the smell of my desperation has become a stench

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?

  • Kristen in Colorado

    2006/02/27 at 4:17 pm

    Hi Heather –

    Congrats on five years and on being able to stay home with Leta. In the 50s women were proving to the world that they were capable of being in the workplace, and since the 70s, it’s been like, “Ok, I’ve shown my worth, but now I’m going to follow my natural maternal instincts, and that’s to raise my child myself.” You’re absolutely right – it’s the highest form of fundamental feminism – making your OWN choice and not one placed on you by society.

    How great for you that you can stay home AND work (therefore keeping your skills fresh). I tried this for the first two years of my son’s life, and realized I was still robbing him… that was because I worked for someone else and not for myself. So, long, leisurely morning walks weren’t an option for me if they went outside of the range of my cordless phone.

    I left my job entirely two years ago, and haven’t looked back. I still spend a lot of “freetime” volunteering for various organizations to keep my skills fresh and to network, and I don’t think I’ll have any problems reentering the workforce when I’m ready.

    I agree that it’s a crime when someone wants to stay home with their kids, and can’t. However, I really think that, generally speaking, this is only true for single moms. I believe that any family willing to make serious sacrifices can have a stay-at-home.

    In the 50s when all moms stayed home, it was financially feasible because people lived in smaller houses, didn’t have cell phones, only had one car, if any, etc. People of today say “we HAVE to have two incomes”, but two incomes are only necessary to pay for their current standard of living. My husband and I made some huge cuts to our standard of living to allow for me to stay home. (We don’t travel twice a year anymore, I’ve become Queen of eBay, I don’t have a cell phone, or *GASP* satellite TV!…. of course I do get someone to tape “Lost” for me every week.) It was just a matter of priority. There will be a time when TV, cell phones, travel, and a bigger house might take priority again, and that’s when my kids will all be in school, and I’ll feel more comfortable (and probably be well-ready) to return to work.
    * * *
    My mom stayed home with me when I was young – maybe until I was 9. She wasn’t educated, so getting back into the workplace was and has been hard for her. I don’t think she has any regrets, though.

    As for what I hope my daughters would do… well… I have two and a half sons with a big fat chance of having any daughters. BUT, that aside, I would hope my daughters would follow their instincts. If their instincts told them to stay home, I’d hope they’d find a way to make that work. If their instincts told them to work, I think they would be better off there, and I would encourage it. I would encourage my sons with the same advice.

  • Sara Rasco

    2006/02/27 at 4:16 pm

    Forget Miss Harvard. You have two jobs, and nobody should knock that. Whose right is it to define what your job is? Being a mom is a hell of a lot of work. Writing is a lot of work too, but most people don’t understand that and think you sit at home all day, then sit down and write without the need for revision.

    My mom is an artist (calligrapher) whose work is mostly wedding-related. She does art in her spare time. She’s worked at home since I was born when she quit being a special-ed teacher. People still don’t understand that she works just like everyone else, so being at home doesn’t make her any more free to blow everything off and go have fun. I wouldn’t trade my growing up for anything. I’m an only child, and we had so much fun together. I was always around art and artists, musicians, and creative people. I’m an only child, and it was a great life.

    Children need major attention from their parents, and if it’s possible for one of them to stay home, isn’t it the best option? Who better to give the attention and nurture that a child needs than the people that love him best? What you do is important and irreplacable in Leta’s life. Writing is a gift; nobody would make the work of a journalist, columnist, or novelist seem like it’s not a “real” job.

  • CallistaWolf

    2006/02/27 at 4:16 pm

    My mom stayed at home. I never really thought much about it at the time. She never spent much time with me though. I can remember asking her to play games with me and such but she was always busy cleaning the house or fixing dinner.

    I stay home too, and like you, it’s by CHOICE. No one told me to do this. In fact, I’ve felt more pressure to go out and get a job! But I’ve found a way that I can bring in some money and stay home with my son and that makes me pleased as PUNCH.

    If I’m ever fortunate enough to have a daughter, I’d want her to do whatever her heart leads her to do. If she wants to have a career, go for it. If she wants to have a family and stay home? Good for her. If she has a family but has to work in order to help support the family, I’ll support that for her as well. Because it’s not my choice, it’s hers. 🙂

  • Robin

    2006/02/27 at 4:16 pm

    My mom stayed home with me until I was in second grade or so. Then she went to work cleaning motel rooms, because we needed the money. I think she was also ready to get out of the house at that point.

