no adoption from foster care here so that changes things somewhat. Personally we’re only taking 1-2 kids under 3 for some context.

            I agree that something doesn’t have to be full time to be worthwhile – my husband is a volunteer fire fighter and that is a significant part-time part of our life. But I also feel that for some kids, full time foster carers are what’s needed. While I understand most families can’t afford for someone to stay home full time with the foster kids, for this little boy who’s already struggling in many areas, child care is just not appropriate. And in my opinion, too many foster kids are in child care because of the needs of their foster families when it’s not in their best interest.

            I don’t know if salaried carers are necessary or even appropriate. But I do think we need to rethink how we value people that care for children. And in some areas, I feel we need to drastically raise the standard they’re held to. It saddens me that most people in our position (my husband earns enough for the both of us), wouldn’t even consider fostering because it’s something only poor, uneducated people do in this country.

          • ItsyBitsy


            Amen to your whole first comment (which I couldn’t reply directly to, sorry).

            And power to you for being a foster carer. I used to work on an inpatient psych unit for kids and the kids I worked with sound very similar to yours- RAD, abuse, neglect, developmental disorders, etc. It was an exhausting emotional roller coaster (that I loved nonetheless) with shit hours and worse pay. So I just want to say thanks for being one of the people doing that kind of work outside of a hospital because everyone needs a good home.

          • Samantha

            And thus smart, well educated, caring people – like my friend – are pushed out of the daycare system to take jobs elsewhere, because she was underpaid, under-valued (not at all by the parents) and because the daycare she worked at (multiple) were such jokes. There are so many bad institutions out there that it daycare in general becomes frightening. Why should we support something so bad. This mentality is the problem but it’s a catch 22. We need to fill daycares with more intelligent, EDUCATED people and then value them.

      • Breck

        I used to work the front desk at a 24 Hour Fitness in an upscale suburban area. I had a lot of coworkers who worked both front desk and in the childcare area who not only were trained and certified in all of the first aid and CPR areas that Red Cross offers (a 24 Hour requirement) but also LOVED those kids and were really great with them. They made minimum wage in CA ($8/hour… not much), and we charged $4/2 hours of babysitting. When 2013 hit, 24 upped the price to $5, and people went BALLISTIC. They were outraged at the price increase and accused us of price-gouging (I think they meant the gym, but this was mostly directed at me as I rung them up).

        I guess that was sort of tangential, but I did want to just say thank you for thinking of the people who are watching your kids. Most of them love your kids and love their jobs, and it was just kind of awful to hear people bitch about an extra dollar when most of my coworkers were borrowing cash from me to put gas in their cars (I had a second nannying job that paid pretty well). Childcare reform–we need it.

      • I feel like this is one of those situations where both sides are right.

        Daycare workers aren’t paid (or respected) nearly enough. And $1000-1500 a month for quality care for your child? That’s not unreasonable.

        But … a quarter of household income on childcare? Or three quarters of my take home pay? That’s not sustainable and it’s a hard trade off to make – unless the job either provided some major fulfillment or filled other major needs like insurance it would be a hard decision to value working.

        Which leaves us with the gap where the government needs to step in and make this affordable to families on a lower side of the income scale and make sure that the men and women who take on those jobs are actually appropriately compensated.

        • meg

          YES. Obviously I think there needs to be some policy change.

          That said, the other conversation is a very very long one. The really quick points are that I don’t think daycare should ever be judged against a woman’s salary, I think it should be judged against a family salary (which you’re also doing, but is also not done). But more than that, staying in the workforce vs staying home (for whatever parent) is a super complicated calculation, but the cost benefit HAS to be judged over the long term to be at all accurate. It may be a huge chunk of household income now, but if the option is to stop working and stay home for several years, studies have shown over and over again that takes a MASSIVE chunk of your lifetime earning potential away. Clearly, there are many parts of the decision. But if we’re looking at it as a pure numbers play, ie, “It will take a quarter of our household income for daycare, is it worth it,” you can’t just look at the numbers for this year. You have to look at the lifetime dip in earnings that 4 years out of the labor force gets you, because it’s a big number.

