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?

  • Ibeejd

    LOVE THE BLOG!!

    Ok my mom was home with us until I was in 7th grade then she went back to work. It was awful. I hated coming home to an empty house and I resented having to watch my brother. I learned to cook and clean early on in life so that wasnt even an issue. I just felt sorta cheated since all of my friends were allowed out to play or to have friends over. It made me become an adult waaaay too early. She HAD to go back to work (a divorce can make that happen) so I just “got over it”. If I could change it I would have given anything to have her home when I got home…asking me how my day was…comforting me when my friends were cruel.

    What I want for all the young girls in the world is the ability to choose what they want. I would hope they could work if they wanted or stay home if they wanted. Its a shame that more women are not able to choose because thier bank accout wont let them.

  • 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.

  • Will

    Hey Heather! My mom was partly a SAHM, partly a student. Until I was in school, she stayed at home, but afterwards I believe she got stir crazy and went back to school. She didn’t really need to financially, and I did miss her some during this time.
    My dad started his own business when I was in 3rd grade and she began working with him. I think I understood this more b/c they were working together and it worked well with the whole family theme. This is where you and John will excel as well. I admire you for taking advantage of the advertising and making a life for yourself doing what you like. YOU SHOULD BE PROUD!
    By the way, I just know you’re watching Deal or No Deal tonight. Addictive, isn’t it?

  • My mom stayed at home. It was great. She taught me to read when I was 2 1/2 years old. No one else would have done that.

    I work from home now, so what I’m really hoping to do is move back to the province of Quebec before I have kids. QC now has maternity and parental-leave benefits for self-employed moms! I think I could make that work.

    It’s nice that there are so many options now, and so many different women to make examples of them to work towards.

  • Lora

    My mom was a SAHM. She married at 21 but didn’t adopt me until she was 28. What did she do for seven years, you ask? She and my dad were farmers until about a year before I was born when they went belly-up. She occasionally worked a part-time job when my sister and I were older and could be left at home alone with my rather inept dad but for the most part, she was home. Looking back now that I have my own child, I don’t know that she was a very happy mom. There were always issues with my dad, money was tight, her own mother was super strict. I never felt, as the first born, that I lived up to her expectations. In talking with my sister now (who has 5 children of her own), we both agree that Mom wasn’t always emotionally available for us and perhaps even resented the hard work that staying home with your kids entails. Life was never easy for her, and still isn’t for various reasons, all valid, but we both feel that she viewed being a mom as a “job”, not as something to be enjoyed. Don’t get em wrong, she loves us more than anything and would do anything within her power for us, but I don’t know that she enjoyed the process. If I could change anything about what she did it would have been for her to be more available to us. I don’t remember her playing with us often, or just hanging out. Maybe she did and I’m repressing memories but my sister doesn’t recall this either.

    I, myself, am a college (and not a cheap one at that) educated woman who chose to stay home with my child. In fact, I think choosing to stay home is what brought my child about in the first place. I got married at 30 and since my husband is about 10 years older we started trying to have a family right away. Two years later and still nothing. My job, although I loved the challenge of it, was very stressful due to office politics. My husband told me to go ahead and quit since he could support us both on his salary and I could take some time to find different employment. I quit and wham, two weeks later I was pregnant! Then he was transferred to another state and I never went back to work since we had planned, and I chose, to stay home with our son from the beginning.

    You wrote exactly what I feel about the whole SAHM “thing”. I know how lucky I am to be able to stay home with my son…and how many other women would love to be in my shoes. It is a priviledge to watch him grow up. Sure, there are days when I’d love to run away and I start nipping at the tequila at 2:00 in the afternoon but I wouldn’t trade this for anything.

  • happy anniversary to you! five years…like a child going off to kindergarten!

    My mom was home with us. ‘all’ she ever wanted to do was be a mom and with every ounce of her being, she was that. And now, I’m home with my children, consider myself a feminist, and am grateful to those women before me who made this option of staying home a *choice*–one that I made wholeheartedly, and love wholeheartedly. The struggle for me to maintain a sense of ‘self’ in the whole deal is something I don’t remember seeing my mother struggle with–but feels crucial to me to balance.

  • Amy

    First of all…Happy Anniversary! I’ve only been reading your blog for the last year and enjoy every post. You say out loud what so many of us are feeling. You have made me laugh and cry all in the same day. Today’s picture of Leta dressed by dad, made me laugh out loud.

    I’m a single mom by choice who goes to work in an office every day. My little girl goes to day care and these choices work for us. I have great admiration for all mothers, regardless of whether they stay at home or work out of the home. I’m always disheartened when I see women bickering about how their lifestyle is better than someone elses.

    My mom was a kindergarten teacher and elementary school librarian. I loved going into her classroom when I was little. It made me feel so important. I went to after school daycare and was a latch-key kid (you could walk home alone in the 70’s living in Utah). I think by having a mom that worked showed me that moms could get up and go to work and still show immense love for their kids. I never doubted my mom’s love for us. I hope my little Olivia feels the same.

    What I would hope for my daughter is that she has a strong sense of self. That she’s couragious and doesn’t sit on the sideline and watch life pass her by. That she’ll know it’s okay to take risks and make mistakes and that I’ll always love her. I also hope that she realizes that what ever happens in the 8th grade isn’t the end of the world.

  • Congratulations on your blogiversary.

    My mother was and is a schoolteacher, except for a few years in which she and my father both sold insurance. With six kids, I think two incomes are pretty much required unless someone is independently wealthy. I can’t imagine my mother as a stay-at-home-mother in any case, even though she and my father worked themselves to the bone running us all hither and yon because we were involved in eight after-school activities apiece.

    I want my son to be a feminist. Also an anti-racist. Also a generally happy human being, whatever his choices in life.

    In honor of the poem in your first post (which was taught to me by my father many years ago — he started life as a farm boy), I will post one my mother taught me, which she naughtily memorized for a high school English assignment:

    “Go to Father,” she said, when I asked her to wed
    And she knew that I knew that her father was dead.
    And she knew that I knew what a life he had led.
    So she knew that I knew what she meant when she said,
    “Go to Father.”

  • My mom worked, often more than one job in order to keep food on the table and a roof over our heads, while my father worked and drank a little too much and purchased things like CB radios and new televisions with the mortgage money. Divorce fixed that. Of course, then Mom had to work even more. She still works and is itching to retire, but that will likely never happen because she’s always helping her kids out of financial binds. I fully expect to have her living with me when she’s unable to take care of herself anymore, and as a SAHM (beginning to WAHM,) I know it’s a privlege to be able to do that for her if the need should arise. She always put her children first, even though she had to work outside of our home.

    Her example helped me to see how lucky I am to be able to make the choice to stay home with my kids as much as I have. I did work for several years when Tyler was in grade school. I think she would have chosen to be there more if she could have.

