Things have sure changed in the last 30 years! Back in the 80's, when I was pregnant with Peter, I was hashing over in my mind the place that my work-for-money would have in our lives after the kidlet was born. I liked the idea of staying at home with the new baby, but was also apprehensive about the dynamics of leaving the workplace.
I had a job that I liked just fine, although it wasn't The Career of My Dreams. I was making reasonable money for my job description and the medical and life insurance benefits were ok. John had a stable job, but life was uncertain. With a mortgage and a kid to educate someday, was leaving the workforce a good idea? Our neighbor, an air traffic controller, was dealing with unemployment after the PATCO strike. No job, a stay-at-home wife and a new baby weren't the trifecta he'd bargained for.
I did quit my job three months before Peter's due date. I figured with my work history (medical secretary and claims analyst) I could pick up another job after the baby came home if it seemed prudent. But learning to live on one paycheck was a challenge I felt we were up to, and I already had 100 different recipes for casseroles for $2.00 or less (most contained tuna, hamburger or velveeta and rice, potatoes or pasta). So I opted for a decade of living dangerously and chose SAHM (stay at home motherhood).
My choice was bluntly challenged by close friends, family and strangers on the street. I was told, to my face, that my brain would turn to mush and my husband would leave me for someone skinnier, blonder and sexier. Another told me that she'd stay home with her kids, but it would be too boring and she just couldn't stand it. I was told that I'd never get another job because I would be viewed as not serious about a career, and that the job market would spin out of my limited intellectual reach. And how could we afford a BMW on a single paycheck income? The rants were endless.
1982 was the watershed year for multi-tasking AND rudeness. If you didn't have kids AND a full time job, you just weren't hip. And if you met a woman who chose a path over a freeway, it was your right, your DUTY, to let her know that she was doomed to boredom, stupidity and a husband who felt cheated that all his wife did was wipe bottoms.
Fortunately, I was married to an engineer who knew that little bottoms had to be wiped, kids with colic were anything but boring, and, as Forest Gump said, "Stupid is as stupid does." Thanks to my 10 years as a SAHM, my casseroles turned from mush into paella, I finished my BS with honors and I got to satisfy that urge to make a home, plant a garden and produce two lovely kids. Not bad at all in hindsight.
I also had the chance to learn more about child development, child psychology, sociology and early childhood education, to name a few subjects that I could read about in my rare quiet time. It's not surprising to me that there are PhD programs in these same subjects. Although I chose NOT to major in any of these for my BS, just the daily grind of raising kids brought me into an intellectual experience that you can't replicate in a lab. Once I had my BS, I immediately found a job, using not the academic credentials I'd earned in college, but references from those I'd worked for a decade earlier in insurance and the medical community.
I listen to young mothers-to-be these days and hear a lot of discussion about work inside the home, work outside the home, work, work work work work. But the tone of the discussions has changed, it's more civil. The decision to SAHM is now based on the needs of the children, family and community, not needs for ego gratification, materialism or social status. All work is allowed the same dignity, and the parenting experience seems to have earned a place of respect again. We have evolved into a society that values childhood and community as much as adulthood and the "Me Generation."
We've come a long way, baby!