Celebrating Five Years of Public Stupidity, The Post

Today is the fifth birthday of this website. The very first post I wrote which has since been removed along with almost a half a year of posts ended with this poem:

Carnation milk is the best in the land;
Here I sit with a can in my hand.
No tits to pull, no hay to pitch,
You just punch a hole in the son of a bitch.

By everyone’s favorite commenter, Anonymous.

I included this poem on that first post because I didn’t know yet what I wanted to write about. I started this website as a place to throw around my creative energy, and this poem was one of the only ones I knew from memory (BYU should be proud of its alumni!). In the beginning my logic went like this: who wants to read about the sex I’m having with soap stars when I can recite poetry about milk cartons? The bigger story that never got told was why a soap star was sleeping with someone who was reciting poetry about milk cartons.

All of this is to say that under different circumstances this website could have turned into one dedicated to cows. I could have been a cow-blogger.

To celebrate this anniversary I wanted to open up comments around a discussion that has a lot to do with what has happened here over the last year, a topic I will be discussing on a panel at SxSW in Austin in less than two weeks. Never did I imagine that the website that once got me fired would one day bring in enough money that it would support my family. Never did I imagine that by the age of thirty I would be working my dream job.

At the same time I still consider myself first and foremost a stay-at-home-mom. That probably doesn’t compute to some people and I’m sure it doesn’t fit some people’s definition of what a stay-at-home-mom is supposed to be, and that’s fine, whatever. I still spend the majority of my time awake with my daughter, I still take her on long, leisurely walks in the morning and sit down at the table with her for every meal. My life after making this website ad-supported is not much different than my life before except that I now have adult company all day long. And I don’t think I would have agreed to do this if changing my life that way had been required.

A couple days ago I got an email from a reader named Sara (hi Sara!) who asked if I’d comment on what law professor Linda Hirshman recently said on “Good Morning America” about how it’s a mistake for educated women to stay at home with their kids. It’s not a new argument, and my first reaction is: she’s trying to sell something. I understand the basis of her argument, that by choosing to stay at home with our kids instead of using our education in a professional environment we are waving our middle fingers at the work feminists have been doing over the last century. But I don’t agree with it.

So I went and read some of her work online, and she’s always careful to point out that by claiming that we’re making a choice to stay at home we are only copping out, that somehow the choice to stay at home is invalid. Wow! As a mother I’ve never heard that before! My choices are wrong! She should write a book about how she knows which choice is the best one. Oh wait! SHE HAS!

My reaction then, I guess, is that here is my middle finger and here is me waving it at Linda Hirshman. This IS my choice. It is mine. I want to be at home with my child, not because my husband said I had to want it, or because my mom said that I had to want it, or because I am blinded by society’s bias toward women and their role in the family. I had the option of going to work outside the home or staying at home with my kid and I made a choice. I don’t think I’ve ever done anything more fundamentally feminist than exercising that choice.

The real crime here is not that educated women are choosing to stay at home with their children, it’s that many women who want to stay at home aren’t able to because of their circumstances. I know how lucky I am to have options. And it is in those options that I as a woman have power, power to choose the direction of my life, power to wave my middle finger at anyone who thinks it is their right, their moral compulsion, or their obligation to a seemingly fascist ideal to tell me how to live my life.

What I want to know in comments is what did your mother do? Did your mother stay at home? Did she work? And how did you feel about what she did? If you could change anything about what she did what would that be?

Also, what do you hope your daughters grow up to do?

  • ChaseNKids

    My parents were divorced so my mother had no choice but to work. I don’t think it did any damage to my mental stability if you don’t count those times when I was a teenager and drank moonshine from a straw.
    (I was raised in Alabama.)

    I’m only kidding.

    The problem I have with the entire stay at home/ work from home Mom debate is the reasons women give for their choices. The main attribute about being a “feminist” ( I HATE THAT WORD) is that we take advantage of our choices. Your choice is what is best for YOUR family and vice versa.

    My husband worked TWO jobs (totat of almost 80 hours a week) for me to stay at home with our children. He was missing out on watching the joy of our kids grow up and that broke my heart. This man never complained, nor did her express his sadness. He just did it so we could eat.

    I made the decision to go back to work so we could raise our children together. He stays home with the young ones that aren’t in school and goes to work in the evenings. I am fortunate to have a very flexible, high paying job so I don’t miss out on field trips and the joys of watching our children grow.

    We are truly raising our children together.

    When he was working for me to stay at home, we both were missing out. I was missing out because I was feeling like a single parent and he was working and hardly home. We were two sleep deprived zombies— hardly the basis for happy parenting.

    Family should always come first and sometimes that means working to help put food on the table and making the necessary changes to your ‘ideal’ way of life.

    I hope my daughters will take away the fact that being a woman is a beautiful thing. There is no one “RIGHT” way to raise a family, there is only a loving way. Doesn’t mean it will be easy (you try drinking moonshine through a straw!) but when there is the pure basis of love within a family everyone thrives.

  • conebaby

    My mother was a teacher – she is actually retiring this year after helping educate thousands and thousands of students. She is a speech pathologist and she has seen the worst of the worst – she buys clothes and hygene products for her students AND their families, she gives the kids money for popcorn and baked goods and lunches, and she teaches them how to improve their speech so that they can succeed – and more importantly – so that they can feel good about themselves. Because my mother’s working hours were so close to my own school hours, I never felt the “working mom” absence. Plus my father was very hands on in terms of cooking, shopping, etc. so I felt I had PARENTS – not a “mom” and a “dad”.

    The question is not how I would be different if my mother would have stayed home. The question is how different the lives of her students would have been. The ones who come back and say “You believed in me Mrs. Uticone and that helped me become who I am today”. I could never imagine being so selfish as to think that I needed my mother’s attention more than these children – whose mothers spent their welfare checks on whiskey and pot, so they couldn’t give their child a quarter for a bag of popcorn on popcorn day, or participate in the classroom secret santa.

    It’s incredibly pompous to imply a choice to stay home is not a choice at all. But I’m sure it sells lots and lots of books. Is this author also a mother? Because it seems to me like she’s both educated (in spite of her opinions) and WORKING.

