When I was in high school, my History teacher began each unit with a question. The day we started studying the Women’s Movement was no different.
“Who has a mom that does not work outside the home?”
I raised my hand, at first confidently but when I took a glance around and realized that no others hands were up, I started to recoil mine, like a balloon that had suddenly lost its air.
It was the early nineties and I hadn’t really give much thought to the fact that my siblings and I were being raised by a stay-at-home mom. I knew it wasn’t the norm, but I didn’t feel like I was living a completely different experience than that of my peers.
Why did I react this way? Did I want my classmates to believe that my mother got up every day and dressed in power suits accessorized with high heels and a leather briefcase? Or was I worried that they assumed she just stayed in her housecoat all day with a kid glued to each leg.
The reality was that neither of those scenarios were true. My mother raised six kids while staying at home, while also helping my father to grow his small construction business.
Now, 25 years later I often reflect on my mother’s life as a stay-at-home mom since I have chosen a similar path.
I never grew up thinking I would remain at home after having kids. My plan was pretty typical – go to university, start my teaching career, get married, have kids, then return to work. But life threw me some curve balls, and my journey to motherhood took longer than expected. So at the age of 37, after working full-time for 13 years, I decided not to go back to work after my first son was born.
The decision was a fairly easy one to make. I had spent most of my twenties and thirties happily nurturing other people’s children and now it was time to focus my energies on my own. Motherhood was a dream that had evaded me for quite some time, so I was more than ready to fully immerse myself in this new role.
That’s not to say that I don’t miss working, getting up every morning and gearing up for a day of social interaction and mental stimulation. Ultimately, I feel that I made the right decision for my family and have never looked back.
My mother decided to stay home after the birth of her second child. With ageing parents, in-laws on the other side of the world, and my father’s growing company, she made the difficult decision to leave a job she loved. When she worked in retail, she took immense pride in helping women choose clothes that helped accentuate their best features. This is a skill she never lost. My sisters and I joke that we are lucky enough to have our own personal stylist… for free.
I think about my mother on the hard days. The days when I am so exhausted, that I can’t form a coherent sentence or when I am covered in vomit or snot and don’t remember the last time I wore pants with a button.
I also think of my mom during the amazing moments like when I walk my son to and from school and watch his face light up when he sees me waiting there for him across the playground. I think of her when my kids are sick and I’m able to rush off to the doctor’s office at a moment’s notice and not have to worry about making arrangements at work.
Without a doubt, the appreciation I have for all that my mother scarified for us is endless. Her days were often filled with mundane tasks like washing dishes and preparing meals but they were also filled with the comfort of being involved first-hand in her kids’ day-to-day activities.
I wonder if one day, a teacher will ask either of my sons’ classes that same question. The ratio of raised hands may have changed a bit. More women are choosing to remain home with their children and work-at-home moms are also on the rise. In the end, I hope they will be proud of their mom whether she eventually rejoins the workforce or not. I hope my children will understand that my decisions, like those of most moms are made with the welfare of the entire family in mind.
I hope they look back on their childhood with happiness and pride. I know I do.
Lori is currently on a break from teaching to stay at home with her two sons, 3 and 1. She has a passion for reading and writing, enjoys a good documentary, and loves all things pop culture. She lives in Stoney Creek, Ontario with her husband and young family. You can follow her on Twitter @sebastianl74.
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