    I hope my daughter lives in a world where she’s able to make the choice that is the truth for her, and where people won’t judge her harshly no matter what she chooses. That’s the world we live in right now. I wave my middle finger at somebody every day.

    Happy Blog Birthday!

  • Angela

    I just want to say once more that being a stay at home mom is a JOB. And one not everyone is cut out for. Some people make good lawyers, some doctors, some the cashier at walmart. We are not all the same, so we can’t all do the same job. My mom didn’t stay home and thank God. She managed to do enough damage in the little time she was there. Being a stay at home mom is something people should make sure they are qualified for. “Can I have the patience?” “Am I a good teacher?” “Can I manage to not be lazy, EVER, and get up at 6 o’clock everday, even on weekends and do this?” Please know yourself and be honest…that would be my message to my children…(I have boys, but lets hope in 20 years being a stay at home PARENT will be the discussion and not just Stay at Home MOMs.)

    PS Thanks for everything Heather. Your honesty helps people everyday!!!

  • Sunny

    Feminism is about having a choice. It’s not about being forced to work in a job instead of being forced to work at home.

    My parents have traded the working duties throughout my life. My dad worked until I was 5. Then my mom got a job while he got his PhD until I was 12. Then we moved out of the country for my dad’s job, so my mom stayed at home (lack of work visa). We moved back to the US and they both went to work. I think it’s great to have a parent home while a kid is growing up. I appreciated having both of my parents around at different points–I got to know them both really well as individuals.

    I think it’s great you’re able to stay home with Leta 🙂 What a lucky little girl!

  • megatevis

    My mom stayed home until my dad left her. She went to work teaching at a beauty college, and my brother and I stayed with our grandparents during the day or after school (I was 7, brother was 3). Those couple of years were probably the best times of my life.
    Then my mom married a complete jackass so she could stay home. Was it the right choice? She thought it was, and I love her dearly for trying to do right by her kids. But ultimately I think his shittiness canceled out a lot of her good intentions. I would have preferred being a latchkey kid who went without braces or private school to waiting, fearful, not knowing what kind of mood he’d be in when he came home.

  • Will

    Hey Heather! My mom was partly a SAHM, partly a student. Until I was in school, she stayed at home, but afterwards I believe she got stir crazy and went back to school. She didn’t really need to financially, and I did miss her some during this time.
    My dad started his own business when I was in 3rd grade and she began working with him. I think I understood this more b/c they were working together and it worked well with the whole family theme. This is where you and John will excel as well. I admire you for taking advantage of the advertising and making a life for yourself doing what you like. YOU SHOULD BE PROUD!
    By the way, I just know you’re watching Deal or No Deal tonight. Addictive, isn’t it?

  • Sara

    My mom worked,and my dad worked. He was unemployed for almost a year, and despite the serious lack of income, it was nice having him around after school. I think it’s a travesty how persecuted some fathers are for staying home with their kids. And even though you may not read this Heather, because you have already had 300 comments(I think people must like you?), I respect Jon for staying home too, even if it might have mostly been because he hated his job.
    I don’t think my life would have been any different had my mom not worked. She worked in a job for 22 years where her employers and coworkers had known my brother and I since the days we were born, so her leaving to go take us to the doctors or to get off early to take us to soccer practice was no big deal. I actually think with my mom and I, it would have caused bigger issues when I was a teenager. My parents didn’t have the option of not working, one or both of them. We went to daycare for the one and half hours before my mom would get off from work and then we would go home and my mom would once again roll her eyes at the ominous answer to “What do you want for dinner?” Food, of COURSE!
    I didn’t miss out on anything, both my parents were home for me after school and tucked me in at night. I do agree that in this century people have got to stop berating SAHM for the CHOICE they made. I don’t particularly like the picture of a perfect soccer mom some women try to emulate, but I think that’s changing too. It shouldn’t be a requirement either way.
    And as for my future daughters, and or sons, I may stay home I may work, but I’d never let my job interfere with my parenting and I’m sure neither would my future husband. If I stay home I’d probably downsize my career into something manageable from home, so I wouldn’t get bored (because eventually the kids would be going to school right?). And THAT is not a cop out!
    By the way Happy Anniversary! And WHAT was the big surprise you were meeting with the lawyer for? Or did I miss that post?

  • chelle

    Hey Heather, thanks for asking, and thanks for your post! My mom was a SAHM until my parents divorced when i was 9 and my brother was 11. Before my mother went to work, it never occurred to me that there WAS any other kind of mom. All of my friend’s mom’s were home with them all day long and it just seemed to me that this was a universal truth of every family. At least, all of the WASP families raising kids on my street.

    I hated that my mom went to work, though I understood that she had to so that our family could eat. I hated getting off the school bus and letting myself in with my own house key. I hated wearing that key around my neck as a little girl and feeling embarrassed if my school mates noticed it. I hated feeling scared and bored for hours until my mom returned home from work, usually after dark.

    I am now a SAHM with a one year old and hope to stay that way as long as possible. Remembering my life as a latch-key-kid makes me aware that not only does my baby need me at home now, but so will she as an adolescent. Possibly even more. I also feel lucky and empowered to be able to choose to stay home with my daughter. My middle finger waves at all who think my education is wasted on this endeavor! I began my “second” career as a massage therapist the year before I got pregnant and will definitely return to it when the time is right.

    What will my daughter choose when her time comes? I would hate to think that I could be one of those moms who projects her choices onto her daughter, but I would be lying if I said I didn’t hope she chose the same parenting path that I did. Ultimately, I would hope that work outside the home, or inside the home, whatever her choice would make her happy and fulfulled and that she has the freedom and power to CHOOSE.

    Happy Anniversary Dooce, and thanks for your wicked awesome website.

  • I’m going to admit that I’ve been one of the nay-sayers to intelligent women staying at home. My mother worked at the grade school I went to. When I was in high school, she wasn’t allowed to work (different country, visa disallowed working) but she volunteered at the school. I’ve always felt that she and my father were not ready to start having children when they did (on their honeymoon) and that their relationship has never been more than civil until we all (6) left the house. Now when I see my parents working and interacting, they seem like a loving, married couple. It’s a first for me.

    All of my married/mothered sisters (4 of 5) are stay-at-home. Some home school. Some are content, intellectually speaking, and others are not. I think that the choice to stay at home is just that, a choice, and more power to them for not having their lives dictated by “society”, whether feminist or patriarchal.

    What I want for my mother, my sisters, myself, and my daughters is this: that the choice to stay at home or not be theirs. That they not be forced into it by early children, husbands, or a bad school system. I think that the crime is that low-income women cannot choose to stay home (because they must work to support their children) and that educated women cannot, in good conscience work (because of bad schools, neighborhoods, what have you). I want mothers to be happy and supported regardless of their choice.