  • Nifle

    My best memories are of my mother being home with me when I was very young. How else was I suppose to learn about sex, but by watching soap operas everyday with my mom sitting beside me on the couch? I won’t ever forget her vaccumming or washing dishes, teaching me about life through the little things. Unfortunately, as I got older other circumstances forced her to take a job outside of the home, so my brother wasn’t as fortunate as my sister and I were.

    I wish that when I have kids that I am lucky enough to be able to stay home with them and share in their wonder of the world. I have as many degrees as fingers, two of them master degrees, and I will always feel that a stay at home parent is one of the most noblest of titles that any woman or man can achieve.

  • Laura Horacefield

    Hi. I have been reading your wonderful life experiences and stories for about a year now. I have never really known what to say in an email so I am jumping at the chance to comment.

    Question: My mother was a teacher. She was home when I was home in the afternoons. She stopped teaching for a while after my sister was born because my sister was always sick. It was great. I wouldn’t have it any other way.

    As for me, I am attempting to have children. Until this feat is accomplished, I will work full time. Hopefully if this is accomplished, my husband and I would be able to cut back on things and I would be able to stay at home or at least work part time for adult interaction.

    One last thing, I really enjoyed seeing your pictures and reading about Amsterdamn. I spent some time there a few years back and it was a lovely city with lovely people. My favorite memory was the van Gough Museum. Hope you enjoyed it. Oh! Leta is growing so quickly, she is such a cute little girl.

  • Julia

    Happy Anniversary! My mom worked as an attorney all the time that I was growing up and I was an after-school care kind of kid…sometimes I was a little resentful, because she was rarely around for my sports, etc. As I got older, however, I realized how proud I was of her accomplishments. When I was 20, she ran for County Supervisor in Santa Cruz County, California and won and she is now in her second term. I’m so proud of who she is and I know I’ve learned a lot from her because of the work she does.

    I work more than full time in finance, but would really like to stay home, at least for awhile, after we have kids. My husband is a Realtor, so I’m hoping we can both juggle work and babies when the time comes. I think you have a great combination, Heather, because you’re staying home with Leta, but also working and supporting your family; that’s my goal! Good job.
    ~Julia

  • ash

    My mom went to work and I don’t think it bothered her. She was always able to get off when anything big was happening with either my brother or I. I don’t think she would do it differently either. I mean if she could have stayed home I know she would have because she has never really liked her job. But she was always lucky enough to get off when it was needed. I also wouldn’t have it anyother way. I love my mother, but I know now that she had to go to work and she loved me and that is why she went to work.

    I home my daughter does whatever she thinks is best. As long as she loves her children the way my mom does me, I know things will be ok.

  • courtney

    Good to see the comments back.

    My mom stayed home with me until I was three. Then, she got a job as a customer service representative. She’s still with the company (24 years later). After she went to work, I stayed with my grandma everyday until I went to school at age 4. Grandma was the next best thing to mom. I loved her so much.

    Growing up, I always wished that my mom were around a lot more. I had to be very independent at a very early age. I was very much a latch-key kid, and I hated it. I wanted my mom to be around more. I’ve never told her this, and I never will. It would break her heart.

    I know that this is a big reason that I (a college-educated feminist) left my job to stay home with my son. It’s hard, in every way that it can possibly be. But it’s the best thing I’ve ever done, and I feel very lucky to be doing it.

  • http://www.jenguin.com jenguin

    My mother was a stay at home mom. My feelings are mixed, mostly because she never returned to any sort of 9-5 job. I’m fully aware that keeping a house and family (she takes care of my grandfather) is a full time job in of itself… however, she has really missed out on creating any sort of extended friendships with anyone. This is where my feelings get mixed on the whole stay at home thing – I wish that when I hit high school that she’d have gotten a job or at least an intense hobby. Something she enjoyed now that I was able to get places on my own, etc. I value every moment she spent with me, from the games to even the nagging to clean my room. I don’t have any siblings, so I spent a lot of time with her (while my dad was at work) – so she’s been my best friend my whole life. If I could change anything? She would have gotten a job or joined a local group when I was in high school. Or hell, let’s go farther back – she would have had another kid. Maybe things would have been different if there’d been two. Who knows. As for the future question – if I have daughters, I hope they do what they want to do. They’ll be loved no matter what. (Ok well, if they go on a killing rampage I might have an issue with that.)

    And even though you didn’t ask – I would not rule out being a stay at home mother myself.

  • sabst79

    My mom worked for as long as I can remember. We immigrated to this country from Russia and my parents basically had to start from scratch. Im grateful for everything they did, especially for paying for mine and my brothers’ college education, but sometimes I do wish that my mom would’ve been home more. I have a great career now and a job that I love, but if I ever have kids and the opportunity to stay at home with them, I would definitely do it!

  • Chez

    My mother was, and still is, a workaholic and I resent her for this on a semi-regular basis. Her reasoning was that she grew up poor and wanted us to have all the things she never had. And I did – I had lots of things that my friends didn’t but all I wanted was a mother to tuck me in bed.

    Because of the way I grew up – staying at home alone after school from second grade on, being late for everything because my mother either couldn’t leave work on time or couldn’t find someone to give me a ride, sometimes making my own dinner if my dad wasn’t home yet either – I will never, EVER work if I have chidren.

    My issues with my mother working so much have also affected my decisions about having children. I’ll be 30 this year and right now, I’d rather work. However, I have two degrees and if the day comes when I change my mind about having children, I’d have no problems staying at home. And if I have a daughter, I’d want her to do what makes her happy and secure.

  • http://blueshutters.blogspot.com/ Bahiyyih

    First of all, I read your website compulsively. My desk job is so boring, and sometimes it’s the only thing that keeps me from audibly snoring or throwing things. The cast and crew of my job thank you.

