Ladies, we need to talk about what we are doing to ourselves.
The Bird in a Gilded Cage
Traditionally, men have had the family and a career, while his wife was expected to stay home to do the cooking and cleaning. This is a bit oversimplified, but gives a fair picture of why women began to feel inferior to men. It seemed like men could 'have it all', but women had to choose between career and family.
As women gained the right to vote and the right to enter the workforce, and even the right to run for President of the United States, it might seem that we can now have it all just like the men. The problem is that men never had it all. Not the way we think. In truth, we women have bought into a lie and have tried to turn ourselves into Superwoman in the process.
A Man's Point of View
I heard about a man whose wife has a chronic illness. Eventually, his wife could no longer keep up with the housecleaning, so the man hired a maid to come in twice a week. When I heard the story, I said that I was glad he didn't try to take on the housecleaning himself as well as all the other responsibilities he had. My husband laughed, "Probably he thinks about it differently. He probably thinks he HAS taken on that responsibility by hiring the maid."
That's when I realized I was buying into that lie again – that having it all means we have to do it all ourselves. And that if I were to seek outside resources somehow I'd fail to do my job. This is wrong!
If we women are going to truly be equal to our men, we need to change the way we view our responsibilities. We need to think of our household as having two types of responsibilities: management and funding. And if we want to have both a career outside the home and a family inside the home, then we need to expect two things:
1) that our income will help with the household funding.
2) that our partners will take on some of the management, even if that means soliciting outside resources.
A Household is Like a Business
Just like a business, a household needs both funding and management. Traditionally, the male head has funded the household with outside sources of income, while the female head has managed the household full-time. Now, with more women becoming the breadwinners in the household, it would make sense for the man to then take on the management of the household. But that's not usually what happens. Instead, the female head funds the household, then comes home and does the laundry, cooking, dishes, and grocery shopping – basically trying to do both the funding and the managing!
When people ask a woman who works outside the home what she does for a living, she probably won't say, "Oh, I'm a working mom." So why do some women say, "Oh, I'm a Stay at Home Mom" as if that's their career?
Let me tell you what is NOT my career:
· It's not "Stay at home mom" – even though I am a mom and do spend the majority of my time at home.
· It's not "Nonworking Mom" – because I work as many hours as a full-time job
· It's not "Housekeeper" – because that's only a small part of my job
· It's not "Housewife" – because, sheesh, I am more than my husband's wife in a house!
· It's not "Sit around eating bonbons" – although sometimes my husband thinks that's what I do
Yes, I'm a mom. But that's not my career.
My husband is a dad, but that's not his career either.
That's why I tell people I am a full-time homemaker. That means my job is to manage the household so that my husband is able work at an outside career, which funds the household. Could our career choices shift if I became a best-selling author? Absolutely!
Regardless of my career path's direction, I am still a full-time mom. The point is, I will always be a full-time mom whether I become a part-time homemaker or a full-time income earner. I think that's true of any mom.
End the Competition
When I told my friend - a full-time teacher and mom - that it's not a competition between working moms and homemakers, she replied, "Oh, yes it is!"
It is, but not really.
You see, I have the skill and experience to get my credentials and become a full-time teacher. Instead, I have chosen to be a full-time homemaker.
My friend and I live close enough that I could have decided to become a working mom, and I could have applied for the same job she has. She may still have gotten the job, but that would have been one more applicant for the hiring committee to consider. So my choice to stay out of the teaching field actually made it easier for my friend to get her job because my job as homemaker doesn't compete with her job as a teacher.
In other words, I am not competing with my friend economically.
She's right when she says it's a competition.
If my friend worked as a maid, chef, day care provider, nanny, personal assistant, or a bus driver, I would be in direct competition with that – but none of these occupations seem to worry that I'm taking their business from them.
So why do working moms feel threatened by me regardless of their profession?
The BIG LIE
I think it's because as a society of women, we've come to believe that "having it all" means "doing it all by ourselves". So when I delegate the responsibility of funding the household to my husband, it looks like I don't "have it all," even when I do have a family and also a career. In that way I'm equal to my husband, but that's not how most women view it.
And also, I think it's because sometimes homemakers attach "mom" to their job description, as if women who work outside the home can't be good moms. Fellow homemakers, PLEASE STOP THIS MYTH! Yes, you are a mom, and maybe you stay home. But being a parent is not your career. It's a labor of love – and all moms feel that way regardless of their careers. (And dads feel that way, regardless, too!)
And Another Thing
I'm sick of hearing men call themselves "Mr. Mom" or "Stay at home Dad" in a voice that suggests I'm not man enough to provide for my family, so my wife has to do it.
Please, let's take gender out of this.
I think being a homemaker IS providing for the family, and there is no shame in supporting your partner's career by managing the household full-time.
A Note to Single Parents
I can't imagine trying to fund and manage a household all by myself. I think it's impossible, because it truly does take two full-time careers to do it. So I hope my rant has given single parents courage to seek for and use outside resources. Remember, no one can 'have it all' by doing it all by themselves.
And that includes single parents.
What do you think about the competition between working parents and homemakers? Let me know in the comments!
I write about, with, for, and around kids all day. (Well, maybe I do the dishes too. Sometimes.)