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The Carletonian

Full and interesting lives

<ir="ltr">I grew up in an upper middle class cul-de-sac that was chock-full of stay-at-home moms. Having two parents who worked full time actually made me a minority in my own circle, and it gave me a bizarre sense of not belonging from a young age. I noticed that my mom didn’t have a lot of friends in the neighborhood, that she didn’t have many friends outside of her office, period. Playing at my neighbor friends’ houses, I would hear talk about the book clubs and teas that other moms had in their calendars—scheduled, of course, for the middle of the day on weekdays—and ask my mom why they hadn’t invited her.

That said, I did benefit a great deal from the support of stay-at-home moms growing up. The family who lived across the street from us had two girls around my age who had a  stay-at-home mom, and throughout elementary school, I would go over to their house before school to eat breakfast and wait for the bus. I couldn’t do this at my house because both of my parents had to be at work before the bus arrived. When I was in 5th grade, I became fast friends with a girl who had moved from across the state and joined my class at school. Her mom was a stay-at-home mom and in middle school she always picked us up from school and graciously invited me over whenever I locked myself out of my house (which happened more often than I would like to admit). When I was a sophomore in high school, the same friend’s mom rescued me when I came down with heat sickness and my mom was unable to leave work. Many a stay-at-home mom has been a surrogate mother to me when I was in a pickle.

Although I love my mom more than anyone else in the world, I think that for a long time a part of me, at least subconsciously, thought that her choice to work outside the home meant she was an inherently colder, less maternal person than mothers I knew who stayed home. As I’ve gotten older, I’ve gained a more nuanced perspective of stay-at-home parenting. It isn’t that my mom chose not to stay-at-home with me, but rather that both my parents chose to pursue meaningful work while maintaining a comfortable lifestyle. Because my parents both work in government, if either one of them had chosen to stay-at-home instead, we would have had a much different way of life and we probably wouldn’t have been able to live in the neighborhood that we live in, with the access to the excellent public schools and close proximity to “town” that it affords. If my mom had stayed home with me, we wouldn’t have been able to afford the vacations in England, San Francisco, New York, San Diego, and Chicago. If my mom had stayed home with me, I probably wouldn’t have been able to play club soccer, or take private piano and clarinet lessons.

Making the choice to be a stay-at-home parent is such a personal one which is based so much on individual circumstances and values that although I can’t envision myself ever choosing it at this point in my life, I can’t entirely rule it out or judge others for gravitating toward it. And yet, as I sat across from a friend of mine at brunch this weekend, I struggled to find the courage to ask her why it appealed to her. (She had recently mentioned wanting to be a stay-at-home mom on social media, which surprised me and many others, I think). I genuinely wanted to understand her reasons for feeling this way, and being confident enough to share it so publicly, but I buckled at the fear of seeming as though I was, instead, coming from a place of judgment. I hope that friend and I can have this conversation one day. I’m confident that her life, whether she chooses to be a stay-at-home mom or not, will be full and interesting. It may eventually involve an irresponsible 13-year-old who keeps forgetting her house key.

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