  • Carrie

    Happy anniversary, Heather! I’m amazed at the number of comments that have multiplied here – it’s such a sign of how many lives you touch.

    My mom worked, and I attended pre-school for the first year or 2 of my life. My grandfather went to pick me up one day when my mom was running late, and they couldn’t find me at first. I was eventually found, alone, in the rain, on the playground, in just a diaper and a t-shirt. My grandfather, who had just retired, yelled, “She’s not coming back here anymore!” From then on, he took care of me every day. (My grandmother joined us once she retired, too.) I wouldn’t trade my experience for the world. I grew up very close to my grandfather, and was ahead of my other classmates when I started school. Once I started school, my grandparents cared for my sister and I went to after-school daycare, which I loved, too. By the time I was 11 or so, we had moved and my sister and I became latchkey kids, which I wouldn’t trade for anything. I’m glad that my mother worked, but even more glad that she had the ability to make the choice that was best for HER and had the support system to do it. I wish that my parents lived close enough to play the same role, if we ever have kids.

    Looking back at my childhood, I think I was more affected by the times my parents had to work long hours and weren’t there in the evenings, than I was by the fact that neither were home right when I got home from school. Afternoons were for homework, and playing outside with friends. Evenings were for family time, and when either parent was away due to work, the house seemed emptier, and different than if my parents weren’t home due to a date together or something.

    My hope for any kids I have is that they grow up in a society where they can do anything, and make any choice, no matter their gender. I hope that they can find a supportive partner who loves them as they are, and together are able to build the life they both desire, whether they both work, both stay home, or both host a tiger show in Vegas. My key wish is the ability for choice.

    P.S. Please give Chuck some love and spaghetti on his snout for me!

  • My mom worked full-time outside of the home as long as I can remember. Financially, she didn’t have a choice. When I was young, I don’t think I knew that things could be different. When I grew older, I was proud of her work and her efforts to support us. I am still proud of her.
    I have continued to work since the birth of my son (now 16 months). For a long time, I struggled with my decision. I felt that I was not giving enough to my son and not enough to my job. It took a long time for me to hold my head high when telling people my son goes to daycare. It is the right choice for our family. We are both striving, and there has been no damage to our relationship.
    I hope that my son (and any future children) will be strong enough to make the decision (along with his partner) that is right for his family, whether that is working, a SAHM, or a SAHD.
    -Rachel

  • Sarah

    My Mom stayed at home with my two younger brothers and I until I was thirteen. We then moved to another, more expensive, state and both she and my Dad had to work to support us. I loved having my Mom home when I was a kid. LOVED it. I always felt like she was there for me and it seemed that we shared so much together. But … I am sure it wasn’t easy for her, being in her mid-twenties and taking care of three kids. She probably could have used a little more stimulation, and some entertainment beyond who threw what at who. She was an art major and we didn’t give her much time to create. When we moved, and she had to get two jobs to help make ends meet, I felt like we lost something. When I would tell to her about my day I would pass over the little things because we only had so much time to talk. And sometimes the little things are very sweet. I always respected her because I knew that what she was doing was because she loved us, but still, I wanted to see her more. If I could change something I would make it so that she didn’t have to work as hard as she did. As she still does. I would give her the choice, instead of having it forced on her.

    I want any daughters I have to grow up to know that they are more than society says that they should be and that their situation is their own. If they want to stay home full-time, then I hope they find a way to do that. If they want to work, then I hope that they find a way for that as well. The happiness and balance they find in their choice will make them better moms.

  • 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. When my girls have kids, I hope they can do whatever they want without the financial worries or the societal stresses. Hell, if they decide to be strippers, let them be happy strippers, I always say!

    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! 🙂

  • Irina

    I completely agree with you Heather. My parents and I were immigrants to this country and totally poor and on no welfare of any kind, so my mother worked (and continues to do so) my entire life. I think she would have been a happier person (and a much gentler parent) if she’d had an opportunity to even figure out what she wanted from her professional life, rather than work just because money was needed, nevermind being given the chance to stay at home with me or my brother. It was her mother, my grandmother, who hung out with us after school and that was absolutely invaluble. I learned to be me because she was there as an example.

    I knew when I had my own daughter that I would stay home with her for as long as I could. I went back to work when she was 20 months old…moreso because she seemed bored, than anything else. But since then it’s just been about having a job, not even a career or going after a dream. I think it’s horrible what little choice there is for a woman in a country with so much opportunity. I think you’re right: it’s actually making a choice when it’s available that’s our only remaining feminist mark.

    Sorry to take up so much space, but I get so angry about this kind of thing. Your post is much more sedate than mine would have been.

  • Mete

    My parents worked as a team. My mom worked nights, my dad worked days. Other than weekends, they didn’t see each other for 15 years. For that matter, I never saw my mother either, except on weekends or summer vacation. I missed her a lot. But we had no choice; that’s how it had to be to pay the bills. When we were in high school, she switched to working days. Being a bitchy know-it-all teenager, I acted like I didn’t appreciate it at the time. But I secretly did.

    The sad thing to me is that you ask “what do you want your daughters to grow up to do”. I know why you asked it, and it makes sense to wonder. But it makes me sad. Why is there so much pressure on women to fall into one role or another? Why don’t we ask “what will our sons do when they grow up?” Does anyone HOPE their son will grow up to be a stay-at-home-father, like my husband might be?

    No matter what women do, there are critics who think they are Screwing Everyone Else Up. If they work, they are bad. If they stay home, they are bad. There may be some stigmas about men staying home, but there are no groups out there saying “Men shouldn’t go to work. It’s bad for the family!!”

    I’m a mother. And I work full-time outside the home. I love it. I’m good at it. And I feel like a huge failure. But I know I’d feel like a huge failure even if I stayed home. That’s the reality, the pressure from society comes both ways.

    I guess that’s what I’d like to see for everyone’s daughters and sons. Freedom to choose their own path. Freedom from guilt, judgement, and criticism.

  • Elle

    My mom stayed at home until we were in junior high which worked out wonderfully for everyone! I think she was in desperate need of some adult interaction and it made my brother and I have to take some responsibility for not burning the house down or killing each other in those few hours until she got home. When she did go back to work it was retail/service related which taught me a huge lesson – go to college, which I did and have to say that my graduation was one of the proudest days of her life. Growing up and having my mom always be available was such an awesome gift. I know that when I have a child I will stay home and my husband knows and supports this. We want our children to be raised by their parents and whatever sacrifices we have to make so that happens we are happy to.

    I hope my presence in my daughter’s life allows her to believe that she can do anything she wants. Hell, if she inherits her dad’s psyche she can play defensive end for the Packers and we will be at every game supporting her!

    Keep waiving that middle finger, Heather, because I am going to be waiving mine! Congrats on five years!

