HarvardHomemaker

By HarvardHomemaker

I'm a Harvard graduate and homemaker who blogs about living (and loving!) the domestic life with my husband and four young daughters. My blog now permanently resides at www.harvardhomemaker.com. Please visit me there!

Posted on Tuesday, March 26, 2013 at 12:25:00 AM in Mom Stuff
Tags: college degree,  women,  harvard graduate,  harvard,  mommy blogger,  mommy blog,  mom stuff

Don't Be a Hater: Support Your Fellow Women

I never had any intention of writing a post like this—certainly not this week, maybe not ever.   I started this blog back in October as a hobby.  My goal was to spread some happiness and share ideas that might be helpful to other women like me.  I wasn’t interested in tackling issues that were too deep because life is serious enough already.  But over the weekend, I received my first real “hate” comment on my blog. (View both comments at the bottom of my About Me page.)  I knew it would be coming at some point, but it did rattle me a bit.  I was immediately sweating when I realized the comment was not the typical sweet one but rather as harsh as they come.  Apparently this reader’s parents forgot to teach her about the Golden Rule.

I know you can’t please everyone, no matter how hard you try.  But I guess I thought the haters I might attract would be those who disagree with a well-intentioned mommy tip I share, or let me know that I was using the wrong type of paint on the chairs my kids and I finished (because we really didn't know what we were doing!)

But my first hater attacked my choice to be a stay at home mom because I have a college degree.  In that initial moment, I was stunned and deflated—but mostly I was angry.  Angry because this woman had missed the mark in so many ways—it was almost laughable, really.  And I was angry because I couldn’t believe she felt that she had the right to tell me—someone she’s never even met—how to live my life.

Being the eternal optimist that I am, and after the outpouring of support from my family, friends, and readers, I decided that I was going to turn this negative experience into a positive one.  From the comments that were sent my way (most notably on my blog's Facebook page), I realized this is a topic that women could benefit from discussing more openly.  Every single one of us has a different story, yet at the root of it all, we women are all trying to make sense of our place in the world—without being judged and without feeling guilt for those choices.

I hate to mention this anonymous reader too often, because perhaps creating a stir like this is exactly what she was intending.  I really don’t want to give her that satisfaction.  But I feel the need to highlight a quote or two for this discussion, and truly, she is the catalyst for this post.  She told me, “… you are contributing to a culture which values a woman's ability to sort laundry rather than have an enriching career with the education she's pursued."  I don’t see it that way.  I am sorting laundry, yes.  But if I was working full time, it’s not like that laundry would do itself.   As one reader wrote on my Facebook page, “I sometimes do feel that I am using my education to fold laundry, but I remind myself that if I were 'doing it all,' I'd still be folding laundry after an exhausting day of work AND running around. I've chosen a life path that allows me to do anything rather than EVERY thing!”  Any woman (or man, for that matter) who has ever stayed at home with their children knows that we are much more than housekeepers.  I do believe it’s the hardest job there is (despite my anonymous reader telling me I “need a serious reality check” for thinking so), and many women who go to work each day admit that it can be a relief to hand off a screaming child so that someone else can deal with the stress for a while!  Another reader wrote on my About Me page, “My husband is a pediatric oncologist/hematologist.  One would think that might be one of the hardest jobs in the world--who wants to tell families that their children have cancer on a routine basis?  But if and when my husband is trying to get work done at home, he doesn't last more than 10 minutes.  He looks at me, shakes his head, and says, ‘I don't know how you do it.  This is impossible.’” 

All day long, I take care of my thirteen-month-old—my fourth daughter.  I feed her, change her, and basically keep her safe and alive.  As I’m writing this, she is crawling around me while Sesame Street plays in the background.  I suppose some could criticize me for not giving her my undivided attention at all times (and perhaps even for having the television on), but I pause every now and then when she seeks my approval.  I say, “Wow, you’re so great!” in my most animated voice, and she seems more than happy with our exchanges before returning to her toys.  She is learning to busy herself without needing someone else to constantly entertain her.  At one point, she comes up to me while hitting her mouth with her hand—the sign for “eat.”  Without the need for crying or a tantrum, I instantly know she’s hungry, so we walk to the kitchen together, and I tear up a piece of bread.  She takes it from my hand, piece by piece, and feeds herself so she can work on developing her fine-motor skills.  When it’s clear that she’s done, she returns to her toys, and I go back to writing this post.   Even in these small everyday exchanges, there are teaching moments. 