    When I was in fifth grade, she tooke a part-time job at a craft shop owned by one of her friends. A year later, the friend talked her into taking painting classes. My mom had done some art when she was in high school, but never had much confidence in it, or the time to pursue it. Once she got into the classes, she ran with it. Within a few years, she was able to make her art her full-time job.

    As a kid, I couldn’t appreciate her decisions, or why she made them. It was just the way things were. In retrospect, I see how important each of these stages was. She was able to work outside the home when she needed to, be it for the money or fulfillment, and able to stay home when she needed. I’m grateful that I’ve had the same flexibility as a mostly-stay-at-home mom.

  • Beth

    2006/02/27 at 4:15 pm

    My mom stayed at home before I started school, and although I don’t have many specific memories of the time we spent together, I do remember it always being special. My older brother was already in school, so it really was just mom and me. The bond that was formed is more important than the specific memories anyways. With my little sister she only stayed home a year. While my sister missed out on that special mother daughter bonding time, she also got more of an opportunity to play with children her own age. My sister is still in high school (big age difference) so I think the jury is still out on how this has affected her.

    I am an educated woman, and when I have children, I would love to stay home. I do not know if this would be possible because I make more money than my future husband, and since I have more education than him, this may always be the case. I know for sure that I will at least take a year long leave of absence from work. I will have a hard time putting my children in the hands of others. I want to raise my kids, not a babysitter. Only time will tell.

  • amy

    2006/02/27 at 4:15 pm

    My mother divorced my sperm donor of a father when I was only six months old. She then worked full time, with my brother and I practically living at my grandparent’s house. I really wish she could’ve been there more often, as I never really got to know her until my late teenage years.

    I really do hope that I have the means to stay home with my children. There is nothing that I want more.

    And I simply would like my daughters to have the freedom to choose. To choose an outstanding career, a mediocre career, or to stay at home and raise their children. Our country is supposedly about freedom, I hope they are more able to act upon that freedom without being thought of as a cop-out!

    Oh, and congrats on the five year mark!

  • LeslieDotCom

    2006/02/27 at 4:13 pm

    My mom returned to work immediately after my birth, but became a SAHM after my brother’s birth 4 years later– and then returned to work when he started school. I know, bitter much? Probably…

    I am currently the single mom of 2 teenagers (15 and 13-in-3-weeks) and regret every day that I was not able to stay at home with them when they were younger. Unfortunately, due to the crappy choices I made in husbands, I had to work to support my family– and I hate that my girls have paid the price.

    Are they happy and well-adjusted? Yup, thank dog. Could they have been happier and better-adjusted as smaller folks? Absolutely.

    Happy #5, Heather. Cherish every moment you have with Leta, Jon, and Chuck. Do it for all of us who live vicariously through

    Love and Peace.

  • redbutton

    2006/02/27 at 4:13 pm

    My Mom and Dad worked opposite shifts at a state hospital so one could always be home with my brother and I. I am sure she would’ve rather been home full time, but we needed 2 incomes to survive. Had she had OPTIONS……….

  • Evilsciencechick

    2006/02/27 at 4:13 pm

    My mom stayed at home during our “formative years,” and then basically worked full time as a volunteer Super PTA mom, pushing at the state level for legislation to help education.

    It didn’t seem odd to me that she didn’t have a paying job outside the home – I think it was a choice she made.

    I’m working on my PhD, and I can forsee in the very near future that a conflict will arise. Will I stay at home when I have kids? Would that mean “wasting” my PhD? There are plenty of women in my department who are establised professors and researchers, who have had kids and still made a career for themselves…but I have a hard time imagining myself in that role. I’m not sure I have the proper mentality to be a “have it all” woman. I envy those that do, but I’m not entirely sure I could do it.

    Honestly, I have no idea what I’ll do. But whatever I chose to do, it will be MY decision. and I will NOT be pressured into making a decision that is wrong for me by ANYONE. and that’s the best I can hope for any daughters I may have.

  • Womanwithkids

    2006/02/27 at 4:13 pm

    My mother was a SASM, but more because she didn’t want to work versus wanting to stay home with us. I remember thinking that I wanted to be a better example to my children, on working hard and providing versus sitting at home.

    PS, Congratulations on five years and a great blog!

