Take Two: Working Parents or Stay-at-Home
By Kyra-lin Hom
Blatantly eavesdropping during my lunch break today, I overheard two women discussing their decisions to be working moms and that whole issue in general. Both were high-powered go-getter types with, it seemed, the salaries to match.
The first mentioned her schedule was difficult and grueling, but at least she did usually get home in time to tuck her children – ages four and seven – into bed. Her husband, also a highly employed individual, was the main caretaker. The second cited her many friends who had chosen to forego their careers after having children, stating she couldn’t understand their frustrating traditional mindsets. On this point, they agreed.
Now, I take issue with this. Do I think women belong in the kitchen? Oh, (expletive) no. I gladly smack my guy friends upside their head whenever they crack the “Woman! Make me a sandwich!” joke. (If you haven’t heard that one yet, don’t worry, you’re not missing out.) Nor do I think a woman’s place is in the home. However, I completely support any woman or man who chooses to stay home part or full time with their children.
The idea that staying home with the kids is somehow the dead end of your life is so 10 years ago. No really, the percentage of mothers in the US choosing to work over being stay-at-home moms peaked around the year 2000. Since then, those numbers have actually been dropping. This means that since 2000, for the first time in US history more and more women are choosing to be stay-at-home moms over being working moms (WWII confounding circumstances aside).
The job market and economic hardship do probably have something to do with this. You need a really padded salary to afford childcare these days. A couple friends of mine pay $300 per child per week. Yikes! Between those prices and staying at home, I know which one I could afford. And to be fair I’ll admit that statistically most stay-at-home moms are recent immigrants with minimal education. BUT sociologists still believe this trend isn’t just about the money. Because it’s not only the number of stay-at-home moms that’s increasing, it’s the number of stay-at-home dads too. How cool is that?
I was a lucky kid. My mom only worked part-time when I was little, and I wouldn’t trade those memories for the world. Even after my mom went back to work, I was able to tag along, though usually with my dad. If not for that and my penchant for staying up way too late, I’d have rarely seen him. And I remember that. I remember trying so hard to stay awake until my daddy came home so he could tuck me in. I understood that my parents were busy with important things, but that didn’t mean I had to like it.
There are merits both to being a working parent and a stay-at-home one and anything in between. It’s a personal choice – one that I’ll probably have to face myself at some point in the next decade. It shouldn’t be a political or social statement. More than that, children aren’t anti-establishment, career-seeking enemy missiles. So let’s stop making this issue a line in the sand.