Playful, elegant, and not above the judicious use of the word “shit."

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?

  • Frema

    I started to read all these amazing comments but realized there’s only so many hours in the work day….

    During my childhood, my father worked odd sorts of jobs–cab driver, flower guy on the highway–until he became a firefighter for the Chicago Fire Department when I was seven years old. In addition to this, he spent his time away from the fire house doing construction jobs on the side. And for 95 percent of this, my mother stayed home. Just last fall she took a job with my youngest sister’s former elementary school as a bus monitor. She works from about ten to four and loves saying that she has somewhere to go during the day and that she can finally contribute to their finances.

    When I was younger, our house (apartment, actually) was the one where all the neighborhood kids wanted to be because my mom was one of the rare few who stayed home. She made cookies, cooked dinner, knew our friends and our schedules. In high school I was a good kid but got pretty wrapped up in my first real boyfriend, and if it wasn’t for her constant nagging on where I was, who I was going to be with, were parents going to be around, etc., there’s a good chance I’d be the mother of a 10-year-old child by now, fathered by a man who was umemployed and still living in his mother’s basement by the time I finished my bachelor’s degree.

    When I was younger, I always thought my mom stayed home because my dad wanted her to. It wasn’t until I was older that I realized she was exactly where she wanted to be. However, since they had me so young (19) and struggled for so long, neither of them had the chance to further their educations, which is why they’re both so adamant about all of us kids going to college. I wish BOTH of them could’ve done that.

    My fiance and I are getting married in May and know we want to start our family soon. I have a master’s degree and job that has great pay and benefits, but I want to be a SAHM so badly I could cry. However, I’m not willing to sacrifice everything to do that. I want to have the means to be able to help them pay for college so they’re not drowning in debt after graduation. I’m paying over five hundred dollars a month to Sallie Mae because my parents had four other mouths to feed in addition to mine and there was no extra money for stuff like that. I’m not angry about it, but that doesn’t mean I want my kids to be in the same position. Also, I want Luke and I to have a retirement account. My parents have always lived paycheck to paycheck, no savings, so they don’t have anything but my dad’s pension to depend on. They’re nervous about that. I don’t want that to happen to Luke and me.

    Once they actually exist, I hope my children have the means to make the best choices for their families, whatever those choices may be. And I really, REALLY hope they aren’t saddled with debt. 🙂

  • Amy

    My mother went to work when I was about five and I really didn’t like it.

    I have two little kids and I stay at home with them but I want to go back to work and I understand why my Mom needed to work. I respect every woman’s choice to do what she wants and I wish every woman and man had that choice.

    I have a daughter and I hope she grows up to be happy and peaceful and a force of good in the world. I don’t care if she stays home with kids or works 100 hour weeks but I do hope all of her dreams come true.

  • rockr girl

    what strikes me as funny here is that it sounds like the choice is “work/don’t work”. as if being a mother isn’t work. its a highly underpaid occupation, IMO. one with important and lasting effects on society, business and community.
    my mother was liscenced as an art teacher, with a bachelors in art. she chose to stay home to be a full-time mom. she and my father made a lot of sacrifices in order to make that possible. in fact, they ate a lot of hot dogs and drank a lot of kool-aid in order to afford it. and i am so incredibly honored as their child that they chose to make those sacrifices.
    i think any true feminist would appreciate the option to excercise that choice – as she would any choice.
    i am a 30 year-old woman who is not married and who does not have children. i have a career that my parents are proud of, and my friends are jealous of. and yet, i know, when that time comes that i find the man i want to marry and father my children, i will make the choice to be a full-time mom. its all i’ve ever wanted to be. not a high-powered CEO or attorney. not a ballerina. not even a princess (unless its prince william who wants to father those rugrats). i think it is a noble and rewarding title, that of Stay At Home Mom, President of the Kitchen Board, Chair of the Laundry Room. and really, the women who think those of us who chose that life to be less-than they are, are the ones who make feminists look bad. not those who excercise the right, the opportunity, the priviledge of being a SAHM.

  • Carli

    My mother was barely a mother, and worked when I was in her care. Who knows what she did when I wasn’t… Yeah, I got issues – who doesn’t?

    I am a 32 year old SAHM to three under 5 years old. When kid #2 was born, I quit a very good job that I was good at and brought home lotsa dough. However, I feel like I made the right choice to be home with them, even when it’s all I can do not to poke my own eyes out (like now, as I’m trying to type and I have one playing hide and seek under the office chair and the baby is trying to open and close the sliding keyboard tray). I could make more money, have some health insurance and a little bit of sanity, but they’re only little for such a short time…. sigh. I think I made the right choice for me and that bitch on GMA needs to get checked.

    PS – thanks for opening up the comments again! 🙂

  • Sara

    My mom bailed, so it was just me and my dad and he worked a lot. So I was raised in a pretty non-traditional environment, but I still think it would be nice to have the option to stay home part-time. Adult company is important, as Heather has shared with us.

  • JEM

    Heather: i have been reading your site every day for about 6 months…You make me laugh, cry and think. Thanks.
    I am a stay at home mom…more or less by choice. I have two kids (9 and 7) and when my oldest was about one, we moved from one east coast city to another for my husbands work. I really didn’t want to move (mostly because I hate change and hate cities). I had gone back to work when my daughter was 6 months old (as a public sector lawyer). When we moved I was pregnant with my second so it seemed so easy to just not look for work (or even take the bar). In some way, I feel guilty for not struggling with that decision more.

