Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Mommy Soapbox

I've been meaning to blog about this for a while now.

I sometimes feel like being "just a mom" (and I hate that phrase) is not enough. I don't know if it's just the area I live in, or if it's the people I know, or if it's society creeping this thought into my life. Maybe it's a combination of all.

As you may know, I quit my teaching job well before we ever received Megan (but that's another story), in anticipation of being a parent. Then, when we didn't receive a baby right away I started teaching piano lessons. I continued to teach piano lessons until this past May, when Megan was 7 months old. I feel like other people think I should still be teaching. And maybe I feel a little bit of guilt because of it.

My reasons for quitting? Well, the reason I told everyone is that Megan was just getting too hard to manage. She had previously slept through almost all lessons, but, in April, started to change her schedule on me, making it difficult for me to teach. In addition, when she was awake she was a major distraction to my students. All of this is true.

But, the main reason I quit? I wanted to be "just a mom." Sure, I could have paid a babysitter. Sure, I could have arranged to have her Nana watch her every day. Sure, I could have kept teaching (I really liked it) and contributed money to our family. But, I didn't want to do that kind of work. I wanted to be something else. I wanted to give all my time to Megan, and to being a good wife.

Now, here's where the conflict sets in. Since my youth, I have always seen myself being a certain kind of mom. The kind of mom that stays home with her kids, the kind of mom that runs the kiddos to piano lessons and sports and picks them up from after-school activities. I always figured I'd have a bunch of kids together and, naturally, they would need me every moment of every day.

Now that I just have ONE (for now), part of me says, "you're not a full-time mom. Megan sleeps 3-4 hours a day, so you're really only a part-time mom." And then I feel GUILTY. I feel guilty that I'm not still working, and I feel guilty that I'm not contributing money to our home, when, maybe, I could. I feel guilty that I'm not doing-it-all. I feel guilty that I'm not one of those mommies out there who holds a full or part-time job and still manages to not send her kids to day care. I feel guilty when I see all the working moms out there and feel like they look down on me because I don't "do" anything. Not that I care what they think. Or maybe I do.

The thing that began my head spinning about this was actually a church event this summer. My stake puts on this thing called "Women's Retreat," which is this really wonderful experience with motivating speakers and uplifting messages and beautiful music, located in the mountains close by. As I went to these classes, and listened to these speakers, I noticed something. I noticed that, with only two exceptions (one class hosted by two ladies from my ward) that all the speakers were women with careers. These women were phenomenal. They were amazing. They had kids AND a career. They had a loving marriage AND a career. They had time to prepare a 1 1/2-hour class, AND they had a career. As uplifting as the experience was, it made me think that I should.... have a job. If I had a job, then I would have something to offer. And, when people ask me "what I do" I can say I "do" something, and they'll respect me for it.

Since when did being "just a mom" become less-than-best? Our church teaches that women belong in the home, rearing the children, and that the man is to provide for the family (see it here). Our church teaches the beauty of motherhood, and stresses how important it is to nurture our sweet little children. We are reminded again and again of our role in the Gospel and on the earth. We are told of the noble calling of being a mother. We are encouraged to stay home if we can. Why, then, do I feel pressure to DO more? Why do I feel like being a stay-at-home-mother isn't good enough? Why do I feel this way, even within the church, when I know being at home is noble and wonderful and it is what I should be doing?

It's easy to say that it's a sacrifice to be a working mother, for obvious reasons. But, I ask this: isn't it yet a sacrifice not to work, and not to make more money, when you could easily do so? Is it not a sacrifice to give that up? I have my dream job. I dreamt about being a mother since I was young, and now that I am finally living my dream, why do I feel pressure to give up on my dream? Why do I feel like I should have a career?

Elder Dallin H. Oaks, an apostle from our Church, said it best when he gave a talk called Good, Better, Best. I feel that, for me, working would be good, but staying home is best. Ah. I guess I'm attempting to validate myself.

I want being-a-stay-at-home-mom to be good enough. I don't want to work. I want to be home. I want my work to be my home. I want my work to be my kids. I want my work to only be bringing up my children to know their Savior and to raise them to love the Gospel.

Why is that not enough?


Raven said...

It IS enough, Harmony, and don't let anyone or anything make you feel otherwise! The emotional and physical demands of motherhood are a 24/7 lifelong job--no vacation hours, no bonus pay checks, no real retirement. It is more of a real job than any other job out there. With the most impact for good. And it's a marvelous thing!

mikensi said...

Before you get a buttload of comments, here's my cheap 2 cents. You should read Dr. Laura's "In Praise of Stay-At-Home Mom's." For real. You live in UT, don't worry about what others say. Who cares if they have happy marriages AND a career. Think of the moments she misses in her kid(s) lives. There's no greater call than to be a mother in Zion. What works for others, doesn't work for you and that's OK. It's MORE than OK! So, just erase those thoughts of you feeling guilty bc Jared does a great job of bringing home the bacon! Love you, cous!

The Jessee Journal said...

I second: What works for you doesn't work for others. Do what works for YOU and then quit caring what anyone else might think (though I think we are usually the ones imagining what others are judging us about .. I do that all the time though the reality is they probably never gave my life a second thought). I have a friend who had "only one" child for five years before she was blessed with another. She didn't have any other job, she made being a mom and a homemaker her full-time job. And guess what? Her son is a bright, caring responsible boy who is leagues ahead of his peers. He was blessed to have a full-time mom to teach him, love him and take him to soccer games and field trips for five years before another baby came along. Be confidant of your decision! It does seem that we live in a do-it-all Mormon mom society. But you can't do it all and do it all well ... so focus on what's most important and be the best at that.

