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Friday, August 9, 2013

86

Interview With My Mom, One Who Stayed Home

My parents have been married for 40 years, and what they modeled for my brothers and me has shaped so much of who I am. My mom, Nicole, is one of the smartest people I know. She’s also very funny. It is only now, in my thirties, that I’ve been able to fully appreciate her choices as a woman, wife, and mother and what her choices have made possible for me. When I read articles like the recent piece in New York Times Magazine on the Opt Out generation wanting to return to the workplace, I think of my mother. We were a middle class family, so her choice to stay home was certainly a privilege unavailable to far too many women, but the choice isn’t only about economics. I wanted to learn more about the complexities of motherhood and ambition and marriage from her perspective.

Let’s go back to 1972 when you married Dad. Was it a conscious decision to stay at home or did you work when you get married?

I worked at an insurance company as an adjuster. I went to college before I got married. After you were born I went back to school full time. I quit my job because I wanted to go to school.

Why didn’t you go into the workforce after that?

It became complicated. We were in an area where I had no social support and your father’s work was taking 200 percent of him, so there was no way I could have balanced children and career. We could make it on one salary. It was also a financial decision.

How did you handle money in the marriage?

I managed the money.

Did you ever worry about your financial future?

I never did. I didn’t think about divorce. I was too young and too dumb possibly.

How did you balance domestic responsibilities when dad came home from work?

When you were a baby, your dad took care of you at night so I could study. Later, he did the dishes and I cooked except on weekends. He did laundry on weekends. He did the vacuuming.

So he understood you needed help.

Yes, even though I didn’t work outside the home, he realized it was a lot.

Did you ever regret your decision to stay home?

No. As they say, for women, the choices are often cruel—but in truth, I’ve never felt I sacrificed.

Why?

Because the result is good. I did what I wanted to do.

Did you feel independent?

Absolutely. I was. I felt it.

What did you call yourself? Did you want to give yourself a title like domestic engineer?

I called it a homemaker. I wasn’t interested in the beautifying of it.

Did you feel like you couldn’t follow your dreams?

Once I made the decision, I was clear, I was done.

If you hadn’t stayed at home, what would you have done?

I wanted to become a doctor, a general practitioner.

How did you keep yourself mentally engaged?

Trying to steal time to read, like getting up very early Sunday mornings.

You had to sneak time to read?

Yes, because Joel was waiting for me in the morning to get downstairs. “Mommy, is breakfast ready?”

Children are hell.

They are selfish when they are little. They don’t understand about your needs, that’s not their concern. It’s difficult to create that time for yourself and at night you are too tired.

Did you ever think about going back to school?

I did. I’m only 12 credits from graduation but at a certain age, I started thinking, what is the purpose of an education besides knowledge? It’s to make a living. As a woman, there was more of an age barrier. To enter the professional workforce after a certain age is quasi-impossible. After 50 years old, for a woman, you can work but professional work is much harder to come by.

There was this article in this week’s New York Times Magazine about highly educated women who “opted out” many years ago.

Yes, I remember. It is a high-risk decision to not pursue a career. I understood the risk much later in life.

When?

I met someone who went from the country club to welfare.

How old were you when that happened?

I was 35. Most women plunge into poverty when they divorce. It’s hard to get back into a career. Two things I noticed in the decisions made by the women in that article. I think for most of them, the husband made the final decision. I never had a husband who told me not to go to work. Your dad had no need to exert power at home. He did that at his job. He knew to leave his “boss hat” down the hill, before he entered the house. He was somebody important elsewhere. Number two, every single one of those women defined themselves by what they do. When you do that, if you no longer have the career, you have nothing.

Do you ever feel judged for not entering the workplace?

Absolutely.

Who judges you?

Only women, because men know better. Men are not going to do what you are doing. Even though your dad used to tell me he would switch anytime I wonder how long that would last. But he felt he missed out, especially now, when he sees my relationship with you guys.

Did he opt out of something too by pursuing his career?

Yes, that’s what most men do.

What did the judgment look like?

Like, what you are doing is nothing, like you are a glorified maid, but whatever. Everything is secondary to raising children. It is the most important job in the world.