    I enjoy my kids a lot and feel that we made the best decision for all of us…my husband supports my choice to not work outside the house but I spent a lot of time the first couple of years wondering what to fill in on forms when they asked about occupation.

    In some ways I feel extra lucky..not only can we afford to have ne stay home but I can kind of reinvent myself now with a new (as yet undecided) career (thanks to lots o’ therapy). But I see way too many women in the affulent area in which I live either working to avoid their kids, husbands or themselves or the stay at home types making snide comments about the working moms while they exercise themselves to a size 2 and buy another pair of Prada shoes…

    I really want my daughter to grow up in a world where any choice she makes can be respected and supported by other women…I guess that is waht I thought feminism was about…

  • eden

    “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?”

    My mother was a SAHM before there was such an acronym. She occasionally worked part-time outside the home, including a stint at Sears which I believe she took to get a discount on a Kenmore sewing machine. My mom could make stuff out of anything, sewed all my clothes, etc. I didn’t care if she worked inside or outside the home. She had/has BPD (see also “Mommy Dearest” to know how that manifests) and her behavior wasn’t usually tolerated outside the home. Many times I’d rather she wasn’t around. When she left a job, she’d say “Oh my daughter doesn’t want me to work.” That wasn’t true. I didn’t care one way or the other.

    “If you could change anything about what she did what would that be?”

    Insofar as her working inside versus outside the home? Her mental illness aside, I would have prefered that she worked or volunteered outside the home in some capacity. By the time I was in middle school, I was the center of her universe; her happiness depended on what I did. If I got a bad grade or didn’t get chosen for cheerleading or something, her world would come crashing down. I didn’t (and still don’t) share much of what’s happening in my life with her. I would have prefered she had friends or at least people she could call and chat with on the phone. I wish she had tried more to be a parent and less to be a “girlfriend.”

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

    The easy answer is “whatever makes her happy,” which (1) is true and (2) is true for my son as well. If I’m going to go out on a limb and actually dream a little for her, I would like her to do something creative like writing or music, whether as a job or a hobby. Whatever her passion, be it rocket science or fronting a band, I want her to love doing what supports her and her family. If her situation is such that her partner supports the family financially and she has the opportunity to be a stay-at-home mom (and same goes for my son being a SAHD), I hope she pursues it. It’s been incredibly rewarding for me, higher education and all.

  • Amy

    Happy Blanniversary!

    And to the topic at hand–my mother quit working full time when I was born but continued to write and publish from home (during naptimes). My father continued to work out of the home. Once we started school she increasingly worked outside the home during school hours and would travel on weekends when my dad was home. My mother was very creative and involved but gave us our own space to make mistakes and messes. It was wonderful to know she was always available to us but we were also very proud of the work she did.

    My husband and I have an agreement that whoever is making the most money when we have our first child can stay home. As I’m a teacher and he runs a manufacturing company, I think I will get to stay home. I look forward to it in many ways and already have put some professional projects on hold so I can work on them when the time comes that we have kids.

  • Kat

    My Mom was a SAHM, but she wasn’t home that much. A younger brother had serious health issues so several years were spent staying with him in hospitals. As his health improved she became VERY involved with the Junior League, the Ladies Auxiliary at the church and other organizations.

    Growing up it was tough to deal with. Physically, Mom was home, but she was very busy. Her time was taken up with phone calls and meetings and various projects. There were no boundaries between home and her ‘work’. I wish that there had been boundaries. That she had had a commute during which she could decompress from her ‘work’ day, that she didn’t bring her job, or the phone to the dinner table. Very frustrating when you wanted to talk about important things like menstruation and whether or not you could go to the slumber party at the Craig’s house.

  • As an artist, my mother was able to make the choice to work from home before many mom’s had the ability to do so. If I ever have a child, I plan on carrying on the family tradition.

    Yes, the experience was that great.

    (p.s. Tell Leta I really like her rockin’ lopsided half-looped pigtails. Although I am 28, my hair resembles the Leta-talis on most days.)

  • Soyberg

    My mom taught before my sister (4 years older than me) and I were born, and then was a SAHM from the time my sis was born until I finished kindergarten. After that, she returned to teaching full time and kept the same hours we did. My dad always worked full time, but he wasn’t much of a father, so we didn’t mind his absence that much. Mom was the one who pushed us to achieve. She was a first-generation college grad, and it saved her from a life of poverty — she got through college literally on peanut butter and crackers and without her parents’ blessing, earning money doing hair and babysitting to pay for her BA. She managed to earn her Master’s degree by the time she had her first child at 25. She raised my sister and I to love learning and to value education, and we never even considered the possibility of not going to college. We’re two huge nerds — we loved school….still do.

    We were lucky to have a mom who worked the same hours we went to school — it always felt like she was there for us. I know that it greatly benefitted us that she stayed home before we were old enough to go to school, too. I think it benefitted us even more that she had a LIFE the whole time. She was and is active in the community and always had interests and an identity of her own. I think that is EXTRAORDINARILY important for children to see in their parents, and I think that some SAHMs do disappear completely into motherhood. Mothers and fathers who don’t have a life outside of their children run the risk of making those children dependent upon them. That’s where the rub comes in with feminism, in my mind — when a woman loses herself in motherhood. There are plenty of SAHMs who don’t, though.