  • geokaz

    2006/02/27 at 6:34 pm

    My mother, unfortunately, didn’t have much of a choice. She had been unfortunate and unwise enough to marry an asshole. So when he decided to leave her holding the bag (or the baby, so to speak), she raised me on her own while working AND going to school full time. She had help from my grandparents and extended family, but it was the babysitter who got to hear my first word and see my first steps and it still makes my mother cry to this day. She wanted to have those moments, but she had to become an educated, self sustaining person in order to physically support our little family instead. There was no choice involved. These are enormous, terrifying shoes to fill as her daughter. My son was born just a month ago. I have plans to stay at home with him indefinitely, which translates into until the creditors duct tape me to the wall and make me sign my life away. The thought of being away from him for even a second makes me shudder, though I feel slightly ashamed to admit this, probably as a result of the Linda Hirshman’s of the world. I feel like I should whisper type this… I have a degree in women’s studies. Seriously. I own feminazi boots and every Ani DiFranco CD she’s every put out. But I would sell every single album (except maybe Out of Range) to have the chance to stay at home with my son until he’s twelve and too embarassed to nap with me. This is more than a choice- it’s a privilege I feel lucky just to enjoy.

  • Angela

    2006/02/27 at 4:12 pm

    I think no one can tell us what is right for us or our children. Being a stay at home mom has been the best thing I have ever or will ever do. That being said, I have seen some women stay at home that maybe shouldn’t have. Doing it so they could watch TV and eat cupcakes, never actually loving or teaching their children. Some kids would actually be better off in daycare and I think the trick is knowing ourselves enough to know if we are made for this brand of work. Not everyone is the same and it doesn’t make anyone better or worse. Just think people should better self evaluate before choosing the direction of their and their childrens lives. If you F**k up parenting then you srewed a person up…more people should look at it more carefully.

  • moose

    2006/02/27 at 4:12 pm

    My mom is a smart, well-educated woman who made the choice to stay home with us even though she enjoyed her career as a teacher. She and my father made sacrifices in income so that she could do this and, to the best of my knowledge, neither of them regret it. My brother and I were lucky to come home to a parent after school, less lucky in that she spent a fair amount of that time concocting strange whole grain casseroles for dinner. I believe both my parents did an excellent job (aside from the sugar ban that had me filching twinkies from the unsuspecting). All my mistakes are my own.

    My take on the subject as a whole is that a woman should be able to choose whatever will keep her happy and fulfilled, if she is lucky enough to have that choice. Choosing to go back to work doesn’t mean you love your children any less, nor does staying at home mean you’re telling Betty Friedan to suck it. I’m not a parent yet, but I imagine that if you are happy and fulfilled – doing whatever it is you need to achieve such a state – you will be creating a better home life for your children.

    I personally hope to be able to stay home with my children (while doing creative projects on the side), and hope to encourage them to do whatever it is they damn well please, with a slight emphasis on world domination.

    Congratulations on your fifth year of public stupidity!

  • Karin

    2006/02/27 at 4:11 pm

    My mom was a SAHM. I don’t think I really thought about whether I liked it or didn’t like it when I was a child because that was all I really knew. Most of the adult women I was close to as a child stayed at home with their kids so that was the norm to me. Looking back on it now, I am very grateful that my mom was always there when I needed her – only a phone call away. I hope that my daughter feels the same way.

    What I want for my daughter is to do whatever it is that she wants most to do – to live her dream. And beyond that, to live in a world where people don’t question a person’s choices based solely on their gender.

    Happy blogiversary Heather. 🙂

  • jules

    2006/02/27 at 4:09 pm

    My mom worked full time. All the time. My older brother and I were traditional latch key kids. We work our keys on a beautiful satin ribbon under our school uniforms. Mom worked at a fabric store, so we got the good ribbon! My best friend’s mom, when i was younger, dind’t work, and I think I was always jealous of that a little bit. Lori had great lunches, and her mom was a lunch monitor mom and would chaperone on field trips. My lunches were a salami sandwich under a an orange, topped with a frozen drink box that was carried in the long plastic bag the bread came in. There was no one to break up the fighting between my brother and I after school until dad got home at 4pm, and if you were sick, you were home alone. Tho we weren’t really ever sick.

    Looking back now, I wish my mom didn’t have to work. Sorta for me and my brother, but mostly for her. I know she would have rather been at home with us and done school functions and picked us up from school, but we needed the money, and she had to work.

    good grief, who knew answering this would be so emotional!