          All that said: Policy change, YES. Numbers not being the only thing that matter, ALSO YES. Situations not being as simple as this (ie, Brandi, in the midst of a career change), ALL THE TIME.

          • Elemjay

            This is SUCH a major point. Every year you take out of the workforce has the potential to reduce your lifetime earnings by 10%. Paying extortionate childcare for the first five years may just be the price to pay for a proper salary (driving a proper pension) in the long run.

            Any who says childcare expenses need to be covered by the mother’s salary? Both parents made that baby, both parents are on the hook financially as well.

        • Sheryl – lucky for you, you’re a Canadian. I know this doesn’t help most of the readers here, but we actually have it pretty decent. Even beyond the year mat leave. There’s the monthly $100 Universal Child Care Benefit, there are tax breaks at all levels (my mother estimates that for us next year it will be about 5k of income we won’t have to pay taxes on) and many breaks for low and lower middle income families. It’s not perfect or France or Quebec or whatever, but it is better up here, even if prices for care are the same.

  • jlseldon7

    THIS: I need to be a whole person, not just mom, not just wife, to give both my husband and son the best of me.

    It’s so true. This is the balance I want in my life right now. The harder part is the energy that is needed to work for it.

    THIS: (this tiny human danced in my belly for nine months, and lived solely off my boobs for six. Tell me that isn’t mind-blowingly weird?)

    Hilarious. About feel about of my chair.

  • Class of 1980

    This reminds me of something I read a while back on a blog.

    The blogger has a tough career and she was talking with a coworker who was near the end of her pregnancy. The coworker wanted to negotiate for something or other, but said she was going to wait until after her delivery in order to come “from a position of strength”.

    The blogger wondered what that meant. How is it that a woman managing a very difficult career while simultaneously growing a human inside her, felt she was in a position of weakness?

    If a man was doing that career while growing a human, he’d say he was a super hero.

    • sara p

      “If a man was doing that career while growing a human, he’d say he was a super hero.”

      THIS, so this. Men are, broadly speaking, so much more willing to take credit for things. Why aren’t we like that (broadly speaking)?

      • Class of 1980

        I don’t know. I feel like everything women do is undervalued.

        Any career that was mostly held by men starts paying less once a majority of women go into the field. It’s happened repeatedly.

        I remember in my thirties I worked for a lady in her fifties who was a sales manager booking conventions at a hotel. She was one of the first women in that job years prior. She told me she was working as a secretary for a sales manager and one day she went to the big boss and said she was as smart as the guys doing the job, if not smarter.

        She got the job. Back in the 1980s when she got started, the guys were earning $100,000 plus in that job. By the 1990s, a lot of women had entered the field and by then the job didn’t pay half that.

        • Amy March

          Mmmmmmm this. Women start entering law firm partnerships (in minute numbers) and up pops non-equity partnership.

          • Class of 1980

            Even worse is the hotel general manager who said men were too up and down in their work efforts, while women were steady. He preferred to hire women.

            And he said this while paying them less than men earned in the job 10 to 15 years earlier.

  • “What makes up the rest of the fulfillment?” I think this is a question that we need to answer better as a society. I hate that the first question so many people ask you is “What do you do?” ie, “What do you do for money?” How is that indicative of anyone’s character? It’s a topic of conversation, sure, but I think fulfillment has more to do with what you’re passionate about (not always your job), what you do for fun, what you’ve learned, what you hope for. Maybe then people wouldn’t want to start a “working mom vs. stay-at-home mom fight,” because both choices could be seen as fulfilling and valid.

    My mom was a stay-at-home mom and I really appreciated that growing up. I know it’s not the right choice for everyone, but I valued having that time with her and would definitely consider staying home an option if/when my husband and I have kids.

  • Great post :) Being a stay at home parent sure isn’t a picnic but it’s very rewarding :)

  • This. Totally all of this.
    I’m 5 weeks in, completely overwhelmed, exhausted and hanging out for those rare magic moments. It has become all I am because I dont have a job to go back to. Add to that my little boy is a bit of a homebody, and its really tough – I dont really get out of the house with him during the day unless his Dad is home with us (when he behaves perfectly).
    I hope to feel more positive as time goes on… Thanks for this, it made me smile on a tough day.