    I hope either myself or the father will have the means to stay home with my kids, at least until school age, if/when I have any, but I also don’t think that people who choose not to stay home are damaging their children — every family is unique. I would also hope that, if I have kids, they pursue whatever makes them happy and not listen to someone who feels the need to dictate to them what it is that should provide that happiness.

    I agree 100% with what you said, Heather — feminism and SAHMotherhood aren’t mutually exclusive at all. What’s the use of feminism if it takes away the power to choose from all possible options? Linda Hirshman is a fuckwit.

    Happy Anniversary, Heather!

  • jagosaurus

    Congratulations on your success and for exercising you free will to choose what is best for you.

    My mother stayed home with me until I entered middle school and then went back to school, got her degree, and started her career as a teacher. I am proud of her for doing what she wanted and I am proud that I graduated high school and she graduated college the same year.

    If I become a parent, I would like to think I could do as good a job as her of balancing my life.

  • kimann

    I just started staying at home 4 months ago when my son was 10 months old. I have a college education and I CHOOSE to stay home. I love it and it is the hardest, most rewarding, most fun, most complicated and at times most frustrating job I have ever had. I love it more than anything.

    My mom stayed home with us until we were old enough to come home and stay by ourselves for an hour or so. I am thankful she did, I think it was the best thing for my sister and I.

    I haven’t not yet looked at anything by or about this Linda Hirshman, but I wonder does she have children? Did she stay home with them?

    I think it is great that this blog has been able to provide for your family and that you can all be home together. I could only dream of something like that happening for me. LOVE the blog and Congratulations on 5 years!

  • FigFiggy

    Never commented before. But I love your site. So why not throw in, then, my two cents?

    My mother was a stay-at-home until I was in middle school. And it was a choice that she and my father made before they started having kids. It was a choice that my mother explained to me greater detail as I grew older, and she always emphasized that she never regretted the choice. And I have to say, it was really wonderful having her, especially as I became older and realized that not every kid was as lucky as I was, to have a parent at home.

    At this time, I myself am nowhere near even thinking of bearing children, so I can’t quite answer the question of what I hope for my own daughter. Personally, I enjoy the la-la fantasy of employeeing Mary Poppins (complete with song-dance-chalkpicturejumping) to help in the raising of children while I’m out conquering the world. But I might be poor. Or I might change my mind. Or I might just get five more cats.

    Really, I just think that it’s awesome that we’ve come to a point where staying at home or not staying at home is enough of a choice that it’s a point of contention. Having someone tell you that as an educated woman you shouldn’t stay at home is as much of a restriction as saying, you’re a woman, you should stay at home. It’s stupid. Whatever past feminists intentions were, I’m sure it wasn’t to force women into some new inane “this is what you should do or your uterus/brain/childrens’ brain will fall out”.

    Two cents!

  • jon deal

    Obviously, Ms. Hirshman is stating her opinion, but it seems to me that she’s taking way too normative a stance on the SAHM issue. As sita mentioned above, feminism is, or at least I think it should be, about the ability of a woman (or mother in this case), to make a choice about her life. And if you choose to work or to stay at home, that’s fundamentally a Good Thingâ„¢, as my ex-girlfriend Martha would say.

  • My mom went back to work when I was about 7 or so and it really changed our relationship because she went from being my room mother and really involved in my school to no involvement at all. Never got to come to a play or anything. It was a dramatic change, and I wish she’d waited longer to go back to work. For many reasons, my relationship with my mom is always a struggle.

    I know my daughters will be incredible people, I want to stay with them until they’re ready for me to go back to work.

    My christmas present was a gold badge for SXSW so I could go hear you speak. I hope more than anything to get to meet you, and I know you’ll have a great time in Texas! Austin kicks ass and we LOVE you here!

  • lisapete

    Hi Heather – Happy Anniversary!

    My mom was a SAHM for most of my life, with a year thrown in here and there of work when my dad was working less hours and/or was ill.

    I loved having my mom at home, a lot more now in retrospect even. It was wonderful to have her there to address injuries, administer hugs, cook meals, plan events, delegate chores, and a million other motherly-related duties.

    Having said that, I did not choose this path, and in fact still have no kids at 33 because the one thing that gravely concerns me is how my mother never had the confidence to think she could live without my father to support her. I am grateful they worked things out the best they could to this day but I still think that my mother could have rightly chosen to divorce my father many times for various reasons. However, too much fear and love for us kids kept her from it.

    It terrifies me to think of being the sort of SAHM that relys solely on their spouse for finances. You do not have that issue ( plus you are the daughter of the Avon world sales leader! ) so I’m not sure if you know where I’m coming from with this. If I had ever had children, I would either elect to be the “working” spouse or work from home, if the option were there.

  • rockr girl

    what strikes me as funny here is that it sounds like the choice is “work/don’t work”. as if being a mother isn’t work. its a highly underpaid occupation, IMO.
    my mother was liscenced as an art teacher, with a bachelors in art. she chose to stay home to be a full-time mom. she and my father made a lot of sacrifices in order to make that possible. in fact, they ate a lot of hot dogs and drank a lot of kool-aid in order to afford it. and i am so incredibly honored as their child that they chose to make those sacrifices.
    i think any true feminist would appreciate the option to excercise that choice – as she would any choice.
    i am a 30 year-old woman who is not married and who does not have children. i have a career that my parents are proud of, and my friends are jealous of. and yet, i know, when that time comes that i find the man i want to marry and father my children, i will make the choice to be a full-time mom. its all i’ve ever wanted to be. not a high-powered CEO or attorney. not a ballerina. not even a princess (unless its prince william who wants to father those rugrats). i think it is a noble and rewarding title, that of Stay At Home Mom, President of the Kitchen Board, Chair of the Laundry Room. and really, the women who think those of us who chose that life to be less-than they are, are the ones who make feminists look bad. not those who excercise the right, the opportunity, the priviledge of being a SAHM.