    I think i would be a great mom! I woudl stay at home if I could. I like to work, but If I had the choice. I’d make lunches for my kids, and chaperone field trips and make cookies for the bake sale. I’d take my kids to the park after school, or to the zoo, I wouldn’t be too tired to do their homework with them, or irritated from work and unintentionally take it out on them. I WOULD DRIVE A VAN AND BE A SOCCER MOM! (:3

  • DottyDi

    2006/02/27 at 4:09 pm

    My mom worked because she had to. I wish she had been able to stay home with me. She wishes she could have stayed home with me. I don’t have kids yet, but I’m currently trying to work out a way to be home with them because I want to. I’m working on my master’s degree right now. So, I suppose going along with Hirshman’s line of thought, I’d just be wasting it? I think not.

  • Tina Vance

    2006/02/27 at 4:09 pm

    My mother stayed home until I was in elementary school, then she became the school nurse at my elementary school. At times it was like being under 24-hour surveillance, which is what I thought about it at that time. To be honest, I wish my mother would have started working earlier. I think there are some moms who want and need to stay home, because they truly enjoy it, and there are some who need to work. I’m one of the ones who needs to work, not only for the money, but also for my own sanity.

    As far as my daughter goes, I’d just want her to find her job satisfying and rewarding. If that’s as a bottle cap twister or if it’s as a neurosurgeon, it doesn’t really matter, so long as she’s happy.

  • Annejelynn

    2006/02/27 at 4:09 pm

    my mother had very little choice in the matter – she was terminally ill before I was ever born and didn’t have the stamina for fulltime anything. When I was a child, things weren’t too bad, in that she was very young and had an army of good friends and relatives to help her with me (her only child) before I joined all-day elementary school ranks… Thereafter, while I was at school, she was either at home resting, recouping from the morning routine with me, and trying to reserve her energy for when I would return home from school… or she was in the hospital and I stayed with friends or family, overnight. My father worked like a maniac to enable what had to be done – he carried us financially until she died in ’87. My mother could never do more than PT work and what she could, it was from home, always. But if she had been healthy? If she could have worked FT? She would have chosen to stay home – she loved being available for me and my playmates.

  • Laur

    2006/02/27 at 4:08 pm

    My mother was working as a corporate secretary when I was born, in 1985. She chose to stay home with me, and she and my father certainly didn’t have the luxury to. It was a personal choice, but there has never been a day that goes by that I am not grateful that there was someone waiting for me from the bus stop after school, who hugged me and wanted to know about my day.

    My mother went back to work when I was 11 and my brother was 9. She was the secretary at my middle school, and started on my first day of sixth grade.

    My father worked constantly throughout my childhood, traveling up to 30 weeks a year, and because of this, my relationship was strained until I was 16, when I finally pulled my head out of my ass after that obligatory teenage angst phase.

    I’m now attending a rather elite private women’s college. I took a seminar in women’s studies my freshman year, and we talked about the concept of working mothers vs. stay at home mothers. To my surprise, I was the only person in the fifteen person class who was not raised by a nanny. These girls justified their upbringing by reciting their mothers impressive resumes and professional accomplishments, and how that served as inspiration to them. My mom may not have a Ph.D. in microbiology, and she hasn’t written a book, but she has inspired me every day for the past twenty years. She made a choice, a choice not everyone agrees with, but it worked for her, and I am eternally grateful and in awe of her. Heather, one day I know that Leta will say the same to you.

  • Alison

    2006/02/27 at 4:08 pm

    HI Heather — My mom was a SAHM until my dad divorced her — not her idea — and then she went back to work as a school nurse. So, you can imagine, it was hard to figure out how to skip school when she had access to the absentee list… After I got over the stigma of their divorce (if only it had been, say, three or four years later, when EVERYONE’s parents were getting divorced…) I actually liked her working. My sisters and I became very self-sufficient, and I think that has served me well in later years.

    So, naturally, when it came time to figure out how to raise our kids, we did the only thing that made sense — my husband stayed home full time. SAHD, or shit ass ‘ho dick, to paraphrase your own site! It worked well for us, and my two kids — now teens in high school — say that they really liked having their dad at home. They have really close relationships with him, and with me, and with each other. It’s pretty nice.

    What do I hope for my kids? That they are blessed with choices, and that they feel empowered to make them. And, when they make the wrong ones, that they have the strength and courage to do it over.

    That and, of course, that they worship me.

    BTW, I think you’re doing a wonderful job as a mom. I know it’s hard — but you’re definitely going to make it, sister.