  • Meghan

    My mom taught elementary school until my oldest brother was born, and she made the decision to stay home with her kids rather than put us in daycare. I have never, ever, been ashamed of my mother or felt that she must justify her decision because the sacrifice she made in giving up her “real career” has molded my brothers and I into strong, confident adults. I still cannot find enough appropriate words to thank her for her decision.

    And in case you were wondering, my mother is as feminist as they come.

  • Kelly

    My mother was a SAHM and freelance fiber artist (spinner, weaver, Renaissance woman) until I was about 10. I always say that I would have been a totally different person if she had been working full-time when I was a kid – just having her around kept me from feeling even more lonely and isolated than I already did in primary school.

    Once we moved and I started junior high, Mom worked as a telemarketer and quickly developed a massive case of carpal tunnel complete with huge workman’s compensation settlement. Now she has some permanent hand disability and stays at home again, taking care of her animals and doing the same Renaissance woman crafty things she did when I was growing up. I’ve moved across the world, so I don’t get to reap the benefits of having full-time Mom access anymore, but I think I had her around for the most important, formative years of my childhood.

    I think if I could change anything about my mom’s decisions, I’d encourage her to stay at home longer – even if just to avoid the medical problems. I was a “good girl” in high school and doubt that having my mom around more would have made me a better person at that point.

    As much as I feel strengthened by having had my mother around when I was young, I am at odds with my instincts to stay at home for my own potential children. I’m finishing my PhD this year and getting married in 2 weeks, and on some level I would definitely feel like I was wasting my (academic) education by not following my career. But…if that’s going to make my future kids more likely to become axe murderers, or raise the chances of having a broken marriage or family, I’d give up the career in a heartbeat. My attitudes towards even the thought of having children have changed so much in the past few years that I can’t even begin to contemplate what I’m going to want to do.

    If I have daughters, I’d want them to make their own decisions – of course! I think we can’t escape our upbringing. If I stay at home, and they turn out well, (or if I work and they hate it,) they may be more likely to stay at home for their own children.

    Keep up the great work, Heather.

  • kimbo

    My mother stayed at home for most of my childhood and cared for me and my younger brother. She got pregnant with me within the first month of her marriage, so I don’t think she ever intended a “career” though she did have a college degree.

    When I was about 10, my mother started working part-time, because (as I understand it) she had to. We needed the money. My father was not directive or overbearing, but my mother no doubt recognized the need for extra money, so she took a job at a local department store. I think she truly hated it, not just because she wanted to be home with us but also because I think she felt the job was beneath her intelligence and education. Nonetheless, with a nonexistent work history, what could she do?

    She quit as soon as she could and didn’t work again until I was in, maybe, 8th grade. I think, this time, it was a job she wanted, but still — I think overall she would have preferred to stay home.

    I don’t remember thinking much about her working vs. not working, except that when she had to work she got very cranky and stressed out (because she didn’t want to do it) which made me resent her having a job: I disliked being on the receiving end of her bad moods.

    Otherwise, when I was growing up I once realized how horrible and boring my mother’s life must be, to do “nothing” but stay home and care for the family. I thought it seemed a fate worse than death, although she seemed fine with it, I couldn’t imagine how she could be happy.

    As for me, I have no daughter and probably never will. I realize now that the only way I would have children would be if I could stay home and care for them. This is financially impossible. Just not in the cards. And if I can’t do it the way I want to, with the time and luxury of being able to be with and care for children, then I won’t do it. I can’t explain precisely why I have completely reversed my youthful view of my mother’s stay-at-home life. I think, though, that I now appreciate now the pleasures and joys that being a full-time mother and wife could bring. My completely selfish and inexperienced 14-year-old self couldn’t understand this.

    If I had a daughter, though, mostly I would hope she would be in a position to make whateve choice she wanted. Unfortunately, that means having enough money to make that choice. Motherhood. Career. Whatever makes her happy and fulfilled.

  • nb, boston

    My mom worked until just before I was born, as an elementary school teacher. She stayed at home through my childhood and my brother’s until I was 11 and old enough to babysit after school — at which point she went back to being a teacher. I feel that the time she spent staying home with us was indeed valuable – both my brother and I were advanced once we got to school because of the attention and extra education we received from my mom. Although this was great, I don’t blame my mom for going back to work, it’s what she loves. She did it at the right time too; it was the moment when I started growing up and my brother was in school all day and we didn’t need someone there THE SECOND we got home from school. By staying at home when we were young and then going back to work as we aged, we got the best of both worlds.

    What worries me is I’m two months short of my college graduation and I’m expected to jump straight into the working world, like it and stay there and that’s the end of it. And I don’t want to. I eventually want to start a family and do what my mom did and maybe even change my career later. What is so bad about raising a family for a little while? To me, I think it’d be a breathe of fresh air and a chance to try something completely new. I thought the idea of feminism was to allow women the chance to take whatever risks and endeavors they wanted, same as men. Why shouldn’t “taking a break” to have children be included?

  • My mom worked. My parents divorced when I was a child requiring her to do so even though she probably would have prefered not to.

    When I was a tween, I assumed my wife would work. I assumed I was going to be the hip and artsy and creative and so would she and we would both work and live the city life and etc. etc. So I got a fine arts degree and, although I chose against the professional artist route and hold a normal job, I don’t have the earning capasity that I might have if I had chosen another major.

    Enter our first child, born a month after Leta. Now my wife and I are straining to determine how to set up a life that does not involve him and his soon-to-arive sybling spending most of their waking hours with people who have been hired to watch them. I would also like to home school. I won’t get into my wife’s additional classic career/SAHM struggles.

    I know that I will raise my kids to make this same choice for themselves, but part of me doesn’t want to. Part of me wants to raise them making it clear that the boys will get jobs and support their wives and the girls will be SAHMs. Some small part of me wants to do this to spare them making decisions at 18 that will make their life all the more difficult at 30. I know that won’t do this (not that it would work), but I am going to be more conservative. My sister and both agree that the “you can be anything you want” line that we were raised with didn’t serve us well. We did not get adequately strong guidance on making wise choices in the face of society’s constant “you can do whatever you want” I am not sure how I am going modify this for my kids, but I’ll try.

  • Tiggerlane

    Congrats, Heather. You are one bad-ass SAHM. Wave that finger like you OWN it!!

    My mother was a SAHM. And the best piece of advice she ever gave me was because of that status. She was totally dependent on my father. She had NO skills, unlike you. If something had happened to him, there’s no telling what she and I would have done. I was also an only child.