Really?

Yes. Absolutely. You have once chance. You can go back to school, reinvent yourself, do a lot of things. You can’t start over with a child.

Sometimes when people talk about women and the workforce, they say a woman cannot truly be equal to a man unless she has her own income. What do you think?

Well. Equality. What a word. When we choose go outside in the world, when we come home, we’re still mommy. The second shift starts. Equality doesn’t exist, period, even when you share the chores. Some days it can be 70/30 and other days it is 30/70. I don’t think that’s what we should be fighting for.

What should we be fighting for?

Men participating more in the home, but it’s petty to say 50/50, because life doesn’t allow that.

What does participation look like?

If the husband wants to cook, let them. If they want to take care of the children, let them. Let them do what they want to do and you do the rest. Most men are not going to dust, but it is great that they will vacuum and mop. The babies—men don’t take care of them the way we do, but they can take care of them. Men build bridges. They can handle children. You don’t have to interfere.

Did you have to micromanage dad when he took care of us?

Not really, because he had experience with children. When you were born, he put you by his side of the bed because he felt he knew more than I did. When you guys played soccer, he went to one tournament, I went to another. He’ll go to one school conference, and I’ll go to another. Your dad did a lot of school projects.

You and dad seemed pretty equal. Did you make a conscious decision to model that?

We never talked about it. He was determined to make it work, even though his job absorbed most of him. The fact that he lived with his mother before we married was the training for him. And he was a boy scout. Being Haitian, too, you have to know the culture. Haitian women are equal.

Did you ever feel a sense of class guilt that you had these options?

No. Never. I’ve paid my dues in life.

Does that come from growing up in Haiti?

Absolutely. Poverty is all I knew until I came to the U.S.

Very few people talk about the choices available to working class women. Why is that?

We need to hear from them or we cannot know.

Were you ever bored?

When I would have been bored, that’s when I started taking care of myself, after the baby went to kindergarten. My baby went to school, there was no more excuse. I started walking.

Did you find it hard to be a full time mother and take care of yourself?

The most important thing is not to forget about yourself. I did, through no fault of anyone. I didn’t understand I could have also taken care of me while I was taking care of all of you.

If a woman today said she would choose to stay at home, what would you say to her?

Think very hard. It is a changed world. It’s not the [same world as it was] when I got married 40 years ago. The risks are greater for women now. Divorce is what it is and it’s not going to decrease. As women grow more independent, divorce is going to climb because it is easier to make the decision, “I’m done.” Also think about your partner, the person you’re choosing.

The decision starts well before you have children.

Absolutely. People change but I don’t think values change. Common values keep people together, not differences. Opposites attract? No. You marry your mirror in general.

Did you and dad talk about common values? How did you know he was the right one?

I knew the moment I met him. I saw his relationship with his mother and siblings. He explained to me where he thought he was going to go in his company and he did. I never doubted him for a moment. And he loves his children. He always told me, “yo pas trop pou mwen” (they’re not too much for me).

What was the best part of staying home?

I never missed anything my children did.

What was the worst part?

Isolation. Your world is only about children. Not for everybody but for me, there was a cultural thing that made it worse. I was not as organized as the American women. They had groups, meetings, me, I didn’t do it. I did only children. They had babysitters, child exchange. I tried it with Michael Jr. and he wasn’t going to have it. I left him once with a friend. The place I left him is the place I found him when I came back. He never moved. The lady felt so bad. He’s a pest. There was also an exclusion. The Americans would do all sorts of things, and I was never invited. You would see people who moved into the neighborhood long after me, become part of the group. I can’t blame it on just that. I’ve never been a joiner. I’ve only had two good friends my entire life and that was plenty for me.

What do you notice about how parents are raising children now?

Everything is by the book. I read all the books too, but at times you should use your common sense. What’s important when raising children is that they become what you tell them they are. If you tell them they are dumb every single day, you will have a dumb child on your hands. It’s how you feel about the child that makes them confident.

Did you make a conscious effort to raise us with confidence?

Yes. This is something you have to do.

How?

By taking pride in what they do. Success breeds success. When a child takes a first step, everyone claps, what does the child do? They take a second and that’s how it starts. If nobody pays attention, soon they will stop and they won’t pursue.