That Girl said...

Okay, I might get hammered by other commentators by saying this, but let me say this the way my rude, judgmental, opinionated self wants to say it:

Those women with careers are not being the best moms they could be.

Maybe they're good moms. Maybe they're GREAT moms. But they'd be better if they stayed home.

Circumstances allowing, we're supposed to stay home. That's what the prophets say. And that's what I believe.

I have absolutely no doubt that NOTHING out there in the work force is as fulfilling as staying home with my kids. (Nothing is has frustrating, either ...)

Those women with careers? My hats off to them. They ARE wonderful mothers. Some are probably way better than ME. But I think they are not fulfilling their greatest potential.

Do you see the difference?

I will also say that I've been on a few CHURCH SPONSORED women's retreats. And NOT A SINGLE SPEAKER worked while she was raising young kids. They all saved their careers until their children were grown.

That said, I think every. single. woman on the planet has days like you have - where they think - this cannot be my life! There's got to be something more! I need to contribute! I have them. You have them. We all have them.

But they pass. And our time WILL come when we'll be working - contributing - being respected and making money.

And those are the days when we'll mourn staying home with our babies ...

Amy said...

That is a hard one, and I never thought I would struggle with the same idea until I got a job I absolutely love. Only now do I feel this conflict rising of me wondering how I can finagle working from home for the first 6 months to a year of our first child's life. Think of the Affiliates I could add, think of the profit margin I could increase! And wouldn't it be nice to have a salary income for the last year Dave's in school instead of living off our savings? But at the end of the day Becky's right. When you work you aren't able to give 100% of your attention to your children, and our children should have the best upbringing possible. I'll probably work from home for 2 weeks to a month after we have the baby (so the insurance will pay for the medical bills), and then call it good.

I've considered becoming a substitute teacher when my kids are all in school, because you can easily say no to any work day and all that is required to be a sub in Utah is a Bachelors degree. In anything (messed up, I know). Maybe something to consider in 4 - 5 years. You worked so hard to get Megan, you guys don't NEED the money, so don't feel like you have to sacrifice your precious time with her to fulfill someone else's idea of what's right.

Marcia said...

I love Elder Faust's advise to women (I can't reference exactly when he said it!) -- Women, you can have it all! Just not all at the same time!

Sarah Davidson, in an article entitled “Having It All,” comments about forging an identity, building a career, developing a craft, and having a family.

“I do not yet understand how a woman can successfully split herself between home and the market place. Fifteen years of feminist theory and action have taught us that sacrificing one for the other does not satisfy, but having both together simultaneously is so difficult that no one I know has found anything but the most quirky and incomplete solution.”

Marcia said...

I found the referece (and this is where Ms. Davidson's quote came from:

a great talk...

Stephanie said...

Harmony, I've got the opposite problem. (not that I have kids, because I don't). But I'm in a Masters Program to become a Nurse Practitioner and I know that Heavenly Father wants me to do this, but I'm basically signed up to work at the minimum one day a week for the rest of my working life.
I look around my ward here and hardly any other women work, no other woman is in school - only the men have masters degrees or are in school. But the conundrum is that I want to stay home with my kids when they come. And I won't be able to, not full time. I read the church articles on motherhood and here comments in church and wonder if Heavenly Father has signed me up on the path to be a mediocre mom. I have to remind myself that He wouldn't do that. I try and have faith that it will work out, I will be a good mom, and be a good Nurse Practitioner that Heavenly Father has told me to be. Because He has told me to be BOTH.
My point is - Heavenly Father will tell you what you need to do and as long as you listen to that counsel, you and your family will be blessed. If that means staying home, then stay home and you will be blessed. And no other outside pressures or opinions matter.

Sarah said...

I think you are just having the "MOM GUILT". I don't know a single mother that has not felt it. Whether she works and wants to be home, whether she is home and wants to be 'more', every mom I've ever known has had this internal conversation. I think it comes down to a very simple concept: we want to be actively engaged. It's part of why we're here, right? To keep learning, moving, experiencing, and growing.

Where women, in particular, get mixed up is the idea that where we are now isn't good enough. It IS good enough, but that doesn't mean stop. It means make where you are now the very best it can be. Pour 100% of your available self into this moment. And get comfortable with you, as you are. I think it gets easier as you get older. That's why people always say things like '30 was so much better than 20'. We start to accept that two hands full of happiness is enough.

Joanna said...

Okay, Harmony. This has SO been on my mind. Not necessarily the career thing, but just doing SOMETHING that the world might deem a success. I especially have a hard time on days when I've yelled at my kids because they're totally out of control, and my house is a mess. I think, "Why am I staying here to be a mom and a homemaker when I'm not even good at it?"

I actually wrote a post about this a while ago, but it's on my other blog, my secret blog, the blog that I haven't told anybody I know in real life about. Because I use this blog to whine about how my husband is in school and we're poor, and I show all the embarrassing things I do to save money. But now you're the first to know. :)

Check it out. And this is good too, not exactly on topic, but if you've got two minutes:

I say you've had some years to work, and you'll have more to work again in the future if you want, but for now hold that baby! Play with her. Love her. Keep working with that cool hair. :) Home is a good place to be.

jen said...

I found your blog from Mikensi's. Thank you for writing this post. It's nice to know someone out there feels exactly the same.

P.S. Your post about the vacuum is hysterical and I also loved the pictures of your darling girl's hair. I stayed with my nieces for a week and gave up on trying to style their black curls!