Last night at Charlotte's softball game some of the other parents were cheering for her. I heard one ask, "Is that one Charlotte?" The other replied, "Yeah... she's a nice girl, she is still sweet... Doesn't have the attitude like the other girls her age."
I stood about 15 feet away taking in what I had just heard. I sunk into my folding chair and stared at my daughter on second base. I'm told a lot how sweet she is. She is thoughtful and kind. She is helpful and tries at everything. She's the kid that replaces the toilet paper when the roll ends. She's the kid that offers me the last of something even if she wants it. She keeps an eye on her siblings and never complains about doing chores. I know she's a good kid. But, when other people notice it, particularly other mothers with daughters aged 10-12, it makes me so very proud to be her Mother. It also makes me feel successful. I hear a lot about stay at home mothers feeling unaccomplished, unfulfilled, or unsuccessful. I feel very accomplished and very fulfilled. I am doing what most modern women don't do anymore. The stay at home mother is grossly undervalued. I'll paste two excerpts I've run across on other blogs here that coincidentally coincide with my thoughts of lately.
Men have their cars, women, their kids. It really doesn't matter what else a woman does in life, somewhere deep down inside, she will judge herself by how good of a mother she is. Even the thin, rich and beautiful woman becomes pathetic if she fails the motherhood test. (Notice I chose "thin, rich and beautiful" as the standard to envy and not "accomplished career", because that isn't even in the running...or how many girls have you ever heard say "I want to be just like Janet Reno when I grow up." Instead, we think "well at least she got to be attorney general".) -Retro-housewife blog
"Motherhood might be revered in poetry, but outside the subcultures that support the one-earner nuclear family, staying home with one's child is often considered a waste of a woman's talents and education. And although the women's movement declares every mother a working mother, I'm not so sure. Because, if there is no pay, no Social Security, and no time off, how can it really be bonafide labor. Unless. Unless you're taking care of someone else's child. If you're a nanny, a teacher, a foster parent--well, that's worth a paycheck. Even the federal government will pay a poor working mother's childcare provider to watch her three year old, but it won't pay that mother to do the same job at home. Evidently, caring from one's own child is not real work." -The Motherhood Confidential
I've said those things many times, I just could never put it into such eloquent words.
Of course staying home is best, but it's not going to miraculously transform all children into model children while magically making you feel successful. Then there is the college degree challenge. One could say I am only content because I don't have a college degree. If I had one I'd feel like my talents are wasted. Not really a good example since my father didn't have a college degree either, and he has made a ton of money and has run numerous very successful businesses (and some failures too.) I don't feel not having a college degree OR staying home is holding me back.
If you are a stay at home mom and you feel undervalued you may have a self esteem problem. No one is going to value us (although your spouse should-just as you value him!) on your pure efforts alone. You have to demand it. You have to pat yourself on the back sometimes. You have to appreciate your clean house, fresh baked cookies, folded laundry, home cooked meals, and beautiful children before any one else will. Society doesn't care. People will on occasion throw you a compliment for staying home, or offer you a small token of cryptic praise ("I don't know how you do it" and "I could never do that" is praise). Who cares though, it is enough to see the results of my kids being awesome, well behaved, well adjusted, "good kids."
Finally, Stay at home moms are not doormats or maids.
I demand being valued by my children. I show them examples of parents who aren't home and what that means for a family. I tell them I stay home because I want to raise them. I demand respect and remind them of who gave them life, who dedicates her life to them, and who does the 3421 loads of laundry a month. When I ask for help I expect common courtesy and immediate help. I deserve it. We talk about what it means that I stay home. We even talk about the difference between home cooked meals and frozen dinners/fast food. My family values me as a stay at home mom because I don't let my self be undervalued. (Sure there are those days where everything seems unfair and I'm at my wits end, but that's life, there are ups and Downs!)
Yesterday 5 kids cuddled up in my bedroom and we started a family movie, the baby played at my feet, and I folded a weeks worth of laundry. To be near them in and out of everyday (and I homeschool, so it really is in and out of everyday.) is the best gift either one of us could have. There are challenges, and we are not without our flaws, but these are the rewards...