Did you ever worry about your children becoming too confident?

No. The confidence has to be based on something. It’s not a word. If they have things to back it up, it’s okay. It’s not empty or shallow.

Did you ever feel you had to do something extra raising black children in white places?

A whole lot. It’s very hard to raise black children, especially black sons, because that’s the target. You have to constantly undo the negative, when they come home with stories from school. When Michael Jr. went to school, they were touching his hair. He was the only non-white child in the class and he came home and told me about it. I called the principal and asked them to allow me to come to give a talk on Haiti. The principal was very open. It went very well. I made plantain chips. The kids ate the entire bowl and asked when I was going to bring more. I explained that the way they feel Michael’s hair is different, he feels the same way about them. They never touched his hair again. They could point to where Haiti was, because I brought my globe. I explained Haiti was the first black republic in the world. From time to time you have to counter-attack, because they can destroy that child before he even has a chance.

Did you have similar concerns about raising a girl?

As long as women are not taken seriously, they will find their way, quietly, and become whatever they want to become. With black men, there is a pronounced opposition. When society starts taking women seriously, black women will have the same problems as black men.

You didn’t encourage me to cook or clean or do anything feminine.

You were not interested at all. That was fine by me. Joel was interested in cooking so he learned how to cook. It was open for me. I didn’t have any rule. Every human being should learn to be independent.

Why were you so intense about education when we were growing up?

In my country, education is primordial, that’s the only way out. It was even more important for black children. If you don’t go to school, I don’t see what you are going to do. And you need to be not just educated, but also well-educated.

You never told us stories about 50-hour labors or made us feel guilty. Why?

It’s irrelevant. What is the sense of telling children about labor? They don’t care. Having children is a choice and women use that too much. Get over it. It’s true! If you want to see sacrifice, you go to Haiti.

Did you ever struggle with being middle class here, culture shock?

Coming to the States was a culture shock in every way. It took me years to recover but I had no difficulty living the life I lead because I know how hard it was for my mother. It’s always easier to adjust to better. Nothing was handed to us. We worked harder, longer, to achieve whatever we achieved. This is why also, when the time came, we went back to Haiti to help.

Why did you decide to go back to Haiti?

The more you receive, the more you can and should give. Whatever I have become here, I became because of who I was in my country. The strength, the courage to fight, to know I was a free person, I didn’t know there was a ceiling, because I am Haitian. The nuns did a great job.

As you were raising your children, what did you consider success?

I wanted them to be good people. I wanted them to be self-supporting because I was not going to be around all the time. I wanted them to have a good life and a good life takes a good education. I didn’t want to see them struggling. That’s what I considered success.

Roxane Gay is very much her mother’s daughter.



86 Comments / Post A Comment

Linette

Your mom. Seems. Awesome.

jams

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jams

I recently came across your blog and have been reading along. I thought I would leave my first comment. Highster Mobile

Sophia Jacob

My family had a Naughty Chair. It was actually a really nice leather wingback chair. My mom thought that if it was a punishment to sit in we would generally avoid it and not ruin it. It must have worked because I'm pretty sure they still have it 25 years later and it was never damaged to my knowledge, unlike the other pieces of furniture i remember. @me

jams

you are the best! Your mum sounds pretty great. I am not much of a joiner either, but I am trying to be for the BB's sake, to widen their social circle. Ontario Fishing Trips

mattewmc

Ohh .. I'm looking for you.. strong enough for me! Lol @t

jams

you are the best! Your mum sounds pretty great. I am not much of a joiner either, but I am trying to be for the BB's sake, to widen their social circle. HCG drops

iceberg

Roxane, you are the best! Your mum sounds pretty great. I am not much of a joiner either, but I am trying to be for the BB's sake, to widen their social circle.

yeah-elle

MOMS! All the moms, all the interviews with moms, please! This is one of my favorite new(er) series on the 'pin.

This is a great interview. Your mom has such a clear personality in the way she uses words.

iceberg

@yeah-elle momoirs.

fabel

Yeah, I can't phrase it correctly...but I loved her, I dunno, sentences?

joyballz

@fabel brevity?

missupright

I'm SO glad we're doing more mum-interviews! This one was really great. Roxane, your mum is clearly amazing.

