In response to my post on The Feminine Mistake, a recent commenter questioned what kind of message stay-at-home moms are sending their daughters by giving up their careers.
Again, I am not a traditional stay-at-home mom, because I actually telecommute three days a week and work in the office the other two. Therefore, I invite stay-at-home moms to use the comment section to respond to this question. However, here’s what I think I’m teaching my daughter — and my son.
First of all, I think I’m sending the message to my daughter that she has choices. She doesn’t have to be a traditional stay-at-home mom. Nor does she have to, as James Whittington put it, buy into the “anti-traditional family values feminist agenda.”
Don’t get me wrong, I am thankful for the freedoms that I have as a result of the feminist movement. But one of those freedoms is choice. I want both of my children to understand they have choices. They have the right to choose the balance between family and careers that best suit them. What works for their father and me might not be the same thing that works for them. But they have that choice to decide.
I also want to teach my children independence and the ability to define their own identity. I want them to know that their identify is what they make it. I don’t want them to tie their identity to their career — either of them. They should have full well-rounded lives full of interests, hobbies, friends, family and a career if they want it.
At the same time, I want my children to know that they should establish some financial independence and learn to support themselves. But a career is not the only reason to become educated or to work hard. I want my children to appreciate the value of an education because knowledge, whether it be intellectual or skill-based, is powerful. I want my children to know the feeling of a job well done and that that feeling isn’t limited to the office — it can be felt in all aspects of their lives.
I want my children to understand the value of sacrifice , compromise and risk. My children should know that failure is not a sign of unworthiness, but a reason to persevere and a way to improve themselves. And that anything — family, friendship, career — worthwhile is worth working hard for.
Likewise, I want my children to know independence from stereotypes. Yes, I stay home three days a week with my children. But my husband also sacrificed some of his career to stay home with the children the other days. We do not have traditional roles in our house. I’m domestically challenged, but even if I wasn’t my husband would still help out with his share of cooking, cleaning and other household chores. We want to send the message to our children that marriage is a partnership.
Lastly, I want my children to value their family. I’ve never heard someone regret not working more, but I have heard plenty regret not spending enough time with their family. I hope that I’m teaching my children to not only value where they come from, but also to provide a bright future for our descendants. I want to send the message to my children that they are the most important thing that I’ll ever do. And that my husband and I are both willing to make sacrifices for their future.
Life is short. I want my children to enjoy and value it.