  • Amy

    Happy Blanniversary!

    And to the topic at hand–my mother quit working full time when I was born but continued to write and publish from home (during naptimes). My father continued to work out of the home. Once we started school she increasingly worked outside the home during school hours and would travel on weekends when my dad was home. My mother was very creative and involved but gave us our own space to make mistakes and messes. It was wonderful to know she was always available to us but we were also very proud of the work she did.

    My husband and I have an agreement that whoever is making the most money when we have our first child can stay home. As I’m a teacher and he runs a manufacturing company, I think I will get to stay home. I look forward to it in many ways and already have put some professional projects on hold so I can work on them when the time comes that we have kids.

  • My mom was a SAHM. She was president of the PTA (including dressing up in a Care Bear costume to promote a fundraiser), Girl Scout cookie mom, volunteered at Sunday school and all around kid schlepper to all our activities.

    She never went to college. She went to “business school” and was an executive secretary to an oil company CEO before having kids.

    When my dad decided to start his own business and money was no where to be found, she did some freelance work typing a manuscript for a friend’s book. She did what she had to whenever she had to do it.

    I am so thankful she was always around. Even in college, I would call her and literally read her my term / research papers over the phone to make sure they were okay, or at least grammatically correct.

    She is an 11 year breast cancer survivor and now fighting myeloma (a cocksucking disease). And I have never been more proud of having her as a mom.

    I will send my daughter to college. I will broaden her mind and teach her about giving back like my mom did. And I will work to counteract all the bullshit that is shoved down women’s throats about women not needing men, families not needing women and career comes before anything else.

    I will teach her, as you said, that exercising the choice to be a part of a marriage and a family is the hardest and most important decision she will ever make.

    And if she (and I) end up being 1/2 the women that she is… we’ll have done pretty well.

  • simone

    my mom did not have the choice. she was on her own with three small children, so she had to get a job where she had the flexablity if any of us needed her she could be there for most of the time.she is a realtor and that job also has it own uncertainties. If i would change any thing i wish she would have been around more and been more envolved with my life. i realize when i look back she didn’t have the luxury she had to make sure the three of us had are needs might. i think my mom is a supermom.

  • My mom, who got married at 19 but finished her B.A. anyway, was a stay-at-home mom until I was a teen-ager. She entered law school the same year I entered high school. She worked in a government agency, taught legal writing and was what would now be called a freelance technical writer.

    I was a stay at home mother for as long as we could afford it; once we needed the health insurance, I went back to work. Before she entered law school, mom took classes at a nearby junior college to figure out what she wanted to do with her life. Ironically, I now teach at a junior college. I wish I had more students like my mom.

    People like author you quoted forget that one of the original campaigns of second-wave feminism was to get people to recognize that housewives performed a valuable function, that “housework” was real work and had an economic value in society. The idea that women should all leave their kids in daycare and go to work was never put forward by mainstream feminists in the 1970s; it was always supposed to be a choice.

  • rockr girl

    what strikes me as funny here is that it sounds like the choice is “work/don’t work”. as if being a mother isn’t work. its a highly underpaid occupation, IMO.
    my mother was liscenced as an art teacher, with a bachelors in art. she chose to stay home to be a full-time mom. she and my father made a lot of sacrifices in order to make that possible. in fact, they ate a lot of hot dogs and drank a lot of kool-aid in order to afford it. and i am so incredibly honored as their child that they chose to make those sacrifices.
    i think any true feminist would appreciate the option to excercise that choice – as she would any choice.
    i am a 30 year-old woman who is not married and who does not have children. i have a career that my parents are proud of, and my friends are jealous of. and yet, i know, when that time comes that i find the man i want to marry and father my children, i will make the choice to be a full-time mom. its all i’ve ever wanted to be. not a high-powered CEO or attorney. not a ballerina. not even a princess (unless its prince william who wants to father those rugrats). i think it is a noble and rewarding title, that of Stay At Home Mom, President of the Kitchen Board, Chair of the Laundry Room. and really, the women who think those of us who chose that life to be less-than they are, are the ones who make feminists look bad. not those who excercise the right, the opportunity, the priviledge of being a SAHM.

  • klgray78

    My mother worked full-time because she had to while my brother and I were growing up. I think it was unfortunate because there wasn’t enough family time during the week. I remember faking that I was sick several times so my mom would leave work to pick me up from daycare. I just wanted to be home with her. I am an educated woman and I choose to stay home with my daughter so that I am here when she needs me. When she is ready for more independence then I will go back to work and pursue my career goals.
    I hope that if she has kids that she does what feels right for her.

  • My mom worked until I was 10 or 11 (I’m 22 now). I’m an only child, and until then she was a single mother. I was a latch-key kid and I hated it. In the summer my mom dropped me off at the YMCA at 8am, so I had to go to bed early when the sun was still out, and I sat on the radiator in my second-story bedroom and watched my friends and neighbors gather on the sidewalks.