Lu2
Lu2

Your mom sounds super-cool and capable. I love the way she handled the situation with the other kids touching your brother's hair at school. There's so much embedded in that action, in the context of a school where he was the only non-white student, and in your mother's life as a(n apparently introverted) person of color from Haiti--and yet she didn't make more of it than the kids could handle or be responsible for. She just got it done, you know? I admire her.

stuffisthings

Awesome mom.

My mom stayed at home when I was younger but eventually went back to school and finally finished her degree online around the same time I finished mine. We had a joint graduation party!

supernintendochalmers

What a great interview. Your mom sounds like a total badass.

hotdog

I don't like these. You can't disagree with anything the interviewee says because it's someone's MOM. There can't be any actual discussion following, and everyone is just like "woooo, your mom is so great" because who's going to the the asshole that's like "your mom is...not right about that"

I miss old hairpin.

iceberg

@hotdog really? Eh just go ahead and say you disagree, rather than "you're (objectively) wrong" - I think that's polite enough to not cause offense.

apples and oranges

@hotdog Now I'm curious about what you disagree on! I loved the interview but it's one woman's life - your experiences will be different so disagreeing on her perspective isn't totally out of left field or anything.

yeah-elle

@hotdog Really? I think it's okay to respectfully disagree with someone's mom. One of the aspects I really like about these interviews is how they highlight that moms are PEOPLE. People with whom you can totally disagree.

For instance, I don't really agree with what this mom said about equality, about "letting" men do things, and women do the rest. That doesn't mean I don't think it's a great interview.

adorable-eggplant

@yeah-elle Yup! I disagreed about the most important job part! Because non-repeatable doesn't make something more important and plenty of people have jobs that are more important (to me, at any given moment) then someone raising a person I may never interact with: e.g., the engineer who designed the brakes in my car or food safety inspector at the plant that canned the peanut butter I'm having for lunch.

I also thought the parity argument was oversimplified, since one reason that it isn't possible to have equal shares of household and paid labor from men and women atm is that society values them differently and raises them to expect to do unequal shares. So the "that's the way it is" excuse is self-fulfilling.

But I also really enjoyed the interview!

ETA: Maybe not oversimplified, but circular.

Emma Carmichael

@hotdog What do you miss? Email me.

fondue with cheddar

@yeah-elle There's a lot to learn by an in-depth peek into how people do things, even if they aren't the way you would do them. If nothing else, it forces you to reexamine your own ideas.

yeah-elle

@fondue with cheddar Word. If I only read interviews with people I agree with 100%, all I get is new, more eloquent ways to say the stuff that's already tumbling around in my brain. Reading interviews with people who've had different experiences, who hold different values, who approach life with a different perspective—it has way more potential for thinkiness, in my opinion.

Although maybe I should read some like-minded interviews to find a new way to say "thinkiness."

FoxyRoxy

@hotdog Disagree, if you want. Trust, my mom can hold her own in a debate. This wasn't about creating group think. I was interested in talking to my mom about her choices, no more and no less.

fabel

@hotdog Like everyone else said, you can disagree. I'm sure no one would balk at a respectfully phrased "uhh yeah, about the one thing she said..." I get your initial reaction though, honestly. It's hard to come into the comments when the first 12 are all "rah, rah, yayy!" & say something not...so...like that.

lizard

@hotdog you cant really disagree with an interview? i mean its her life. you can not understand it or think she is weird or mean but its just her life and her experiences.

Bookgerm

@hotdog I feel you. If this wasn't an interview of Roxane Gay's mom, but an interview that popped up in the midst of a NYTimes Magazine or Atlantic article about women, people would respond differently. At the very least, there would be less fawning.

But I also sort of think that it's good to hear things from people we are more reluctant to criticize, like moms of people we like, just because otherwise it's so easy to be dismissive. I don't know. I agree and I disagree, like always.

tussock

@hotdog I think I can sympathize with this. There's an intense cultural construct around "moms" that I often find alienating, as someone whose life has not included that narrative so much.