  • pilgrimgirl

    2006/02/27 at 4:08 pm

    My Mom stayed home and raised her 5(!) kids until we were all in school. Then she went back to school and got her master’s degree and eventually went to work full-time.

    I’m following in her footsteps. I stayed at home with my kids until my youngest started kindergarten and now I’m working on my PhD. I go to class while they’re at school and when they get home we do sit around doing our homework together. I think I have the coolest life ever!

    I hope that my daughter will have the option to stay home with her children if she chooses to. But I also hope that she’ll have the freedom (both social and financial) to make any choice that she’d like to. I don’t want her to feel that being a SAHM is a cop-out!

    IMO, being a fulltime Mom is often just a temporary thing–just those years until the kids are in school. It isn’t an all-or-nothing decision.

  • kimmie

    2006/02/27 at 4:08 pm

    Hi Heather! My mom worked outside the home the entire time I was growing up. She either worked for other companies or for my dad’s company. Then they divorced and she has worked as an AR accountant pretty much ever since.

    Praise God my mom did not do the stay-at-home thing with me. I’m 39 and I guess it was on the new side to have a mom that worked completely fulltime. But I’d be much more neurotic if she’d been in my life more. If I hadn’t had an escape from her. She might actually have succeeded in killing herself from the stress of being a mom more than she was.

    I have made the choice, like you, to work at home to be a pseudo SAHM. I have an office that I can go to – I own my own company with a partner. He works in the office and I work at home. I have an MS in engineering. The difference between us is that I send my children away during the day. My son is in kindergarten and my daughter just turned 3. She goes to mothers day out at two different churches and a friend also keeps her two afternoons a week. If I had to be with my children more I’d lose it. I’m just not good at it.

    But working at home gives me freedom to choose when I do have the emotional energy to be around them and not ruin them. I’m glad I have this option. I would not have had children had I thought I’d have to work 8-5 and have my kids in care from 7-6. I need the choice of when to be with them. BOY am I SPOILED!

    Thank goodness for my degrees, for my employment, for my partner, for my husband, for my antidepressants, and for my children. and for dooce.

  • Karen

    2006/02/27 at 4:07 pm

    My mom did a little of both during my growing up years depending on our ages and our family’s financial situation. While I’m sure that she probably hoped that her daughters would stay home with their children she has always encouraged us to do what is best for ourselves and families.

    I have a degree in social work and practiced for three years before having my first child. Staying at home was a welcome relief from the job stress and I’ve had no desire to go back. I feel like I’ve enjoyed the best of both worlds in the timing that was right for me.

    Holy freaking wow! I’m commenting on Dooce! Hi mom!

  • ash

    2006/02/27 at 4:07 pm

    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.

  • Ariel

    2006/02/27 at 4:07 pm

    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!

  • Jen S

    2006/02/27 at 4:07 pm

    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.

  • Michelle

    2006/02/27 at 4:06 pm

    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.

  • Jackie

    2006/02/27 at 4:06 pm

    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.

  • erika

    2006/02/27 at 4:05 pm

    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.

  • greenshagfloor

    2006/02/27 at 4:04 pm

    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.

  • Ang

    2006/02/27 at 4:04 pm

    My mother stayed home about a year after I was born, because my brother was only 11 months old when I arrived, so she had two non-walking kids in diapers. But after a year, she said she was just going batty. She needed a separate place to go everyday with a different structure or whatnot, I don’t know. She’s always worked as far as I could remember, and I don’t recall ever resenting it or wishing she were around more. She was home after I got home from school. My family couldn’t afford not to have both adults working.

    I hope not to have kids, but I hope other people are able to do what they can and what is right for them. Ideally, we all would like the opportunity to truly be able to choose how we want to live, but the reality doesn’t always allow that.

    I really have no idea what I would do if I ended up spawning.

  • dotti

    2006/02/27 at 4:04 pm

    My mom was a SAHM in a way.. she owned and ran 2 adult foster care homes for the mentally ill and an elderly care facility.. We lived in the basement of one of the AFC homes and had 6 residents that lived upstairs.. My mom basically ran the homes from home.. except when she wanted to leave or we went on vacation, then we had workers. I am really glad this was how my life was.. i am an only child and got tons of attention along with many great memories of my mom always being around. I wouldnt change it if i could. I hope to some day be able to stay at home with my children and hopefully if my kids want that when they have children of their own… they are able to make it happen.

