Why have we stigmatized the stay-at-home, homeschool mom?
Is the value of a corporation captured only in its stock pricing? Is the experience of someone else only tied to their ability to make more money? Is our measure of success found in external things? Should we absolve our society of all unpaid internships, apprenticeships, and trainings? Why then do we bring this mentality to the stay-at-home mother? Let's also examine the term 'stay at home mother'. Is a grocery store manager called a 'stay-at-desk case orderer'? When was the last time you heard a pilot say, "Oh, I prefer the term, 'stay-at-seat engineer.'? How about an Olympian instead being called a "Stay-at-training-facility athlete"? These are titles that highlight only one thing that these professionals do in a day. It is not something that makes sense, as it doesn't encompass all that they are doing.
In the very name of stay-at-home mother, it encompasses a small portion of what a stay-at-home mother does, as most mothers who are at home with their children are very busy and home only some of the time just as any other working person. This is because there is more to being with your children than being at home. I typed in 'stay at home mothers are' in googles predictive search bar and I got some interesting results produced by popular searches. Based on this it would seem that many people searching view stay at home mothers as lazy, selfish, or 'the worst'.
As a homeschool mother, I have often pondered the societal stigma surrounding stay-at-home mothers in Western culture. Despite progress made in gender equality, women who choose to stay at home to raise their children are often viewed as less ambitious, less successful, or less capable than women who pursue careers outside of the home. This stigma is particularly evident in the way we view homeschool mothers, who are often seen as odd or even irresponsible for choosing to educate their children at home. This is not without reason- until recently staying at home and home educating your children was the only choice available to mothers and the only future promised to young girls at all. That is not okay- women have so much to offer the world.
Over time this has been challenged because we as women and men who wanted more for their wives have empowered women to be in the workforce from video game design to construction, from mail work to theater women have made a place for themselves within the framework of society. Yet- is it so that through the intensity of the movement to achieve independence from what was once the only option we have now stigmatized and failed to realize the impact of other professions that do not generate income? Or to put the question in another way- is it really so that until recently women have made ABSOLUTELY ZERO impact on history? Is it instead that only until recently women have been written about? Is it really so that the work of the mother is so vital that it is unseen?
Why do we stigmatize stay-at-home mothers in this way? Perhaps we have become so focused on the idea of work and productivity as the ultimate measure of success that we have forgotten the importance of nurturing and caring for our families. We have become so focused on the fact that every skill can be hired out that we, ourselves, can learn these skills too. Rather than being an expert in one thing, we can absorb a breadth of many skills that benefit an entire family. This is particularly true in Western cultures, where the traditional family structure has been replaced by a culture of individualism and self-reliance. I still hear frequently from other working mothers that being a stay-at-home mom 'isn't a real job'. Why can one woman write 'nanny' on her resume, and it is considered professional development but the time as a stay-at-home mom is considered a gap in one's resume?
The idea that the stay-at-home mom is the ideal woman and ideal wife presents no facts when there are many women who would choose a career and a village over being a stay-at-home mom with grocery trips at times being the only 'alone time' you get. The idea that the career-oriented mother is somehow cold to her children, misunderstands them at every turn, and probably hates puppies is also ludicrous. Both sides of this spectrum do not make sense when they stand alone- and for the most part everyone who I have talked to about this seems to be somewhere in the middle rather than hanging out at one of the extremes although I have met some who are.
Another explanation for this stigmatization is that we have internalized the notion that the only path to fulfillment and happiness is through external achievements, such as career success and financial independence. As a result, we may view those who choose to prioritize their family over their careers as somehow lacking or inferior. Perhaps the decision to trust the husband with such a huge responsibility, such as her retirement and medical care is seen as careless. I often find that the ideas presented for conversation are total garbage that represent the opinions of no one. Rather, they are talking points that are convenient and easy to write on because they do not require you to take on the perspective of the other party.
What about this, what if all moms are working moms? What if no matter what a mom is doing meaningful work whether that is making money or investing in the future through her actions as a mother? We have become a bit disconnected to the middle ground and polarized in the last few years specifically and we can give more clout to the idea that we are all going to have at least one similarity. This allows conversation to flow much more beautifully because we are willing to take on the perspective and respect another when we have things in common with them. We see their humanity and we do not judge them as an idea- but rather as people.
As a stay at home homeschool mother, I have seen firsthand the incredible benefits of staying at home to raise and educate my children. I have been able to provide my children with individualized attention, tailoring their education to their unique learning styles and interests. I have been able to create a warm and nurturing home environment that fosters creativity, curiosity, and a love of learning. I have been available for every question, and they do not need to keep their frustrated feelings about a lesson or tough math problem inside. They can process how they need to so we can move forward with our lessons- or so we can sit together and learn about the home aspect of homeschool. For example, perhaps taking a break is best for that moment. Perhaps what we need to do is clean the house! It is all something that is dynamic and flexible- that in and of itself is an adjustment.
Moreover, by staying at home with my children, I have been able to model the importance of selflessness and sacrifice, qualities that are often undervalued in our culture. Yet- they are noticed and given a ton of clout. They are ideas that we love to hold onto but once they are challenged with the fact that no money is made from being a stay-at-home mom, many people do not understand why any woman would choose that. By prioritizing my children's well-being over my own career aspirations, I am teaching them the value of putting others first and the importance of building strong, healthy relationships. Selflessness is often seen as shortsightedness and sacrifice for a cause no matter how noble has become twisted into self-sabotage somehow. Things depend on our perspective, and it matters how we look at our experiences.
Of course, staying at home to raise children is not the right choice for everyone. I am not in any way shape or form trying to state that being a mother is something that can only fit one mold and look only one way. Some women may find fulfillment and happiness in pursuing a career outside of the home, and that is perfectly valid. But we must recognize that staying at home to care for one's family is a valuable and worthwhile choice, one that should not be stigmatized or undervalued. Our children need adults who LOVE them- not only adults who care but adults who care to see them, who truly and deeply enjoy them.
What I'm saying here is the stigmatization of stay-at-home mothers in Western culture is a reflection of our misplaced priorities and our obsession with external achievements as a measure of success. Throughout history women have silently shaped every event because everyone involved in history had a mother and that mother impacted them in some way, shape, or form. As a homeschool mother, I have found great fulfillment and happiness in staying at home to care for my family, and I believe that this choice should be celebrated and respected, not stigmatized. JUST AS a choice to enter a career as a mother should be lifted and supported! By valuing the importance of nurturing and caring for our families, we can create a more balanced and fulfilling society for all.