The Unemployed Working Population
On a glorious afternoon last week when my mother-in-law picked our boy up from school, my husband and I took a detour on the way home to grab dinner and do a bit of Christmas shopping. I had a delicious Spicy Southwest Chicken Griller from McAlister’swith some creamy potato salad and perfectly brewed tea; I’m getting hungry just thinking about it! After ensuring our bellies were content, we headed back out into the mini-disaster that is holiday traffic. As we were leaving the parking lot, I spotted this bumper sticker on a van:
Here’s the kicker: none of her children were buckled up, one was upside down, and I’m not sure if there were three or five of them back there because it was hard to count with all the flailing, tiny limbs and the toys and balloons being batted back and forth throughout the back of the van. To call it unsafe would be too kind. To call this mother irresponsible would be greatly downplaying her lack of attention to her children who would be in great danger in the event of an accident or even a sudden stop or a sharp turn. This mother’s full time job was less of the great mom she proclaimed to be and more of an oblivious woman too caught up in her conversation with her passenger to pay the slightest bit of attention to the fragile bodies in the back of her vehicle, children totally at her mercy who have zero control over the quality of their caregiver. I suppose maybe she thought she was on her lunch hour and free from her motherly duties for a few more minutes.
I’m a mom with a full-time job but contrary to what that bumper sticker proclaims and many women believe, being a parent is not a valid claim as my full-time job. Don’t misunderstand, I’m not trying to say that parenting isn’t hard work and isn’t challenging and demanding because it definitely is. It’s time consuming and often thankless, rewarding at times and frustrating at others. But it’s no more a job than my marriage or this blog. By definition a job is many things; a piece of work done as part of the routine of one’s occupation or for an agreed price, a post of full or part-time employment, or an obligation such as being on time or being present for a meeting.
Part of successfully holding a job includes handling people and things you have become responsible for, and I feel this is where the confusion comes in. Children are a responsibility, a rather large one with numerous demands and little time off. Taking on this responsibility, however, is not equal to taking on the jobs of housekeeper, day care center teacher, cook, computer operator, facilities manager, van driver, psychologist, laundry machine operator, janitor and chief executive officer as this website claims. Anyone holding one of these jobs, now or in the past, should feel greatly insulted by this site trivializing their professions this way.
Becoming a parent is a choice we make because we decided to start a family for personal reasons, be it wanting to know the joy of having a child or just for the tax break. Being employed is a choice we make because it means the difference between living comfortably and living under a bridge in a box or in our mom’s basement. The two are separate and unequal in nearly every way and comparisons need to stop being drawn between them by stay-at-home parents feeling inadequate about their station in life. A homebound parent doesn’t deserve a salary for caring for the kids and tending to the housework because as challenging as that work may be, it’s what you sign up for when you decide to have kids and desire to be a responsible and productive person.
As far as importance, being an outstanding parent is just as, if not more important than being an outstanding employee or boss. It’s tough as nails but is often looked at as a cakewalk or a choice for people too lazy for a job outside the home. People like the van-lady give great moms a bad name with their less than satisfactory mothering accompanied by their entitled attitude and need to be acknowledged as just as important as the spouse/partner who gets the paycheck. If you are a great parent and a great wife/husband/partner who cares for the home and your family, there should be no need to seek out the approval and recognition of the rest of the world. You shouldn’t need to compare yourself to a doctor or an executive and you shouldn’t demand a stay-at-home salary from the paid spouse if you’re handling your business, caring for your family, and finding happiness in your life’s duties and tasks. The minute you feel the need to slap on a bumper sticker justifying your choice to stay home with the kids or the minute you begin coming up with fancy names for being a stay-at-home parent is the minute you need to reevaluate your life, step outside your front door, and find something else you can contribute to that will fill the void you’re attempting to mask with mom-salaries and homemaker titles.