    Her piece of advice? She told me to make sure that no matter WHAT happened in my life, how many kids I had, or what kind of rich man I married, to always make sure I could take care of myself and my children, independently. She spent too many years of my youth, frightened that my father’s heart condition would manifest itself in a life-ending heart attack. I vowed that I would never be reliant on a man or anyone else or any government entity to make my future. I never forgot that piece of advice – and even though I am happily married, I know that if something happened to my husband tomorrow, I could take my only child and make it. So as long as you can take care of yourself and Leta, there’s no shame in your choice. It is something we all have to decide on our own. I am too independent to not have a career – something about owning my own company is invigorating, and helps define me.

    Linda DID have one good piece of advice in her tome. Though I disagree with much of what she said, I agree that working mothers should think about limiting the number of children that they have. It’s one of the reasons I have only one kiddo. I couldn’t give her the attention she deserved and work, too. I go to every event and school party and ball game, but that’s partially b/c I own my own company and I CAN. I don’t have the emotional or physical energy to give my all to a passle of kids and give my all to my demanding work, so I made the only-child choice early on. (Then again, maybe I’m just limited in my abilities.) And believe me, in this lovely southern culture, I have received a great deal of criticism for not popping out a litter. Statements such as, “You’re not REALLY a mother unless you have more than one kid.” But I know what I am capable of handling, and I know who I am.

    As for my daughter, she is proud to be an only child. And she think she may have two kids, but she definitely wants to have a career. My influence? I’m not sure. But I definitely passed on my mother’s advice.

    So do your thang, Heather…and remember, no one is living this life but you. You are doing right by Leta and Jon, and nothing else matters.

  • The most important thing you said about staying home with your children is “that you have a choice” you exercised your choice and that IS the most important facet of feminism.

    I didn’t have a choice but I respect those who do as long as they don’t judge me for my choices.

    My mother didn’t have a choice. When she was home she was high or asleep. My sisters and I took advantage of that fact by asking for things when we knew she didn’t knew any better. Like a car or a horse.

    I have children and I don’t have a choice because I’m a single mother but, I am excited as a woman to have the opportunity to make enough money to support my family by myself and not be dependent on the welfare system. The welfare system is wrought with discrimination and oppression – any one who can get out from under that system is a hero.

    You’re right, how exciting to have choices.

  • oO_Bubblez_Oo

    Happy 5th Birthday, dooce.com! I was stoked yesterday when i was going through the archives from when you lived in L.A and there were comments I hadn’t ever seen before, but I’m even more excited now!

    In answer to your question (sry for the rambling), my mum stayed at home with my brother and I from when I was born until my brother was in grade one (so about 8 years) then she became a member of the p&c at our school, and a teacher aide. When i was in grade five, (10yrs old) she started studying to be a teacher. One year later, my father (who was the HR manager for Queensland for in Australia Post)found out that he had a brain tumour, and then he had two strokes, within two years, and had to give up work. So my mother, who was married at 18, and worked full-time for all of five years of her life, and had no qualifications, half-way through a four-year full-time uni course, became the sole wage earner for our family…

    Much to the discust of my dad’s family, she refused to give up her studying and live off welfare to look after my dad. So for two years, the four of us lived on $17,000 – about 1/3 of what my dad earned – each year in a brand-new house (with two new cars) while she worked her ass off studying. My parents split up as a result of it, but mum just wanted what was best for us kids, and i’m greatful for that.

    When i have kids (in many more years!), i would love to be able to stay at home with them, although my circumstances might not allow me to… I admire that you are able to do what you love, and stay at home with your family!

  • Stephanie B

    Happy anniversary, Heather B. Armstrong. I’d really like to get drunk with you one day.

    I have a rockstar-awesome mother who has been one of my very best friends throughout my 22 years of life. She has worked since I was born and has been the sole wage-earner in my family at multiple points in my life because of my father’s, er, questionable employment history. I was in day care at least part of the day from when I was a little over a-few-weeks-old until I was 10, and I have never felt as though I was “raised by strangers.” I remember fondly the wonderful women who cared for me over the years, but my memories of them are few. At day care, you practice your ABCs, dress in someone’s hideous shoes from 1974, eat your apple slices and go home. Day care does not shape who you are, who you will become.

    While I firmly support respecting one’s parents, I also believe that parents need to earn respect as much as children need to give it. And I think that’s the biggest trick my mother ever pulled: always being someone whom I respect and who respected me. I don’t think that fact would have changed a bit had she stayed home with me. And I’m glad that she has remained so passionate and so involved in her profession, which is a very important part of who she is. Her dedication has always informed me of the importance of acting on one’s passions and beliefs.

    What do I wish that she had done differently? I wish that she had started standing up for herself years before I was born instead of years after I graduated from high school. She allowed my father to be a real jerk to her and hearing the condescension in his voice always killed me.

    If I have a daughter (and, dammit, if I’m raising a kid she is going to be a daughter), I hope that she can choose to stay home with her children (should she choose to become a parent) without some hyperactive feminist pointing a nasty finger at her. But I also hope that she has the opportunity to pursue at least one of her educational/professional/altruistic/political/athletic/travel interests before she has children. I don’t want her to become a mother simply because society is telling her that she will be happiest in that role.

    Feminists like Ms. Hirshman should be aiming some of their venom at social norms that prevent men from feeling free to stay home with their children. I mean, how sexist is that?

    Note: I’m not trying to bad-mouth feminism — I’m about as radical feminist as you get.

  • d2mgh0

    My Mom was a stay at home mom and I was her only kid. A wife who worked outside the home would have been an insult to my Dad’s abilities to provide for his family. I’m extremely grateful that she was there for me literally all of the time. But my Mom was a talented nurse before she married. I’ve always been a little sorry she gave that up, partly because I think she enjoyed nursing and was good at it, but also because her complete dependence on my Dad for everything material in her life was scary to me. Can you see yourself standing at the breakfast table with your hand out asking for grocery money? I can’t. I wish I could just say that my daughter, if I have one, will do whatever makes her happy. But I’d prefer that her happiness included a six-figure income.

  • My mom was a SAHM. I loved that she was always there for me and my siblings. But I remember thinking when I was in high school that she was a “lesser” member of society because she never went to college and was “just” a mom. Damn was I wrong. She was actually a very bright woman who wanted to be a teacher but married and had five kids instead (Catholic, not Mormon!).
    As a college-educated SAHM, I made the choice to stay home for the betterment of my daughter. Sure I miss my workforce identity and the money, but my mom-dentity makes me proud.
    When dd grows up, I want her to be a feminist like me. And happy. And funny. And a democrat. Mostly a democrat.

  • KJK

    My dad worked in upper management. My mother was home with me until I was in middle school. At that point she got a job working three days a week as an administrative assistant in a hospital, mostly because she wanted something to do. Every year I won the award for most volunteer hours, because my mother made me work as a candy striper when school wasn’t in session. The money my mother made went to the shopping trips she and I took at least once a week. I learned to like the “good stuff.”