    Secondly, I am the oldest of my mother’s five daughters. My mother hast a master’s degree in education, and she has stayed home with my sisters and I since I was born. She is now 50 years old and has decided to go back to school and get a counseling degree and get back into the workforce. I do not feel at liberty to discuss all of the things that she went through staying home during the past 23 years. I do, however, wish to make it clear that my parents made this decision together, and that both of them have made and continue to make many sacrifices to this end. My mother had been looked down on from so many sides my whole life because of her choice to stay home with her family. She so gracefully tolerates the grocery store check-out women who say things like, “You just never got that boy you wanted, did you?” Both of my parents have driven home to fact that they only wanted us to have the correct number of fingers and toes, that they are happy that we are female, and that they want to see us do whatever makes us happy. My parents have worked very hard to provide for us in all ways. I was sitting down with my parents about a month ago, and Dad was talking about how difficult it was for my mother when she had so many of us small and at home without day-time support (he worked out of the home all day, every day). He told me not to be surprised if a crew of Mighty Maids showed up at my door whenever I get married and decide to have children.

    I’ve been reading your site since before the ads, and I see the fact that they are there as a triumph. You guys are able to do something amazing. Leta gets to have both of her parents, and neither of you has to weather the burden of raising a darling and needy little person all day long alone. Lucky bastards, and FOR THE LOVE OF GOD, DON’T STOP WRITING!!! :)

  • AJ

    Ok I admit I didn’t read all 1500 comments before writing my own, but I scanned through a lot of them, and it seems like the theme here is that the ones that did not stay at home didn’t because they didn’t have the choice (for financial reasons usually) vs. the mothers that did stay at home because they chose to.

    It’s interesting how you perceive the situation, depending on which “side” you are on. The stay-at-home mothers feel threatened by the mothers out in the workforce, because the working moms will say the SAHMs are wasting their time, education, etc. or whatever is in that book that was mentioned. The ones that choose to work, though, feel like they are being “bad mothers” because they aren’t with their kids all the time, and receive criticism for that from the SAHMs. It really seems like a lose-lose situation sometimes.

    My mother worked full-time until I was a teenager (when she was old enough to retire). Both of my parents worked, but I never felt like they “weren’t there” for me growing up. I have many fond memories of family vacations, playing games with them, sitting at the dinner table together, and so on.

    I have a friend that wants to be SAHM because she thinks you are “cheating” your children otherwise, and she believes you miss out on everything and can’t be as close to your children unless you stay at home with them. But I completely disagree– I think that you can stay at home or work, your choice, and NEITHER is the “correct” solution. There are benefits and drawbacks to both situations. Personally, I hope to continue to work when I have a family, because I find my job interesting and challenging, and being at home all day sounds boring to me.

    Growing up, I never went home to an empty household; I went to a babysitter’s house. There was a woman on my street that kept 8-12 children every day before and after school until their parents picked them up. Some of my best childhood memories occurred while at the babysitter’s, playing with the other kids there. If I had come home to just my mom, I think I wouldn’t have had as many friends when I was younger and would have been too sheltered. I hope I can find a similar situation for my children, when that time comes.

    As others have said here, I want my daughter(s) to be happy. That’s all that matters.

  • http://electrolicious.com Ariel

    My mother worked her ass off as a licenced midwife for most of my childhood. My father loves to tell the story of finding me one morning on the phone at age 7, and asking me what I was doing. “I’m arranging my childcare,” I answered. That was how it worked when mom had to rush off to deliver someone’s baby at 6am on a school day.

    Granted, I hated it the whole time. Other people’s mom’s made them cookies! I was a lonely latchkey kid.

    Now, however, I appreciate it immeasurably. I’m endlessly inspired by all that my mother managed to do while raising me (nursing school! midwifery school! starting a business! founding a national organization!), and I have to go back every once and a while and pat the younger me on the head and say “buck up, kid: she loves you and this is part of how she’s showing it … by being an inspiration to you, even if you don’t know it now.”

    As we hurdle towards having a kid of our own, I wrestle with the issues. I think I’d go crazy staying at home (my periods of freelancing from home have been … unhealthy for me), but I don’t like the alternatives. I have no answers. But I’m happy to see comments back!

  • Meagan

    My mom was a SAHM until her youngest child (me) started school. At that point, she got a job as a teacher’s aid so that she would be able to be at home once we were out of school for the day. The fact that she made the choice to stay home with her kids (and that my dad was willing to work the extra hours to make that a possibility) meant a lot–it let my brother and I know that we were their top priority.
    She is a college educated woman who always made a point of telling me that I could be and do anything I wanted, so I know that she made a conscious decision to be a SAHM–it wasn’t from a lack of options.

  • http://www.paulinechu.blogspot.com paulinechu

    My mother worked because she had to, and it broke her heart. To this day, any signs of weakness and instability in me brings back feelings of her inner guilt. My parents immigrated here in the early 70′s to give us the lifestyle and opportunities that we now experience, and knowing the sacrifice they made in their lives by leaving their home, going to a place where they will always be judged by their accent now breaks my own heart.

    I want my daughter to remember what our mothers and grandmothers went through for us to be where we are today. To fight for our right to choose what to do with our lives; to fight for the right to even have those choices; and to always remember that those choices are really choices, and no one – not society, not colleagues, not guilt – should dictate how we make those choices.

  • Sabine

    My mom stayed home until I was 7, then started nursing school. It was WONDERFUL having her at home, and it was hard when she started school, then work. During summers I wasn’t allowed to go outside because “people would know” that I was home alone. I’m glad that my mother learned a trade and worked, because it allowed her the choice to leave my father later. If I could change anything about my mother’s choices it would have been for her to stay home longer before starting school.

    If I ever have a daughter, my hope for her will be to find what she loves and grab onto it with both hands.

  • http://barbie2be.blogspot.com barbie2be

    my mother went back to work immediately after all of her children were born. we were poor and she HAD to… but, she would have chosen to go back had we not needed the money. not because she wanted to use her education, because she barely had a high school diploma but because she didn’t want to be around us kids.

    i think it’s great that you are able to stay home with Leta and still support your family. you are able to teach her the things that you AS HER PARENT think are important for her to learn, and you are able to experience the wonder that is your child as she grows and changes every day.

    i also agree with you that it is a travesty in this country that many women who would make the choice to stay home with their kids can’t because of their economic situations.

  • http://www.iprettymuchhateeverything.com Torrie

    I’m sure I’m not really saying anything that hasn’t already been said in the previous 1200 + comments, but I thought I’d give you my two cents.