    • Hugs to you, Basketcase. It gets better, and those little magic moments get bigger and more frequent. At least in my experience.

  • Marisa-Andrea

    I’m sort of at a place where I have no desire to describe my identity as Something (working, fulfilled, happy, insert other adjective or adverb)-mother When women becomes mothers they are one of two things for the most part: working (outside of the home) mothers and stay at home mothers as to women who happen to have children who do x, y and z, etc. First and foremost they are mothers. Lately I find conversations about fulfillment that ultimately make the fulfillment about your parental status and relationship to your children frustrating. I don’t want to be a fulfilled person because it will make me a better parent. I want to be a fulfilled person because I want to be happy and fulfilled. Will it make me a better parent? Frankly, I don’t know. I think that’s the assumption and the justification for actually daring to want something for yourself that has absolutely nothing whatsoever to do with your child.

    This is less of a direct response to this post and more of an observation.

    • meg


  • Nina

    Meg and Maddie – Thank you so much for this series. It’s really enlightening and hopeful (I intended to write helpful, but the Freudian slip is perhaps more accurate). I’m hoping that in addition to the posts that you’ve published and have planned, that you might be able to run a post written by a Mom who works in an office environment. I know Meg can write eloquently about daycare and work, especially working long hours, but one of my greatest fears is the struggle between meeting the needs of daycare (on time pickups/drop offs, etc) all while navigating the office environment (general distrust of anyone who needs flexibility to pick up/drop off their kid, last minute work assignments that must be done outside of the home, etc). Better yet, a post from a Mom whose co-parent also works in an office environment. I just feel like that’s a slightly different set of challenges ( and a pretty common scenario) that could complement the [wonderful, thought-provoking] content that you’ve already published.

    (Note: one of the reasons that this freaks me out so much is that I currently spend 3 hours/day commuting to my office job, and my husband spends probably 2 hours/day commuting to his. Sometimes more, sometimes less, thanks to the erratic nature of Bay Area public transit. The thought of trying to do this while navigating childcare makes me want to cry).

    • meg

      Yeah, I really want to do that, I just need to get it together to find someone to write it (or someone might just see this and submit??)

      I also would love to run a post from someone in a single parenting situation, or a young parent situation, or just something tougher. When my friends had kids at 19, they just worked. Because they didn’t have any money. And their relationship to it was different. Oddly, it was often less agonized, because sometimes things are less complicated when there are no choices to make (gotta eat, gotta work).

      And I don’t want to portray my working as a luxury, because it’s not. I’ve been the stable breadwinner for years, we’re no longer broke like we were when we were much younger. So things are different.

  • I read this post last night and didn’t have time to read the comments or comment. I’ve been thinking about it a lot (between calling the plumber b/c there is water leaking through my ceiling and actually working). This has to do with what “they”* call Mommy Wars. The stay at homers vs. the working parents.

    *I think “they” is the media as it is today, with their goal of latching onto our deepest internal conflict in order to rile us up and get us to click on their articles. I mean why else would Slate run so many articles on the decision not to have kids. Rile everyone up. Start the you’re selfish/no you’re selfish! tirades in the comments.

    Anyway, what if we just refuse to engage? A war is only a war if we participate right? I’m not convinced that everyone is as judgmental as they appear, they might just be periodically socially awkward (or always socially awkward). I know I have at times said things that I wish I didn’t that I bet came off as judgmental and/or offensive — which I totally didn’t mean. For example, I asked a woman I met on a snorkeling cruise on my honeymoon if she had kids. She was in her forties and I was just making conversation. She said no and didn’t follow up. I was thrown for a second, leading to a really awkward silence. I wasn’t judging her, I don’t care that she doesn’t have kids but she might have thought that awkward silence that followed was filled with judgement. I was so horrified that later I asked my husband, “it’s not rude to ask if someone has kids, right, just to ask why not?”

