The Dude referenced my status as a stay at home mum the other day and I think I actually winced.
“I may be a stay at home mum technically, but that’s not what I would call myself!” (It’s true, nobody else describes themselves based predominantly on their location. Except maybe people that work in the City – and who wants to be like them?)
Raised eyebrow and cautious “So what are you then?”
“Family Support Worker” I pronounced, dumping dry cat food into the appropriate bowl.
“Ha! I like that!”
The term Stay At Home Mum (SAHM) is frequently used with a vague derision, as though those of us not slaving away for a wage are somehow failing ourselves and society at large. Don’t mind her, she’s just a SAHM. It’s a lot like being a secretary (something I did for a decade so I feel competent to comment on). Instant conversation killer at social gatherings. “What do you do?” “I’m a SAHM (or secretary – the effect can be the same).” “Oh, that must keep you busy.” And you can see the instant disappointment in the face as a chasm opens between you. The conversation that promised so much, now falters into nothing, because well a SAHM doesn’t do anything really? Except run after everybody else and keep them happy. What could possibly be interesting about that?
Of course, there is the other side of the coin. The post-feminist matyr mother who would not allow you to even dare to think less of her because of the choices she has made. Lectures anybody that will listen about all the things she has sacrificed for her child(ren), how they are the most important part of her life, she is nothing without them, we as society are nothing without them, this is more than just a job, its a calling, more than a calling, an honour, and all the sleepless nights, all the hours spent debating the finer points of Thomas the Tank Engine or Peppa Pig, the mountains of poo and endless tantrums are so worth it, because this is what gives life meaning!
I always think that those children carry too much responsibility if they are what give their parents’ lives meaning. Because what if something goes wrong? Some vague unexpected variable drifts in from stage left and throws everything to bits? Be it illness or accident, or the sudden influence of peer pressure, or simply that the child isn’t what you thought they should be? What then?
No. Being a SAHM, or a mum in general, is about helping the family be a family. It’s not about turning yourself inside out to keep the children happy. It’s not about keeping yourself happy at all costs. It’s about teamwork, and finding the happiness where you are. Watching, and loving and showing and teaching as a baby turns to toddler, preschooler and suddenly an adult standing in front of you. It is a job quite unlike any other because the line between home and work life doesn’t exist, and frequently the most precious resource – time- is often the most undervalued.
Of course, next time The Dude asks, I shall tell him I am “Project Manager for a Longitudinal Behavioural Intervention”. That’s SAHM to you. 😉