The car is running. Coffee in console. Kids mouths are wiped, and books are tossed in backpacks. Cell phone in hand, they juggle work calls and a PopTart in the other. As they plan the parent-teacher meeting on the phone, they sign off on the next field trip. The day has just begun.
Stay-at-home moms everywhere can relate to this scene. I’m afraid that in the national discussion though, we’ve forgotten about them. Sheryl Sandberg and Marissa Meyer have taken center stage as we talk about the work/family balance but what about these moms. They have no set work hours, multiple bosses, no overtime pay, and what they lack in a commute they make up for by being on the clock 24/7. In fact, I don’t know even one woman who doesn’t “work” in some capacity.
This Women’s History month; heroic women will be celebrated in classrooms, newspapers, and television specials. But we must remember that one of the toughest and most thankless jobs on the planet is being a stay-at-home mom. In fact a recent Pew Research study shows 37 percent of working mothers polled said they’d prefer to work full time! As a mom and CEO, I know that the hardest job is at home. I can tell you, as a woman that has worked both in and out of the home, that it is easier to answer to one big boss for a few hours than multiple little bosses all day and night. There were days when my children were babies that I fantasized about putting on a suit and going to an office all day where people told me I did a great job, never interrupted my phone calls and let me go to the restroom alone. However, I, like many other moms felt called to do something selfless and that was to give up the second pay check and devote years just to my family. They needed me.
As we remember the women who paved the way for suffrage rights and civil liberties, let us not forget the vital role homemakers have played in American history as nurturers, encouragers, supporters, and helpers. Many of those same women raised children and met the daily demands of home life without pay. They were leaders raising leaders at home. Without them, women’s history month would not be the same. Abigail Adams raised President John Quincy Adams while advocating and modeling an expanded role for women in public affairs during the formative days of the United States.
Somehow we have embraced the idea that in order to be successful, women have to be CEOs of Fortune 500s. But that’s not true. Of course, we are proud of women who have broken new ground and achieved great success, but we also applaud women who have chosen to take less salary and foregone promotions in order to maintain a healthy work-family balance.
But there is a whole other type of sacrifice that comes with choosing to be a stay-at-home mom. Women on both ends of the socio-economic spectrum make difficult choices in order to dedicate their daylight hours to running a household. Highly educated women sacrifice making more money and prestige. Poor women go without better clothes and material things for themselves to provide for their family.
Women should be celebrated, not disparaged for choosing full-time motherhood over a full-time career. This is something the feminists sometimes forget to celebrate during their festivities. The early feminists worked to create a negative stigma for women who choose to stay at home. “No woman should be allowed to stay at home to raise her children,” said feminists Simone De Beauvoir in her book The Second Sex. She goes on to write, “Women should not have that choice, precisely because if there is such a choice, too many women will make that one.” Feminist philosopher Robin West wrote, “Most women are indeed forced into motherhood and heterosexuality … the primary reason for the stunted nature of women’s lives is male power.”
That sounds crazy today but some feminists still haven’t gotten the memo that if you stay at home, you’re not a failure.
No, it might not always be glamorous or meet feminist standards, but stay-at-home moms have the toughest, most rewarding job in the world and carry the responsibility of raising the next generation. As the saying goes, “The hand that rocks the cradle rules the world”. That job goes 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, 365 days a year. There are no sick days, no vacation days and relatively few breaks and quiet times.
One final thought: I don’t know one unmarried woman who doesn’t work hard either. The young women in my office not only bring home the bacon but also contribute to their families, churches and communities in amazing and important ways. They too may in the future choose to work less in order to have a more balanced life, and that is a reasonable choice. They are a crucial part of our national fabric. We’re all in this together. This year let’s focus on affirming all choices and discussing what women want not what radical feminists want them to have. For most of us, that would be a very interesting discussion.