    I guess my point is, what if we all just assume everyone has the best motivations (because largely they do)? That way we stop being defensive. If we assume that someone who asks “what do you do all day?” is really truly curious about what you do during your day your response is going to be different. Instead of justifying your choices, you might say, “I employ my new skills as a quick change artist, nursery rhyme signer, master chef (of peanut butter and jelly), etc.” The whole game will change. Sure, some people are actually judging you but that is true with everything in life and do you really care? The judgy-mcjudgersons are really saying more about themselves than about you anyway.

    • I really agree with this sentiment. I’ve sometimes been worried that I look too much at life through rose-colored glasses, but you know what? I’d rather assume the best of everyone and see the best things in the world. There’s plenty here to be sad and angry about. I try to assume (within reason) that everyone is authentically trying to be nice. And if you respond to people with authentic kindness, they usually step up to the plate, too.

    • Marisa-Andrea

      I agree with you. I just think the state of motherhood in America right now just have women who are mothers in a very very insecure place. And it does make a lot of people (not ALL) judgmental or feeling like THEY have to defend their own choices which as a result puts everyone else on the defense too.

      And I blame the idealization of motherhood on it ALL. At the end of the day, the media puts forth an image of motherhood (sainted and on a pedestal too) that no woman anywhere can live up to. And it’s a very pervasive image which is what makes it so insidious. Even the most introspective woman who is a mother will have a hard time escaping its clutches. Mommy wars are just a symptom of this issue.

  • Sarah

    Life-role balance. I like that.

  • Joselle

    Wow. I could have written this. I went back to school at 31 to become a nurse-midwife and purposely got pregnant in my last few months of nursing school (you won’t believe how many people asked if my pregnancy wad planned, as if that was anyone’s business). Took the NCLEX while 9 months pregnant. Now I’m holding my three month old daughter in my lap. I care for her full-time. I’m at the point when most US women on maternity leave go back to their paying jobs and I just can’t imagine doing that. I keep telling people I’ll go back to work “in a few months” but in my heart I know that isn’t true. I don’t want to work. I am mostly fulfilled being home. And I don’t want to work just to pay for expensive child care. I will have to work eventually (love those student loans!) but not anytime soon. I’d also like to have another kid or two and I don’t know how I’d fit not only a job but an entirely new career in nursing into all of that. My husband also is very suited to staying home with children so maybe when I’m done with the breastfeeding very young kids part, we can trade off. I’ve always been ardently feminist and was raised by a single, working mom but I’ve always in my heart of hearts wanted to stay home. Thanks for writing this.

    • Beth

      I recognize you wrote this ten months ago. Still I would like to say as a Canadian who can get a year of Mat leave (granted at 55% of your income – and that’s capped for those investment broker mothers) I think it is CRAZY how short US mat leave is. I completely understand that some women choose to go back REALLY soon after giving birth, earlier than 12 weeks, but the fact that your job isn’t protected past 12 weeks is idiotic. So don’t feel weird about that one generally the rest of the “developed” world also thinks that’s a bit nuts.

  • After leaving a dinner party a year or so ago, where I easily carried on conversations about current events and string theory, I made my husband promise to help me always have more to talk about than just kids when we became parents. I can’t be a person who only talks about the latest antics our children have done. That is definitely on my list of top five things I’m worried about as parenthood ebbs ever nearer in our lives.

  • Em

    Such an interesting, important conversation.

    Also, this: “All the Pinterest and Facebook posts from parents who stay home making cutesy lunches and handmade toys for their kids in their very put-together homes make me simultaneously throw up in my mouth a little and feel like the World’s Shittiest Mom. Throw in the realization that I am not, as a whole person, completely fulfilled by staying home, and yeah. Many days with tears. Until I remember that my son doesn’t care about any of that. He’s happy. He knows I love him. That’s what matters most.”

    So, so, true! Thank you for pointing out that your son doesn’t care if you are a crafty mom. Somehow I forget that when I feel like a huge failure after looking at Pinterest. My daughter could care less. She is much more interested in picking sticks up off the ground or spinning around in circles than any fancy craft I might come up with anyway. (Not that there is anything wrong with crafting, of course! I am just not good at it.)

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