    When I was sixteen and looking at colleges, my mother started talking about what a perfect profession teaching would be for me – I could be home with my children when they were home, but have a fulfilling career as well. Notice that it was assumed that I would get married and have kids – it was a given that even I believed.

    I quit teaching five years ago. I’m 33, I’m single, I’ve never been married, I am wrapping up my doctoral studies, and I have a job that is in education but in the private sector – I travel a great deal, and work 250 days per year. I just bought my first home. I have nice things, good friends, family, health. But if I’m lying, I’m dying – I constantly battle the “what if’s” – what if I had married that jerk when I was 22? What if I never get married? What if I get married and have kids – what will I do with all of this education? What if I make the wrong decision?

    Luckily it’s a concern for another day.

    I have a greater respect for the women I know who stay home with their children, rather than those I know who HAD to have a child because it was next on the checklist but can’t STAND to stay home with them. It’s a tough job, but from what the reader sees, you guys are doing a great job. Thanks for letting us learn with you.

  • My mom stayed at home with us the entire time we were kids. Once my youngest brother (who is 10 years younger than me) reached about high school age she went back to work. No one ever required that she stay home – it was always her choice. She did it because she felt it would be better for her kids if she did it.

    I am not 30 years and I wouldn’t want my mom to have lived her life any other way. I had a great childhood and parents that were always there for me. I always knew, as irritating as it seemed at the time, that my mom would be waiting for me after school.

    I’m now a single parent and my son has pretty much been raised in daycare. If I knew then what I know now I never would’ve allowed that to happen. I wish more than anything that I would’ve stayed home with my son when I had the chance to.

    Oh, and I’m an extremely liberal Democrat feminist.

  • tlh114

    My mother stayed home with my brothers and me until my older brother went through a crippling major depression at the age of 12 and needed extra medical care (and more health insurance) and my little brother started kindergarten. I didn’t understand it at the time (who does when they are 10), but my mother went to work at the worst time of her life to just try to keep our family afloat. Everything was so different before our situation necessitated her taking a job for the insurance that I refer to my mother from her first SAHM days as “my mother from my other life.”

    Later, when my older brother was no longer in need of hospitalization, she stayed home again.

    I have always felt lucky that she stayed home with us, that we were able to have her there. My friends’ moms mostly worked, but mine was there to answer questions and read books and take care of us. But, I am also proud that she was not helpless when the situation demanded that she work outside the home. She took care of us, any way she needed to.

    In our situation growing up, I don’t know what I would change. However, this sort of situation is something that my girlfriends and I talk about quite a bit. We have advanced degrees and the kinds of careers our mothers would have never aspired to. We were not raised the way they were, with the expectation that we should stay home and take care of our husbands and children. It’s hard to know what to do.

    I have done research on feminism and feminist figures through the ages while in college (often working on these papers while the kids were sleeping since I worked through school as a nanny), and I think that the most important thing that those women gave us was the freedom to choose our lives and destinies. I don’t think they fought for equal rights so that we could be forced into yet another person’s idea of how we should live our lives.

    I do not believe that every woman should give up her career to stay home and raise children (not everyone is cut out for that line of work- just like not everyone should fly fighter planes). But to say that taking care of children, raising them to be the best people they can be, teaching them how to think and nurturing them as they grow is a waste of a college education, well, that’s bullshit. Who better to raise a child than a bright, educated person who loves him or her and wants to be doing it?

    If I ever have children, I hope to be able to stay home and take care them. And if I have daughters I hope that they are allowed to make the best choice for themselves, their personalities, and their temperments without being made to feel guilty or vilified.

  • Carol

    Congratulations on your five year milestone – love your site!

    My mother was a SAHM. She kept an immaculate home and presented three immaculate children upon my father’s return home every evening (I’m not kidding – we changed clothes before he arrived home from work). She was active in our assorted PTAs, volunteered, swam laps every day – and when my youngest sister stared college – attended community college, too. I grew up believing that I could be anything I wanted to be.

    Now I have three children of my own: 18, 16 and 8. I work fulltime in a very demanding job. My husband works out of our home as a freelance writer and has been the primary SAH parent for most of our child-rearing years. My daughters believe they can do anything they chose to do and have learned to be self-sufficient. My son does as well. We’ve abandon all hope for the immaculate stuff…! We strive for content.

    If there was one thing I could change for my mom – it would have been to have her relax about life a little more. The world doesn’t come to a screeching halt when my kids are unkempt or their rooms are untidy. I would take back all of the hysterics because of my messy room and spend more time just talking to her about stuff. My favorite time of the day growing up was from the time father left for work (6:30am) until my alarm clock would normally go off to wake me from school. I would ask my mom if I could come in to cuddle with her. We snuggle under the covers and just talk about anything I wanted to before my 7am alarm. I did it from elementary school to high school. It made me feel special and very important to her. My brother and sister never found that window of time in her day. It was all mine.

  • licia_marie

    My mom didn’t work outside our home for nearly thirty years. However, she has hauled butt and been working for her goals and her family the past thirty years.

    I want my daughter to have choices. I want her to be respected for what choices she makes, whether she pursues a career or stays at home.

  • Roo

    Firstly,

    Congrats on five years of fun! I’ve been reading your site since this summer and I’ve been hooked ever since. Like any true addict, I immediately made my sisters all junkies too.

    Now on to the real topic:
    I am in total agreement with you on this issue. I think feminism is all about choice, whether it be about staying home or going to work and dominating the scene, the freedom to be able to have these options is what’s important.

    My mom was a stay at home until I was 12 and when she got a job, it was through the school district so she would have the same schedule as us kids. I look back on this now and realize how lucky I was because of this. I only wish every kid could have that experience. On the feminist issue, as I law student, I obviously plan on having a career. Yet, with this career, I hope to be able to have the choice of staying home with my possible children in the future.

    So in conclusion, you rock and keep on giving the finger to anyone you feel like, because I know I do.

  • Katiegirl

    My mom stayed home with us until my youngest sibling was in first grade. After that, she worked part time and used part of her free time to volunteer in our classes (fun in first grade, mortifying in fourth) until the oldest, me, was old enough to watch the younger kids after school. I know that it was a financial burden for her to stay home, we never had much money (not that I recognized it at the time), but it was something that I look back on now and admire so much. I loved that she was home when I got home, made us snacks and helped with homework. My mom always says that she doesn’t define herself by her job, and I can honestly say that this is true. I think that all she’s ever wanted was for each of us to do exactly what we wanted to do. She’d be just as happy for me and supportive of me if I was a corporate lawyer, a nurse, a gardener, owned my own business, a dog walker, or whatever. And that’s what I hope to be able to give my children, too. The knowledge that whatever they do and whatever they want to do, as long as they’re happy, is great and worthwhile.

    I discovered this website a year or so ago, and it’s now a part of my daily life. Thank you so much for sharing your writing, your life and experiences.