    But then my mom remarried and quit her job, and I said, “SUCK ON THAT, LATCH-KEY KIDS!”

    I don’t want children. But if I did, I’d want my daughters to be twin actors.

  • Kelsey

    Wow! Those questions seem to do what we hope any good writing will do, create discussion, even if it’s only one’s personal dialogue.

    I am currently a SAHM, for the most part. I used to teach first grade and I knew that I wouldn’t be able to give the engergy I wanted to teaching and the engery I wanted to my child. So that left me at home. I substitute teach for friends of mine who teach, and only when I know ahead of time so it’s easy to arrange care for my now 15-month old daughter. I was sure being a SAHM was what I wanted. Now, I am not always sure. I have realized that working satisfied a social need I didn’t realize I had. I miss colleagues. I have a few other “mom” friends, but it’s not the same as work. I had no idea how isolating being a SAHM would be, and it’s really floored me. Finding blogs like yours on-line have really helped stave off that isolated feeling.

    When I first taught I think I sometimes looked down on families where both parents worked. Then I realized a supportive family is a supportive family, no matter who is working. People who have the option of one parent staying at home are blessed, and I applaud those who make that choice (and the sacrifices that come with it). I don’t envy people who don’t have that option, and I also applaud doing what is best for your family (and the sacrifices that come with being a working parent).

    My mom was not a SAHM mom, but I forget that she wasn’t. She made the sacrifice of working 3rd shift, part time, most of the time I was in school. That pretty much meant she worked while we slept, slept while we were at school, and was there for us when we got home. When we were a little older, she switched to a day job as a home health nurse, but I was then responsible for only about an hour after school and she still made us dinner when she got home. I never felt like my mom missed any important events in our lives, school plays, volleyball games, recitals. I cannot, however, imagine how difficult that work schedule must have been on her and my father.

    I am debating going back to school and eventually returning to work. I’m not sure being home full-time is truly the best thing for me or my daughter. She is very passionate (read: subborn as a mule) like I am and we spend much of each day “butting heads”. A little seperation might be good for both of us.

    When she grows up, I hope she finds something that makes her happy. If it’s staying home to raise children, living on a mountain and raising goats, or working on Wall Street, I just hope she feels good about whatever she’s doing. And even more importantly, I hope she is strong enough to make a change when she needs to.

    I used to feel like staying at home, wanting to stay at home, was some kind of slap in the face of all the women who fought so hard for equality in the workplace. Now I feel a little like we need to work toward better choices in society so more women and men feel able to do what is best for their families.

  • Icyshard

    My mom became a SAHM after the birth of my sister (who is 15 months younger than I). I think it was great–she was always there for us, took an active interest in our doings, was a major part of the PTA and helped provide many wonderful events for my school, and was also leader of my Girl Scout troop.

    She still had her interests–she pursued a small craft business with a couple friends, and often did other things with other PTA moms.

    She had to go back to work when I was in 6th grade, and it was a little different to come home from school and not have her there (though my dad’s new job meant he came home right when school got out), but I was old enough where it didn’t matter too much.

    I don’t think I’d change any of it–I’m sure I reaped plenty of benefits from her being there.

    As for what I’d hope for my daughters…well, I’ll let you know when I have one. 🙂

    I think I’d hope that they do whatever makes them happy though, and I hope to exercise my choice to stay home or work when I have kids–whichever happens to suit my situation when the time comes!

  • Laura

    My mom worked her ass off taking care of two kids and an emotionally unavailable husband. I wish she could have done what she WANTED to, regardless of what that is, instead of what she had to, and be happy. And I hope my daughter can do the same.

  • Well, my mother worked part time. She was not college educated, however. It was a different, and actually, sort of ideal situation in that she and my father co-owned a business together. She worked most of the day while I was in school, but was usually home when I came home from school in the afternoons, and almost always for dinner.

    As far as me, I have an advanced post-graduate degree in the field of education, and I’ve worked as a teacher, a school principal, and as a policy-maker at the state level. Now at age 32, I am in my 9th month of pregnancy and expecting my first child – a daughter – and I don’t work.

    I’ve made the conscious decision to stay at home. In fact, I’ve been staying at home since my 4th month of pregnancy. I’ve entered into the world of consulting, which suits me just fine, because it offers me the flexibility to stay at home when I want to, and work when I want to. I’ve chosen to stay at home and raise my daughter – and I realize how fortunate I am to be able to make that choice.

    What I want for her is to have the same choices. I want her to know that she can be whatever she wants to be, and I want her to not be judged for those choices the way I sometimes am.

    There’s actually a great Sesame Street skit from the late 1970’s that’s all about empowering women to be whatever they want to be – all I remember are the lines “We can be truck drivers, we can be clowns” I wish I could find it in its entirety, because that’s exactly what I want for my daughter, the freedom and the empowerment for her to know that she can do anything.

  • ML

    My mother went back to work when I was in about 2nd grade. This was in the early 60’s…and she went to work because she wanted to, not because she had to. Who’da thunk my mother was cutting edge back then? I stayed at home when my kids were small, and went back to work when they were in 3rd and 5th grades. As a caveat, my husband works in the school corporation, so he was home with them after school and during summers.

    Heather, I’ve been reading your website since the beginning. We’d guffaw at work about your writings about your job. So I guess I’m a long time reader, first time commenter. You’ve brought tears, laughter, and just a teensy bit of jealousy–you have an amazing talent for writing and photography.

