Last week I wrote this post on the absurd, six-figure salary assigned to the tasks of being a stay-at-home mom. By calling this number inflated I set off a spirited debate on my Facebook page and several other blogs around the web. The arguments were as-expected: lecturing about judging others, proclamations of equal effort exerted by moms and professionals, and the challenges of affording day care (if this is you, contact me off board so we can brainstorm some ways for you to keep your foot in your career part-time while caring for your kids. I am happy to help!)
What struck me most in last week’s debate is that the strongest defenders of their SAHP positions turned out to actually have jobs. After a long-winded defense about why she and her family are far better off for her to be home full-time, one woman finally confessed that she teaches at a college; a “SAHD” is actually a DJ with an entertainment business, and one vocal nay-sayer is a blogger and aspiring writer. These are professional jobs. They may be part-time gigs or startup enterprises, but each of these ardent defenders of her or his position as a SAHP actually has an active career.
Which brings me to the question: Who gets to call themselves a stay-at-home parent?
The key word here is”get” — as in: Who has the privilege of using the title of SAHM?
As I have written here and for DailyWorth, there is a cultural belief that the stay-at-home parent is the better parent. This notion is bolstered by the grossly inflated dollar figures cooked up by the $114,000 SAHM salary which is triple that of a full-time working woman in this country. I urge moms to abandon this notion and embrace your status as a working mom — most especially if you do in fact have a paying job. Because if you do, it’s because you need to for financial, emotional, psychological or social reasons — all of which are critical to your wellbeing and that of your family.
Which is why it is especially bothersome that these parents are disingenuous about their titles. Maybe they earn a small fraction of their family’s income — or even (as I suspect in the case of the blogger) — none at all. But they still reap the many benefits of professional work: investing in a career and related financial security, nurture of their own intellectual and creative needs, interaction with professional adults, and a break from home life. These benefits contribute to the fact that actual full-time stay-at-home moms are more prone to depression and anger than their working peers, who are more likely to report happiness and a sense of thriving, according to this Gallup poll.
So, how do you define a SAH parent?
Does it mean that you do not earn a living? Or that you have no professional pursuits whatsoever? What if you spend 20 hours weekly in unpaid blogging, or selling garage sale finds on eBay (it’s not work if the IRS doesn’t know about it, right?!)
Or is the differentiator that you do not pay for child care?
Or maybe does it simply not matter. The bottom line is that there is zero shame in being a working mom. If you are a mom with a career — embrace it and do not feel guilty for it. And for crying out loud — do not lie about it.