  • stephanie

    wow, i was going to read the comments to see if what i was saying was redundant, but at that time there were 3, but by the time i got here there were over 30. so i didn’t.

    &&, i think it’s funny [not really] when people wave the “feminist” argument in people’s faces about this kind of thing, because, wasn’t the underlying point in the whole feminist movement that, essentially, women had a choice, and because of that women could do whatever they wanted? hm.

    anyway, both my parents work, my mom makes more in her job than my dad does in his 3 jobs but they both work, because otherwise i am certain we’d suffer financially. [yadda yadda yadda insert rant about no aid for middle class white kids that actually want an education here] so, i realize the necessity, but it did have some negative effects:

    a.) when i was really little, i spent the days with my grandparents, and it was the most wonderful time in my life. they lived in a beach house and had a flower & vegetable garden, and i was the only grandchild, life was awesome.
    b.) when i got into elementary school i got dumped into various after school programs and they were all horrible, but my parents didn’t have any other choice. [shut it dr. laura fans who think my parents did have a choice, they didn’t if we wanted to eat, be clothed, and be safe] the worst was the ymca, where i can still remember screaming and clinging to the stair railing in my house begging my dad not to take me there. those places mesh kids with other kids way older than them that exposes them to topics like drugs & sex way too early, in my opinion. they also forced us to do nothing but watch tv or movies [often inappropriate ones too] even when it was a nice day or i actually wanted to do my homework. the big problem was, they didn’t care to put us in different groups, we were just herded around and forced to do whatever they wanted us to.
    c.) when i got old enough to come home after school and stay by myself until my parents got home i did nothing but watch tv and eat. alot. i gained a shitload of weight and the year before i started highschool i went through a serious depression, which i don’t blame on my parents, but it happened.
    d.) 12 years after i was born my parents had my sister, and when they had to go back to work again they found a daycare mom who lived across the street from one of my best friends, and only took care of 3 kids [including my sister] and mostly it was just my sister during the day. this was the best thing ever, and i spent my afternoons there well into highschool.

    now, all of that being said, i don’t know how much different my life would have been if my mom had stayed home. my mom is a bonified couch potato, and any time she spends at home is usually doing laundry or snacking in front of the tv. [make no mistake, she is wonderful and i love her and she was never neglectful, not some zombie mom, but you won’t find her out going for walks or running around] my dad on the other hand, deals a lot with highschool kids and people trying to get their GEDs, so he was always the one to help with homework because it was always fresh in his mind – i always got good grades, graduated with honors, did really well on SATs, etc, and i couldn’t have done it without him. he also does all the cooking, cleaning, and grocery shopping, and picked us up from daycare places. he always plans activities for us on the weekends or encourages us to get outside, play, exercise, go places, etc.

    so i guess, in conclusion, it would have been awesome and i could have [maybemaybemaybe] avoided a really bad period of blob-like existence around jr. high/highschool if my dad was a stay at home dad, but, i’m now 22, a graduate of a good 4 year college with a bfa in graphic design, in a great relationship, living on my own, everything is swell, but i think [and interestingly i’ve had this conversation w/ my roommate who feels the same way] i would rather stay at home and be, well, domestic. because i like it, it feels good to me.

  • wiggins

    Heather is right — feminism is about choices. It’s also about saying that women can put their families first and still have other skills, interests, and dreams — Heather is a perfect example of that. Having a life that includes, but is not limited to, children does not necessarily mean a job outside the home, it can mean interests (photography), experiences (Amsterdam, skiing), and vocations (a hugely popular website!), even if the pay is shit.

    This work versus family distinction is crap — there are pros and cons to staying at home and to going to work. My mom stayed home when we were too little for school. Three kids, eight years. (Then she was a school teacher, the perfect mom job). But making “mom” your ~only~ planned vocation only worked when people had 12 kids and a life expectancy of 50 years. Even if you stay home when they are little, that’s maybe a quarter of your working years. So why do people act as if women are throwing their education away if they choose to spend a few years home with their kids? They have plenty of years left to work outside the home. And who is to say that you aren’t using your education when you are raising bright, well-adjusted, compassionate children? And by the same token, why do people act as if a woman should prepare ONLY to be a mom or ONLY to work outside the home? Many do both across the span of their lives, and taking some time to do one versus the other doesn’t mean it’s all that defines you. And as Heather points out, many women may prepare to “only” be a mom, and find that financial realities mean they have to work.

    My daughter is almost Leta’s age. I hope she’s happy, compassionate, and loved. My dream job means working outside the home. And so we do what we have to do — a cheaper house closer to work so there’s no commute to waste time, a part-time job for my husband for more family flexibility, and always, kid first. There’s lots of ways to be a great parent.

    Thanks for a great website, and congrats on 5 years.

  • Fog Spinner

    what did your mother do? My mother was and still is a jack of all trades. For years she worked at as the main branch teller at a local bank. She went from branch to branch fixing all their bookeeping errors. She quit doing that when it got in the way of her family. She also raised kids. Not just me, I’m an only child. I have litterally uncountable numbers of “foster” brothers and sisters. Most, 90%, not legally fosters. These were troubled kids whos parents couldn’t deal with, or didn’t want to deal with. My mom took them all in. If they were old enough they worked to help suport the family, or help take care of those of us younger. (I’m the baby)

    Did your mother stay at home? Did she work? And how did you feel about what she did? See above. When she stopped banking she worked odd jobs that let her be home when I was.
    I’m honored that she did what she did. I’m horribly proud. I’m a tad jealous sometimes. I don’t think I’ll ever be the mother she was. I know you sure can’t eat off my floors!

    If you could change anything about what she did what would that be? I don’t think I would. There are so many people who benifited from what she did, I don’t think I could be selfish enough to take that away. I just wish it had been a little easier for her, money wise.

    Also, what do you hope your daughters grow up to do?
    I won’t ever have a daughter, but I hope my son grows up to be whatever he wants to be. I just want him to be productive and honest and trustworthy and most of all happy.

  • Editrix

    Congratulations on your Wood (heh) site anniversary, Heather.

    My mom stayed at home with my brother and me until I was in 7th grade, at which point she took a job as a receptionist for an asshole dentist in our small Midwestern town. It was meant to be a temporary gig so my parents could put away some extra scratch for their kids’ college expenses down the road. For years and years, she felt good about her decisions, both to stay home when she could and to go back to work when she did. Even when she found it tiring or stressful, she’d tell me that she loved meeting all kinds of people, getting to know her co-workers, and feeling useful.