    Your stories bring back memories of my boys when they were small (they’re 24 and 21 now). The time goes so fast…. Enjoy and cherish all the time you can with your daughter and hubby at home. And spoil Chuck, who is obviously the perfect dog.

  • casiokey

    My mother was just finishing her 2nd masters degree & about to start her PhD when I was accidently concieved. With three older kids- 11, 13 & 15 she was finally feeling the wind under her wings -making my dad cook dinner while she did the night school thing and loved it.

    My dad said “no more school, raise the child” so she decided that she’d live through me. She vowed I’d be the best child anyone ever raised and had me playing the violin at 4 and pushed me into any& every child prodigy afterschool thing she could find. It was madness for both of us. It really messed me up for years & years. At 32 I forgive her mostly but I’m still a misbalanced insecure sorta drifter / artist.

    I’m frightened to have my own kids, I do see the same pathos /obsession/ perfection in myself.
    ——
    Thanks dooce, rock on!

  • becky

    my mom stayed home until after i went to school. she worked part time for a while, eventually going full time. she got home about an hour after i got home from school, and i usually stayed with family, until i was old enough to be a latchkey kid.

    my mom was fortunate enough to be able to stay home with us. i’m not sure what i’ll do when the time comes – sometimes i think i would miss out if i didn’t stay home, other times i like being out of the house and working. but i hope that i get a choice. i hope we’ll be in the position to choose.

    as for my daughters, i hope they don’t feel any pressure to do anything but what they think is right for their family. and i hope they, too, have a choice.

  • Hi Heather! I have been reading you for about a year now. Thanks for keepin me rollin and I LOVE the daily photo! Great job and congrats on all your famed success!

    My mother worked. My family lived from paycheck to paycheck and never seemed to get ahead. I guess I would say if I could change anything I would change the fact that my mom was never really there. I spent a lot of time alone and they worked A LOT. Both parents were in the car business and my mom was an office manager for many years. It just seemed like an awful struggle.

    In today’s world it’s a need to have both parents working. MOST people have to have double incomes just to pay the bills, let alone anything extra. I have been lucky enough to be able to be at home with my children from the day they were born. I value that time and think that my children have learned more about everything because I have/had the time to work with them. My 7 year old was counting to 10 before he was 2. ( no joke ) He was writing his name by 3, first and last! I worked with him every chance I got and he LOVES learning in school. My other 2 children are 2 and 1 and up until the last month I was home with them as well. I value that time and love how close I am with my children. Was it a struggle financially? Yes. Do I get hassled occassionally because I “didn’t work”… yes. But it doesn’t matter, because in the end my children love and respect me for everything I do for them.

    On the other hand, I wish the very best for people and respect people greatly who work and take care of children. I know for me, my day starts at 5-6am and doesn’t stop until 11pm at night. Between school and work…. I am dead crazy. I think you “just know” what is right for you……

    Good luck with everything Heather.

    Angelena

  • I grew up in the 80s and early 90s, and my mum stayed home with all four of us. We moved around a whole lot throughout my childhood — England, France, Holland, Abu Dhabi, Singapore, Hong Kong, Connecticut — and I think having that one constant in our lives was really important. My youngest brother and sister (twins) are just now 16, and my mother is finally thinking about going back to work.

    Maybe my situation is different because I was away at Evil English Boarding School (kind of like a big slumber party but with Latin lessons, way more lacrosse than is EVER NECCESSARY, and a lot of occasions for High Tea) from 11 to 18, so coming home in the holidays and having her there all day every day was pretty important. I didn’t see her very much anyway, and HOME was this glorious, glorious place I didn’t get to go to very often. Even now when I fly back to Singapore to see my family, I’m so glad I get my mother all to myself for these long stretches of days. I’m 26! I guess we all just want our mothers to be there for us whenever we need them.

    When I have children, I’d like to stay at home if I’m able to manage it. And if I have daughters, I hope they’ll be able to choose whatever they want to do too. No-one should ever feel that they’re having to APOLOGIZE for their choices. Maybe by the time I have grown-up little girls, no-one will have to.

  • summer

    My mother was, initally, a stay-at-home mom. Later, she became a stay-at-home, work-at-home-as-a-babysitter mom. Years later, she went on to be a work-outside-the-home mom, a college-student mom, a stay-at-home mom (again), and a work-outside-the-home-using-her-recently-acquired-professional-degree mom. She raised six children.

    How I felt about that as a child is as complex and mutltifaceted an emotion as any during our mom-and-minor-child relationship. I’m not sure I can pin it down to one or two sentences, but let me try. As a young child of the late 70s and early 80s, I didn’t think about it…at least, not that I recall. When I was a teenager and my mother returned to school, I do remember suffering from bouts of resentment when I had to do what I considered more than my fair share of Mom’s Work (cooking, cleaning, etc.) (It should be noted here that my step-father didn’t contribute much to the completion of these tasks, as he was typically exhausted from his own full-plus-overtime factory job.)

    Given the opportunity to change something about what she did, I’m not sure that I’d take the offerer up on it. I think–and I admit this is not precisely the answer to the question you asked–I would change the way she supported (and, honestly, failed to support) my sister and myself in our academic and career endeavors. It was with smacking hypocrisy that we were told our job was to be “a woman,” to “be submissive,” and to basically plant onself in a subservient role. She was willing to pay for our brothers’ educations; she gave my sister and me lovely sets of dishes and told us our educations were not “affordable.” I still sometimes wonder if she wasn’t trying to reverse-psychologize us. (Yes, I know that’s not a real word.)