MomBomb

@hotdog
Wow, I couldn't disagree with you more! First off, it's the Hairpin. Which means any contribution that you have as long as it is intelligent and thoughtful and well-intentioned is totally respected. Full Stop.

In fact, I find it offensive that you take for granted an assumption that "Moms cannot be taken issue with, because: "special status" Mom." Does that mean you also would never feel comfortable if it were someone's Dad? Are mothers some special dainty creatures and woe betide anyone who DARES to jostle her pedastle?

If you HAVE an issue... see some comments below, I think it's fair game to express it, in a respectful manner. Mom or not.

And, on the flip side, I for one am happy to hear from ladies about their moms -- or dads! But, not gonna lie here.... especially moms, and that does double for cool moms! I don't mind a bit 'o celebrating and props-due. This stylish lady with a baby from back in the day sounds very cool to me. Her dad sounds pretty amaze too.

I will posit this... in a world/society where too often women-of-a-certain-age's voices were not particularly listened to (outside of feminist & lesbian circles) I am happy to remedy that situation and say, lemme hear your story, lady! Big ups to your cool daughter who obvs has you to thank for some of her coolness.

I could probably take issue with some of her points of view... but nothing really strikes me, except: Go mom! And that hair/otherness story was awesome, way to go, lady. But if I did have some strong opinion, I wouldn't not express it because, y'know, someone's mom. We may be protective of our loved ones, but that's why respect is so important. If it was my (hypothetical as I'm child-free) kid's post, I wouldn't expect you to just "love all over it" because: "my kid".

As far as I'm concerned.... I'd like to hear about (and selectively/well-editedly, "hear from") all y'alls moms! Including my own, cause I don't know what the heck is up with that lady, but i know she has a story to tell (though, at least to date, anyway.... she has not told it to me.)

fondue with cheddar

@yeah-elle "thinkiness"...maybe you just watch too much Colbert. ;)

Lily Rowan

"The more you receive, the more you can and should give. Whatever I have become here, I became because of who I was in my country. The strength, the courage to fight, to know I was a free person, I didn’t know there was a ceiling, because I am Haitian. The nuns did a great job."

This is great.

apples and oranges

As long as women are not taken seriously, they will find their way, quietly, and become whatever they want to become. With black men, there is a pronounced opposition. When society starts taking women seriously, black women will have the same problems as black men.
This is giving me a lot of thoughts and feelings (and they aren't good ones). Your mom sounds like a really incredible woman.

Also I've never thought about how it must get lonely/isolated as an introverted stay at home mom. Dang.

adorable-eggplant

@kangerine Read the blogs! I read a ton of 'mom' blogs (not so much the polished, instagram ones) because it really is fascinating to see how people deal with that kind of isolation. Also, struggling with the identity maintaining bit. It's really interesting to read about other people's experiences.

Edited because it sounded like I read the blogs for schadenfreude reasons, but really they're just fascinating and often very joyful, too (first steps, words, etc.).

rosaline

@adorable-eggplant Sometimes I read the blogs and think about how the mommy blog itself is one way those mothers cope with the isolation. Even if they don't have a thousand readers, it's a place for them to write and think and discuss issues the way you can with other adults, so they don't feel like they talk to no one but children all day long. As much as I have qualms about the lifestyle-perfecting competitiveness of many mommy blogs, I think it is great that stay at home mothers have a place to express their thoughts.

adorable-eggplant

@rosaline Also, I think it's important that they still have a voice, because that's one of the big imbalances in the dividing labor between the public and private sphere. One person gets to have a direct impact on the outside world, whereas the other makes indirect contributions by influencing the children (who presumably will then go out and change the world) which seems like it would be frustrating. Blogs are a great way for somebody who lives primarily in the private sphere to still have some direct influence style interactions.

