When I was growing up, I had no idea how difficult motherhood was. Even though I was closer to my mother’s work- cooking, cleaning, arranging, disinfecting, washing, dusting, organizing, folding, unfolding- pretty much taking care of the entire household of five people including herself (which was always last on the list), it never occurred to me that she was working hard for our family.
Even as an observant child this never occurred to me, and frankly this bothers me. My mother’s daily sacrifices that began before the kids awake to after kids are in bed, was one that was under-appreciated, under-recognized and certainly underpaid, if paid ever.
Despite the numerous progressions in society for women’s rights, society still has a way of categorizing maternal duties as one that is different from all other line of work. Isn’t it funny how the entire world such as government, politics, law and business runs on “logic” not “emotions” but when it comes to mothers, everything is defined by the emotional and the sentimental, i.e. the “pricelessness” of motherhood?
The Opportunity Cost of Motherhood
In a capitalistic society where one’s salary and hourly pay defines her worth or value of her job, the pricelessness of a stay-at-home-mom’s duties (not jobs) is an indirect message that maternal duties are not as important or valuable.
Sure it’s “priceless,” but how about the opportunity cost of her job as a mother? The lost opportunities, the unused college degrees and talents?
Have you tried explaining to your potential employer what you’ve been doing for the past five years as a stay-at-home-mom? I did. And frankly in the real world, no one cares whether you graduated cum laude at your university. Or co-wrote that amazing thesis that won awards at your graduate school. Or held a senior position at your job.
Once you leave that workplace to be a stay-at-home-mom, you are immediately devalued as a professional and your value depreciates every year you choose to spend with your child.
Yes we are lucky, but we don’t get paid and it doesn’t feel “priceless” all the time. Our decision to stay home means relinquishing many important lines on our resumes while knowing we will be less competitive in the workforce. It means letting go of job security and dampening our career goals. It means watching our colleagues make leaps and bounds in their careers while changing poopy diapers. It’s scary, like diving into the unknown.
Yes, mothers can be logical and they understand all this. And sometimes truth sucks.
(Warped) Realities of Motherhood
Next, mothers are expected to always appear happy and grateful. And never openly complain about how difficult her job as a mother can sometimes be. Yes, we all know we are extremely blessed to be able to stay home with our kids. And we all know a working mother who would love to stay home with her child, but can’t.
And yes, grass is always greener on the other side. But this doesn’t mean a mother’s work isn’t work. Yes it’s her job, but it’s still work. LOTS of work.
Oh, but you have no idea how stressful real work can be! Seriously, you are SO LUCKY to be able to stay home!
Due to such reasons and more, SAHM (Stay-At-Home-Mom), I mean WAHM (Work-At-Home-Mothers hereafter) are like underrepresented minorities at the margins of the society. Yes some mommy blogs and Huffington Post Articles give them a voice on occasion. But it’s still not enough to raise awareness about what WAHM’s do every. freaking.day.
So this post is dedicated to all the under-appreciated, under-recognized, unpaid mothers out there who wake up every morning to do work that no one sees, one that the kids don’t even realize or understand.
This is for mothers who can’t shower, poop or change into decent clothes without a child screaming by the door or dangling on her legs like a puppy. Except, this adorable puppy come with monstrous temper tantrums and unreasonable demands. And, she can’t just drop him/her off at a daycare. She can’t yell (well you do, but are not “supposed to”) or show any kind of negative emotions. She has to remain calm. Retreat and take deep breaths before rejoining forces with her tireless opponent, with a maternal smile.
For mothers who wipe spaghetti sauce off the walls for the hundredth time, who pick up the same toys over and over again for the hundredth time, who work overtime to soothe a crying child after waiting all day for her favorite TV show and who has to drink her morning coffee in one gulp because her child is crawling toward something tall or sharp.
For mothers who has to take two minute showers while making funny faces through the glass with the baby rocker placed right in front of the shower door, who has to walk around Target with spit up, leaking breast milk or some kind of unknown bodily fluid on her shirt, and despite it all, jump up and down joyously at that one chance to go to the grocery store without the baby.
Yesssssss, I’m Freee!!! For like, 30 minutes!
For mothers who run the laundry every other day, only to see the laundry basket full in a few hours. And she can’t tell which ones are old or new so she just has to throw everything in the washer for the thousandth time. For mothers who spend hours planning and cooking that wholesome dish for her family. Then eats their leftovers while cleaning the kitchen.
For mothers who realize that time-outs, reward charts and to-do-lists don’t always work with REAL CHILDREN in the REAL WORLD. For mothers who are overloaded with parenting information that doesn’t even work.
And for mothers whose hands become dry and faces become wrinkled without even knowing. For mothers who gave up her ideal weight a long time ago for her sanity and happiness of her family.
For her loneliness that no one seems to understand, for her wish for silence that she can never get.
And for her strength, beauty and grace that no one speaks of, for those tiring days when she can’t complain to a single soul because she is a mother.
I just want to say I understand.
I understand, and I’ve been through it all- many times, repeatedly. Some friends comment that they envy my life as a Work-At-Home-Mom because I seem to have everything together. Well I don’t. I’m just learning day by day.
After giving birth to my first child over nine years ago, I think I’m finally getting it. I can cook better and faster, I’ve streamlined the cleaning process, and I no longer get flustered with injuries, illnesses, and unpredictable variables that occur all the time with children.
No one told me that motherhood was a learning process, a lifelong journey, and that one must endure all the hardships to come out of it stronger. No one told me motherhood has to be learned and it takes time.
Now that I’ve put in work as a stay-at-home-mom, I think I’m ready to return to the workforce alongside other qualified professionals. Sure I’m missing a few lines on my resume while my colleagues had extra years to work on a new skill or gain valuable experience.
But what they don’t know is that I’ve been a work-at-home-mom for nearly ten years.
And I deserve a promotion.
Do we really have to choose one or the other? Can’t we have both? What is your most difficult work-at-work or work-at-home moment? What do you find most rewarding?