Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Keeping Up With the Browns

A provocative billboard recently was put up somewhere in Britain that says, "Career Women Make Bad Mothers." Understandably, working mothers cried foul and, predictably, the company behind the billboard has apologized. I think the controversy highlights a much bigger problem: Women feel guilty whether they are stay at home moms (SAHMs) or working moms.

We always hear about working moms and their guilt over their decision. We don't often hear about the SAHM's guilt. And, yes, SAHMs can and do feel guilty over their decision to stay home instead of working for wages.

I'm a SAHM and I love it, but I also loved my career. I like to say that my worst day home with my son is still better than my best day at work. My work will always be there, but my son won't be a little one for long. I'm confident in my skills and abilities and I know that I will find employment once my son is in school.

I still sometimes feel like I'm not pulling my weight because I'm not earning my former salary. I realize that it's bizarre to feel like this because we didn't use my salary for anything, but feelings can be strange in that way. It's just so difficult to leave a job when you're comfortably compensated. In a way, I'm thankful that I didn't earn a higher wage because I don't know that I could have walked away. But leaving my 6-week old with another person for at least 10 hours each day would have broke my heart.

I've never been particularly enamored with material possessions. I don't generally envy other people's financial situation. I certainly don't try to keep up with the Joneses. And, now that I don't work for wages, these are good things for my family's financial health and well-being.

I know that we could buy more "things" if I did work. We could dine out more often if I did work. Heck, we would have probably bought another house by now if I did work. But I'd miss out on so much if I did work! My son goes to bed at 7:00 each night. I'd hate to only spend less than 90 minutes with him each day before bedtime. I'd hate to spend weekends running errands instead of relaxing with my husband and kiddo. Mostly, I'd hate missing the milestones that I was able to witness because I stay home.

I'm not afraid to learn. I'm not afraid to get my hands dirty. I'm not afraid to try something that sounds a little crazy. And I'm certainly willing to do all these things if it positively impacts our family's finances. I cook dinner nearly every night. The baby and I eat lunches that I've prepared rather than grabbing a fast food meal on the go. We go for cheap entertainment; most parks are free and annual passes to both the zoo and the children's museum total less than $100. I cloth diaper during the day if we're at home. I thought nursing for more than a few months was weird, but I did it for over a year and saved a bundle by not buying formula. I kicked my Diet Coke and coffee habit. I don't get my hair done every eight weeks any longer. These are money-saving things that I wouldn't have done if I worked outside the home.

The only person I'm concerned with impressing is my husband. Other people may think that we aren't living a great lifestyle because we didn't buy into the notion that both parents have to work to maintain an adequate standard of living. But we only have to please ourselves and I say it was better for us to lower our expectations of what makes an adequate standard of living because we are enjoying the things that truly matter to us instead of the material things that commercials insist matter. We don't have to worry about the Joneses, we just need to keep up with the Browns.

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