  • mousey

    2006/02/27 at 4:04 pm

    My mom wanted desperately to be a stay at home mom, but things didn’t work out for her to be able to do that, so she’s always had to work as long as I’ve been alive. For the most part, I really wish she could have stayed home, because it’s what she wanted for herself. There’s nothing to teach you independence and self-reliance like having a single mother, but I’ve hated seeing her have to work such hard, labor-intensive jobs, and she would have been a kick-ass SAHM (just like she is, but maybe with a little less stress and fatique.) If I could change anything, I would hope that the circumstances would have worked out so that she could do what she wanted to do, not what she had to do.

    I would hope my daughters would grow up to do whatever made them happy and fulfilled, whether it’s SAHM or leader of the free world.

  • Starla Dear

    2006/02/27 at 4:03 pm


    Love your site. Congratulations on your choice of being a SAHM. All the controversy around this subject frustrates me — women should just support each other in their life choices and not write books giving some women grief over the choice they made. I am a CPA and have a great career, but can’t wait to give it all up to be a SAHM in a year or two.

    My mom was a SAHM as well — I felt that we were especially close as a family and had many other benefits because of it. My mom is one of my best friends. I think the only regret she had was that she didn’t have a college degree or a career that she could go back to, at least part-time, once we were in school. She feels bad sometimes now that we’re grown that she can’t contribute the same way financially that my dad can.

  • LauraSt

    2006/02/27 at 4:03 pm

    My mother worked her butt off at several different jobs (including odd ones that required work at home). I think I appreciated it at the time. I certainly realized how hard she worked, especially since most of the other tasks (cooking, cleaning, etc.) fell to me.

    Once she found out that I was making more than her per hour at a summer job than she was at her full-time job.

    And now I’m about to be graduated from medical school (I’m about to become one of those non-human women surgeons ;)) and I owe it to my mother’s shining work ethic. Sure, she never did any “normal” mother stuff, but she kept us clothed, fed and happy.

    In my life, I’ll have to schedule a family. My career choice will never let me be a stay at home mom, much less a very involved one (at least five years of 80+ hour work weeks ahead of me). Which is why having a family will be a hard choice for me. But I certainly will *never* disdain or look down upon those who choose to stay at home with their children. You have my pride and my jealousy.

    And my daughters will do whatever makes them happy. Unless of course that involves hitting the crack pipe and attempting to be the first person to reach the South Pole in the nude…

  • victoria

    2006/02/27 at 4:02 pm

    My mom stayed at home & took care of us. I think that not having any socially recognized work outside the home ate away her self-esteem, made her prone to depression, left her isolated and relatively friendless, and, honestly, weakened her faith in herself to such an extent that really wasn’t as capable as she should have been, even in terms of being a mother and a housekeeper. Our house was a mess (it was so bad that we couldn’t have friends over), her moods were unpredictable and sometimes scary, there was never a sit-down meal of any kind, ever (and when I say “never” a sit-down meal, I’m including holidays), I went to school hungry and in dirty clothes (and my family was affluent), all because my mother had so little faith in herself she couldn’t get organized to do simple domestic tasks.

    I don’t think that every mother should work outside the home. But for some mothers, the isolation and lack of social recognition that sometimes happens when they stay at home to raise kids can be soul-killing.

  • Carolina Blue

    2006/02/27 at 4:02 pm

    My mom worked two jobs, one of which was an in-home day care until my sister (the youngest of three) was born, at which point she made the day care full time. She wanted to stay at home with us, and she’s still glad she made the decision. At the same time I think it gave her too little financial freedom, and it was one reason she didn’t leave my horrid father until I was 16. But my mom was my best friend and I thought she was the most beautiful, amazing person in the world until other things came between us. When I got home from school, she was the first person I wanted to see.

    I hope I have the opportunity to stay home with my kids. I’d like, more than that, to have the opportunity to volunteer in the community, doing the things I want to do as a career (junior in college here) for free, etc.

    I think if there was anything I could change about the way I was raised it would be to give my mom the emotional, financial and mental freedom to get away from my dad earlier, when I wasn’t old enough to resent her for the problems that came from it. I would make my mom stronger.

    But we’re best friends today, and I wouldn’t go back for any amount of money if it would change that fact.

    Leta is lucky. The most important thing is that you and Jon love each other and that you love HER. Everything else will come out in the wash. Regardless of what the militants say (and I AM a militant feminist) that is the most important thing. That is what will make you a role-model for Leta. You go.