    I don’t have a daughter; I’m not sure what I would want any hypothetical daughter to do. I acknowledge the great wisdom of the universe in sending me a male child. (Yes, I know that’s not how genetics work. Nevermind.) Still, I expend plenty of worry over my son, who (if he is, as I suspect, heterosexual) I hope will grow up to couple with a woman who is fully aware of all of her choices and exercises them as she sees fit. Futher and perhaps more importantly, I hope he’s the sort of man who will be supportive of whatever lifestyle-path she prefers to tread. (assuming said path doesn’t lead t’wards the land of Illegal, Flagrantly Immoral, and/or Embarassingly Crappy Crap)

  • In my haste to have the first comment, I neglected to play along.

    “What did your mother do?”

    Got pregnant with me when she was 20, and subsequently got married much too young. Oh, you mean later on? She was a stay-at-home mom until I was a teen (sister four years younger, brother six years younger), then was a flight attendant, then got divorced, and later worked at a bank (where she was held at gunpoint during a heist–seriously). Now she works for the Boston Globe.

    “And how did you feel about what she did?”

    I was an angry young man, and, honestly, I was simply glad to have that much less parental supervision.

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

    Whatever she wants … as long as it doesn’t involve nudity and a pole.

  • My mother was widowed when I was five years old. She was left with 90% of the mortgage paid off after the life insurance paid out, so she was forced to work. She managed to work part time between 9-3 whilst I was in school, but often when I was sick, I had to go to work with her – the finances didn’t allow any other choice. At the time, I hated it – I wanted a mum who could stay home when I was sick.

    She explained her choices to me when I was old enough to understand – how she had no choice but to work, if we wanted a roof over our heads and food in our mouths.

    As an adult, I admire my mother. She took a difficult situation, did her damndest to keep her head above water, and succeeded. I’m proud of her for that. I may not have agreed with all her choices over the years, but I am proud of her for being a good mother. She was always, ALWAYS, there when I needed her, helped me when I wanted it, and taught me to be independent.

    If I ever become a parent, I can only hope to be as successful a mother as my own mother was. We’ve disagreed, sure, but she’s also someone I’m proud to have as my mother.

  • ShannonLD

    My mom worked part and full-time when I was young (single parent, only child), full-time when I was in school. I have to say, I can’t remember wanting her home, but I do know I got into way too much trouble without her there. As I got older, I didn’t want her there when I got home, otherwise my fun would be ruined. In hindsight, I can see that it would have been much better for me if she had been around, at least if she could have been there for me after school. It sucks really, she had no choice. I’m a SAHM now, by choice, until my boys are in school. It’s the hardest job ever! and we have no extra money! but there’s no comparison. These years fly by so fast, there’s no way I’d trade them for a couple extra bucks. When they do go to school, I’ll be teaching so I can keep the same hours as them and be home for them. If I ever have a daughter, she can stay home or work, but whatever she decides (and my boys too) I will teach her to be completely independent, resourceful and self-supportive, among other things.

  • K.

    My Mom quit work as soon as she found out she was pregnant. That was in 1968. She stayed at home because it was expected of her. She would have preferred not to have kids I think.

    I want my daughter to go to college and travel the world while she is young. Beyond that, I hope she does what makes her happy. Whether that’s a career or staying at home with her kids or maybe both, doesn’t really matter. As long as she does it because she wants to and it makes her happy.

  • My mom stayed at home until I was 12. And even though that was her choice to go back to work and better things followed that choice, I think I kind of resented not having her home anymore. Especially when she quit 6 years later and stayed home while my little brother finished high school.

    I don’t have kids but I know that when I do, I want to be able to stay home with them. I don’t see it as wrong, or unfeminist to do so. How come men don’t have this unbearable limitation put on them? Career woman sacrficing her children or cave woman sacrificing her freedom….

  • Woo.. adding to the flood of comments. First of all, happy 5 year bloggaversary! I’ve only been reading for a year or so but (like many people have said) you were one of the first blogs I ever got hooked on, which inspired me to blog, albeit occasionally.

    My mother never had many goals as far as education went. She struggled in school and then went on to becoming a “Beauty School Drop-Out” (Cue Grease.) When she got married, she worked random jobs just to bring in additional income, but then quit right after I was born. She has been a stay-at-home-mom ever since… even though I’m in college and my younger sister will be in high school next year. I am definitely not against SAHMoms and Dads but I think that my mom should try the work world again now that we’re all grown up. (For one thing, it would help their financial situation, and she would also probably gain much needed self-confidence and assurity.)
    When I first started reading feminist lit, I was one of those naive, sixteen-year-olds who thought all women were sacrificing their life by being homemakers, but I have since adapted (thankfully) to agree with your sentiments. Feminism is about making your own personal choices, and I respect that for everyone.

    As for me, when I have kids I will probably take a couple years off or my now-fiance will, which ever works best. I just want to have as close of a relationship with my kid(s) as I can, and want to make their happiness my main goal.

  • Beth

    My mom worked when I was a kid. She never missed anything – plays, chorus concerts, driving me to and from piano lessons, and soccer games. When I was in fifth grade, she started her own business and was not only always there for me, but was happier that she could schedule her work around me (a feat made easier by my being an only kiddo). My mom is a total work-a-holic, continuing to work two and three jobs well into her 50s. I see where I get it from. Even now, she’s always there for anything important and best of all, is always there when I need her. I love that she was somehow able to balance both working and doing all the cool mom things when I was a kid.

