I never like following the debates on housewives versus working mom. I am not a mother and I often see both sides as being too defensive about their decisions to become a housewife or a working mom, and critical of those who choose the other path. Perhaps because they are tired of being judged, or because they are secretly insecure, or maybe there are some other reasons. Why don’t they just make peace with their own decisions and simply ignore what people think about them? Whatever we do we’ll still be judged anyways.
The reasons used to attack either side are ridiculous. Either choice, whether as a stay-at-home mom or a working mom, can be respectable or not. It depends on the individual itself. Every decision has its own pros and cons. One can be happy with decision number one, the other is more satisfied with decision number two.
Here’s an example of insults on stay-at-home moms: “What’s the point of having high education if you end up being a housewife?”
Personally, this is a lousy question, here’s why:
a. Being a housewife equals being uneducated? Do you honestly think that managing the house doesn’t require skills and brain?
b. No knowledge is ever wasted. I wouldn’t want to be raised by an uneducated mother, especially in early age when a kid’s curiosity is at its peak. The older the kids, the more complicated the questions will be. As a daughter, I’d be forever thankful and proud to have a mother who can tell me the difference between John Locke and Tone Loc, Karl Marx and Groucho Marx, Jojon and Jonru.
On the other hand, a stay-at-home mom often says this about working mom: “What a pity her child is practically the maid’s child”.
Really? Working moms are pretty much hands off when it comes to rearing their children? I know a lot of women who are working moms, but still take care of their children. Conversely, do all stay-at-home moms stay at their children’s side 24/7? Without the help of others? I don’t think so.
Some women decide to keep working,for financial reason. Their husband just doesn’t provide enough, even for primary necesities. It’s not always for a Chanel bag or some other stereotypes on working mothers. Can you honestly say “the income from your husband should be enough” to a mother whose child needs a dialysis every month, and whose husband only earns a minimum wage?
Studies also show that many women choose to stay in an unhealthy/abusive marriage because the wife doesn’t have savings or financial support. They stay despite the abuses, because divorcing means they would have to figure out how to feed their children.
Others decide to work because, well, women are also humans, right? They have passion and ambition (yes, although the word ambition somehow has a negative connotation here in Indonesia. Newsflash: humans have ambitions!). Having children doesn’t mean that passion in other things has to die. Living your passion doesn’t mean not loving or even forgetting your children.
There are women who decide to keep on working while also having children because they want to continue their passion. Without these mothers, we wouldn’t have been able to enjoy their various creative inventions or or even had our lives saved, because there are a lot of working mothers who came up with significant innovations.
Many working moms do not only provide for their family, they also help society with their ingenuity, educate society with their knowledge, or improve the quality of lives of many people with policies they create. We should not jump to conclusions, saying that the children of working moms are in a constant state of neglect. And of course, in our patriarchal society, we rarely asks workaholic fathers, “How is your work-family balance?” as if fathers have no stake in childrearing.
Working moms also shouldn’t look down on stay-at-home moms, assuming they are mostly idle, are not intellectually developed, and can’t produce anything (as if all working mothers produce something). It’s not easy to manage a household 24/7, and most of the time those who are involved might not recognize their effort and just take them for granted.
Not working doesn’t always mean being idle all the time. I was raised by a stay-at-home mom and I never consider her idle, or someone who wasted her education. Her job was not easy because she had to take care of three children and one husband, with the help of a housekeeper of varying characters and temperaments. In addition, she has to manage the family’s finance, supervised workers when we renovated the house. Just thinking about it makes me want to eat ice cream while having a massage.
The point is there’s no one ultimate decision that fits all mothers. So keep it nice and peaceful, and enough with the ridicules and the sneering. If you are happy with your choice then enjoy it! You don’t need to make other people feel insufficient or even guilty for taking a different path. If you don’t feel satisfied with your decision, try another, and don’t be afraid of being judged by your neighbors or others.
Everything is trial and error, and every mother has her own considerations influenced by many factors that make them different from other mothers.
So let’s all just have a group hug.
P.s.: I consider mothers who work from home (such as by running an online shop, or baking cakes on order, or being a freelancer) working mothers. Working doesn’t mean you have to go to the office.
RL is the globe trekker behind The Ahasuerus Files. When not on the road, she writes everything from avant garde porn to low brow politics from her comfortable middle class home in Jakarta. She finds toilet humor amusing and has an unhealthy obsession to computer games, useless trivia and The Mighty Boosh.