Monday, March 9, 2015

International Women's Day for the Stay-At-Home Mom

Yesterday was International Women's Day, which meant... not a whole lot for me.  I "celebrated" by reading a few posts from Facebook while nursing a baby, only to be interrupted by a brother on brother brawl, and then I took care of the other needs of my kids, like diaper changes and lunch (hand-washing in between, don't worry) and curating the afternoon sleep.

I'm a stay-at-home mom by choice.

Now there have been plenty of posts saying that actually, my job is really hard, and most unglorified, and really, if I were paid in currency, I'd be deserving of a six-figure salary. This is not that post.

A few months ago, I had a conversation with a neighbour, who asked when I would be returning to work.  I said, "I'm already at work," and I laughed,
"I know," she said, "But don't you want to write for a paper, or do something not at home?"
"Maybe," I said, and we left it at that.

To be honest, I felt bad after that conversation.  I felt like she expected more of me somehow. That I wasn't reaching far enough with my life choices. This feeling is familiar: I feel it whenever I talk to my working-mom or single-working friends, or when my university is mentioned in the news.

After these conversations, I can't shake the  feeling that the world is at my doorstep - that opportunity to step out of the role of wife and mother, and be "reporter" or "communications specialist" is calling.  It's the feeling that I'm wasting the opportunities that so many women fought for me to have.

But am I?

Is it really a waste to stay at home and be with the children that I brought into this world?

I can't seem to say yes to that question.

I can't seem to think that my being here, in my home, is throwing my education, or the gains that women have made throughout history, away.

But to choose to be in the home really is looked at as a step backward.  I often feel as if choosing to stay home couldn't possibly be looked at as meaningful, at least not to someone who isn't doing it themselves.

But maybe it could. I know I could view my choice in a more positive light, so while I was enjoying my morning coffee and perusing pro-women articles, I thought up 5 things specific for me, and maybe, just maybe, we stay-at-home mamas can redeem our image a little:

1. Stop Complaining about Being a Stay-At-Home Mother. 

Yes, it's hard. It's long hours, little pay...we get it. But whether we've chosen this role., or are simply here because we can't find a viable, satisfying, well-paying job, we are here. The only thing stopping us from being productive members of society is us.  Complaining about it doesn't help us. Thousands of women would love to be where we are, but for whatever reason, can't be. And finally, having to tell the world how difficult it is to be us, doesn't make us look like motherhood is at all rewarding, and you and I know that actually, it is.

2. Use Our Time Intentionally:

I'm as guilty of spending hours on social media and Netflix as anybody. I feel like I "deserve" it, because I'm a stay-at-home mom of little kids, and hey, maybe I do. There is nothing wrong with a little downtime at an opportune moment, but there have been days where I've read blogs, watched Netflix, cruised Facebook, Pinterest and Instagram ALL day.  Guilty. This might be something our working counterparts don't have time to do.  In fact, most working mothers in our country are also doing a lot of the housework and meal preparation in addition to their part- or full-time job. Many women have to work a few jobs to make ends meet. I think one thing I can do for women of the world, is to use the time I have intentionally, and perhaps not just to better myself and my own family.  I often feel like I don't have time - but I've also found that the busier I've gotten as a mom, the more I'm able to accomplish. Maybe it's momentum, or becoming more efficient. But striving for the best use of our time can really only be a win.

3. Get Involved:

We have the time to make our communities vibrant and beautiful.  If we're at the park with our kids, we can pick up litter or untangle the swings. If we're the ones who have time to be the soccer coach, we can do that.  We can teach our kids first-hand that giving of ourselves is fulfilling and life-changing.  Being women in our community, we can make a difference in the lives around us in a way that working women can't.

4. Support Women:  

We can stop having "Mommy Wars" and deal with real injustices. We can help our working neighbor or nearby single mom by dropping off a meal or some cookies.  We can ask other women, "What can I do for you?"  We can babysit for someone who is looking for a job. We can read the news, keep up with the world around us, and fill the cracks in the system where other women aren't finding comfort, love or support.

5. Teach and Form our Kids:

Because we're the primary caregiver of our children, we're also the primary influence.  How does this help women? Because we're the ones to teach them how to treat women or how to be women.  I tell my sons daily with my actions what it is to be a woman. I've taught them that women can use tools, play sports, and get dirty, and I'm in the process of teaching them that all people are to be treated with love and respect.

Teaching kids to make good choices, accept consequences and take responsibility for themselves and their space is a big job. I view the formation of my children as the hardest part of being a mother, but it is also the most important. Why? Because they are the future of the world. The future of women, men, governance and peace is what I'm investing in by spending my life as a stay-at-home mother.  There comes a point where the choices our children make are no longer as woven into our lives, so the small years are the important ones to give them a good start on the journey to adulthood.

I have often thought to myself in regards to my intelligence, that I learned a lot of things in university, but I learned to think from my parents.

A lot of who I am has to do with my mother, who stayed at home with me, working tirelessly to make sure that I would be kind, courageous and make a difference in the lives of those around me. So, thanks Mom, and thanks to the women of Canada's past. I'm happy I have the right to vote, the right to speak, and the right to practice the lifestyle of my choosing with relatively little persecution. That is a victory to me, and one I don't take lightly.

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