My other three girls are typically in school, but my third is also next to me today—home sick with a fever and dozing quietly.  I’m grateful that as a stay at home mom, I don’t have to jump through hoops to work out care for a sick child—or figure out a way to stay home from work myself and have a colleague or two irritated by my last-minute need to cancel meetings.  All three of us are still in our pajamas even though it’s past noon now, and I haven’t brushed my hair (or my teeth) yet—or looked in the mirror, for that matter.  The breakfast dishes still sit next to the sink, and I haven’t even begun to think about lunch.  Wait, did I even eat breakfast?  Throughout my day, I will probably do 3-4 loads of laundry, return emails, order my desperately-needed groceries online, send a birthday card, clean up the mess that still remains from having the whole family home over the weekend, and continue to take care of one sick child and another one who is just learning to walk and talk.  

Since I can't run any errands today with a daughter home sick, I won't be forced to get dressed until it’s time to pick up my older two girls.  When they jump in the car, they will surely be bubbling with stories of their day.  More often than not, at least one will tell me about something someone at school did that was unkind or hurtful in some way.  This will occasionally be directed at them, but typically it’s something they have witnessed.  Usually it’s innocent enough, but they are always seeking my take on the event to help them process it.  We discuss how they could have helped the person being targeted, or maybe I just explain that I think it was a misunderstanding.  I could go on about the ins and outs of my day as a stay at home mom, but you get the picture.  And honestly, many of you reading this are quite possibly in the same boat--your daily life may sound much like mine, so you really need no description.  To some, we may just be “sorting laundry,” but we all know that our role is much larger than that.  My girls will only be young like this once.  Being home at this stage in my life is enough for me.   I know I matter.

This week’s cover story in New York Magazine, The Feminist Housewife—Can Women Have It All by Staying at Home? by Lisa Miller, fell right in my lap the day after my lovely reader thought it was her place to tell me how I was a disgrace to women everywhere by “squandering my education.”  The article states that “Feminism has fizzled, its promise only half-fulfilled.  This is the revelation of the moment… a cause of grief for some, fury for others.”  Clearly this anonymous reader is in the “fury” category.  But truly, to some extent, I can understand it.

Those women who came before us fought for the right to vote, for equality in the workplace, for respect as thinking, capable individuals.  So now, according to Miller, at a time when “American women are better educated than they’ve ever been, better educated now than men,” in fact—women who still ultimately make the choice to stay at home are often viewed as wasting the efforts of feminists, almost as if we are letting the women of previous generations down.

So where do we go from here?  Are women supposed to seek a career, then, just because we can?  Many women enter their twenties ready to take on the world.  We have images of ourselves “doing it all,” and doing it well, too.  But sometimes dreams change, and when you get there, it may even feel like a nightmare for some.  Stacy Morrison, editor-in-chief of BlogHer (a network of 3000 blogs for and by women, of which this blog is a member) is quoted by Miller as saying that women today feel “that the trade-offs now between working and not working are becoming more and more unsustainable.”  Miller writes, “…what if all the fighting is just too much?”  What if not all women have the ambition to prove their worth in the working world?  What if a woman has “a more modest amount [of ambition] that neither drives nor defines her?”  I have come to realize that I fall in this category.  I am proud of my past accomplishments, but I don’t feel the need at this stage in my life to continue to achieve outside the home.  I believe that my daughters (and my husband) currently need me more than the workplace does.  I know I am giving up the chance to earn a big salary and a pat on the back in exchange for a thankless job with no sick days, no pay, and little respect.  But there’s no place I’d rather be.  So please don’t judge me for staying at home because I don’t judge those women who work (either by choice or necessity). 

In Miller’s article, she interviews Kelly Makino, a self-proclaimed “flaming liberal and feminist,” who surprised even herself by her choice to become a stay at home mom when her husband took a position that required more travel.  Makino says, “I want my daughter to be able to do anything she wants… but I also want to say, ‘Have a career that you can walk away from at the drop of a hat.’”  That is exactly the choice I want my own four daughters to have.  The dreams they have now may change once they get to where they’re going.  And that’s okay—because whatever they choose to do with their lives is a choice I will be thankful they have--and one I will fully support.

I know my own dreams have been in constant motion.  I went off to Harvard thinking I would become a doctor.  But when I got there, I started to worry about all that comes with it—the schooling, the long hours, the unpredictability.  I knew I also wanted to become a wife and mother one day, and I was beginning to worry about how I would balance it all.  So I took a different turn, and I wound up in Manhattan post-college with a job that many recent graduates would have killed for.  But my college boyfriend and I were managing a long-distance relationship, so my heart was never really in New York.  We eventually got engaged, I moved south to be with him, and we married just two summers after I had graduated from Harvard.  When I went to my 5-year reunion, there were only a handful of us who were already married.  And I was literally the only one there (that I found) who had become a parent.  I had my daughter strapped to me in a Baby Bjorn throughout most of that weekend.