ClaudiaPutnam

@adorable-eggplant Interesting. I never felt isolated when I was home with my son. I didn't get to stay home as much as I wanted to, or for as long as I thought I'd contracted to with my ex-husband, the creep. Had I known this, I would not have had a kid. But. I thought RGay's mother said she was isolated because she did not participate in the neighborhood activities for a variety of reasons. In my case, I found it easy to stay connected. There were tons of things going on, and not silly suburban things, either. I lived at 8500 feet in a granola-y mountain town full of very fit climbers and skiers. We traded off childcare and did things in small groups. I had writing groups. I could go to the park and there would be someone there sitting on a bench who was likely to have just read some book I'd just read--Kathleen Norris's Dakota, maybe--and we'd get into a great discussion. I could go to the food co-op and see a dozen people I knew: chat, chat, chat. I launched a public focus school based on the Waldorf philosophy. I organized a group of towns to get County laws changed to counter the Federal mining act of 1872 so we could stop an intrusive gold mine. Stuff like that--serious contribution to the community--is hard for working moms to stay involved in. I know, because after my divorce, when my son was seven, I had to get a "real" job. I no longer had time to volunteer, and my participation in his school dropped off quite a bit as well. So of course everyone relies on the SAHMs, even the working parents, to make the environment for everyone's kids better. I don't think that's indirect, actually.

How does being in the "public sphere" add up to having a direct impact? I worked for Microsoft and IBM. I didn't see much getting done at those places. I worked for a nonprofit too. Not enough resources, not very worthwhile or satisfying when you know you could work all weekend, every weekend, and still not make a dent. I thought I had less voice in the corporate world (and knew more) than I had as a mom (where I knew less).

adorable-eggplant

This was great! Very rarely do I read something from/about SAHM-dom that doesn't give me stomach ulcers because NOOOO You're rolling the dice with your financial future! (not that she wasn't, but it worked out well, so whew, sigh of relief [assuming that her husband has good life insurance and/or Roxane and siblings are ready to support her in lieu of social security]). Refreshingly honest. I dug it.

I was raised by a working mom and a sometime stay-at-home, sometime working, sometime student dad, so it's interesting for me to see the more 'traditional' model cause it's so outside my experience.

And man, all kids should learn to cook. It's the handiest life skill.

deathcabforcutes

@adorable-eggplant I wasn't interested in cooking until I started dating someone who was. We both look forward to making dinner together, but I still don't like cooking when I'm home alone. I've asked my mom to teach me how to make my favourite dishes of hers, but she "doesn't use a recipe" and can't comprehend why I don't just know what I'm doing :(

ClaudiaPutnam

@adorable-eggplant Pretty sure she'd get her husband's social security benefits if he dies before she does.

stonefruit

What a lovely interview! Roxane, your mom seems like a righteous lady.

missedconnections

The point your mom made about being judged only by other women stuck out to me. Is that really how it is? Men understand that raising children and managing a home is its own (difficult) job, but women judge you for not taking on more? I think this ties back to the idea that women don't always support other women because we are too competitive, compare too much, deal with that stupid "having it all" pressure, etc. It would be interesting to get some father interviews in here too.

adorable-eggplant

@missedconnections It could also be sample bias. Plenty of men judge women who stay home, but those comments are often made around the water cooler so to speak (one gem I read on facebook, but that must've been a passive aggressive move in a spat? Or someone was just really, really thoughtless).

queenofbithynia

@missedconnections I don't think that's what she meant at all -- this isn't about men being supportive, it's about them knowing the value of women's home labor to them. She said, "men are not going to do what you are doing" -- meaning you, the stay-at-home wife. They aren't going to pick up that job if you lay it down, so they aren't going to criticize women for staying home against their own self-interest, because if women listened to and believed that criticism and stopped doing it, where would men be?

I disagree with much of what she says but I think that's a very astute comment.

missedconnections

@queenofbithynia you make a good point too. Maybe men are supportive because these are the jobs that they don't want. Having a stay at home wife might be a status symbol of sorts too? As in showcasing how well they can provide for the family all by themselves? I am 100 percent just thinking/typing out loud here, not basing this on anything. In any case, the fact that other women do look down on her for not working outside the home is a bummer.

TheBelleWitch

@missedconnections My mom stayed at home and she'd say that women judged her more harshly than men. Part of that could be the sample bias thing and part could be that the men she interacted with just expected wives to stay at home so they didn't judge her for doing the "normal" thing. But she said she often got snide or clueless comments from women who worked that would seem to fit into the competitiveness idea.

