May, 16 2016
Ma and Other Women Who Choose Career Over Home Life

She was raised by a loving mother who was severely criticized by other women for choosing career over being a stay-at-home mom.

by Ruby Astari
Issues // Relationship
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I celebrated my mother’s 64th birthday on April 10 this year. Looking at her that night during family dinner, my mind was transported back to the past, when I was a kid and a teenager.

Before people argue on social media over the merit of stay-at-home moms versus career moms, Ma had faced the same criticism regarding her (and Dad’s) choice to keep her job while raising the three of us – my two siblings and me.

No need to specify those people who criticized her are, because that’s not the point. The fact is they had problems with the fact that she didn’t choose to be a stay-at-home mom and that Dad was okay with that.

Their criticism worsened when my sister and I were teenagers. I was a chubby, nerdy girl who often stayed home on the weekend either reading a book, watching my favorite TV shows, or writing stories. My sister was the complete opposite. She was the outgoing type, hanging out at the malls, having tons of friends and admirers, wearing make-up and dating – stuff normal teenage girls do. She cared about the latest trends and the hippest spots in the city.

Ma was severely criticized for letting her daughters go out a lot, especially at night, hanging out with them (and being the only girl in the crowd). Ma recalled what those people had said to her: “You shouldn’t give your daughters so much freedom like that, going out at night, hanging out with boys. What if something happened to them?”



I hated how they treated Ma like she was not a good mother. I hated how they looked at my sister and me as if we’d been badly raised and it was all Ma’s fault. I didn’t tell anyone this back then, not even to Ma. I didn’t think anyone would listen or take me seriously because I was just a kid.

One of the many great things about Ma is that she chooses her battles wisely. I, on the other hand, still believe in speaking out and standing up for ourselves when we’re being looked down on. Call this a generation gap or different personalities as you wish.

My old anger still flares up every time someone makes nasty comments about career moms, generalizing them as evil, overly ambitious, and money-hungry women who forget their (socially-constructed?) roles in the family. They always accused the women of not caring about their own children. Just like those who had bullied Ma in the past, they sneered and questioned if the kids can still remember their mother’s face if she’s not home that much.

One local public figure once tweeted about how children were more like staff members to their career mom, only seen and tended once in a while. I know that Ma would tell me not to bother with those judgmental people. However, they remind me of those who had judged her harshly in the past.            

Ma’s office days were over long ago, but I still remember all the hard work she’s done – and still does – as our mother. The traffic thankfully wasn’t as bad back then as it is today, so she and Dad could drive the three of us to school in the morning before they went to work (the worked in the same company while the three of us attended the same grade school.) They taught us discipline. If I forgot my homework or left my textbook home, Dad would say: “I’m not driving back home to fetch it. We’ll be late. It’s your fault.”

It’s true that the three of us were looked after by hired nannies when we were growing up, while our parents were at work. And, yes, sometimes we had to wait for them after school at our grandparents’ house where we would have lunch and do homework. But once they finished work and picked us up, they checked our homework and helped us with it.

Ma cooked for us on weekend and stayed up at night when one of us was sick. She’d leave her office to pick us up at school when one of us got an accident or into trouble, like when my brother fell off the school steps and had to have his scalp stitched at hospital.

There are a lot of wonderful things about Ma. She’d taught us about decision making, about taking our own responsibility, and gaining independence. She said: “Good grades in school are for you, not for me or your Dad. Not even for your teachers. Aren’t you happy when you know you can study well?”
 

Ma has once told me: “The day you no longer feel the need to explain everything you do to anybody out there is the day you set yourself free.”


Ma wanted her two daughters and son to be independent and able to take care of themselves well. She never told my sister and me: “Don’t get pregnant before marriage or you’ll shame Dad and me.” 

She only said: “Whatever you do, even without my knowledge or Dad’s – God knows everything. Don’t do it if you’re not ready for the consequences.”

To people who had harshly judged her and the way she was raising us, Ma simply told them this: “We can’t always keep our children safe, even by locking them up at home at night. We have to teach them how to identify danger out there, assess the situation, and protect themselves from harm.”

Of course not all accepted her arguments easily, even after they are proven wrong. Of the two women who were among her harshest critics, one has a daughter who was addicted to drugs. She was treated at a rehab but later got pregnant with her mentor’s baby. Then she ran off with him and their baby – and they haven’t been heard from again ever since.

Another also has a daughter who often snuck out at night (contrary to her mom’s belief that she was a “good girl” who always stayed at home), got herself in trouble a lot at school, and, sadly, met the same fate of unplanned pregnancy. Both girls had stay-at-home moms who once told Ma that “something” might have happened to my sister or me because we went out with boys at night, a lot.

This made me realize that if a child makes a mistake, it is not because her or his mother doesn’t spend enough time with them at home or doesn’t take care of them well. It doesn’t matter if their mothers are housewives or office staff, it’s always easier to blame everything children do on  their mothers. The child could have been influenced by her Dad’s bad habits and behavior or by someone else’s.

Even the most attentive stay-at-home mom can’t prevent things like this from happening. A child can still make her own mistakes and it has nothing to do with her mother’s choice of career. It can just be her bad decisions – a lesson to teach the kids to be responsible for themselves.

And by the way, being a housewife or a stay-at-home mom is also a career choice, so why do you still need to exclude it this way? I’m not saying that one is better than the other and vice versa. It’s their personal choice and hopefully they embrace it happily and not because others expect them to do so or because they want to prove a point.

Ma has once told me: “The day you no longer feel the need to explain everything you do to anybody out there is the day you set yourself free.”

While that is true, I still have a word or two for the career-mom haters out there: You don’t have to like everything you see in this world, just like I don’t have to put up with your judging comments about women who choose to do what Ma did.

If you’re a happy housewife, good. If you’re a man who has a wife who doesn’t need to help you to earn money, then good for you both.

If you don’t know these women and the story behind the choices they make, then please shut up. Mind your own business. Find something better to do than just bullying people online, making them feel awful for the choices they make. What makes you think they owe you an explanation or a validation in the first place anyway? Get a life and good luck.

Perhaps someday I can be as patient as Ma, but all I know is that she rocks.

Ruby Astari is an English teacher, freelance translator, and freelance writer. Her first novel "Reva's Tale" is already in stores. She enjoys being a sexy chub, hanging out with fellow writers, and wearing froggy shades in public!