A high powered female attorney recently asked my dearest friend and I “What kind of woman stays home for ten years with her kids?”
My friend and I, both home with our children for ten years and recently putting our toes into the waters of outside employment, wanted to disappear in that moment. Having believed that women had a choice in whether to work outside of the home or not, we never expected to be looked down upon by one of our own gender.
Unfortunately in that moment I didn’t have answer to what kind of woman stays home.
As I think about what kind of woman stays home, I realize I spent some of that time at home, but I didn’t spend much time at home. I spent a lot of time in the community, in the mini van, and at various meetings.
I won’t even begin to touch upon the whole motherhood thing, because women who work outside of the home and those who are home with their children have the same responsibilities of caring for their children. Sleep deprived years, thousands of dirty diapers disposed of, clothing covered with spit up, enough said.
During my years at home with my girls I assisted my elderly grandparents. I took them grocery shopping, to doctor’s appointments, and cleaned their home. I even rototilled their garden plot while in my last trimester of pregnancy, so that the hobby my grandparents enjoyed could continue even though my grandfather wasn’t strong enough to plow. My time with my grandparents was beneficial to all parties involved. My children were fussed over by their wonderful great grandparents, I benefited from their words of wisdom, and they benefited from the social interaction and extra help around the house.
While “home” with my children I found myself a member of our school district’s Committee on Preschool Special Education. This committee made up of members of the county and the school district decides if preschool children with developmental delays qualify for services like speech, occupational and physical therapy. As a parent representative on the committee I often helped parents accept services. Many times parents came in not wanting their three-year-old to be placed in a program for children with developmental delays. I made countless phone calls offering support, assuring parents that these services would help their nonverbal child blossom. As early intervention can significantly reduce the need for services down the road, I wonder how many tax dollars I helped save. I know I helped those families send their children to kindergarten ready to learn and on par with their peers.
I helped create an integrated preschool program at a local private school. I brought together and Early Intervention Service program with the private school and we created a dynamic, year round learning environment. This program helped both the children with developmental delays and the typical children. It was one of the happiest classrooms in that building.
While at “home” I helped raised millions of dollars for our local chapter of the Autism Society of America by working on their annual fund raiser. In my previous life as a career person I had been a professional fund raiser. This was a win- win situation as I got to feel “professional” again, and they got a “professional” without having to pay me.
I met other at home mothers who were doing similar things. The former special ed teacher would consult with families looking for tutors or ideas for helping their child succeed at school; the former nurse was our first call when a strange medical problem arose and we weren’t sure if we should call the doctor.
Those of us who were at home tended to the mothers with breast cancer who were fighting the disease while raising their families. Unfortunately we also had to keep bedside vigils for one dear friend as she died. The brigade of women who cared for her on her journey, carried her coffin into the church as we buried her.
Another group of us made a quilt for a friend whose baby was born with a fatal condition and lived for a few short months. The baby was buried wrapped up in the quilt that was made lovingly at my dining room table.
Those of us at home ran school events and raised funds for the school as tax dollars dwindled. Because of our efforts early literacy programs continued, enrichment programs were offered, and supplies that had been slashed in the budgets were purchased.
We fed each other’s families and watched each other’s children when one of us got sick or dealt with the death of a parent. We were a safety net for each other.
What kind of woman stays at home? A strong, kick ass woman who knows how to get things done, a woman with nerves of steel, and a heart full of love.
My time as an at home mother was in hindsight too short, and nothing like I anticipated – my house was still never clean. It was the most challenging and the most rewarding job ever.