A long while ago, Matt Walsh published a piece titled “You’re a stay-at-home mom? What do you DO all day?”. I saw it pop up at least a dozen times in my Facebook newsfeed back when it was first published, and that’s only the ones that were there when I was actually looking.
The underlying message at first seems to be a good one: That we should respect stay-at-home moms and quit acting like they live on Easy Street all day. Having been a SAHM myself during my maternity leaves and every summer thereafter (teacher here), I can appreciate that. Staying at home with kids is tough. It takes a certain strength of character and stamina I do not quite possess.
I am easily frustrated when my children have constant temper tantrums and litter my newly cleaned living room with Legos and stuffed animals and repeatedly reply “NO!” when I ask them to do things like not wipe toothpaste on the dog and consider maybe using only half the toilet paper roll to wipe their butts instead of shoving the whole thing in the commode.
I suck at being a SAHM. Just completely suck — and the worst kind of suck, too.
The author of the post was sick of working mothers asking him when his wife was going back to work and what it was exactly she did to occupy her time all day. I get it. What a rude, condescending question for anyone to ask about another person. It implies, whether intentionally or not, that the asker finds the answerer’s role in life to be inferior to her own.
My initial reaction to the first few paragraphs was, “Yeah, man! Preach!” I was totally in his corner.
Until I got a few more paragraphs down.
In that paragraph he tells one of the askers that there they are, two workers out at a coffee shop on a break, as workers are wont to do, and that his wife would love to be able to take a break once in a while.
Hmm. I thought. I don’t get to go to coffee shops for breaks at my job. I have one 25 minute break per day, and that’s to eat lunch, 5 minutes of which is spent answering student questions, 5 of which is spent zapping my food in the microwave, 5 of which is spent actually eating, 5 of which is spent waiting for my turn in the bathroom, and 5 of which is spent setting up my room and materials for my next class.
I shrugged it off and kept reading. And then I came to this:
A job is something you do for part of the day and then stop doing….Having a job is necessary for some — it is for me — but it isn’t liberating or empowering. Whatever your job is — you are expendable. You are a number. You are a calculation. You are a servant. You can be replaced, and you will be replaced eventually.
What? I was startled. I don’t do my job for part of the day and then stop doing it. Sure, I come home and have dinner with my family and read some bedtimes stories and do some housework and attempt to raise my kids, but after the kids are asleep I jump right back on the horse and plan lessons and grade papers and study educational research while perusing Facebook every now and then in an attempt to reward myself with something mindless until my eyeballs get sticky and I can’t stay awake another minute.
And, you know, crazy as I am, I feel like my job is empowering. I work with today’s youth — the future of our country. I try my damndest to provide them with the best educational experience in my power. I have my strengths, and I don’t think there’s anyone quite like me or any one of my colleagues. We may be expendable in the most general sense of the word, but each of us brings something unique and irreplaceable to our classrooms, and I’m sorry, but I think that means something.
I thought I had come to the worst of it. I really did. But I hadn’t. Apparently, there was one more nail for the coffin:
To call [not staying home full time] the ideal, is to claim that children IDEALLY would spend LESS time around their mothers. This is madness. Pure madness. It isn’t ideal, and it isn’t neutral. The more time a mother can spend raising her kids, the better. The better for them, the better for their souls, the better for the community, the better for humanity. Period.
Suddenly I felt all defensive. My heart started to burn a little and a hot rage spread to my extremities. I felt my brow furrowing and my lip curling in disbelief. Did that just say that staying home with one’s children is the “ideal”? That “[t]he more time a mother can spend raising her kids, the better. The better for them, the better for their souls, the better for the community, the better for humanity. Period”?
Yeah. Yeah, it really did just say that.[/nextpage]
Now, hold on a second. I thought we were praising SAHMs for the tireless work they do in raising children. I didn’t know we were bashing working mothers for not fitting some “ideal” — for not bettering our children’s “souls,” our “community,” and “humanity.” How is this kind of speak garnering any kind of respect for anyone?
I was disappointed. I was disappointed because I was so totally into the message at the start. I was so totally on board with mothers respecting mothers, no matter how they choose or have to spend their days. I was so totally blindsided by the judgment, condescension, and venom that lay behind what started as a Power To All Moms Everywhere battle cry.
(And especially so totally disappointed that he dismissed assertions that these statements might be offensive, instead placing the blame on a “modern society” that gets easily offended by anything. Even things like questions about what SAHMs do all day, sir?)
Here’s my battle cry:
You’re a mom doing the best you can, even if the best is, in your opinion, just two frozen chicken nuggets away from terrible? YOU’RE IMPORTANT AND YOU’RE DOING A GREAT JOB!
You’re a dad wiping poopy butts and making spaghetti dinners and playing dance party in the living room? YOU’RE IMPORTANT AND YOU’RE DOING A GREAT JOB!
You work tirelessly to raise your kids at home all day and would give anything to get out of the house for a second — just a second — to enjoy some adult interaction? YOU’RE IMPORTANT AND YOU’RE DOING A GREAT JOB!
You spend your days in an office or a hospital, dreaming of the minute you get stop helping people there and start helping the little people you created at home? YOU’RE IMPORTANT AND YOU’RE DOING A GREAT JOB!
You forgot to bathe your kids last night? It’s OK because YOU’RE IMPORTANT AND YOU’RE DOING A GREAT JOB!
You’ve served McDonald’s for dinner for the fourth night in a row? It’s food isn’t it? YOU’RE IMPORTANT AND YOU’RE DOING A GREAT JOB!
You’re a work-at-home mom (WAHM)? YOU’RE IMPORTANT AND YOU’RE DOING A GREAT JOB!
You’re a work-at-home dad (WAHD)? YOU’RE IMPORTANT AND YOU’RE DOING A GREAT JOB!
You’re a stay-at-home mom (SAHM)? YOU’RE IMPORTANT AND YOU’RE DOING A GREAT JOB!
You’re a stay-at-home dad (SAHD)? YOU’RE IMPORTANT AND YOU’RE DOING A GREAT JOB!
You’re a work-outside-the-home mom (WOHM)? YOU’RE IMPORTANT AND YOU’RE DOING A GREAT JOB!
You’re a work-outside-the-home dad (WOHD)? YOU’RE IMPORTANT AND YOU’RE DOING A GREAT JOB!
That’s right. Every parent trying his or her best is important and doing a great job. So pat yourselves and each other on the back. We all deserve it.[/nextpage]