This morning I went to an S.E.O.P. (Student Education and Occupation Plan) meeting for Loula Belle. The councelor we met with said, "Your mom is one of the 'lucky few.' Only 1 in 10 women are married to a man who makes enough money to support a family on one income." I was a bit surprised by her statisfic. Only 10% of moms stay at home? But more disturbing was the attitude behind the statement.
First, let me say that the counselor's statistic is a bit low. According to a Census Bureau Report, of the 41.8 million kids under 15 who lived with two parents last year, more than 25 percent had mothers who stayed home. A June 2003 article from the Seattle Post-Intelligencer has a lot to say on the topic of at-home moms. One of the women interviewed in the article (Laurel Dickson) said that the decision for her to stay home was almost impossible at first. "Ends didn't meet -- but we made them," she said. "We did whatever we had to financially to get by."
Contrary to what the school conselor is telling students, staying at home isn't a luxury open only to those who marry wealthy men. If anything, staying home feels more like a sacrifice than a luxury. At least that has been my experience. (See this past post for more one how being at-home wasn't quite what I had planned.)
We had our first child when we were both still in college. We both stayed in school to finish up our bachelor degrees and left Bug in the care of babysitters. I'd pick up baby Bug from the caregivers as soon as classes were out, and Hubby worked swing-shifts at an exercise manufacturing plant to support our little family. Bug was born in October and we both graduated in May. That's when I became a full-time at-home mom.
In the early years Hubby didn't pull down big money. And even now his income is nice, but not huge. We've worked hard to make ends meet, but for me that hasn't been the biggest sacrifice of being an at-home mom.
I'm an achiever. (Recovering over-achiever.) When I was a sophomore in high school I worked after-school at Cantwell Bros. Lumber. I didn't need to work. I wanted to work. And I loved the challenge of doing a great job. By the time I graduated high school I trained all new employees on using the computer sales system for the lumber company. A short while later I became the credit manager. Later I worked in accounts payable, did deposits, was a signer on their bank account and did sleuth work when the till didn't match the day's report. Even when I worked at Macey's Sac and Save (that was the full title then) I worked my way up from bagger to checker to making deposits and eventually working as a front-end manager. Work was a big part of my life. I loved getting promotions and paychecks.
Then I became a mom. President Ezra Taft Benson's councel to mothers played a big part in my decision to stay at home. And because the siren song of the workforce calls so appealingly to me, from time to time I have re-examined my decision to be an at-home mom. Home is still where I belong.
But what about my own girls? Will they find their calling as at-home moms? I want them to get an education, to do their very best academically. The school is prepping them for employment, for an occupation, and I think that is wise. Every woman needs to have skills she can use to get a job that can provide for her family if the need arises. But will their schooling or future occupation make staying home to care for children seem second rate? Will they have to struggle to find contentment and satisfaction the way I have?
These are the questions that parents can ask, but can't know the answers to. Having the ability to choose, having free agency -- that's what this life is all about.