I've certainly seen my father's female colleagues dismiss my mom - not rudely exactly, but they just sort of ignore her once they find out she stayed home. And maybe they're not trying to be rude, but just don't feel like they have anything in common, or they've stereotyped her as not interesting, or something.

ETA: I typed before seeing queenofbithynia's comment and I think that's a good point too, I didn't read it at first that way but now I see it.

adorable-eggplant

@missedconnections I think you're probably right on about the status symbol thing, which is why a lot of the complaints from men come in the form of humblebrags: "Gawd, my wife loves shopping with all that cash I earn."

bureaucrab

@TheBelleWitch @missedconnections My mom stayed home from the time my little brother was born until he started school, and she said women judged the hell out of her. In one case the working mother of two kids on our street berated her for "holding back the cause" but then wanted my mom to watch her kids during the day too (to which my mom told her "One adult to watch four kids under age 4, all day, is not enough supervision, and anyway I am staying home to raise my children, not babysit yours.") And being an engineer, when she did go back to work she dealt with STEM-culture sexism all day long.

Sassafrass

@adorable-eggplant This is a great example. And the statements, (at least the ones I hear most often from men I work with that have stay at home wives) are always "*my wife*"; never their first name. It makes my blood boil. I know their names, I've met a lot of them. Could you please just refer to her by her name? "Jane had me out at the mall again last weekend." "Jill wants to redo the kitchen, again.." But that wouldn't convey the status, and I think that is exactly the point.

adorable-eggplant

@Sassafrass 'My wife' = this extension of meeee. It could be worse: it could be 'wifey'.

Better to Eat You With

@bureaucrab I have a number of acquaintances who say that women who work judge them ferociously, but those same women say terrible, terrible things about mothers who don't stay home—worse than any I hear from working mothers. I don't have kids, so I don't have a personal horse in this race, but among people I know, the SAHMs are much, much nastier (and more defensive) about these choices than the working moms.

Sassafrass

@adorable-eggplant i.e. not a real person... omg, 'wifey'. ugh.

adorable-eggplant

@Better to Eat You With My very unscientific polling of mom internet forums bears this out. However, like I mentioned, sample bias here too.

I think folks get defensive about their choices and justify them by tearing down others. It's never pretty. I think the pendulum of social pressure is swinging away from 'stay at home' and more towards 'have a career'. I'm sure it will snap back at some point.

adorable-eggplant

@Sassafrass Almost as bad as 'DH'.

deathcabforcutes

@TheBelleWitch My mom has always said "If you can't raise your own children, what's the point?" and I believed that was a good philosophy. Now that I'm an adult in a long-term relationship, I am frozen by indecision and will probably never have children so I don't have to feel guilty either way.

Sassafrass

@adorable-eggplant gah, yes! LOL It took me a looong time of blog reading to finally figure out what that meant.

deathcabforcutes

@Sassafrass Have you also noticed that working fathers say they need to "babysit" their children when their wife is busy or out of town? I think that's even worse!

missedconnections

@TheBelleWitch @adorable-eggplant @bureaucrab So it's stay at home women versus work outside the home women? How bizarre and sad. Again, I wonder if a stay at home dad gets crap like from work outside the home dads. (I'm guessing yes.) I'm reading "Lean In" right now and Sheryl Sandburg makes the point that women who work outside the home often don't support each other because they feel like they are always competing - i.e., there is only room for one of us (the token female) to move up, not all of us. I doubt that stay at home women feel the same way, but who knows.

I will say that if I'm ever talking about my significant other at work I say "my boyfriend" instead of his name just because I'm a private person and I like to keep my work life and my personal life very separate.

Also, I typed "adorable-eggpant" at first and I think you should consider a name change.

adorable-eggplant

@deathcabforcutes But my parents DID raise me! I fondly remember going to work with my mom (seriously, those automatic stamp affixers with the water tube and sponge are the best toy a child could have) and tagging along to class with my dad sometimes. And my amazing preschool teacher who helped teach me to read and schooled me on tie my shoe [she asked one day if I knew how to tie my shoes when we were going to play outside, and I was like, "Duh, of course I know that." And then pretended to tie them by twirling my laces together. I told my mom this story and she was like, "Hahaha, yeah that's so you."] We're all really close and not less so because she was away some parts of the day.