    My mother was a single mother who had to work.
    She still managed to spend a lot of time with me, but I remember thinking that it still wasn’t enough.

    When I was about 8 or 9 my mother became very involved with our temple. She volunteered, joined the choir, and started teaching at the Hebrew school on Sundays. I remember developing jealousy and hate toward the temple. How dare the temple take up my precious time with my mother!

    My point is this. I don’t think there is one right answer.I think it depends on the child’s personality, and the mother’s personality. For me, I would have preferred if my mother had stayed home. My husband, on the other hand, benefited from being AWAY from his mother.

    I take issue with anyone who says staying home with your child is setting feminism back.
    Stay at home moms have THE HARDEST and MOST IMPORTANT job in the world. Second only to teachers.

    My husband has known since the day he met me that I plan on staying home with our child(ren) and he agrees that it’s the best thing (for us).

    I hope my daughter ends up doing something she loves and is passionate about.
    Life is too short to hate what you do for a living.
    Your job should be a way to SUPPORT your life, it shouldn’t BE your life.

    On a different note,congratulations and thank you Heather for entertaining me for five years and for connecting me with so many wonderful people.

  • FringeOnTop

    Wow, lucky number fifteen hundred and uhh . . . what number am I?

    My mother worked and was the main wage earner for the family, especially after my father, a carpenter, severely hurt his back when I was in the first grade. So for about seven years my father stayed home, which was wonderful for me since we are pretty much the same person with the same interests and the same sense of humor. It sure as hell beat going to the babysitter’s house where her daughter bullied me every day (side-note: bullying daughter has been my best friend for fifteen years now)

    So, I think she did the right thing for all of us. She supported me and my father finacially, and she was always there for me emotionally, especially after I hit puberty and really started needing a woman’s guidance.

    As for my own daughter, if and when I have her, I want her to do what makes sense for her and her family.

  • http://www.honest-planet.com Jen S

    I have a master’s degree in English and I’m a stay-at-home mom and freelance graphic designer. After the birth of my first child, I remained working, though I was able to go to part time. Last year I had my daughter and I made the decision to stay home with my kids after having her.

    I’ve thought a lot about this very topic. Do I feel it’s a waste of a good education to stay at home with my kids? Abso-fucking-lutely not. Do I feel like I have SO much to share with my kids, to educate them and let them have the influence of a mother who is not only intelligent but creative and fun and willing to spend time with them (rather than shuttle them off to be cared for by someone else)? Yes, of course.

    My own mother worked pretty much my entire life; my brother and I were latch-key kids, and I hated it and always wished I’d had more time with my mom. I think it would have perhaps made me closer to her than I am today. (Not necessarily, but I like to think it might have helped.)

    Happy 5th anniversary, Heather. You have inspired me more than you will ever know. Congratulations on finding your dream job.

  • http://www.area151.net Sherri W.

    My mom stayed at home, and my sister Heather (who holds a law degree of her own, so Linda Hirshman can just suck it) chose to stay at home with her two kids. OTOH, if an when I have kids, I expect to head back to work. It really is about choice, and respecting and honoring each other for the choices we make.

    Like I said, I don’t expect to be a SAHM, but the evening after the first “Mommy wars” story hit GMA, I called my Heather on the phone (as opposed to you here, Heather, hostess and blogger extraordinaire) just to tell her how much I love and admire her.

  • mediaguy74

    My mother was a stay at home mom. I wouldnt have had it any other way. She was there for our school plays, concerts, and even helped out at school. We weren’t raised by nannies. I have cousins who were and you can see the difference in the relationship between the kids and the parents.

    I salute you for your decision. To hell with some expert plugging her book. Parenting is the #1 job and the hardest job. Its rewarding. Its demanding, but you wouldnt trade it for anything. You and Jon have quite a nice life for yourselves. One that many people would kill to have. I give you both alot of credit. Your daughter will benefit in the long run from having you both around.

  • http://www.mydogharriet.blogspot.com meghant

    Great post. Happy anniversary.

    My mother went back to work as a teacher when I was in the third grade. My older sister and I went home every day after school. I don’t recall disliking it terribly unless my sister was activley beating on me. Which happened.

    My two younger sisters went to latchkey and daycare. I think my mother felt very guilty leaving my younger sisters in the care of someone else. On the other hand she was pretty sick of kids when she got home from work.

    When I was in the 5th grade, I took over as latch-key provider for my parents, which I definitely did not like. I was expected to be home to take care of them every day after school until I finally got a (paying) job in high school. People, if you exploit your kids for child care, you should at least pay them a small allowance. But I’m not bitter or anything….

    Really, we didn’t have a lot of money, so I suppose it was just what had to be done. I always felt my mother never got over the guilt regarding my two younger sisters.

    I work full time, and we have great daycare (grandma and grandpa) and will soon put Maggie in a day care center / preschool a few days a week. We are lucky. I would love to work part time (2-3 days a week) but it’s just not in the cards.

    I want my daughter Maggie to go to college, learn how to think critically, and then do whatever she wants. If she has children and wants to stay home with them, I would support her 100%. As a working mother I am often envious of women who stay home, and there is a lot of guilt for working and spending so much time away from her. I hope she can feel better about her choices than I do!

  • louisa

    I was going to start my comment like everyone else with ‘ my mum ‘ but I am bucking the trend and have just started with this .

    Right my Mum…. what can you say she is a super power unto herself. I grew up with both my parents working. My Mum started her own business before I was born. She stayed in that office until roughly 2 days before giving birth and then 2 weeks after took me in and went back to work.
    I can safely say it was never a detrimental thing for me. I do admit however that there were times when I would see other kids going home to Mum being there with milk and cookies and helping them with homework from the moment they came in the door. And then I would say get a grip.

    I had a slightly different upbringing on top of my Mum working full time with a business we grew up knowing that our Dad was going to die of massive heart failure sooner rather then later ( incedently the old guy lasted about 15 years longer then he should of ) so we had a huge amount of responsibilty thrown at us as young kids.
    I guess I am a different voice from most on here I did not have a stay at home Mum and as I have grown up and become a adult i look back and think in no way did it effect me badly that both my parents worked and that my younger brother and sister and I being latch key kids was a bad thing. We are all very productive members of society; one works for NATO one is becoming a primary school teacher and one works in a high end accounts job.
    It has to say something about our up bringing that our parents managed to raise 3 decent kids whilst working full time. Do I think things could have been better if my Mum OR Dad were stay at home parents…. will never know and well do not want to know as my life has turned out pretty well from the way I was raised.