    I wouldn’t change it for anything. My dad’s schedule was less flexible when I was growing up but he managed to make it for the big things and for those and everything else, my mom was there. I don’t even think I’d change the four years or so as a teenager when I hated my mom (o, teenage angst and rebellion!). I think it ended up making our relationship stronger and brought us closer because we realized how much we needed each other. I think these days she relies on me as much as I rely on her.

    I don’t know what I expect for my daughters. I plan to work but I’m not sure what I’ll be doing. A perfect world would have me working part-time as a pediatric ER attending with plenty of time to spend with my family and on other things. Something tells me I’m going to grow up and be like my mom – working all the time but making time for my family as well.

  • nonlinear girl

    The Linda Hirshman piece in the New Prospect drove me nuts, not because she focuses on elite women, but because she doesn’t ever acknowledge that her analysis and “advice” are only relevant to elite women. I’m lucky enough to have the choice to work part time, and I don’t think it undermines feminism. (at least not as long as my man comes home from work to cook me dinner every night.)

    I hate that I’m supposed to choose between her and a “focus on the family” vision of life for women. No thanks.

  • Kayhan

    Congratulations on your five years of stupidity, Heather.

    My mother stayed at home with my younger brother and me until I was in fourth grade. Then she went back to school to get her Master’s and then her Doctor’s in Education. She went on to be a fourth-grade teacher and then a principal. Now she’s semi-retired. She was lucky in that she got to have the best of both worlds: she was able to stay home with my brother and me while we were young and needed that most. Then there was a transition period while she was in grad school. She was home sometimes and not others. When she was home, she was usually busy. This was a great way for my brother and me to grow up. She was there a lot of the time so we never went long periods without her, but we were able to grow independent. There were issues. (I can’t count the number of times I burned the rice that I was supposed to make for dinner.) But we were able to grow so well.

    I think that it’s a crock to say that educated women are making the wrong choice by staying at home. What could be better than having an educated mother (or father) at your disposal?

    -kg

    PS. Not that I’m complaining about mooching off your PageRank, but shouldn’t you have a ‘rel=”nofollow”‘ in the links to the commenters?

  • Martha

    I’m the oldest of five, and my mother is working on her 27th year of stay-at-home parenting. She does contribute to the family income on the weekends, as she and my father are two parts of a 3-piece Irish band. No, really. But working one night a week afforded her the chance to raise the five of us at home.

    I’m doing the stay-at-home thing with my four-and-a-half-month-old daughter. And part of what I hope for her is that her life will let her make her own choices, and that those choices will make her happy.

  • Dogmom

    My mom always worked because my dad was a compulsive gambler and there were four kids to support. So while dad worked two and three jobs at a time, very little of the money ever made it through the front door. So my mother not only worked at a job paying half of what my father made to support her kids, she partially, right or wrong, enabled my father to continue in his addiction. And I always wished someone had been home to hear how my day went.

  • Amy

    My mother was a teacher – she took a leave when she had me, and then was a SAHM until I was 9 and my younger brother was 6, at which point she went back to teaching, because our family needed both incomes. She retired 5 years ago, at age 55, exactly when my twins were born – a happy coincidence.

    When I became a mom, I stayed home for a year, then worked 3-4 days a week the year after that, then went back full time when they were 2. Sometimes I wish I could be home with them, and sometimes I think that I would have NO social life whatsoever if I didn’t have to go into the city 5 days a week to work. I may have an opportunity to quit and run our “side business” from home full time, and if I can, I’d like to do that. I try not to dwell on the fact that otherwise I simply can’t afford to be a SAHM. Makes me think that the feminist movement missed some of the finer points. You said it well, Heather.

    For my 5 year old daughter, I just hope that her life can support whatever choice she wants to make. I understand wanting to stay home, and I understand wanting to work. Whichever she chooses, I will do my best to help her as much as my mother helped me. And as for what anyone else thinks, I honestly don’t give a shit.

    Happy 5th Anniversary.

  • Wendi Simmons

    My mom stayed home with me and my younger siblings. When we entered highschool she worked part time as a dental assistant, getting home from work at the same time we got home from school. I appreciated her staying home. We could have had nicer things had she worked along with my dad, and at the time I may have wished that I had more, but looking back I’m proud and glad she did what she did. I stay at home with my four. It is rewarding and difficult. I would like for my girls to be well-educated and ambitious, but I want them to know the joy of each moment with their children.

  • P.S. Happy Anniversary!

  • Happy anniversary on your site! My mom has always worked, out of necessity. I didn’t think one thing or another about it at the time. But, as I grew older and began developing my own career, we talked more about her career, and it became clear she hated her career and felt boxed in. I think she grew up in a time when you just bit the bullet and did what you thought you had to do and didn’t rock the boat or try to better your own situation. She definitely puts up with more than I would. She wishes she were more assertive, and I wish that for her, too. I like what you said about having options. My options at the moment are few, but I can see them expanding, and that’s what I’m working towards. For my daughters, should I have them, I want them to do what they want to do, and not what anyone else tells them to. In many ways my mom passed her don’t rock the boat legacy on to me. It has taken me quite a few years to undo it and rock my own boats. I hope my daughters are boat rockers, too.