Working For The Kids?
I've been dragged into several mommy-war-type discussions lately. As usual, accusations flew. There's one thing I noticed, though - even the most understanding and tolerant of the SAHMs seem to assume that, when mothers go to work outside the home, it's either for the paycheck, for a sense of self-fulfillment, or to get away from the kids.
While I certainly treasure the financial security, and it did feel good to get away when the kids were little (not so much now...), I'm surprised there is one reason nobody mentioned. I must have my priorities all wrong, but one of the reasons I've been doing what I do is to give my kids a positive image of their mother.
I stayed at home with the kids on and off for four years. They learned that Mom can cook and clean. Well, who the heck can't? The question I thought they would ask themselves when they got older and started school would be, what can Mom do that other people cannot? What can Mom do better than other people? What is Mom an expert at? How does Mom make a difference? I think it goes a long way, especially with preteens and teenagers. They know they can talk to me about my profession. They know I'm good at what I do. They know other people count on me to make things happen. I felt the same way about both my parents when I was a kid.
In that regard, I'm glad I had been on 24x7 on-call support for over six years. Yes, it had been a gigantic pain in the ass, but the upside of it is that my boys actually saw part of what I did for a living, and they saw that it made a difference in other people's lives. Think about how the kids saw it - when guys out at a plant in Georgia or Canada are stuck at three in the morning with nothing working, they call my Mom and she fixes it. That's pretty impressive. Of course now LilProgrammer is telling me that I'm stuck in the nine-to-five rut, that my work is boring, and that I use outdated software. (He recommends C++ and open source.) Yet he refers to himself as a programmer, spends his days writing code, and wants to run his own software business. Coincidence?
What do I need this for, you ask. In one word, respect. I need them to have respect for me because I am their leader. It's hard to get a teen and a preteen to listen to you and follow your advice if they don't respect you. And, in the long term, I need them to respect the women in general. They may end up marrying one (or two, or three) and become fathers to several more. They need to know that we are capable of more than cooking, cleaning, and shopping.
I'm not saying that there are no ways to send the same message while staying at home. There is volunteer work, there are hobbies, there is working from home, after all. All I'm saying is, we are not working outside of home just because we love the money (okay, and the medical insurance) more than we love our kids. Our kids, actually, benefit from it.
Have at it.