    I do believe there should be a choice for BOTH PARENTS ! I do believe that pressure should not be placed on anyone to work or stay home. But the reality of it is that it is very hard for someone to be able to live a comfotrable life ( nothing lavish ) and be a stay at home Mum or Dad is very difficult and taxing.

    I have admiration for stay at home parents but equally admiration for those parents who make the choice to work and raise their children to the best of their ability

    There is no solid rule book to parenting you go with it as it comes to you, you create your own rules and work with it.

    ( Happy 5 years Heather from the UK very happy you opened up the comments for this one , you have started a debate over here in my office )
    Apologies for the ramble and bad spelling

  • kj

    I am a full-time professional who dreams of being a SAHM. I want to be at home with my children, but because so many women work, dual income households drive up the cost of living. I work because I have to, thanks to the progress us gals have made in the workforce. How’s that for irony?

    That sounds bitter, it’s not, but it does sting a little. I also made a choice, and that choice was to provide my children with a better life than I had. That desire is stronger than the want to stay home with my children.

    To answer your question, both of my parents worked full time, and neither had a college education. This created a neverending struggle to make ends meet. I constantly tell my children they’re going to college whether they like it or not. They can pursue careers, stay at home or wander the planet — but at least it will be their choice.

  • http://tim-o-rama.blogspot.com tim

    When I was in second grade we had to write a report on what our parents did. I went on and on about my dad’s job and mentioned that my mom “laid around all day”. Mainly because, she would go back to sleep after shipping us off on the school bus everyday.

    I would of probably forgotten this, but my mom, as a good mother should, constantly brings it up.

    When I read my report, my teacher reminded me of all the favors my mom would make for the class at holidays, and asked me to find out more.

    My mom was a cosmologist before my sister and I were born, but stopped working after I was born. She did lots of things around the house, things I didn’t realize until living alone. I never appreciated all the cleaning, cooking and other small things she did around the house. I enjoyed having a mom at home after school, there to pick me up if I ever got sick. I never thought less of her for not having a profession. Most of my friends had stay at home mom’s as well, so I just thought that’s how it was supposed to be.

    I’ve always said that once I have kids, I would like for at least one parent to be at home and not working full time. Having been impressioned by “Mr. Mom” at a young age, I have always hoped I would find a beautiful woman so dedicated to her profession, that she would prefer for me to stay home with kids. While I realize that this will probably never happen, I still hang on to hope.

    I would hope that if I have daughters some day, they would be lucky enough to have the choice to either work or stay at home with kids. I don’t think it matters what a woman does, as long as she has the option to make up her own mind on the subject.

    I don’t think less of any woman who chooses to stay at home, if anything, I am probably envious.

    I mean really, who wants to work?!?

    p.s. Happy Birthday Dooce.com

  • http://chelleann77.livejournal.com/ Michelle

    My mother worked. My parents were also divorced when I was 5. I never gave it much thought until I lived with my grandparents for a few years after the divorce. My grandmother was always home, and took me to junior theater and ballet and swimming and a wide variety of other things. Things kids in day care after school didn’t ever get to do. If I could choose now I would want my mom home when I got home from school. _If_ I have kids I want to be in a job that has a flexible enough schedule to allow me to at least be there when they come home. Prior to the divorce I went to day care or preschool. I liked school and I liked day care. it was pretty much all I had known. If I had to put my kids in preschool or day care I would, but hopefully only for half a day.

  • http://lessofpaige.blogspot.com Paige

    First, Happy blogiversary. That’s very exciting.

    Second, wow, what a topic. I think had you picked any. other. topic I wouldn’t have been so inclined to comment.

    My mom stayed at home. My family made sacrifices so she could stay home. I love that she stayed home, she was always there, which was really nice. There were times throughout my growing up she worked- in phases, but it never really lasted.

    I am coming to the point in my life where this decision will be mine, soon. I LOVE my job- I am a social worker, and work every day to advocate for and save kids. I’ve worked incredibly hard on my education and career, and adore what I do. On the other hand, I really really want to be the one to stay home and raise my children (when I have them). I want both lives. And working part time, which is what I will likely do, at first feels like the perfect solution- I can be both places at once! And we can afford to eat! And live somewhere! At second glance, I feel like I’ll be robbed of everything- only home part time, and at work part time, never fully experiencing either world.

    This conflict? Rips at me. Never mind the fact that we’ll probably need the money so it won’t be a choice, and I’ll have to try and explain that to my mother who tells me I need to trust God for the money so I can do the right thing by staying home full time.

    I don’t know what the right answer is. I’m not sure there is one.

    For my daughters? I just want them to have the choice. I want them to grow up in a society where both working out of home moms and stay at home working moms are praised for the incredibly important, difficult and honorable jobs they do.

  • http://writeonmegs.blogspot.com Megan

    Hi Dooce,

    My mom went back to work 6 months after she had me. She was a social worker in a nursing home (just retired this year). I am an only child, and I’m sure it wasn’t easy for her and my dad to put me into daycare. However, it really helped socialize me with other kids and I think it helped make me into the outgoing person I am today.

    As a kid, I remember wishing my mom would stay home in the summers so I could play in a softball league with the other girls. Now looking back, I was given a lot of opportunties I wouldn’t of had if she hadn’t worked because that flow of income was there. It’s all a matter of give and take, and I think seeing her work has geared me up to be a strong, single, independent woman today.

  • Liz

    My mom stayed at home with both of us. According to both my parents (who divorced after 33 years of marriage), this was a joint decision, and I don’t think she regrets it at all. But my recollection of her being at home with us isn’t that she loved it. She did the house stuff and took care of us – I know she loved us, but she definitely didn’t enjoy cooking…and I think her best times of day were when we headed off to school. She went to work full-time when my dad lost his job during my junior year in high school. Mom climbed the ladder at her company very quickly and showed a talent for her job and professional life in general that really impressed me.