Nobody could believe I was a mother at the age of 27 in that crowd.  Most were still seeking higher degrees or working their way up the corporate ladder.  To some extent, I felt a little like a teenager who got knocked up and derailed her life before it really got started.  But that feeling came from my own insecurities, I know.  Nobody made me feel like my choices hadn’t been good ones.  Quite the contrary—many former classmates were tired of still being in school after all those years, and those in the work force were becoming annoyed by the “face time” they needed to put in to show their superiors how driven they were.  They felt ready to “start their lives” already—just as they thought I had done.  

My anonymous reader, amongst her many choice comments, demanded to know how I arrived at the name “Harvard Homemaker” for my blog.  She accused me of "bragging” and being an elitist with that title.  “How does having an esteemed degree from the [sic] perhaps the most prestigious school in the country make you more qualified to do your job as a homemaker?” she wrote.  It doesn’t, lady.  I never said that it does.  You inferred that all by yourself, and you also connected the words in a way that I never intended.  Perhaps the name comes from me finally owning the choices that I’ve made and being proud of them—no longer apologizing for attending Harvard, becoming a young mom, and then (gasp!) deciding to stay at home.  Almost right from the start after graduation, I chose a life of domesticity.  I went against the grain in some respects.  Maybe that choice could even be viewed as commendable because I didn’t let society tell me what I should do with my hard-earned degree; instead, I chose a path that I knew was right for me and my family.  I’m the Harvard girl who became a homemaker.  That’s where my blog’s title comes from.  Simple enough.  I really didn't think it was that confusing.  And just because I don’t have a high-powered job doesn’t mean I have “wasted” my degree, despite what my reader thinks.  An education is never wasted.  Ever.  It’s a ridiculous statement to say otherwise. 

Back in college I took a class where we had to conduct an experiment.  We were expected to make a hypothesis, carry out the experiment, and then analyze the data.  My college sweetheart (now my husband) had already graduated and was living across town in Boston.  When I went to visit him, I always hopped on the bus and took the straight shot down Massachusetts Avenue to his apartment.  Since I was on the bus each way a couple of times a week, it was the perfect place for me to study people’s behavior in a group setting.  I wanted to see what choices people made when finding a seat. 

Think about what you do when you get on an elevator.  Let’s say there is one other person in the elevator when you enter.  Do you go stand as close to that person as possible?  No.  You will position yourself as far from that person as you can.  A third person enters; that person will then center herself between you both, and so on.  We are programmed to respect one another’s personal space.  But what happens on a bus when there is someone in every single row?  How do you choose your seat? 

I guessed that when forced to sit right next to someone, people would be most likely to choose a person of their own race.  Wrong.  I found that overwhelmingly, people chose to sit next to members of the same sex, regardless of race—particularly among women.  As time went on, I began to watch for it.  I would sit with my little notebook slyly open, and I would chart everyone’s movements.  A woman would walk down the aisle, her eyes darting around quickly as she surveyed her fellow bus-riders in search of a seat that would make her feel most comfortable.  She wanted to feel safe among a sea of strangers.  Almost every single time, she found that safety alongside another woman.  It was fascinating, and I couldn't help but smile at the phenomenon.

I want to get back on that bus.  I want to return to a place where women instinctively support one another in this wide world of ours, because if we can’t figure out how to do that, how do we expect the men in our lives (and in society) to stand behind us?  Makino stated in Miller’s article, “I feel like we are evolving into something that is not defined by those who came before us.”  Perhaps we women are finally reaching a point where we can “have it all” but respect that the term all means different things to each of us.  We can be grateful for the pioneers who came before us, allowing women the right to choose their own path.  We can accept the notion that at any point, our needs and the needs of our family may change, and we can always re-enter the workforce or leave it.  We can understand that until we’ve walked a mile in another woman’s shoes, it’s not our place to pass judgment.  And we can agree that in the end, we simply need to be happy.

I’m on that bus.  The seat next to me is open, and I welcome you to take it.

 

Until next time... thanks for reading.  :) 

HH 

P.S.  As always, I welcome your comments below.  I think this is a subject we could all benefit from discussing more openly. 

 

* If you have interest in keeping up with me through this blog (most topics are much lighter than this!), please sign up to get my monthly newsletter.  I promise not to clutter your inbox--I have a hard enough time getting the one email out each month!  :)

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Comments

  • An excellent post, my dear friend. I support your views and I couldn't agree more that women need to support each other in the decisions we make, whether they are big or small ones. Every woman needs to make decisions for herself and the happiness of her family, and only she knows what the right ones are.