  • Madonnalisa Chan

    2006/02/27 at 4:02 pm

    What I want to know in comments is what did your mother do? My mother worked until the day I was born and then had 3 kids in a row. She didn’t go back until the youngest was in Kindergarten. And she continued working as a school librarian for about 20 years. She just retired a couple years ago. It was awesome to have mom available to us. It was great over the summer to do things in and around town with all our cousins(since their parents worked). Sometimes I wished she opted for a law library with better pay and more prestige and something really cool to talk about. We had a very modest upbringing but I’m glad my parents made the sacrifices since we never were never home alone. My mom had some cool options and us three kids were the deciding factor.

    If I had daughters, I think I would encourage them to do what their heart tells them and that choices always have both good and bad consequences. When that time comes for them I hope I can help them step through the possible consequences and the impact of their emotions and the family’s well-being.

    Thanks for sharing how you feel about the topic. My husband and I have been also debating this topic since we both had different upbringings.

  • sita

    2006/02/27 at 4:01 pm

    My mother stayed home with my sister and I until we were in 1st grade. IF I get around to having children of my own (I’m 30 and working on my PhD so I can hopefully do the academic schedule which is relatively conducive to having kids, I think) I want to be around, especially for the early years – although I don’t know how good I’d be at it.

    I couldn’t agree more with your comments, Heather. I thought this whole feminism business was so that we could HAVE choices.

  • hopefulloser

    2006/02/27 at 4:01 pm

    My parents are both educators and it afforded them to work and have a lot of time to be at home with us, so it was really a good combination. I felt like I had more time with my parents than most of my friends. We traveled a lot and did so much together as a family and I hope to provide the same for my daughter (who’s only a day older than Leta! Hi Leta!).

    I work a lot now but wish that I could be home with my daughter, but at least we can afford to have my husband home with her. He’s a stay at home dad 100% of the time because I can make more money than him. 🙂

    I want my daughter to be able to do whatever she wants. I agree with your sentiment completely that circumstances prevent us from being able to have that choice most of the time.

  • Kate

    2006/02/27 at 4:01 pm

    Happy Fifth Anniversary of the blog. I discovered you through my sister and I am glad I did.

    In answer to your question…my mom took six years off to raise my sister and I. When she went back to work, it was part time, then full time. It also helped that she was a teacher – in the same Catholic school we were attending. It was not until I was 11 years old (I am 27 now) that I was a real latchkey kid.

    I liked having Mom home for those early years. And as I got older, it was great during the summer cause we had mom home all the time. 🙂

  • Lola

    2006/02/27 at 4:01 pm

    I first decided that I wanted to be a SAHM when I realized that raising my children and “raising them well” would be my legacy.

    I realized this after meeting my friend Erica’s mother. Erica was smart, funny and incredibly gifted. Her mother was brilliant and on her way to becoming an incredible Doctor and Scientist when she decided to stay home with her three daughters. All of them are amazing women.

    I respected her choice because I witnessed her amazing legacy and in that moment — I knew that this was the legacy I wanted to leave.

    I wasn’t going to be a great lawyer. I knew I didn’t have it in me. I do know that I have potential to be an incredible mother and I can’t wait to have that opportunity.

  • mom on a wire

    2006/02/27 at 4:00 pm

    You know, I just hope my daughters grow up to love and appreciate who they are. It sounds completely sappy, but I’ve spent so much of my life wishing I was someone else and I don’t want them to go through that. They could work at McDonalds, but if they were happy and fulfilled I would call that a success. 🙂

  • meninaprons

    2006/02/27 at 4:00 pm

    My mom was a stay at home mom, due to her Lupus and arthritis when I was in grade school. Being a kid, you don’t understand that stuff, but looking back, I realize how comforting it was to have her … or someone at home when I came home from school.

    I hope that my daughter (if I ever get one) will do what she feels is right. Sorry to be non-committal on that, but it’s how I feel.

  • Judy

    2006/02/27 at 3:59 pm

    I’m close to first. My mom was a teacher for 2 years until my older sister was born, then she stayed home with us. She started substitute teaching when I was in junior high, but even then she was home with my sister and I 90% of the time. I’m glad she was home with us, but then I don’t know any different. All I know is my friends whose moms worked, they said they wished their moms stayed home like mine did.

    I don’t have daughters yet, but if I ever do, I hope they grow up to do whatever they want. I would hope that they get a good education, but whether they choose career or staying home with my grandchildren, I hope that they are able to make the choice that makes them happy.

