Saturday, April 04, 2015

Stay-at-home parenting

I am not a parent, so should I bother to write about this issue? Well, I'd like to, at least in defense of my parents who worked all the while I was doing my growing up.

Dear mothers who choose to stay home with your kids, when I ask if you have started working again, I am neither acting smug, nor belittling the value of your labor. When I say you must be enjoying yourself, I am not saying I don't think this requires any effort at all. Motherhood is one aspect of womanhood, but I fully expect an educated woman to make strides in multiple facets of their lives, so that they may explore the full intellectual and emotional spectrum of their humanity. So this question comes naturally to me. Also, I fully expect people to enjoy what they choose to apply their efforts to. So, please don't jump to those ridiculous conclusions.

And if you cant help yourself, can I ask you to please introspect around why are you so sensitive to this question? If you are truly convinced you have made the right choice for yourself, why bristle, rather than calmly helping me understand your choice? I ask because I am interested in you and you are typically happy to indulge me with your perspective on other things. So, why is this one hard? Unless, you are loathe to admit that you are using your children as an excuse to not take responsibility for yourself or to not push your limits. Unless you are loathe to admit that you are using your children as an excuse to clip the wings of your partner.

In my experience, a lot in life is shaped by circumstances instead of being a conscious choice. And we try to convince ourselves to come to terms with it. If someone prods you occasionally, reminds you to evaluate whether you are doing what you really wanted to do, reminds you to think about whether or not it is time in your life to make a constructive change, why is that unreasonable, insensitive or disrespectful?

My biggest objection is that a mother's labor, however sincere, back-breaking, nerve-wracking it may be, is unpaid. There is something to be said for being paid for your services. Why? Because it buys you independence. It liberates you from the shackles of expectation. I've been told not to denigrate the lofty nature of a mother's work with the banality of a day job. Yes, you are just a paid employee in the case of the later and you may be fired. But you can find another job and continue to live a life of relative freedom. You may not mean the world to your employer as you probably do mean (at least for a while) to your child. But why does that matter? The dependence of your offspring on you is temporary and to wish to either cling to it, or to prolong it, is unhealthy for both the mother and the child, and selfish too, wouldn't you agree? If you care so much about your child, should you be squandering away your means to pursue your convictions regarding your child's future?

Now your high-minded partner supports you and I am told I have no right to question that dynamic. To that, I say, I hope you have the guts to question that dynamic yourself. I hope folks at least recognize that by removing themselves from the work that fully exploits their potential, they do waste the funding that was invested in educating them. It is the parents' job to give society good citizens. But by constraining a mother's exposure to only certain types of experiences in life, we diminish their abilities to provide quality mentor-ship to the next generation.

I also get told, we are a culture where moms stay home. Think about A) the sexism and B) the presumption buried in that statement. Do dads love their kids less? Is it right to assume their parental needs or capabilities are lesser than yours? A self-reliant, self-sufficient, self-supported mother creates a strong example for the child. I pray you find the emotional and intellectual strength to embrace it.