    As someone who has her MBA, I don't think I will ever stop thinking about what the "right" answer is for me in the stay-at-home vs work debate as I truly enjoy being part of both worlds, but my husband and I are lucky enough to have found a balance that works for us, fulfills us both and keeps our family happy (for now anyway). And for what it's worth, the days when I leave my boys with our babysitter to go meet with a client are definitely my easiest, least stressful days of the week! xox

    I agree--I think we are always evaluating our choices to make sure they are working for us. Life is in constant motion, but nobody says you can't choose a different road at any point. What makes you happy today may not bring you happiness tomorrow... Thanks for commenting. xoxo

  • Wonderful post! All if have to add to it is this....when you look back at your life, raising your child(ren) will be a mere speck in the span of a lifetime! I was a child, a teenager, a young adult. Went to school, got married, had children, raised my children...they will move out. Then I will have time again to pick up where I left off. You only have that one moment, that one chance to raise your child, to be with them. I applaud women who work and run a household at the same time. I couldn't do it...I need to give my children 100% of me and my husband as well. Sure, sometimes I feel like I should just go back to work...then the kids get sick. And who has to stay home and take care of them? Me...of course. I dont mind, I love it. The best part is that I have the ability to run my own business from home. So it works out. The one thing that I never want my children to ever say to another woman (be it a friend or their future MIL's) "I wish I had a mom like you!" My husband has said it to me when my girls were younger and I would comfort them and he still tells me that on occasion. My daughters friends have said it to me...when I encourage them to do their best or feed them home cooked meals (especially home baked yummies). And you are right...we should all encourage one another...in the end...I truly believe...it takes a village to raise a child. We should all be looking out for each other, to empower one another no matter what or how we choose to run our families and raise our children. Lots of love and blessings from this household tribe!

    Well said! Your point about each stage in life being a mere speck in time is such a good one--it reminds me of that song I love called "100 Years" where it describes how we are each age for a quick moment. We have to make those moments count. And you're absolutely right about it taking a village to raise children. I couldn't do it without carpools, friends pitching in, and the support of those around me. It sounds like you are an amazing wife, mother, and friend! Keep doing what you're doing! :) Thanks so much for the note.

  • Talk about good use of a Harvard degree - incredibly written, thoughtfully presented, and perfectly researched! Seriously, though, this was a wonderful post. It gave me chills. The decision about whether to work outside the home is such an individual one. I can't even fathom how someone could judge another person's decision in this area. A friend of mine who was struggling with this once said "Before I had kids, I felt like I was an A+ worker and an A+ wife, since I've had kids I feel like I am a B at everything I do." She ended up staying home for a while to be with her kids while they were young and has since gone back to work. But I thought it was so admirable that she knew that about herself (and, frankly, I feel this way constantly) and I was so happy that we lived in a time when she could make these decisions (of course, not every woman has the ability financially to make this decision and I understand that too). I loved what you said about folding laundry - it is SO true. The responsibililties of motherhood and running a household don't go away when you work outside the home (unless you hire someone of course), so the vast majority of us college-educated moms are doing laundry whether we work outside the home or not. A college degree is never wasted and you are using it every day - in running your own small business (which you did), in the ideas you post on your blog (would anyone argue Martha Stewart wasted her education?), and, as far as I'm concerned, most importantly, in the wonderful wisdom you impart to your children every day that you are with them. Keep it up, Harvard Homemaker, my amazing, thoughtful, SMART, selfless, kind and true-hearted friend - you are doing great!

    I appreciate the kind words so much--that means a lot coming from you because you know I think you are one of the most brilliant people I have ever had the privilege of knowing... and one amazing mama, too! My friend said the same thing about going back to work after becoming a mom--she said she constantly felt mediocre at both jobs. When she was at work, she was distracted by thoughts of her son; and when she was at home with her son, she was thinking about work. And you're so right that we're lucky to live in a time where we can choose which path is best for us, knowing that we can take a different turn at any point in our lives. It's a process, and we have to live in the now. Thanks again for the note. You're the best. xo

  • I really enjoyed this post. I have been a lawyer for over six years and I often feel that I am missing something by not giving my son a family with more children. If I could I would stay home but with it just being the two of us it's off to work I go. You are awesome my friend blessings to you.

    Thanks so much for the note. I have no doubt that your son will grow up in awe of his mother--proud and amazed by how much you were able to do for your little family. Sounds like a lucky boy to have you to share his life with--I have a feeling that's all he needs! :)

  • It's really sad that being a smart, well educated, accomplished parent...all terrific attributes to be proud of and all of which you posess in abundance...could cause someone to be a hater. Maybe, just maybe the person is not so much a hater as she is jealous...and for that I do feel sorry because she will never understand or experience the joy of parenthood that you live daily...with a Harvard degree to boot! As someone who worked closely with you after you graduated and watched you develop into a very well accomplished person and professional, I am proud to see how much you have developed into a terrific parent full of love and happiness..no doubt exibited just by looking at the happiness you have created for your family. You are awesome and someone that women should aspire to be...regardless of their college pedigree...sending my love to the family!!!

    Thanks so much for this nice note. I'm truly appreciative of your kind words--and thanks for reading, too. :) It's been great to reconnect with you again after all these years. Take care and all the best to you and your family as well!

