This is my first official piece for ctworkingmoms.com and I’m excited to contribute to a blog that serves as a supportive platform for working moms.
Almost four years ago my husband and I were thrilled to discover that we were expecting our first child. When we began informing our friends and family we were greeted with the usual questions: “Are you going to find out the sex of the baby?”, “What names are you considering?”, “What hospital are you going to use?” One question that I frequently received was, “Are you going to go back to work?” I was not prepared, nor did I expect, to have to answer this question. Now this might be my own ignorance shaped by my upbringing, lifestyle, and my general belief in the theory of cultural relativism. While pregnant I easily brushed off these questions and responded, fully confident, that “of course, I was returning to my career!” Looking back, it was easier to be confident and brush off these questions, without a newborn baby in my life.
After giving birth my husband and I faced round two of questioning: “What pediatrician are you using?”, “What daycare did you select?”, “How could you even think of leaving your newborn daughter to be raised by strangers?”, “How will you deal with the guilt of leaving your daughter every morning?”, “Are you aware how sick children get from going to daycare?” These questions were not easily ignored and with each question that arose I grew more defensive and angry. Now that I had a newborn daughter it was not nearly as easy to remain confident and brush off these questions, which at times, seemed like assaults. Why was I being questioned and judged for my choices?
Here is my opinion: after living close to ten years in Connecticut, being a stay at home Mom is often viewed as a status symbol, synonymous with driving a Volvo XC60, carrying the new Kate Spade quilted satchel with lizard embossed leather, or going to Aspen for April vacation. This saddens me.
Here are some facts: over the past few years the economy of the United States has undergone a transformation. For the first time since the 1960’s, when the war on poverty was launched, working-age America (those individuals between the ages of 18-64) accounts for the largest cohort of those living in poverty (approximately 56.7 percent). Historically, children accounted for the largest cohort of poor individuals in the United States. Over time people are having fewer children and the state of the economy, including the recent number of layoffs, has altered the dynamics of this population. http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/44413750
Given this dramatic shift in the economy, obtaining and maintaining a secure job carries with it more value than it has in the past. It astonishes me that in certain states, certain towns, certain neighborhoods, a stay at home Mom is viewed as a luxury good, while a working mom is tagged as a necessary commodity, such as flour, sugar or milk. Some working mothers work to support the financial well-being of their family, and don’t have a choice, they have to work. However, I feel that many assume this is the case with all working mothers, because what kind of mother would work if she didn’t have to? Right? Wrong!
Never once since I gave birth to my first daughter, almost three years ago, has anyone approached me to question such things as the value of my job, the benefits that I have secured for my family, the importance of my deferred compensation, the value of my pension, the ability to pay off my mortgage early, the lifestyle for my children that two incomes will allow. Other moms have judged my decision to send my children to daycare and have inferred that our family must need extra money, or that I’m working to make ends meet. This is a horrible over-simplification of society. Most crazy and mind-boggling of all, is how no one has asked if I’m continuing to work because I enjoy my career!
The feminist movement afforded women choices that they did not previously have. Women should embrace these choices and refrain from passing judgment on others. So now, when I’m faced with an uncomfortable question about my choice to work, I call to mind one of my favorite Sex and the City episodes, which provides me with the little bit of extra inspiration that I need (although, chances are, Charlotte would disagree with my choice), and I hope that it will do the same for you:
Season four, episode seven:
“I am behind my choice. I choose my choice.” —Charlotte York MacDougal