It came up again last night: the devaluation of SAHM-hood (that’s “stay-at-home Mama” to you, as if you don’t already know from reading here). A couple ladies and I are journeying home from our deep-water aerobic class and discussing our children’s upcoming school years. It comes up that the program director for one of our more boutique programs in town asked my girlfriend if she would “be flexible” on the dates for her child’s enrollment since she wasn’t a working Mama. I have had experience with this mindset myself: a childcare professional admitting she didn’t feel as bad being late to her commitment to me since “it wasn’t like [I] had to be somewhere or anything.”
I’ll skip right past the fact that discerning someone else’s needs solely based on their vocation is swimming in muddy waters at best: many working professionals I know have flexible schedules; many stay-at-home caregivers have inflexible ones or at least a series of very serious commitments (think medical conditions, adoption agencies, and court dates). No, I’ll move right along to the issue that really gets on my tits: the automatic devaluing of the time, effort, and feelings of the partner who cares for the family.
Are we ready, yet, to make progress in the pointless power struggle we’ve set up between the domestic and the labor life? Let’s discuss the “one earner” issue: the dichotomy of partners, each feeling frustrated and stymied with regards to their situation. On one hand we have the workaholic dads – stressed about their jobs, missing their kids and missing out on their kids’ lives and doctor’s visits; too harsh with discipline when they come home, and endlessly pecking at their wife’s management of the grocery bill? On the other side is the martyred female – women who spend most of their physical, mental, and emotional energy on running and maintaining a home, only to watch the family take no notice in the systems she’s provided nor help her maintain them. She in turn is blinded to how tough her partner’s situation is; she can’t imagine a life without her kids and cannot always empathize that her partner’s clumsiness in managing the children is mostly due to unfamiliarity and sadness.
Dual-earners have their own shit which I won’t detail here; two of the primary issues I’ve noticed is a general lack of cohesion in the household minutae (therefore, a home that has no loving “center”) and an inflexibility / fear when it comes to the Big Question of “Can I relinquish my role as earner?” An identity crisis not met head-on but rather jabbed at in fits and starts.
What are we really saying about the priorities of family and homelife when it is assumed that any earning commitment must automatically trump any familial obligation or schedule? With this assumption, how can we hope to create an environment of choice in how we care for our kids and how we meet our employment obligations without selling out our soul and our family life? The answer is not a bunch of state-sponsored programs with cushy benefits, nor is it a complete disregard of career aspirations while your children are young. Rather, it is for each caregiver to isolate what is important to him / her and pursue those goals with considerably less regard to pressure from employers, spouse, or society at large (included in this societal pressure is the American Dream of having all or most of the comforts money can buy). This is your family, you alone are the architect.
This subject makes me think of that corny-ass movie 9 to 5 – yeah, the one with Dolly Parton, Lily Tomlin, and Jane Fonda. The premise: three office ladies end up kidnapping their assholian boss and running the show in his stead – among other changes, instituting revolutionary family-friendly policies like flexible hours, a jobshare program, and daycare. It’s kind of baffling to watch the movie 26 years later and notice the “family-friendly” is still missing from most workplaces.
Fuck the Man and fuck patriarchy.
(Now time for another bon bon).
On an entirely different note: the lovely items at Etsy are so reasonably priced I can’t believe it is worth the artisans’ efforts to not only make the items, but “pose”, photograph, write a description for, wrap up, and ship. I am too paranoid to post the item I have my eye on (waiting for shipping information) because you bitches will swoop down and steal it from me if I do.
Have a nice day!