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Is Being a Stay at Home Parent a Job?

I’m so sick of this argument. Valenti’s book has a whole chapter devoted to convince the reader that parenting isn’t a job, but everyone knows the old saying “being a mom is the hardest job in the world.” Yesterday I read Being a Stay at Home Mother is Not a Job.  Why are we even having this debate at all?

Being an involved parent is hard work; there are few days off, its 24/7 and especially when they are small it’s very very demanding. Being a stay at home parent may include walks in the park, but even those are rarely a walk in the park if you know what I’m saying?

Participating in the argument at all is admitting that employment is the most desirable activity for a citizen to be involved. In order to care for children or anyone, you give up or take a break from your career. Imagine if we lived in matriarchy instead? Maybe it would be a sad story indeed to have no one to look after and have to get a job. Of course no one could know what that would look like but I do know that this expectation that everyone get a job is a more dangerous version of patriarchy than it was when women stayed home.

Whoa! Hold on a minute, indeed I wasn’t there and indeed I would have absolutely hated being forced into a situation I didn’t want. I’m immeasurably grateful for the progress toward giving everyone the choice to work, but the pendulum has swung too far. Now, depending on your social circles, the woman who chooses to stay at home and raise her children is the one who is going against the grain and rebelling social norms. The only acceptable activity is paid, and anyone who isn’t paid is considered a sponger.

How horrible, to be dependent. We are all taught we need to be independent, lone wolves, dependent on no one. Well I have news for you. Every sane person in the world is dependent on other people for their physical needs, their mental health and their emotional well being. Every. Single. One. Why do you think the crazy cat lady is crazy? Or the recluse who built a log house in the mountains? Perhaps they were mentally unstable before they isolated themselves, but if not they were always going to end up that way.

Have you read the piece in the Huffington Post about the new research on the likely cause of addiction? I highly recommend it. Seriously, go read it. I’ll wait.

So what do you think? Groundbreaking isn’t it? The idea that humans need strong, warm connections with other people or else they latch onto something else, like drugs, alcohol, or gambling. We’re all interdependent, not independent. I’ve often wondered if my two girls never latched onto any blankie or stuffed animal because we’ve always bedshared and they’ve always had a parent to cuddle. I may be wrong and I’m certainly not accusing anyone whose kids have a blankie of being neglectful because all kids are different, but the idea is something to consider.

If we can shed our aversion to the idea of dependency then maybe we can accept that some people will have well paid jobs, others will have caring responsibilities, some will have lower paid but important jobs and some will do something completely different. It’s all ok, and it’s all valid.

Secondly, lets stop pretending that being a stay at home parent is essentially selfish. “Getting to do nothing but raise a person you opted to bring into the world is a privilege, and calling it anything else is ignorant and condescending,” says Liz Pardue-Shultz in the piece linked to above. So what does she do that’s so much more selfless and useful to the world? She’s a freelance writer. This is just another case of a privileged white person who has a great job telling everyone else that having a great job is more important than anything else. This is how she has validated her decision. Good for her, but in reality 70% of people hate their jobs, so who’s ignorant and condescending now?

Some of us don’t want to send the message to our kids that career and money is more important than they are. I know there are stay at home mothers who stay home because they were latch key kids and they remember how it feels; lonely. It is indeed not something everyone can do, those who do it are mostly grateful, even when they are complaining and venting to people who they think will understand. Saying it’s “not a job” reveals more about yourself than anyone else; namely that you are entrenched in patriarchy. Good job.

Featured image courtesy Donnie Nunley

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3 Comments

  1. Susan Ireland Susan Ireland

    I was nodding rigorously until I got to the last sentence – which was odd, as I thought we were in furious agreement.

    I’m a SAHM and I really don’t think it’s anything like having a job. Caring for my own child is intimate and personal. It’s a labour of love, and wrapped up in it are the very crux of what makes you human. I would literally die for my child. Work, even though my work was professional and I’m sure colleagues would have described me as driven (when I worked prior to having children), and even though meaingful work is important for self-esteem and to give purpose – it’s really not like raising children. I got paid better when I had a job too 😉

  2. Renegade Feminist Renegade Feminist

    “Saying it’s “not a job” reveals more about yourself than anyone else; namely that you are entrenched in patriarchy.” What I mean by that, like said earlier in the post is just that even having the opinion shows that you value paid work more than caring or anything else, which is all wrapped up in patriarchy. We didn’t disagree, I was just not perfectly clear. Trying to be clever. Sorry about that. 😉

  3. 42fortytwo42 42fortytwo42

    attachment disorder is a very real and complex issue for some children who were not properly nurtured in their formative years. parenting is one of the most important jobs in society, and our children will be part of that when they are grown. at the very least, the patriarchy could at least acknowledge that to get the best, most productive worker bees, we need to raise them well lol.

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