  • Dilbert

    2006/02/27 at 3:59 pm

    My mom was a stay at home mom and although I didn’t realize it then, it was great. My wife is extremely well educated (can you say 16 years!) and since we had our kids she has changed professions and now works part time so that she can be at home with our kids. This was her decision, and I have a tremendous amount of respect for it. She definitely has the harder job.

  • Charles Hawtrey

    2006/02/27 at 3:56 pm

    Wow, comments! Go figure.

    My mother works as a daycare provider, so staying at home *was* working. Someday when I have daughters, I hope they grow up to do whatever they want. Hopefully not something soul-sucking.

  • Tracey

    2006/02/27 at 3:59 pm

    My mom worked. She had to…but she wasn’t really the stay at home type (whatever THAT is, right?) She worked in a factory, and I knew that I never wanted that for MY life. But I think she enjoyed it, so who am I to say what I wish she would have done? I can’t really speculate on how it would have been had she stayed home, because it just wasn’t her.

    I stay home with my kids too. And I totally agree with you that the whole feminist movement was to give women CHOICES, and this is a perfectly valid choice. I don’t think it’s the universal best choice, but it’s what works for me and my family right now. I am going to school part time so that when my kids are in school I am doing something. But again, that’s my choice and I don’t think that every woman better get back to work when her kids are in school.

    I hope my daughter grows up to do whatever the hell she wants, as long as it makes her happy. And it doesn’t involve selling her body.

  • The Queen Mama

    2006/02/27 at 6:34 pm

    I was the youngest of three children, and my mom stayed home with us for nearly all of my childhood. I never realized just how hard she worked at it until after my third son was born last year. (thanks, Ma!)

    I could give you so many reasons why I’m glad Mom did what she did, but I have one particular memory that crystallizes the whole thing for me.

    I was 15 and a sophomore in high school. It was a warm, breezy spring day, so I was helping Mom hang some sheets out on our clothesline. And I was feeling mighty restless.

    A few of my friends had been experimenting with sex, and I was starting to feel some pressure. Not to mention, the curiosity over the whole situation was getting to me. I was just on the cusp between “What’s the big deal, anyway?” and barely being able to keep from flinging myself at my dance partner in show choir. At that point I hadn’t even been properly kissed yet. So the angst over this topic was hitting boiling point.

    Mom knew something was up, and asked me what was on my mind. Now I could’ve gone all moody teen girl and clammed on her, but maybe because she had been with me all along, as close to 24/7 as a mom can get without making her kid a head case, I chose to talk.

    To this day I don’t remember a lot of particulars about the conversation. I remember her listening closely without freaking out on me (must’ve been tough!), and the even, measured look on her face as she was choosing her words to me. Mostly I remember how much better I felt after we talked.

    Trust me, it was a conversation that, had she not been there to participate in it mindfully, could have deeply altered the course of my life.

    I’m so glad she was there for me. Even though it meant us giving up a lot of material things as individuals and as a family. When I was a teenager I sometimes wished Mom worked so we could have more of the stuff other people seemed to have. But looking back? I honestly can’t think of anything I would change. I hope my boys have the same perspective when they grow up.

  • Adrienne

    2006/02/27 at 3:54 pm

    Now that that’s out of the way, my mom was a SAHM, except for when my dad was unemployed for a short while, then she had a part time job. I always thought it was great that she was there when I got home from school – my mom’s work never got in the way of me getting to go somewhere or do something with friends, and I’m sure that her being home was a major reason for my doing so well in school. Of course, I also hated her always “nagging me” by asking me so many questions (as intrusive as “how was your day?” in my teenage years). I do wish she would have gotten a job when I got older. Not so she’d leave me alone, but because she had (and still has) self-esteem issues now that stem from not having worked in 20+ years.

    At age 22 and an only child, I feel forced to seek a career rather than staying home. Like I’d be letting down the family if they knew my major dream was really to be a mom, not a corporate superstar. I hope my daughters, if I have some, don’t feel the pressure I do to hold up a status quo – I hope they do what is best for them individually, even if I don’t like it so much.

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Heather B. Armstrong

Hi. I’m Heather B. Armstrong, and this used to be called mommy blogging. But then they started calling it Influencer Marketing: hashtag ad, hashtag sponsored, hashtag you know you want me to slap your product on my kid and exploit her for millions and millions of dollars. That’s how this shit works. Now? Well… sit back, buckle up, and enjoy the ride.

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