The choice to stay at home with Paisley was an easy one for me. I always knew that if I could afford to do it, I would. Having said that, I totally recognize that not everyone can do it and that not everyone wants to. We are making some major financial sacrifices to do this and I personally am taking on a lot of risk. A recent remark by one of Alberta's politicians brought this issue of working mom versus stay at home mom back into the limelight, at least for a few days. There were all kinds of articles and editorials and commentaries on the subject. I found some of them asinine but most of them sat comfortably on a spectrum that almost any woman can identify with. I can see why some women go back to work. I can see why they might not feel fulfilled at home. I don't think those people are bad parents but it's not what I choose to do.
This subject is a contentious one and unlike so many other "parenting issues" it seems to remain bubbling beneath the surface. Women avoid the subject because it can create feelings of inadequacy, hurt and anger and because, for the most part, we are afraid of being judged or misunderstood. Each side of the debate is knee deep in misconceptions: working mothers are selfish and career focused, stay at home mothers are lazy or boring or we do a disservice to the feminist cause. Kids from daycare are better socialized, stay at home kids are more loved. None of this is true and the situation varies so much that it's difficult to draw any real conclusions. I have met some seriously sub-standard parents whose kids would probably benefit from day care. Parents who do nothing with their children except watch TV and push them out of the way or leave them in their crib for hours. I also happen to know of a few day cares where kids are left to their own devices and aren't monitored or challenged. A high quality environment is what kids deserve, whether it be at home or elsewhere.
Having said that, there is one thing I hear a lot that does bug me. "Oh, I wish I could do that but we can't afford it." "It must be nice to have a choice" etc. Now, if you are a single mother or someone who really needs two incomes to cover your basic necessities, fair enough. But the vast majority of women who say that to me are living in a huge house, with two cars and going on yearly tropical vacations. That is not struggling to survive. That is a choice. It is a choice to place the maintenance of a certain lifestyle over the opportunity to stay at home. I don't care that they choose that - it doesn't affect me. What annoys me is that they are unwilling to make the sacrifice but won't admit it. Not to me and probably not to themselves. Brian and I don't like having to choose between Drumheller and Kamloops for a summer vacation instead of Italy or France. We don't love living in a small townhouse with one vehicle and not a lot of spending money but we chose this. We felt it was more important for Paisley to have a parent at home than it was for us to have a big house and lots of money. Our choice isn't a popular one these days but it works for us.
Being a parent is hard and being a mother in 2009 in even harder. We have a lot of expectations placed on us (admittedly, a lot of them are self imposed) and some tough choices to make. It sometimes frustrates me that it is still the woman who has to make these choices and sacrifices. Nobody, not one person, asked Brian if he was taking parental leave when we were expecting Paisley. It's not something most people even consider. I am fortunate that I can work from home because it has made the choice and transition that much easier. I would still love to live in a world though where as many men stay at home as women. If nothing else I think stay at home parents would get the respect and credit they deserve.