@Sassafrass At least it's not as bad as the abbreviation for 'Save the Date'...

adorable-eggplant

@missedconnections Eggpants: uncomfortable or convenient snack?

missedconnections

@adorable-eggplant depends on the time of the day and the weather.

Sassafrass

@deathcabforcutes Yes, and I agree. Aren't they *your* children?

@missedconnections Yes, I totally understand wanting to be private. Like you I rarely address a person I'm dating by name, they are usually just "person I'm dating/dated" at work. I think it irritates me when some of the men I work with do it, because I know their names already. And the statements are very rarely, "My wife and I did something fun this weekend or whatever" they are almost always, "well, my wife made me..." or "I'd like to retire, but my wife wants a new car". I can't explain it very well but it feels really dismissive of their personhood, and very much makes them seem like a possession.

@adorable-eggplant Truth.

adorable-eggplant

@deathcabforcutes My dad would've hit the roof if someone suggested he was 'babysitting'. He was raised by a single mom and takes his parenting really, really seriously. He is 100% a dad, right down to the don't mess with Texas dads t-shirt he purchased in the 80s. Not one of those dudes who has never changed a diaper or put a meal on the table.

@Sassafrass Retirement! That is 100% the benefit of leaning in. My mom is yooooouung but totally almost ready to retire, but loves what she does so may just keep on keeping on. I am, obviously, quite jealous.

ClaudiaPutnam

@Sassafrass Seems odd that you're upset about "my wife." I hear women say "my husband" all the time. What's the difference?

LeafySeaDragon

@missedconnections the worst is "the boss"

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Jackysaurus Rex

As a fellow Haitian woman I have to say I'm very excited to read something from the perspective of a Haitian mother. I also don't think I will have children cause I'm just paralyzed by the fear of the different choices. So I would rather not have kids so I don't have to deal with them.

Mal Pal@facebook

This is the best thing I read all week. Your mom is amazing.

Maggie Magpie

THIS WAS SO GOOD. I just cannot even explain it.

hadiyah143

Those same women say terrible, terrible things about mothers who don't stay home. - Mallory Fleming

commanderbanana

This was really interesting! One thing that jumped out at me, though, was her statement that Haitian women are equal. I'd like to hear more about that.

gfrancie

I really liked how she touched on some of the isolation that comes with being a stay at home Mom. (especially in those early years.) Some people are lucky when it comes to finding their community when their kids are babies. I recall feeling out of place when my son was small. It was that leap into the middle class and being in a situation where nearly all of the Moms were older than me, and had a different context/background. (I found myself preferring to talk to the nannies.)

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4MMom

This interview was wonderful. I have been a SAHM,"opt-out" Mom for 8 years now, realizing that others were raising our daughters while we fought to work 40 plus & 60 plus hours a week for what?? My husband and I are both the oldest children in each of our families, both parents held full-time jobs and the responsibility of our sibilings fell on our backs once we were old enough to assume those duties plus household duties. We both agreed that we did not want this to happen within our household, therefore I "retired" once our youngest turned 1. It has been interesting, boring, lonely, exhausting, wonderful, crazy at times but there is no job in the world that would be worth missing out on watching my daughters grow-up. The clincher of your interview was when your Mother said "She wanted you to grow up to be good people." It was like you had asked me the same question, that is the 1 thing I strive for and even on the days I'd like to pull my hair out because they are all making me crazy, ultimately, I know my children have benefited because of our choice in my staying home for them.
I completely understand the need, in some situations, for a two-income household. We are by-far "rich",but we have made adjustments to make our situation work for us. Again, your article was wonderful & kudos to your parents.

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This topic has always been one of my favorite subjects to read about. I have found your post to be very convincing and informative. .
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Only women, because men know better. Men are not going to do what you are doing. Even though your dad used to tell me he would switch anytime I wonder how long that would last. But he felt he missed out, especially now, when he sees my relationship with you guy. Gatwick Airport Parking

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