    She’s a sometimes scarily optimistic person, so it was rare that she ever admitted to having regrets about anything. But she once told me that she wished she’d been able to go to college and study literature. Her mother had died suddenly when she was only 16, and she spent her teen years helping her father run their household and farm. One of her brothers, a dentist, pressured her into studying to become a hygienist after she graduated high school, but she hated it and happily quit when she met and married my father. If there’s anything I could ask for on her behalf, it’s that she’d been able (or felt able) to go to college and study the fuck out of literature and everything else that struck her fancy. Right now, she’s retired and caring for my disabled father. Maybe someday she’ll get the chance to matriculate, and if that day comes, I’m going to pay every red cent of her tuition. (But no sorority dues, damn it.)

    When I was growing up, I always assumed that someday I’d be a mom who would (if at all possible) stay home to rear her young’uns, after which I’d go back to being the editor-in-chief of The New York Times. No effing WAY could I have imagined marrying my college sweetheart and divorcing him at age 26, moving to a brand-new city and starting my life over again, dating a series of losers, battling and getting a grip on crippling depression, and finally getting well and meeting the person I belong with in my mid-30s. Now in my late 30s, I cycle between desperately wanting a child in these last few precious fertile years (or adopting a kidling who needs a family, if I run fresh-out of eggs) and freaking out majorly at the thought of ruining some innocent person’s life by trying to parent him or her. I’m sure given our economic situation, I wouldn’t have a choice about staying home or working — I’d be back at work as soon as my maternity leave ran out. And probably spending a good percentage of every workday sobbing my eyes out. I don’t know how my friends who stay home with their kids can stand not working, and I don’t know how my working-mom friends can stand not spending every minute with their adorable kids. Until there’s a sea change in this country where all mothers who need or want to work are able to have affordable onsite daycare or flexible hours or liberal telecommuting options or a combination of the above, the decision of whether to go back to work or not is going to remain one of the most brutal ones women will probably have to make. And that sucks six ways from sundown.

    If I do get to the point where I’m able to be a mom to a daughter, I’d want to tell her what my mom told me every chance she could get: You can do absolutely anything you want to, and whatever it is you dream of doing, know that I am here to help you and support you and love you.

  • erin

    Happy anniversary, Heather. May you celebrate many, many more.
    My mom worked, but only after my sister and I were in all-day school, so I was about 6 or 7. She liked what she did, and I was young enough not to notice, so it worked out okay.
    It was wierd, though, spending days when I was sick at her office in a little back room with a cot and a crappy TV. At least I could take over one of the TRS-80s and play ‘Adventure’ on it. Later on, we did afterschool daycare, but not for long (too expensive, and the place was pure evil). I got to spend afternoons with my Grandpa, and learn about fishing, and the Cubs, and all sorts of neat things about minnows and gardens and feeding birds.
    Did I resent the fact she worked sometimes? Yes. Would I change it? Hell, no! She wanted to work – so she did it. I got to spend a lot of time with my Grandpa, nothing really extraordinary except in the light that he’s stage II multiple myeloma and I live 350 miles away.
    I applaud you, and Jon too (!), for having the opportunity to do what you want to do. That’s really the whole point, isn’t it? You want to work from home (as a MOM and a blogger), so do it! Don’t focus on the other parts – focus on the fact you are doing exactly what you want to do.
    And when you need an escape, come see us in Missouri. We always have some Maker’s Mark lying around.

  • My mother was a SAHM and freelance fiber artist (spinner, weaver, Renaissance woman) until I was about 10. I always say that I would have been a totally different person if she had been working full-time when I was a kid – just having her around kept me from feeling even more lonely and isolated than I already did in primary school.

    Once we moved and I started junior high, Mom worked as a telemarketer and quickly developed a massive case of carpal tunnel complete with huge workman’s compensation settlement. Now she has some permanent hand disability and stays at home again, taking care of her animals and doing the same Renaissance woman crafty things she did when I was growing up. I’ve moved across the world, so I don’t get to reap the benefits of having full-time Mom access anymore, but I think I had her around for the most important, formative years of my childhood.

    I think if I could change anything about my mom’s decisions, I’d encourage her to stay at home longer – even if just to avoid the medical problems. I was a “good girl” in high school and doubt that having my mom around more would have made me a better person at that point.

    As much as I feel strengthened by having had my mother around when I was young, I am at odds with my instincts to stay at home for my own potential children. I’m finishing my PhD this year and getting married in 2 weeks, and on some level I would definitely feel like I was wasting my (academic) education by not following my career. But…if that’s going to make my future kids more likely to become axe murderers, or raise the chances of having a broken marriage or family, I’d give up the career in a heartbeat. My attitudes towards even the thought of having children have changed so much in the past few years that I can’t even begin to contemplate what I’m going to want to do.

    If I have daughters, I’d want them to make their own decisions – of course! I think we can’t escape our upbringing. If I stay at home, and they turn out well, (or if I work and they hate it,) they may be more likely to stay at home for their own children.

    Keep up the great work, Heather.

  • 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.
    i would hope that any daughter i have would chose to be and do whatever it is she wants. if she choses to never have children, and be the president of an oil company, i will be proud. because i would hope that i have instilled in her the same strength of conviction that my parents instilled in me.

  • Patti

    You do really wonderful things with this site. Don’t ever stop.

    What did your mother do? She was a schoolteacher which meant she stayed long hours teaching other kids and being there for other kids while sending me home to fend for myself and keep myself company.

    Did your mother stay at home? No.

    Did she work? Yes.

    And how did you feel about what she did? She was a good teacher. She wasn’t a good mother, so it was best she did what she loved.

    If you could change anything about what she did what would that be? Nothing, the choice was hers and neither of us could be where we are today without the experience of having each other in our lives.

    Also, what do you hope your daughters grow up to do? Whatever she wants, however she wants it, for however long she wants it, exactly how she wants it.

    Thank you Heather! It’s always a treat when you open up comments.

  • Sarah

    My Mom stayed at home with my two younger brothers and I until I was thirteen. We then moved to another, more expensive, state and both she and my Dad had to work to support us. I loved having my Mom home when I was a kid. LOVED it. I always felt like she was there for me and it seemed that we shared so much together. But … I am sure it wasn’t easy for her, being in her mid-twenties and taking care of three kids. She probably could have used a little more stimulation, and some entertainment beyond who threw what at who. She was an art major and we didn’t give her much time to create. When we moved, and she had to get two jobs to help make ends meet, I felt like we lost something. When I would tell to her about my day I would pass over the little things because we only had so much time to talk. And sometimes the little things are very sweet. I always respected her because I knew that what she was doing was because she loved us, but still, I wanted to see her more. If I could change something I would make it so that she didn’t have to work as hard as she did. As she still does. I would give her the choice, instead of having it forced on her.

    I want any daughters I have to grow up to know that they are more than society says that they should be and that their situation is their own. If they want to stay home full-time, then I hope they find a way to do that. If they want to work, then I hope that they find a way for that as well. The happiness and balance they find in their choice will make them better moms.