    So now I have a 17-month-old daughter, and I often think about what I want for her. I went back to work when she was four months old. I went back kicking and screaming at first, with the alternative budget worked out to see if there was any way to quit after the six months I said I’d give it. I cried every day the first week. I cried a couple of days the second week. I pouted a lot for the few weeks after that. And then a funny thing happened – I realized that I like my work life, and I like the interactions I get from it. I think I’m a better partner for/parent to my daughter in the time we have together because I’m doing what fulfills me when we’re not. I have the added bonus of a great (although stupid expensive) daycare near my office where my daughter has thrived. It would have been financially tighter for me to stay at home, but if that had been the right choice for our family, that’s what would have happened. As it turns out, this seems to have been the right choice for us. My office is plastered with pictures of my little one, and my coworkers are more than indulgent when I have new pictures or stories, but I also have a sense of self that isn’t entirely tied to the fact that I gave birth. I was a person before then, and, while having my daughter changed my life in ways I cannot begin to ennumerate, I am still a person who gets something out of a professional life, and I’m glad it has worked out for us as well as it has. We’ll see what happens if baby #2 becomes a reality…

    As for what I’d like for my daughter? Beyond the moon, the stars, and the parting of whatever sea she so chooses, it’s pretty simple: I want her to have the means and the confidence to make choices like this. I want all those doors open to her. The choices aren’t easy when the doors are open, but how frustrating to know you’d be making a different choice if only.

  • http://rae.mine.nu Soire

    I am an only child, raised by a single father. My dad was in the military. We had no family close by, but many good friends, and he had a solid support net. We made it work.

    Now, at 23, I am a mom to 2 wonderful girls. I chose to stay home with #1 for 15 months before returning to complete my university degree. 2 Months later, I found out I was pregnant again. I did that full year pregnant, and the next year half with the baby in the sling with me, and half with her in daycare.

    Both girls are in daycare now, because I run a small business and work part time. I don’t regret my choices, but there are some days I wish I didn’t have to work and could be with them all the time.

    For them? I’d like to see them experiance both sides. Staying home with them is great. Working outside the home is good too. I don’t think either is wrong or right, just different choices powered by different lives.

    And! Happy blog day. I’ve been reading you for 1 year now. Thanks.

  • MommaChop

    My mom was a college student when I was born and brought me to classes with her on and off until I was in school myself. She worked full time, also taking classes in the evenings or weekends. She finished her PhD the same year I graduated from college.

    I don’t ever remember her not ‘being there’ for me growing up, even if she may not have been physically present.

    I think that her working and constantly adding to her professional schooling was a valuable thing for a girl to see growing up. I KNEW there were options for me, because I saw them being played out by my mom.

    I work full time, and my daughter is in a weensy home day care with her harem of 2 little boys. She knows every minute of every day that I love her and am there for her, as I knew about my mom. I wouldn’t want to stay home with her every day–it’s just not something that would work well for me, and therefore for her. I have worked in this company for almost 18 years (holy crap!) and have more flexibility than a lot of working moms do–I could carve out 2 pumping sessions a day when I was nursing her, and can leave at the drop of a hat if she’s sick. I love my job, I love being around grown ups, and I love the dramatic reunion my daughter and I have every afternoon when I pick her up. Perhaps because I know our time is limited because of work stuff, I’m more zenlike and present in the time we have together. Oh, and the cleaning lady adds a couple of hours of free time, too!

    I would wish for my daughter that she has the ability to chose to work or stay home without feeling any guilt about her choice, or without getting any totally inappropriate friction from anyone–IRL or online–about her choice.

  • EyeDigress

    My Mom was much a SAHM by choice, she did work for short periods of time on a cruise ship when I was growing up. I am glad that she was able to stay home. I realize now that it was always a good feeling to know that she would be there when I would get home from school. She died of Cancer when I was 17.

    I am all for at least one parent staying home and I wish that it was more of a reality today.

  • Jackie

    My mother was a stay at home mom mostly. That is to say, whenever my father’s company went on strike, she was right out there, supporting all 5 of us – doing what had to be done. As soon as that strike was over, she was right back at home with us kids. Not because she had to, wasn’t educated enough, or was lazy – but because she couldn’t imagine a better use of her time than being there for us every waking moment. She was an inspiration to me, and now that I have my own child, I have done everything in my power to build a business that allows me to stay home.

    Why should I miss a single moment in my daughter’s life if I don’t have to? They are only children once. No, I’m not lazy or under-educated either. I am a college graduate, and a single mother. I own my own business and it isn’t making me millions, but it’s enough.

    It made me happy as a child to come home everyday knowing my mom was there with cookies waiting to ask me how my day went. There were times as a teen that I didn’t take certain risks or get into trouble with my friends because I knew my mom always greeted me at the door and talked to me about how my friends were doing. It kept me on the straight and narrow.

    For my daughter, when she gets to be my age, I only want her to be one thing – happy. And if happy means she is going to stay at home with 5 kids while her husband works 100 hours a week, then so be it.

    Good for you Heather for doing what you are. You and Jon are doing what is best for YOUR family – don’t try to let anyone tell you any different.

  • http://blog.mrtland.com mrtl land

    My mom stayed home. I wish she had pursued her own interests more, that she had taken an identity other than “Mom” and “Wife.”

    I hope my daughters grow up to be happy, confident and secure. I hope they set high expectations for themselves, but moreso I hope that they accomplish whatever they dream.

    Happy Blirthday Dooce! We’ve missed you!

  • AggieJan08

    Howdy! As a 19-year-old college sophomore who has met the man she will marry following graduation and start a family with sometime thereafter, this topic has come up quite a bit between my boyfriend and I.
    Growing up I was fortunate enough to live in a household with both of my parents. Their jobs have been rather flexible and accomodating to family life. My mom stayed at home with my brother and I until we were both in elementary school, when she went back to work as a nurse part-time. My father worked out of the home since I was about 7 years old.
    My boyfriend was raised in a similar household environment, so our views on the subject of stay-at-home moms are pretty much the same. His goal, post-graduation, is to start a career that will (financially) allow me to stay at home with our future children, if I CHOOSE to do so. Since I’ve seen the benefits of having a stable homelife with a stay-at-home mom first- hand,as well as from my studies as part of my major, I hope I will be able to stay at home with the kids.
    My parents have always supported me and encouraged me to do whatever my heart is put into. Naturally, I will do the same for daughters.