  • The craziest part to digest about the "hater" is that she belittles you for acheiving a degree and then not "using" it. So, we should only go to school and educate ourselves for a paycheck? Forget knowledge and education and accomplishment. If what you are doing doesn't bring a paycheck or a highly sought after corporate title, there is no point in acheiving an education? I thrive for knowledge. I love to read. I love to research. I love to expand my brain's capacity. I also love that I am a stay at home mom to my two beautiful girls. To think that one should only acheive a higher education to earn a higher paycheck is crazy. Isn't that part of being equal? So that we can CHOOSE what we do with our lives? To say that what makes us equal is being able to climb the corporate ladder is absurd. What makes us equal, and what the women before us fought for, is not to do the exact same thing as men. It's to be able to decide what we do with our own lives. To play the role that we choose to play, not the role that is decided for us. THAT is accomplishment. THAT is something to be proud of. For her to tell you that you are a disgrace is only turning back the clock a hundred years. She is the one assigning you a specific role in life and belittling you for not playing that role. She is the one that should be ashamed. Ashamed of her behavior, ashamed of dragging women back in time to where they are told what to do with their lives, ashamed of treating another woman (or human being, for that matter) so nasty. Props to you for acheiving a degree at all, let alone from one of the most prestige universities. I commend you and think that you made the right choice in life. Not because of what that specific choice is, but because it is the one that you wanted and the one that you believed to be the best for yourself and for your family...and the one that you CHOSE. Cheers to equality and happy blogging!

  • So well said!!!! You make amazing points, and I found myself nodding my head constantly as I read your comment. I agree completely--time to move forward, ladies! We have the world at our fingertips in this day and age--and the choice to make our own way, whatever that may be. What a gift. This is truly what those who came before us fought for--the right to do anything... but that doesn't mean that we all must do EVERY thing. As you said so well, that's the beauty of choice and the meaning of equality. Cheers to you as well, my friend! Take care and thanks for sharing your views!

  • I think the bottom line here is ......... Children are not valued as they have been in the past. Children are work, I know I'm a mother and a teacher. If you do your book keeping even half way right, they are an investment that will never make you a penny (unless you are the parents of the kid who just sold his app for 30 million, hopefully he knows how to share). It is too much of a dollar and sense mentality.

    Children are the best investment society needs to focus on. They will be the ones that will be taking care of us when we are old and leading the government etc. Mothers that stay home to raise their children are the unsung unpaid heroes of this world. Institutions can't do it. I love getting children from stay at home parent for my students. Children that have been in day care since they were 6 weeks old, not so much. I understand that many mothers need to work to make ends meet. Too many think that making ends meet is a too expensive house and all the toys that go with it.

    I stayed home until my son started school. Being a teacher we could have the same schedule. I think that is the only reason I went back to work, the schedule it sure wasn't for the money! Teachers are not valued as they once were because who do they deal with all day ????????? That's right undervalued children. Schools are trying to run like a business. It's not going to work but that is another much heated debate.

    Didn't that women ever watch Bambi????? If you can't say anything nice, don't say anything at all.

    Thanks so much for your comment--you make some great points, and I love the line, "Children are the best investment society needs to focus on." So true. As for the Golden Rule--I agree!! My mom pounded that one into my head--truly words to live by. I am doing all that I can to pass that lesson on to my own children as well--hopefully they're listening! Take care. :)

  • I commend you for your post. It honestly changed my opinions and I apologize for my earlier statements. I assure you, I'm not a hater, I just feel like many women find themselves short selling their talents when they become mothers and housewives. You, obviously, are not one of those women. I'm sorry I misjudged your job as a homemaker and it seems that your Harvard education paid off in your persuasive writing talents. Many of your supporters are right, I am not a homemaker and I am from a family that does not consider homemaking an enriching lifestyle (my mother worked and missed much of my childhood, as did my father). I see the error in my previous arguments and I sincerely hope you accept my apology.

    Victoria

    Victoria (I'm so glad to know your name),
    Wow, it took a lot of courage for you to write this when you could have easily slipped away and remained my "anonymous reader." Thank you for retracting your previous statements--of course I accept your apology. I will admit that my heart skipped a beat when I saw in my inbox that I had a comment from you--I had no idea what direction you would take it. It was a pleasant surprise to read your kind words. You obviously jumped to a lot of (wrong) conclusions based on the little I have chosen to share on my About Me page, and in some ways I can understand the image you created in your mind. But if I had questions about someone's accountability, I probably would have emailed that person separately rather than post a comment such as yours for the entire world to see. Quite honestly, I wasn't even sure if you were "real"--after thinking more about it, I started to wonder if someone purposely wrote that just to see what might happen... But in the end, it really did end up being one of the best things that could have happened to this blog. You forced my hand to some degree, and I wrote this post as a result--it was cathartic for me on so many levels, and it has apparently hit home for women everywhere. So for that, I say thank you.

