A good summer evening to you, Bunnies. I’ve been thinking, and that never tends to bode well for those around me. It’s time for a long overdue rant about something near and dear to my heart. No, not battling school administration or wrangling with the kids about healthy food choices when I crave Doritos like crack.
I have been a stay at home Mum for almost eleven years. Yes. Eleven. October 31st 2003 was my last day “at work” (read: sitting in an office).
I could tell you it was a hard decision to stay at home, but that would be a lie. It was easy. I am a “do-the-job-110%-or-die-trying” kind of bunny and there was no way I was going to make baby bunnies and then allow someone else to enjoy them so I could go back to work.
For me it was an easy decision, but I know it isn’t easy for everyone. We are not about judging mama and papa bunnies here. Everyone has to make their own decisions about what they want for their children, themselves and their lifestyle and career needs. We (that would be Daddy Bunny and I) decided to go with one income and while the decision for me to stay at home might have been an easy one for us to make, I will be the first to step up and say it hasn’t always been an easy road. Sure I missed the intellectual challenges that come with work. As a stay at home Mum, the winters are long and often crushingly lonely. It’s certainly not sitting on the couch filing my nails and eating sweets and watching soaps. Filling 18+ hour days with activities that don’t include hours of Baby Einstein DVDs, coping with temper tantrums (sometimes my own), singing endless songs, and becoming an unparalleled expert on all things Thomas the Tank Engine doesn’t quite compare to the satisfaction of a job that challenges you, that you do well and get paid for. As a family, we live in cosy, but yes, small apartment. We can rarely afford to go on vacations that don’t involve family putting us up. We live with what we need and not always what we want. In other words, we’ve made sacrifices. But I don’t regret my choice. The payoffs are totally worth it. I have been able to watch my boys grow up into the fine young men that they are today, with great values, wit and intelligence and a wonderful sense of themselves and the world. I am proud of the job I’ve done.
What I do regret is that until recently, I’ve not had a faster comeback for all of those ignorant people who have had the gall to judge me for staying at home to raise my children, and worse, get my kids involved in their criticism of our life choices.
It all began at a party. Innocently enough perhaps. I was mingling with friends and with several people I didn’t know. One of them came up to the group and after being introduced, he said “so, Michelle, what do you do?” I told him I was a stay at home Mum. He looked at me completely blankly. Then, clearly deciding that my lack of “career” meant I couldn’t possibly have anything worthwhile to add to a conversation, said “Oh, that’s nice” and then turned his back to talk to the person next to me. Luckily for him, she was in finance…or real estate…or anything else. Okay, buddy you were clearly a jerk and I didn’t want to waste my time talking to you anyway, but seriously?
Over the years, this kind of thing repeated itself every now and again in several different permutations and combinations. People would ask when I was going back to work and when I said I didn’t plan to until the kids were older, they’d look at me as if I had three heads. Or they’d assume I did nothing all day and just lacked ambition. Or worse they’d get that condescending look on their faces that said “oh, poor you”. I’ve had people actually come right out and say “but how do you manage financially?” Uhhhhh…..none of your business, perhaps?
Living in Toronto, I was often the only stay at home mum in a sea of nannies at the preschool groups I went to with my children. And while I have met many wonderful nannies, the ones I met at these groups always stuck together and only socialized with other nannies. In the end I stopped going.
Without consciously realising it, I began to feel that I was something of a second class citizen. Someone to be looked down upon. A woman in the big city who is well educated but not wealthy, who lives in an apartment, does not drive a car, stays at home and raises children-gasp! I began to hate telling people that I was a stay at home Mum because I knew and dreaded the reaction I’d get.
Recently, I was talking with someone that I usually see only once or twice a year. She has, without fail, every time we’ve met since my kids were born, asked me why I haven’t gone back to work yet. This time she went with “You need to go back to work”. She then turned to my seven year old son and said “tell your Mum she needs to get a job”. Wait, what? Run that by me one.more.time. I need to get a job (she hated her own, mind you) and not only that, but you think it’s okay to tell my son (who, in case you missed it, is one of the reasons I’m not working in the first place) to tell me to get a job. I was so gobsmacked, I couldn’t even respond.
Then, not two days later, a family member came up with the same line, almost verbatim, to me and once again, my poor youngest son, who surely by now must have been starting to wonder what on earth was going on. This time, I’d had enough and finally stood up for myself. I told her “I HAVE a job. I have a job and I love my job. I don’t want another job”. No, I don’t get paid. Yes, I work 18 hour days for tiny tyrants but I wouldn’t trade it for the world.
Do you put your kids in day care? Time share your job and your child care? Work part time? Have a nanny? Don’t have children at all? I don’t judge you, it’s all good if it works for you. But I am a stay at home Mum. Don’t tell me to get a job. I have a job that on most days I love and on better days I’m really, really good at. I’m raising a future generation of what I hope will turn out to be good and decent people.
I think that’s a pretty important job.