  • http://laurapink.com Laura

    My mother worked with the Department of Labor in D.C. before getting married. When my father went to medical school, she continued to do government work from Philidelphia. Then she decided that she would raise a family and my father would open his own practice.

    My mother was president of AAUW (American Association of University Women) for two years, and now she’s a member of various book clubs, and is big into ikebana.

    When I have children, I can only hope that they grow up and are wise enough to make THEIR OWN decision, whatever it may be. That alone will make me proud of them.

    And by the way, most women and men who say stay at home moms don’t do real work wouldn’t last three hours in that job. They’re trying to justify THEIR job by putting down another, which probably is more difficult anyway. It’s guilt, because they know they couldn’t do it, even on a subconcious level.

  • squara

    My mom stayed at home with me for the first three years, until they put me in a Montessori school, at which point we rode the bus together – her to work, me to school. She always talks about those being the best of her life.
    My goal is to be able to do the same thing – I’ve always looked at that as a model, and if I can have one child (or more than one), I’m following in her footsteps. I want that same glow when I talk about having stayed home with my kid. I want to really watch them and learn with them and grow with them. I love watching Sesame Street – and I want a little person to watch it with me.

  • sslip

    I think I had the best of both worlds. My brother and I had a parent home with us until we were school aged. My parents made it a priority to make sure that we were raised by them together. I think I was really lucky that I was able to spend as much time with my dad as a care giver as my mom, and that both of them had jobs they are good at that help fulfilled their lives outside of their very fulfilling family life. They both worked nights some of the time, and they would pick up the holiday shifts for the extra cash when we were younger, but that meant that we were able to hang with our extended families or our very cool babysitter. (both of my parents are professionals BTW, my mom is a nurse and my dad is in law enforcement.)

    I am pregnant now, and my folks raised me to be an independant woman. I can honestly say I learned as much about being a feminist from my father as I did from my mother. I am lucky that I am getting the choice to be a SAHM. I know what is right for my family, and I plan on giving the finger to anybody who questions my choice. Actually both fingers.

    Heather, congrats on 5 years! You are my little taste of home everyday!

  • gwen

    You never know how long you have to live. My mom died of Hodgkin’s when she was 30, I was 11. She had four kids and she stayed home with us until she died. If I could have changed anything for her, I would have wanted her to take some time away from the four of us to take care of herself and at least try to recover from chemo/cancer. Four kids is a lot, even for a completely healthy mom.

    I miss my mom every day. She’s the single biggest influence in my life, even now, 13 years after her death.

    I feel blessed that I was the oldest out of the four and had a chance to get to know my mom pretty well before she died. She taught us that life’s too short not to live each day to the fullest. I took that lesson literally. If I ever have a daughter, I’ll teach her the same.

    Leta is lucky to have you & you her, and I hope that you are able to enjoy each other’s company for many years to come.

  • http://www.elfcakes.com/blogg erika

    My mom stayed at home with us. I really, really wish I could stay home with my 4-month old daughter but we just can’t afford it at the moment. Luckily, my husband is between semesters at school and he can stay home with her. It’s much better than day care and I dread the day we have to send her to one. And unless I win the lottery, that day will come sooner than my heart will take.

  • robin

    I’ve been reading your site for years and years, almost since the first post. I’ve hardly ever commented but I look at this thoughtful, on-topic comment as a small way of giving back. Thanks for working so hard at this.

    My mom quit her job as a programmer at IBM to have me, and she didn’t work again until my younger brother was in kindergarten. She worked part time, in the middle of the day, so she could be at home in the morning and when we got home in the afternoon. Like someone else said, it was a drag when I was a teenager (“Leave me ALONE, Moooooommm!”) but really I’m glad she did it. Even now I don’t think I fully appreciate what that did for me. I felt supported on all sides, all the time.

    This might sound weird, but if I could change anything, it might be to have had my *dad* stay at home instead of my mom … My mom seems to have had grave misgivings about giving up her career so early on; she really liked working. And our whole family now recognizes that my dad — who became an elementary school teacher in his second career — is much more of a nurturing type than my mom is.

    Good for you, knowing what you want to do, and doing it! It’s so hard for women to even know what they want, with so many people telling them what to do.

  • http://pickleness.blogspot.com Stepha1202

    Excellent post. I am a new mom who also has a master’s degree. Your words are exactly what I have been saying for so long. I educated myself so that I would have choices, options, a life.

    As for my mom, she was a SAHM. It was nice to come home to her after school. The only thing that I would change is that I would have made her less dependent upon us, her children, for a social life. Outside of being the PTA president she did not have any other hobbies or friends. It seemed like she felt she had to give all of that up to be a good mom. After seeing how she gave up so much, I feel that maybe she cheated herself and that actually showing your children you have a life outside of them is healthier.

  • Mike M

    My mother stayed at home. We didn’t have crap! My father was working on-a-week off-a-week in the auto industry, we really didn’t have anything of substance. I remeber my mom picking dandelion greens in the yard because she ‘liked’ them. We couldn’t afford anything else! She could have worked and did when I got to 7th grade or so. My family sacrificed a lot for the kids. My mom was always there. It was her decision to be there and I believe my bother, sister and myself are better people because of her being there.

    Any pompous person such as you are speaking of if desperately trying the validate her existence and that of others. People should do what they love to do, it’s part of being happy. No one should try to tell you or any other mother that being at home to raise their children is wrong! It simply doesn’t make any sense.

    A VERY large portion of the current degredation of society can be traced to lack of home and family. Stay at home moms and dads can make a huge dent in societal problems.

  • inyourversion

    Up until recently, I felt sorry for my mom. Her existence for the past nineteen years has been to raise myself and my four siblings. A few years ago, her parents moved in as well. I used to think to myself, “I will never, ever, live my mother’s life.” I felt as if she must somehow be unsatisfied–she had a history degree that was collecting dust. Her time was spent tucking us in at night and making oatmeal in the morning.

