I always find it interesting how attitudes shift so completely over time. And I find it aggravating when those who march to a beat of a different drum are ostracized or made to feel inferior for their personal decisions.
When my husband was born in the mid-late 50s, "the poor" were forced to breastfeed their babies and those who could afford it fed their babies formula. It was something of a status symbol to be able to give your baby a bottle. Everyone cloth diapered because there were no other alternatives. Mothers, for the most part, stayed home or worked "pink collar" jobs when the kiddos were in school because most children were born in a home that had a working father.
Things had dramatically changed by the time my brother-in-law was born in 1970. Breastfeeding was very popular and my mother-in-law had to repeatedly stand her ground that she was not interested in nursing her newest baby. "The poor" were forced to cloth diaper their babies and those who could afford it used disposable diapers. It was something of a status symbol to wrap your baby's bottom in plastic. Many mothers were in the workforce and staying home was somewhat looked down upon (by feminists, ironically enough) because the women were, no doubt, being subjugated if their primary focus was their family. Already children weren't as likely to be born in a home that had both parents and some mothers were forced to work to keep a roof overhead.
It's 2010 and I marvel how things have changed yet again. Breastfeeding is acknowledged in medical circles as the very best way to feed a baby. I've had friends tell me that they were practically harassed by hospital staff about their decision not to even try nursing. I've observed militant nursers attack bottle feeders in the anonymous world of the internet. I would have liked to give my son a bottle from time to time, but he never took to it. So I nursed him. I nursed him for a little over a year since you aren't supposed to give cow milk to a baby until one year of age. As long as the babe is getting nutrients, I can truly say that I don't care how anyone chooses to feed their own baby. I made my choices with my child and they are entitled to make their choices with their child.
Cloth diapers aren't for the poor anymore. CDing mommas are happy to show off their fluff. Translation for the non-cding folks out there: Moms who use cloth diapers are happy to show you the soft & cute diapers on their kiddo's bottoms. Cloth diapers have come a long way in that if you plan your spending right, you can easily drop more in reusable diapers than in 'sposies - that's disposable diapers in cd-speak. But the money and the cute factor is only part of what drives one to cloth diaper; many cd-mommas use them because they are concerned about the impact that disposables have on the environment. I haven't heard any snide comments from mommas in either diaper camp and I have to conclude that, as far as diapers are concerned, we're content to let others make their own decisions. I use cloth during the day if we're at home, I use disposables at night and when we're gone for the day. But I don't really care how anyone chooses to diaper their own child.
Stay-at-Home Moms are not the norm today. For various reasons, most moms return to work as soon as their maternity leave is up. Some may be single-parents and have no one to support them while staying home. Some may be living a lifestyle that requires two incomes. Some may be concerned about any negative impact that staying home may have on their long-term career prospects. Some may just want to go back to work because they don't want to stay home with their baby.
I have some Mommy friends who work full-time, a few who work part-time, but most of my friends stay home. I have never heard any suggestion of reproach from any of my friends for the decisions that any of us are making or have made; I guess I'm in a pretty spectacular group of women. I have, however, read and heard plenty of condemnation for women who choose to stay home. I have read that their children will be social misfits, that these women place undue stress on their husband, that these women aren't truly fulfilled because they are "anchored" to their children. I have to say that I think all of those excuses are complete and utter crap.
Most SAHMs aren't shut-ins who watch TV and eat bon-bons all day. They frequently have very busy social lives with their little ones. Gymboree, My Gym, Little Gym, Parks & Rec programs, indoor playrooms, playgroups & playdates, libraries, museums, zoos, parks, aquariums, the list of fun things to do with a child goes on and on. Assuming the mother makes the effort, there are plenty of opportunities for socializing and teaching a child.
A SAHM is not what places significant responsibilities on a man, having the child does. Let that sink in a moment. The responsibilities go through the roof when a child arrives whether or not the mother goes back to work. And if Momma works, she's probably forced to fork over a significant portion of her paycheck for daycare expenses. Yes, a high-quality daycare facility really is that expensive. Sure, there are families who are fortunate enough to have a grandparent or other relative who is able to watch the baby for around 50 hours each week. But most families don't have that luxury.
Is a woman not fulfilled because she's raising children? Perhaps some women aren't. I feel more fulfilled in my role as wife and mother than I ever did while working. And I absolutely loved what I did for a living. But I've said it before and I'll probably end up saying it again at some point - even my worst day home with my son is better than my best day at work.
We all make our own choices with our own lives. I won't judge your decision and I would appreciate it if you didn't judge mine. Put another way, you should mind your own household and leave me to mind mine.