My husband and I got into a minor tiff last night as we briefly discussed his upcoming work party. It started when I asked him if a particular family would be there. The reason I asked, was because they are good friends of ours and I was looking forward to hanging out with them. But I also wanted to know, and expressed out loud, that I didn’t really want to go to the party if they were not coming.
Before you think I’m one of “those” people… you know, the kind who pick and choose where they go based on who will be there, let me explain. I am an extrovert by nature. I generally like meeting new people. In fact, if there is a party to attend, I am usually the one bugging my husband to go, not the other way around.
My barrage of “who, what, when, and where,” probably threw my husband off a bit, and would explain the (what I perceived to be) persnickety response he gave to my innocent inquiries. I am sure he was at a complete loss as to the motive of my “interrogation.”
Why was I acting so out of character? It stems back from an awkward encounter that I had at my husbands’ last work party. Chad is a Physician Assistant. He works with a surgical group at the University of Minnesota. And I would be remiss if I didn’t mention that he has a great job and works with some wonderful people.
The party that we had attended was a Christmas party held at the home of one of the surgeons he works with. It was actually a lot of fun! At least it was until I got into a conversation with a surgeon from another department within the Hospital. This woman was very kind at first. She actually engaged me in conversation and we were chatting quite nicely until she found out that I was a stay- at- home mom. Suddenly the conversation stalled and she quickly excused herself and made her way back to the work crowd she had left behind. Maybe there was a different reason why she excused herself so quickly, but I couldn’t help but feel like it had something to do with my “less than impressive” occupation.
To be fair, this kind of stuff happened to me occasionally when I was a youth pastor and my job would come up. I actually had some funny encounters where people would apologize for something they had just said, for fear they had offended the “woman of God.” Sometimes it bugged me that people treated me a little different because I was “religious,” but I never felt belittled or demeaned for my occupational choice.
That has not always been the case when it comes to my decision to stay home with my kids.
I distinctly remember the day that I announced to some fellow youth pastors that I was going to be stepping down from my ministry job of eight years. We were at a network meeting within our conference. I was excited for a new chapter in my life, but was going to miss the monthly get-togethers and the comrade that had developed over the years with this group of pastors.
After my announcement, one of the guys said to me: “So are you just going to be staying home then?” I must have given him a look because he immediately starting back-pedaling, and muttered: “I didn’t mean just…”
Yes he did. And the truth is, sometimes I feel the same way. I’ve even said it myself. I JUST stay home.
Why is it in our American culture today, that we (men and women alike) feel the need to belittle this choice? As if helping to bring up and shape little lives isn’t good enough?! If I don’t have a title behind my name or an organization or corporation that I’m affiliated with, does that mean that I’m not interesting enough to talk to or am not contributing enough to society?
Just over 20 years ago, Hillary Clinton, who at the time was the First lady of the United States, created quite a stir when she made the comment: “I suppose I could have stayed home and baked cookies and had teas, but what I decided to do was fulfill my profession, which I entered before my husband was in public life.” (FYI – I have been home for three years and have yet to bake cookies with my kids… whoops!)
The belief that the only thing a stay at home mom does is “bake cookies and attend teas” is obviously ridiculous and could be genuinely perceived as offensive. But the sad thing is that this type of perception persists today, years since the original comment was first made!
I think it’s wonderful that Mrs. Clinton had the freedom to pursue her career, just as I know that I am extremely blessed to have the choice to stay home. Not every woman has a choice to really do what they want to do – whether it’s to pursue a particular career path or stay home with their kids. I know lots of moms who wish they could stay home and can’t for financial reasons. And I am pretty sure, that at some point in the not so distant future, I will pursue a career outside of my home again.
I just wish we could all be a little kinder and have a little more respect for one another – regardless of what we have chosen or maybe haven’t had the opportunity to choose when it comes to this issue. It would be so refreshing if we could celebrate and encourage and support one another no matter what!
As I consider my past, my current circumstances and what the future might hold, the age-old question: “What do you want to be when you grow up?” keeps popping into my head. Here I am, (eh hem) firmly grounded in my 30’s and I don’t have a definite answer to this question.
Maybe I have been wrestling with it more than I realized and this is why I was a little defensive as I considered my husband’s upcoming party and the small talk that was sure to unfold. Inevitably the question of what I do is bound to come up. And maybe I don’t want to deal with the reactions that I know may come.
I might be overreacting, but I guess I’m just irritated that what should be a non-issue is apparently a really big deal to some people. And if I’m honest, is sometimes a big deal to me. Our society seems to have rolled up a person’s worth and their occupation into one nice little package. And sometimes, even I buy into that lie.
Sadly, people often put more thought and energy into what they want to be when they grow up, than WHO they want to be. Personal character takes a back seat to job titles.
When it comes right down to it, my value as a person is not determined by my job. So when I start feeling pressure (from myself or others) or I hear that nagging little voice in my mind that tells me that what I’m doing is not good, interesting or significant enough…. I’m going to look at myself in the mirror and declare: “Yeah, I’m JUST a stay at home mom! And I ROCK IT!” Because I may not know exactly what I want to be when I grow up, but I know WHO I AM! I know the kind of person that I am striving to be. And In my book, that is significantly more important!