Shalom's Cottage Home Blog

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Rock Island, IL, United States
Hi, I'm Shalom. Artist, crafter, gardener, flea market enthusiast, bargain hunter, and lover of flavor. Welcome to my journey!

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Thursday, January 30, 2014

So...What's So Great About Motherhood, Anyway?

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Why is it that we as mothers get so upset when someone questions our decision to stay home with our children or even to have a family in the first place? They say things like, "Stay at home moms just want a pat on the back for doing nothing" or "You will never be able to go as far in your career as a mother as you could without children, because their needs will always hold you back". And while we are quick to spout off a million and one reasons why we love our lives and do not regret our decisions to have children and how DARE anyone suggest otherwise, we still find ourselves stewing about it hours or even days later. We formulate ready-responses in our heads so we can be prepared for the next attack...because it doesn't take long after becoming a mom to realize that there will always be another attack at some point.

But I have to wonder...if we were really as confident in our choices as we claim to be, why does it bother us so much when ignorant people spout off about things they know nothing about? Why does it hurt our feelings so much? Is it because maybe, deep down (though we'd never admit it), we fear that there may be some truth to what they are saying about us?

After all, for stay-at-home-moms, some days do seem like an endless procession of following our toddlers around, wiping boogers and spaghetti sauce off their faces, loading the dishwasher and the washing machine and the dryer—over and over and over again—clearing walk paths through the house just so we don't trip over all the toys that they drag out faster than we can put them away, making millions of peanut butter & jelly sandwiches, refilling sippy cups, changing diapers, giving baths, brushing teeth and hair, reading picture books, singing our kids to sleep, and then (if we're lucky) having an hour or two at the end of the day to fall asleep reading a book or watching a TV show of our own choosing.

Moms who hold down a job outside the home have to find the energy to give 110% at work if they hope to get ahead (all the while dreading that phone call from daycare or school letting them know their sick child needs them to leave work and take them home) and then when they finally clock out for the day, they still have all the responsibilities of home waiting for them when they return.

How can such an exhausting, thankless existence possibly compare to being at the top of the corporate ladder, watching the dollars pour into your bank account—the result of decades of hard work—enjoying the finer things in life and basking in the respect of your peers, unencumbered by the demands of home and family? After all, there is no way that folding basket after basket of laundry, day after day, even comes close to competing with the satisfaction of such obvious success. What a waste of time, of a life, for a woman to choose the path of motherhood over what is clearly a more direct path to happiness...right?

But then, people who believe in this fantasy must have never dried a tear on a child's face, kissed their soft cheek, hugged them and felt them let out a long breath of relief that means, "It's OK now. My mommy's here." I imagine that doctors feel a similar sense of satisfaction after performing a successful surgery, knowing that they changed another human being's life for the better. I may not have his particular skill set, but someone needed to be there for my child when he fell and hurt himself at home. Just because I wasn't paid to do it, does that make it an unworthy task?

What about all the times I sat and listened to my 2 year old count to 20, all by himself, with such intense concentration on each number. The way he looked up at me each time he got to the top, waiting for my reaction. The way his eyes would light up with joy at my obvious pride in him, as I clapped and cheered—instilling in him the confidence he will need to try harder and harder challenges. He will need this confidence as he makes his way from childhood to adulthood, from being in school to having a career. Everything we have ever achieved in our lives started with that one, first, memorable accomplishment way back when we were tiny children....everyone from doctors, to lawyers, to CEOs to scientists and leaders of countries was once such a child...just because I'm not a professor, does that mean the time I spend encouraging my young son to learn is worthless?

And how could I possibly derive any satisfaction from all those hours I spend doing my family's dishes and laundry, cleaning the house, taking care of the yard, paying bills, cooking, grocery shopping and all of the other 'mundane' tasks of life that have to be accomplished by someone? I'll tell you how. By realizing that I am part of a family unit that requires many things to function properly. Money is just one of them. While I do contribute to my family's income with my part-time job, the things that I don't get paid to do are just as important. Because while my husband is out, working full time so we can buy the things we need, he can't be home doing dishes and laundry and taking care of our young son. But I can and I do. Proudly. We each have a very important role to play. Everyone needs money. Everyone also needs clean clothes and dishes to eat off of, healthy food, and a comfortable place to call home. There is no shame in being the one who provides those things for your family, whether you get paid for your work or not. In fact, there is much joy to be had in dedicating yourself to doing a job well, no matter what it is and no matter how long you have it.

So whether you have chosen to be childless and pursue your career all the way to the very top, or whether you have chosen to devote yourself to your home and family (or whether you are somewhere in between the two), why not just do the very best you can and encourage other women to do the same? The world has enough problems without us pointlessly tearing each other down. But think of how much better it could be if, instead of wasting so much time focusing on our differences, we devoted that time to helping each other through our difficulties and celebrating our successes, in whatever measure they come to us.

This article was written in response to another I came across recently, which I found to be negative and hurtful...the opposite of what women should be doing to each other.