Saturday, July 3, 2010

My Family Is My Career

By Justine at Apprentice Mom

I remember when I first told someone that I was quitting my job to stay at home and raise my children, their response was, “Why? I mean, it’s not like you don’t have an education and no other options?” This person honestly could not understand why on earth I would give up being a lawyer to become a full time mother. This experience came back to me after reading Jeff Sabo's post, I Quit my Job to Provide for my Family, where he relates that clearly there was some similar disbelief expressed by his colleagues as to the “actual” reason he was leaving his job.

I know that many much more intelligent people than I have delved into the question about why mothering is not considered a “career” in our society, but the intellectual answers to that question do not really help me to truly understand it. I mean, do people honestly believe that hired caregivers and teachers can do a better job of parenting their kids than they can? They must, that is the only answer. I remember reading Dr. Sears’ Baby Book before my first child was born, and something he and his wife wrote really stuck with me. They said that it is very easy for new parents to come to believe that some expert knows their child better and can do a better job of raising the children than the parents. Don’t be fooled, they wrote, no one can do a better job than you as the mother and father, YOU are the experts!

I really do believe that many people lack confidence and self-esteem, and this is part of why they feel that being a stay at home parent isn’t “good enough” for them. Case in point. Several years ago, I went to a dinner party with a friend and her husband at the home of one of my husband’s very good friends. After dinner, the conversation turned to being a stay at home mother versus working outside the home. My friend (an electrical engineer) had just told our hostess that she had decided to postpone her return to work indefinitely, and the response was, “Well, I have to work. I mean, if someone asks me, I want to be able to tell them that I actually DO something.” Excuse me? I would say this was the most ignorant thing I had ever heard this person say, but unfortunately, it isn’t true.

Fast forward several years. I no longer have any of the same friends, and in fact, I don’t tell people that I am a lawyer unless they ask. Which they almost never do. People now see me as a stay at home mother, and rarely ask if I ever did anything else. Interesting. When I decided to give up my career as a lawyer in favour of a career as a mother, I did wonder if I would feel the loss of what can only be described as privilege and prestige — because, much to my surprise at the time, I did find that being a lawyer meant that people did treat me with a certain respect and deference — but it really hasn’t. However, I can see how making the transition would be very hard for someone who really identifies who they are with what job they hold and the relative level of esteem accorded to that job by society. I suppose I should credit my mom and dad with making sure I grew up knowing who I am, so I did not have to try to piece together an identity for myself as an adult. That, more than anything else, is something I really hope home schooling will help my children achieve — a true sense of self.

Do I miss anything about my job? Sure, the paycheque! Everything else, I feel comfortable having left behind. One of my friends who also left behind her fulltime career to stay at home recently told me that she had been rereading the comic “For Better or For Worse” online because she had really liked it when she was growing up. She still thought it was funny, she said, “but I can’t stand all the complaining about being a stay at home mother! I mean, I had to work for 10 years for the privilege of being a stay at home mom.” OK, so maybe things are changing. Slightly. Or maybe it is just my circle of friends. Either way, I never feel anything but pride in the fact that my family is my career. This is not to say that I will never “do” anything else. The time when I am needed full time to raise my children is a season within my life, just as my job as a lawyer was. I am not in a rush for the season to pass or to end it before my children are fully ready. When it does, well, I’ll have to wait and see what life next brings my way.

© Justine 2010. Reprinted by kind permission.