    Thanks again for this note, Victoria. I wish you nothing but the best, and I hope you feel the same about me--after all, we are just two women who are trying to find our place in this world--to feel worth and happiness in our everyday lives... I think I have just filled that empty seat next to me--with you. :) Who would have seen that coming? :)

    Stop by my blog anytime, my friend. Take care.

  • What a post!
    I stumbled here, accidently, after following a link from Pinterest, and had a hunch of where you come from when reading your blog title.
    My husband jokes about me being one of the highest-educated child minders he knows - I'm also a stay-at-home-mom with a masters in science :-) After 10 yrs of study, 8 years of working and one move (and back) abroad, we realised it's better if I'd stay home for a while, at least while the boys are small. They're 5 and 9 now, and I don't plan to go back to my profession ever. I work hard on all mom/house/family/school related things, and I enjoy it. And would you know, I've actually used so many basic principles of my scientific training in the mom field :-D
    You go girl! You've got a new follower in South Africa :-)

    Thanks so much... I'm so glad you found me--and this post, too! It sounds like we have a lot in common!! It's funny, really, when you think about how we are called "stay at home" moms. None of us are ever really "at home"!! :) We're always on the go with our family, volunteering at school, running errands, etc. I know days go by where I feel like I hardly even sit down because there is so much to be done. We homemakers definitely work hard, just like those who have a paying profession. I know I hit the pillow exhausted each night--and fulfilled. I am happy with my place in life right now, and it sounds like you are, too! Hugs from the US to South Africa! :) Take care, and thanks for the note, my friend!

  • You may not realize that you are changing lives or at least tweaking the way someone views the choice to stay home and raise children.
    My stay home mother told me once that when all five of us kids had finished school, she knew she needed to find out who she really was. I was a little concerned that she was going to leave my father and join some cult. What she meant was that she wanted to know if she had what it took to be out in the work world and make it. She essentially redefined herself but to me she was still my mom. She shared with me her first and only interview experience for an office assistance position at an elementary school. She was 51 years old and never worked outside the home only to do her brothers book keeping. She told me she was so nervous, she had to sit on her hands so that they wouldn't see her shaking. She said that a question was posed to her, "What makes you think that you are the right person for the job?", now my mother stopped to think what experience in her life would be worthy of an answer and she stated to them, "I am a mother of five grown children who are successful. I have been able to talk on the phone, while in the middle of prepare dinner and answer the front door and deal with it all at the same time. I have prepared shopping lists for the week, scheduled doctors and dentist appointments, Christmas and birthday lists and summer camp programs. I made sure me or my husband made it to all our children’s soccer, basketball, softball games, track and field meets, concerts, parent teacher conferences, Boy and Girl Scout meetings. I attend city council meetings, rally neighborhood families to stop stone cory trucks from driving through our neighborhoods. I have a system that works in my house to ensure that nothing is forgotten. I manage to stay within my budget and still find ways to save money. I've multi-tasked for the past 30 years and worked with the only money I had and never went into debt with the exception of the mortgage. I think this job was designed for me".
    Needless to say my mother got the job and was promoted to executive secretary to the principle one month later and with it came a bigger paycheck. I still think she under estimated herself.
    What she had said was not even the tip of the iceberg. I remember so much more. I love and admire her and understand those moments where she didn't shine.
    The one thing I wish that she should have done more of was hugging us and tell us how special we are and how much she loves us. I don't think I would have noticed the dishes in the sink or the laundry not folded. I understand that she is a product of her generation.
    I apologize for the long reply. I just want you to know how important you are to your children. I wish I could have been with my children every moment of the day in their earlier years but they are lucky to have their father as a stay home parent. I will retire in 6 month hopefully and enjoy being home with my husband, daughter 13 and son 10. I think I just got the urge to learn how to can vegetables. Happy homemaking to you!

    Wow, thank you so much for this heartfelt note. Your mother sounds like quite a woman! I love how the story of her interview is such a vivid memory for you. I can only imagine how she must have felt sitting in that chair--she certainly rose to the occasion and then some! It's so true that we homemakers can get a lot done in a single day!! Best of luck with your retirement on the horizon! Enjoy your family, and happy vegetable canning! That's one thing I've never tried... maybe one day! :) Take care.

  • I'm jumping on the bandwagon a little late, but here goes. Awesome webpage with so many useful things. A little background for me: Mom was raised in the Hitler youth program for women (cleaning, wall papering, cooking, etc as a 'perfect homemaker'). That was passed down to me when I flippantly made the comment of "Laundry? That's woman's work" when I was 7. I've been doing laundry ever since.

