I brought my girls and a friend to the beach yesterday, and happened to plop myself in front of a group of three moms and their kids. Clearly, they knew each other and had the afternoon planned well in advance. Based on the conversation I overheard and behavior I observed (one of the moms took 20 minutes to test her daughter on time tables), I deduced that these three were homeschooling moms.
“Sorry, you get a front row seat to all of this,” said one of the moms after lots of kiddo action transpired three feet from my beach towel.
“No worries,” I said. “I have another one at home who’d typically be adding to our chaos if he was here, so I totally understand. No problem at all.”
“How old is your son?,” she asked.
“13,” I replied.
“So you know way more than we do,” she said.
“Well, looks like two of yours are boys, so you’re quite experienced as well,” I added.
And that was it.
That was my interaction with ONE of those THREE moms.
After that brief interchange, we went about our own business. She continued conversing with the two moms. I continued chilling on my beach towel, watching my two girls and a friend play in the water.
I’ve been a mom for nearly 14 years now.
In the first 12 years of motherhood, I experienced the whole realm of working motherhood. I worked FULL-TIME, FOUR days a week, THREE days a week, TWO days a week, and ONE day a week at some point or another during those 12 years. All things considered, two and three days a week seemed to be the best fit for me.
But then I was called to step away from my work as a speech-language therapist to pursue writing and photography. In order to make a real run at writing and photography, I KNEW I needed to stop my therapy work entirely. So for the past 18 months, I’ve lived this very ODD life of being a full-time stay-at-home mom AND a mom who’s trying to launch two work-at-home careers.
Let me tell you, I’ve learned a great deal about stay-at-home moms during these past 18 months. More than I ever thought I’d learn. More than I ever cared to learn. Enough to give me a TRUE perspective on what it’s really like to be a full-time stay-at-home mom.
First of all, staying at home full-time in America is NOT a cake walk. For the most part, it is NOT valued by our capitalistic, work-centered culture. I don’t know the statistics and no need to go into the details, but everyone knows that the majority of modern-day moms work outside the home in some capacity. And most of the moms who stay home full-time have children on the younger side. So if you’re a mom of children of mixed ages like me (13, 11 & 4), the whole stay-at-home mom situation gets even more awkward and makes you even more of a rare bird.
In America, if you’re not actively making money, you’re not as valued. We like to believe we value full-time stay at home moms, but to be honest, now that I’ve experienced full-time stay-at-home motherhood, I’m not sure we do.
In America, if you can’t answer the question “What do you do?” with a real, active job title, you’re up a creek. “You stay at home full-time? Oh.” (Awkward pause. Person doesn’t know what to say. Person wonders what you DO with your day. Person wonders WHY you have an education but you’re not using it. Person wonders WHY you have solid experience in the workforce and aren’t “working” anymore. Think I’m making this up? No way. It’s humiliating and humbling.)
In our neighborhood, streets are pretty much EMPTY during the daytime. I’d go so far to say that our neighborhood streets are pretty much EMPTY during the daytime, even in the summer. When I’m home alone with my daughter during the day and she wants to play with kids, I can’t guarantee even ONE child will be available in the neighborhood. Maybe yes? Probably no. Let’s just say this…I’ve resorted to texting the neighborhood daycare lady so we can meet at the neighborhood park once in a while.
In America, if you’re a highly educated woman who’s staying home full-time with her children, you have days where you feel incredibly vulnerable. Is this really the right choice for me and my children? Am I wasting my college degree? Are my children really better off with me at home, or would they be better off at daycare or day camp where all the other children are having fun socializing and doing fun kid stuff together all day? Honestly, most of the time, I’m not really sure.
I’m new to this staying at home space, and won’t be here much longer. Only 14 months of staying home full-time before all three of my children are in school full-time. Once they’re all in school full-time, I’ll be focusing solely on writing and photography and other related PAID and UNPAID endeavors during the daytime hours. So honestly, I’m not really seeking long-term answers for myself. I’m grateful for the opportunity to have experienced stay-at-home motherhood, and when I look back at this time of my life, I know I’ll never regret it.
But here’s the thing.
Many days, I wish I could step outside to a village full of moms and children doing this motherhood and childhood thing together. The moms would chat about all the things that matter and don’t matter. Perhaps they’d begin dinner preparations together, or enjoy lunch together. The children would run, play and entertain themselves. There’d never be a shortage of kids, because staying at home to raise the children would be the norm. You’d always know that if you stepped outside, the village would be waiting. Kids here. Moms there. Support everywhere. People who understood your stay-at-home mom lifestyle everywhere. (I’m unrealistically optimistic, okay? I fully realize I’m not in Africa anymore.)
Since we don’t live in villages in America, it’s imperative that we not only embrace, but adopt and whole-heartedly support secret societies of stay-at-home moms that are already in existence.
Secret societies of stay-at-home moms at the gym.
Secret societies of stay-at-home moms at Mothers of Preschoolers (MOPS) groups.
Secret societies of stay-at-home homeschooling moms.
Secret societies of stay-at-home moms doing playdates together.
Secret societies of stay-at-home moms at the maze on Monday, toddler Tuesday at the mall, the park reserve on Wednesday, swimming at the pool on Thursday, and the zoo on Friday.
Secret societies of stay-at-home moms who bring meals to one another when life gets crazy.
Secret societies of stay-at-home moms who can lend a hand for an hour or two when you just can’t do this anymore.
Secret societies of stay-at-home moms who get it, who understand it, who can say “yep, been there, done that, I totally get it!”
Secret societies of stay-at-home moms who can love and support and care for one another in the best and worst of times.
Secret societies of stay-at-home moms who do life together, who honor one another’s hard, hard work, who understand that this lifestyle has value and worth beyond measure.
I think I was sitting behind a secret society of stay-at-home homeschooling moms yesterday at the beach. Good for them! I’m grateful they have a space to joke “We need to go to counseling together,” and “I get so agitated with her dyslexia, dysgraphia and ADHD.” I’m grateful that one of those moms felt comfortable enough around the other moms to scold her child “Stop kicking that sand, move away, it’s getting in our faces!” and NOT feel like a “terrible mom.” I’m grateful they were able to eat lunch together and chat while their children played in the sand. I’m grateful they had an opportunity to feel supported and loved and cared for. I’m grateful they created this secret society for themselves.
Stay-at-home moms. Rise above the mainstream. Keep up those secret societies! Build them. Support them. Nurture them. Invite other moms to them. Never, ever forget that America’s in desperate need of secret stay-at-home societies. Never, ever forget that moms are in desperate need of secret stay-at-home societies.
If staying at home full-time has value and we want it to be more highly valued in the United States of America, we MUST find a way to support our stay-at-home moms and children.
Secret Societies of Stay-at-Home Moms.
They’re a solution to an epidemic of a problem.
Moms and children need support. Moms and children need community. Moms and children need love. Moms and children need to know they’re not going crazy. Moms and children need to know they’re making good choices for their family.
End of story.