As a native New Yorker, I am the type of woman that says what she thinks. In fact, sometimes my filter needs adjusting when I hear my thoughts slip right out of my mouth. I never thought that I would want to conceal that I chose to leave my career to be a stay-at-home mom. Yet, this is where I find myself. Choosing my words carefully when someone asks; “How are you handling your career and motherhood?” My response now is usually something like, “I work full time at home.” Then I quickly change the subject.
Why do I do this? To avoid getting that look women give me when I say I’m a stay-at-home mom. Yes, I said, women. Is deciding to leave a career to be the primary caretaker of your child really so offensive to women? It seems for many women it is. The reaction I have received is disheartening to say the least.
The decision to leave my career was not an easy one. I was responsible for identifying people that were committing financial crimes such as money laundering and fraud as well as tracking individuals that the government has restricted. I was proud of the work I was doing. Even though I found my work very rewarding, at age 43, I decided to leave my career to give my full attention to this once-in-a-lifetime gift. I say gift because I, like so many other women, had difficulty maintaining my pregnancies. I had three miscarriages, including my son’s identical twin, before this gift was born. Once we looked at our situation, my husband and I chose to make changes in our lifestyle in order for me to be home with our son. I thought most women, especially other mothers, would understand this choice. Unfortunately, I was wrong.
On several occasions when I’m out with my son, I run into one of the women from my neighborhood or church. We say our friendly hellos and then it happens, the dreaded question: “Are you off from work today?” I take a deep breathe and tell them I stay home with my son. I don’t know which bothers me more, the smirk on their face or them rolling their eyes. One woman actually backed away as if I told her I had something contagious. I thought I would have the support of other women but more often than not I received a condescending remark. Something like; “You are going back to work once he’s in school full-time aren’t you?”
I tell them I work full time now thank you! Is it me, or are some women mean? One time when some women were talking politics one of them asked me if I understood what they were talking about. I’m sorry but did my IQ drop when I became a mom? Granted, I do know a lot of animated movies, but I also know what bills are trying to get passed on the Senate floor.
It leads me to question why women are so critical of other women. Why aren’t we more supportive of each other? A simple acknowledgement, like saying to me that my son must enjoy having me home with him, would make a world of difference. Do we need to do it all at once in order to be a modern woman, or dare I say a feminist? All of us face challenges and make hard choices. Women supporting each other, especially in this “man’s world” is important for all of us to succeed in what ever circumstance we find ourselves. Whether we’re running a company, heading the PTA, managing a household or working our way through college, women of all ages need to know we have each other’s back. Let’s be advocates for one another because having choices is what feminism is all about.
Do I miss my career with Corporate America? At times I do. But there is no board meeting that can compare to having a pretend picnic with my son and his action figures on his playroom floor along with the cat and dog. Having him give me an unsolicited hug and I love you mommy tops any promotion or corner office in my book. That’s what works for me. With that being said, I applaud women that manage their career and family life. It’s difficult to juggle work, child care, soccer practice and more. That’s why it’s so important for all of us to be kind to each other and support the choices each of us make. We need to remember that we’re all striving to be the best we can be.