    My wife had health complications from her career as an Environmental Geologist and together we decided that to heal she would stay home for a year or so. That decision proved wonderful to her even though many peers didn't understand her choice to "waste" her degree. The following three years had me out of town for 5 to 6 days a week. We decided that being away for that long was not doing us well. I was laid off after I refused to work on another far distant project.

    So now, I've been house bound for the last few months and frankly, I don't wanna go back to the workforce. I have to, but don't wanna go. I have learned to cook, the house is generally clean, laundry is folded and mostly put away and the house usually tidy. (The wife was doing this while I was away. Cudo's for her doing all this solo.) We don't have children of our own, yet, but it seems that when our nieces and nephews stay for a weekend or two, we run the house as you would (I assume here). We talk to them - not down to them, they should entertain themselves for a certain portion of the day, and they don't get an allowance to take out the trash, they get it to complete book reports and etc.

    Since you went to AND graduated from Harvard, it only proves that you are one smart cookie. This site also is proof that you are a high caliper person. So, enjoy staying at home , its so awesome (wait, I don't remember my 'stay-at-home' mom being home all that much). Congrats on being the proud owner of this unique blog and website.

    Cheers,
    Tim

    Hi Tim! Thanks so much for your kind note. I think it's awesome that not only do you have complete respect for how hard it is to be at home, but you also want to stay there yourself! Your wife is a lucky girl to have found a guy who will clearly support her from every angle, and be happy doing it. :) And can I say that I LOVE how your mother put you right in your place at age 7 and stuck you with "women's work" from that point onward. Families are a team--I'm always saying that to mine! I shouldn't have to do everything by myself, nor do I--chip in, people! Seems like your mom and I would get along well. :) Best of luck with everything--I'd love it if you checked back in one day to tell me what you're up to!

  • I don't have children by choice but not only do I love your blog I applaud your choices. One of the reasons that I chose not tot have children is that I knew I had to work and I think it is so very important to have someone home full time.. Bravo and chin up! Keep up with all hard hard work raising the next generation.

    Thank you so much for this kind note. I am proud of the choices I have made, even when others question those choices. Who knows what the future may bring, but for now, I know I'm right where I need to be. Thanks again! :) Best of luck to you.

  • Thank you for such an interesting and in-depth post. I work full-time, as does my husband, and I have an almost 4 yr old daughter, and am due with a little boy at the end of August. I have a BA in psychology, and work for an organization that gives services to the Developmentally Disabled population in our area. I'm halfway burned out and have only been doing this for just over 2 years:) I work because I do enjoy it, but it is more of a financial decision than anything else. I have also realized that I really want to go back to school to be a nurse, but with the timing and such young ones running around, it is not currently an option right now.

    There is so much pressure on women to be "supermoms", whether they have a job in the outside work force, or in their very own home raising their children. Being a feminist, in my mind, is having the ability to make your own choices about what you want out of your life. And viewing those decisions and choices as ones you make because you want to and can, not because society tells you what to do. If that makes any sense. There are days that I would love to stay home, and others where I am thankful to go to the office.

    Just wanted to say thank you for voicing your opinion and feelings in such an honest and respectful way. Every woman is entitled to her own decisions, and as long as our children are loved, clean (at least half the time lol), and can go to bed with full bellies, then there should be no more discussion.

    I completely agree--thanks so much for your kind note. As you said, we women are lucky to have CHOICE--nobody should be trying to force us down any certain path in life. That's the beauty of being an American woman in today's world. Feminism has led us to this point, giving us the chance to do anything. But that "anything" is different for every single one of us--and it's constantly evolving even for us as individuals. All we can do is be grateful for this gift of choice, live in the moment, and do the best we can for ourselves and our families--all while supporting our fellow women along the way...

    Take care, and thanks again for taking the time to leave me a quick note! :)

  • I stumbled upon your blog through Pinterest. Your entry "10 Things to Think About Before Your Child Starts Kindergarten" was what was there. I enjoyed that blog entry so much. My oldest just finished kindergarten and a lot of what you said rung true. I'm a detailed oriented type of thinker, so my anxiety centered around whether my son would be able to go the bathroom alone, would be able to keep track of his sweater, and eat his lunch! First time kindergarten parents really need to know that kind of stuff and your entry was great.

    I got curious and looked around and saw this (which is finally what I really wanted to write about!) I'm late in replying (which is on par for the course for me) and I know I'm just adding to the choir, but I also wanted to share how much this entry affected me.

    I have been going through this debate about working vs. staying at home for some time now. As I mentioned before, my oldest just finished kindergarten. We've got one going to preschool in the fall, a recently turned one year old, and we're now expecting our fourth child. I work because it's financially impossible for me not to, but in a few years, it looks like I might be able to stay at home. With this real possibility looming close, I find myself split between giving up my career (which I do enjoy) and being able to be devoted full time to my boys (we're all boys in this house, so far!). I've dreamed about being a stay at home mom, but I'm also nervous too.