    After two semesters in college, I have changed my mind about my mother’s choices. Ironically, a Women’s and Gender Studies class altered my view. With all the talk of female empowerment and how women should be able to climb the corporate ladder, I see that my mother has done much more than that. She has raised five people that possess the freedom to do what they like with their lives–to change the world if they wish. I would not alter a single day that my mother spent with me.

    I’m in college to be a professor. Perhaps I’ll change my mind and be an artist. Or maybe I’ll marry the man I love and have children. Maybe I’ll do all three.

    All I can say is that if I choose to be a stay-at-home mother, I will feel no regrets. I find it the most admirable of careers.

  • RachelD

    Given the huge volume of comments, please forgive if I repeat something others have said. But I think this is an issue for both men and women, parents of both boys and girls. I think it’s tough for both in terms of deciding who gets to be the primary childcare giver, whether it’s staying at home part or full time. I’ve known several men who have gotten the shaft for insisting on going home at 5 or 6pm to ensure their time w/their wife and kids. There’s also men I know who wouldn’t dare take advantage of their paternity leave in their professions (altho they’d really like to), b/c even tho it’s available, no one takes it, and they’d suffer professionally in one way or another if they did.

    It’s all a question of options. Women are lucky now not to be automatically looked down on if they don’t marry straight out of college, if they opt to have kids later, or decide not to have ‘em at all. I grew up w/2 college teachers for parents, so altho I was sometimes a latchkey kid, I enjoyed a little solitude–a lot of the time my parents were working it was at home grading papers.

    I think my mom would’ve liked to work more, not less–but at the same time I know she enjoyed her big role in raising us, and I really liked having both of them around (mom was the primary caregiver tho, dad the primary breadwinner).

    I’m not planning on having kids now, but if it happens I hope my son and/or daughter finds a life they are fulfilled with, and a clear(ish–let’s be realistic) conscience in whatever path they take. There’s no perfect option, something’s always going to be missing. That’s the way life is.

  • Fyse

    I can’t imagine you’ll ever get to read all these, but anyway…

    When my older sister was born, my Mum left work and didn’t return full-time until about 14 years later when my younger brother had reached about 8 (and I was 12). At the time objective judgement was obvisouly impossible, but looking back now I’m glad we had someone around all the time when we were kids. My Mum did the whole cake baking, arts and craft helping, walks in the park to feed the ducks stuff, and it’s an important part of my childhood. She returned to work when she felt her youngest was old enough, and then had a sucessful career. (Contrastingly, her mother left a promising career as a surgeon and never worked again.) Even when a full-time SAHM, my mother did some volunteer work from home and I think that worked well for her, to feel she wasn’t out of touch with the adult working world.

    Having said all this, it obviously depends on the situation of the individual family, and what works best for them. I’ve often wondered what I’ll do if and (hopefully) when I start a family. I do think it’s good for kids to have one parent full-time initially. Could I see myself as a SAHD? Potentially.

    By the way, I have to add some scraping worship to the end of this comment. You’ve heard it all before, but your blog really is consistentely the most entertaing around. I’ve been reading for approaching two years now, and so often I have wanted to respond to posts and rued the lack of comments. (Though if you get this many every time you open them up, I can understand the problem!) Congrats on the five year anniversary, and I hope to read every word from here to the decade…

  • greenshagfloor

    Hey Heather…. First off, welcome home. Looks like you guys had a blast.

    My mom stayed home and raised five kids. When she eventually chose to go to work, the sneaky old bird got a job at the school we all attended so she could stay close to us (read: watch our every move and make sure we didn’t commit any felonies). It was her choice and hers alone. It was of course, a different era and my dad made enough money to comfortably support us but she has insisted over and over that she would have made the same decision even if we were dirt poor. As a stay-at-home dad, I can tell you I feel the same way. My wife simply made more and had better health benefits than me so the choice was simple. With 3 years in the rear view, I wouldn’t change a thing. We have made numerous sacrifices which I am sure you can relate to. We could have a lot more material things right now but watching my son grow on a daily basis is fair trade. I do, on occasion, burn a bra or two but it is wholly unrelated.

  • rachel Bowser

    Heather -

    I am so happy to be able to comment here; your words have brought me so much encouragement and entertainment. I feel absurdly proud (absurdly since we don’t know each other) of your accomplishments, your family and your success. I do hope you actually get a chance to read all these copious comments, because I want you to read all the support you deserve.

    My mother stayed at home. I doubt she would have considered anything else. And she was, to my knowledge, fully happy. I have a 7mth old daughter, and I work, teaching in a small college and getting my Ph.D. And I am often fully happy. But it as often has to do with my work as with my daughter. I love my work. I am a kick-ass teacher and a thoughtful scholar and it would be deeply saddening to leave this work. This is what I wish most sincerely for my daughter – I want her to love her work. I want her to have a skill set that makes her feel capable and groundbreaking and powerful, and I want her to have the privilege of using it. Because I know what I am able to do is only because of privilege. Maybe my daughter will feel that full-time childcare is her workand it is her most treasured skill-set. I will support that and endorse her and champion her for knowing herself well enough to know what she is good at.

    Hirshman’s piece is important. I taught it in my undergrad class this week and they reacted venomously. It touches a lot of sensitive spots, apparently. I do think her primary concern is that we empower women. For her, money = power. It’s not a totally incredible argument in our capitalist, conspicuous consumption society. Perhaps if we can work on revising that value system, we can revise a feminist value system that sees work as the only path to empowerment.

  • http://www.elizabethnewlin.com Elizabeth

    Happy 5 years, Dooce!

    I am in a similar situation to you. I have a degree and worked full time until 8 months ago, when I got my Real Estate sales license and quit my job to stay home with my kids. I work from home and take care of my boys. I find it utterly offensive and ridiculous that that woman would denegrate the choice to be a stay at home mom. She obviously does not understand the true idea of feminism: women being free to make their own choices.

    That said, my mother was a teacher and always worked full time. I never felt like I had less because she worked. My mother would have been miserable if she was home all day. It was the right choice for all of us.

    I’m glad that I have the choice to work or stay home. For me, the perfect balance is a little of both.