Everyone makes different choices in life, and that is perfectly fine. What isn’t acceptable is judging others for what they choose to be.
As if second guessing your own choices isn’t difficult enough, Stay at Home Mums (SAHMs) get a lot of criticism . Not from menfolk as one would commonly expect. I am talking about flak from other women.
Perceived as not being independent, smart or ambitious but old fashioned and regressive and many other unflattering things – at some point SAHMs just become invisible. They are there but not quite seen.
Don’t get me wrong. I believe in feminism. I have also had no dearth of role models, starting with my own mother. But I also believe that making a conscious choice to be a SAHM for however long one chooses to do so, is NOT the opposite of feminism.
Although this piece isn’t really about the value of the work done by SAHMs, this is an interesting read to just get an idea.
I used to be a busy finance professional working long days and then life happened. I made the choice to be a SAHM. Last year, after several years of being on a ‘break’ to be a SAHM, I applied for a job at a small non-profit organization. The job required me to work for 3 hours a day, 5 days a week.
I was more than qualified for the job and despite the gap in my experience, I was confident I could do it as I had stayed in touch with my skills. I was even prepared to take some sort of ‘test’ to prove that my sabbatical had not led to the evaporation of my brain.
With butterflies in my stomach, I made it to my interview and was pleasantly surprised to find a woman, very obviously pregnant and a little younger than me waiting to interview me. If selected, she would be my boss. I was ready for anything that would measure my readiness for the job. But I wasn’t ready for what followed.
After some pleasantries, she looked at my CV and then gasped. When she had first seen my CV and called me for an interview, she had missed the part about the break in my experience. Now that she had noticed it, she asked me with a shocked expression why I had taken a break and such a long one, that too.
Without getting into the details, I gave her a brief answer about wanting to focus on my family, to which she immediately responded with how she had juggled motherhood and a job. She had a two year old and was expecting her second child despite having no one but her husband to help her. Her older child had been in a day care since he was three months old. She continued that I had made a huge mistake by taking a break and that she would have lost her mind if she had been in my place.
The conversation continued in the same vein and despite the seemingly catastrophic move that I had made by choosing to be a SAHM, she was convinced that I could do the job. However, after listening to her judging me for the choices that I had made, from the pedestal she put herself on while explaining what the job entailed, I was convinced that this wasn’t the job for me.
Another time when I was still a little new to full-time motherhood, an acquaintance at a gathering remarked, “So is that ALL you do all day?” referring to my new baby. To me it didn’t seem like I was short of things to do. I was barely getting any sleep and was more exhausted than I had ever been.
As women, we all make difficult choices every single day. To marry or not to marry, to have children or not to have children, to work or not to work, picking the right caregiver for your children, to leave a difficult situation or not, which battles to pick. It is always a juggling act at best. But in the end we make the choice that works the best for us. Not what is best for our neighbours or society.
What I did not tell my interviewer that morning was that no one forced me to take a break. It was a choice made by me. That doesn’t mean it was easy. It doesn’t mean that I never wondered if I was doing the right thing or that I didn’t miss going to work. I did. But by no means did being a stay at home mum make me a weak and invisible woman who could be written off.
Sometimes, despite the best laid plans, life throws you a curveball and we make choices, adapting to new circumstances. Just like my interviewer had made the choice that was best for her. It would have been so easy for me to gasp with equal horror at her choice to leave her three month old at a daycare but I have learnt that as women, the very least we can do is to not judge each other. We all have different journeys, fight very different battles and prioritise different things.
As you can see the keyword for me is ‘choice’. The SAHM who chooses to do so can be just as much of a feminist as the boss lady at the office. Isn’t feminism about how you think? One could be the head honcho at work and still hold very regressive views in one’s mind.
We already have enough people pulling us down and as adults, it’s time we stop acting like the mean girls in high school and start giving each other a hand on our way up. So the next time you meet a woman who has made life choices that are different from yours, don’t be judgmental. Because like one of my favourite quotes by Viola Davis goes, “When women support women, amazing things can happen.” Shouldn’t this also be one of the traits of someone who is truly a feminist?
Picture Credits: Still from the movie ‘Cocktail’
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A former finance professional who now writes.
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