    Your comment about needing to achieve in the workplace really struck a chord. I'm a teacher which is demanding, but also rewarding too. Each year I see ways to improve instruction and sometimes I even get the same students again and get to see the kind of growth they make too. That part of my work is what I'm having trouble coming to terms with letting go. You made another point of having a career that you can just walk away from. I think it's more accurate to say that you can have a career that inspires you or you feel passionate about, but it's also important to remember that it's okay if you find other passions or other sources of inspiration.

    Never in my dreams did I ever think I would find inspiration in my own children. Some days I think, I could leave my classroom and not look back and go home to my boys. Other times, I see lightbulbs go off in my students eyes and it catches like wild fire and it's thrilling and humbling at the same time. I'm at the point where I feel guilty loving one more than the other and I think it's like you said, we should be able to have it all, but what having it all means to each woman is not going to be the same.

    Your words will stay with me for a while. I'm fortunate that my career allows me time to spend with my children (right now we're on summer break and it's been wonderful) and your words will continue to stay with me come September when I'm missing my boys something fierce and I return to my classroom. I will have another chance at being a stay at home mommy when I go on maternity leave next year and I know I'll get the stay at home mommy bug then too.

    Until I come to that crossroads of making a decision, I'll remember this entry (and probably revisit it again and again). In the meantime, I'll enjoy what I have now, but will have my dream to look forward to.

    Your note gave me goosebumps! :) Thanks so much for sharing. I agree that it's important for us moms to have something beyond just motherhood. Whether it's a hobby we're passionate about, volunteering, part-time work, whatever... when our everyday life is solely taking care of those around us, I think we sometimes lose ourselves. As insignificant as it may seem to some people, teaching fitness classes has been that outlet for me since I became a stay at home mom. I've had many members come up to me after classes and share with me how my class has made them laugh (I tell a lot of funny stories!) and somehow given them a break from the stresses in their life--divorce, sickness, unemployment, the loss of loved ones, etc. Oftentimes they are quite emotional as they tell me how they look forward to their hour with me in the gym where they can forget about everything else for a while. That is no small thing to me--I know I'm "just a mom" or "just a kickboxing instructor", but I still feel like I make a difference, and that is enough for me to feel fulfilled at this stage of my life.

    So I can completely see how you are torn when you are faced with possibly leaving a job that inspires you--for me, I found new inspiration in my part-time job at the gym. Perhaps there's another outlet waiting for you, too, if you do choose to stay home; and if teaching is your calling, and you choose to balance that with motherhood, then you are doing the right thing there, too. There is no wrong answer as long as we are following our hearts! That's the whole point--having choice is the best give gift the women of previous generations could ever have given us.

    Thanks again for the sweet and heartfelt note! :) Take care.

  • I also just found your blog from a post on pinterest about what to make sure your children know before kindergarten. I just became a mom on June 4th and I love it! I was given a wonderful opportunity to work a few hours a day at home. I am currently typing this with one hand as my son is asleep in my other hand!!

    I completely agree that it is a woman's (or man's for that matter) to decide what they want to do with their life. I graduated from UCF with a degree in digital media, but my work from home job has nothing to do with that right now. So I guess that means I am "wasting my degree" too. When my husband and I were engaged and planning our wedding and our family, we always said that one of us would stay home. He is a video game designer and loves his job (and makes more than I did at my previous job) so he works while I stay home.

    You really hit home with me about how your dreams can change. I've always known that I wanted a family more than anything in life. When I started college, my dream was to be an animator for Pixar. Then I met my husband and the dreams of a family were pulled to the front again. When I made the decision to quit my job I had a lot of negative comments thrown my way. One in particular was from a former friend who wants a career over children. Apparently she never liked my husband and accused him of forcing me to give up my dreams to raise his children. It made me sad that she didn't understand that dreams change. Also, I was giving up my dream job (not that I ever had the job, it would have required a cross-country move even if I applied), for my life-long dream of raising a family. To me, that is my most important job. I am now a mommy and a wife first and I wouldn't have it any other way!

    I loved your post and I wish women everywhere would start to support each other in any decision they make, whether in career or family. It hurt a lot to get those negative comments when I decided that my family is the most important thing to me!

    Thanks so much for your note. It can be hard to hold your head up when others aren't supporting your choices, but for me personally, I've come to realize that as long as I am happy with my life's path, that's all that matters. Good for you for following your heart! :) Take care and thanks again! So glad you found me and my blog!

  • I felt compelled to sign up just to tell you that as a man, in this day and age of feminism, I find your views on motherhood and family so refreshing and such a welcome change from so much politically correct, but ultimately defeating (in my mind), notions on gender equality. You have my admiration and respect, and your husband is a lucky man.

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