Well, of course it's an acronym for stay-at-home mom. But what I'm really asking is who can call themselves one, and why do they claim the title? It seems to be one of the labels that floats around, and I think that with it comes a bit of a claim to superiority, "I love my children, so I am staying home with them." I know that most people wouldn't say that outright, so I think that sometimes they use the title to say it for them. I even had it on my "About Me" description, but I changed it. I think that the message that we try to convey with that SAHM label is "I'm home. I'm available. It's what I do." Now, of those three phrases, "It's what I do" is the one that I think that most people mean to convey. It's my job. I guess that Homemaker is outdated and old-fashioned, but I think I'm going to start using that one. I like that one, because it focuses on my role in the home (which honestly takes up as much time and energy as mothering), and also does not exclude the care and nurture of my husband. My role in this family goes beyond being a mom.
What is the intent of indicating that you are "at home?" Is it the presence? The sacrifice? The availability to meet the needs of your kids? Don't women who work outside the home strive to be available and meet their kids' needs? In fact, I'm sort of starting to buy in to the quality versus quantity time argument. I do not take the opportunity of every hour that I am with my kids. In fact, as a full-time homemaker, instead of craving time with them and making the most of it, as I know many of my working mom friends do, I am instead looking for the opportunity for a break.
One thing that has brought this to mind, is that I recently took a part time job. I'm working one day a week with a friend of mine. We get to ride together and visit, Amanda's at school all day anyway, and Kyle is staying with a friend of mine who keeps another toddler during the day. He loves it. I love the break, and the little bit of extra money is going to be fun. This change has caused Amanda to begin to worry a bit. I'm not exactly sure why, but we've talked a lot about it. In explaining it to her, I realized that when she was the only one home with me, in her preschool years, I was a lot busier than I am now. Currently, I attend Bible study at church one morning a week. Just this year, I added a volunteering commitment at Amanda's school which is two hours every other week. When Amanda was in preschool, I attended (and led) Bible study once a week, and once a month had fellowship which lasted another couple of hours. I had a weekly training meeting, and in addition to that, we attended and I served in our MOPS group. I was a full-time stay-at-home mom, but I wasn't home a whole lot. . . . So, that's what I meant by, "What does it really mean?" I know many women who squeeze in almost a full-time schedule on weekends or working nights so that they will be "home," and I know women who work a bit, as I have started to, and women who work full time, and then do the whole "mom thing" after work and on weekends, giving it all they've got.
I think it's all about trying to be available to your kids. I wrote a post a while back that I'm proud of called Homeraising Mom, where I basically claim some of the virtues that I see in homeschoolers, even though my daughter is in public school. What am I trying to say with this post? Am I trying to alienate those who proudly use those labels? No, in fact I think that most of us use those labels to try to find common ground with some people, not to alienate those with whom the label differs. A homeschooling family leads a very different daily life than a non-homeschooling family, so simply by identifying yourself as such, you let people know your choices, struggles, and daily routine. But I think that sometimes there's an attitude that if you don't stay at home full time with your kids, or if you don't choose to homeschool or whatever else that divides, then you are somehow less of a mom. I think it can go the other way, too, although it's not the pervasive attitude in Christian circles--if you don't choose a fulfilling career outside of the home, you are somehow less of a woman. Having children has even become some type of a badge of honor. A truly devoted woman has a quiver full of children, thus signifying her as a mom above compare. What about the woman who has no children, either by choice or circumstance, or for that matter "only" one, also by choice or circumstance?
How do your experiences help you edify all women, regardless of their personal choices? Do you believe that there are certain absolutes that are right and wrong, or do you believe that there are areas that work fantastically for you that you would not change, but that you can support other women's choices that differ from yours? I will not hide my bias. I think that this is where we should all be--living our own lives the way that God is calling us to, but lovingly supporting others who are living out their own lives in the way that God has called them to. Do you know, intimately, women who lead different lifestyles than you do? If not, I encourage you to seek some out. If you are a SAHM, invite one of your daughter's friends and her working mom over on a Saturday morning. If you are a part of a bookclub or something that meets in the evenings or the weekends, make a conscious effort to have lots of differently labeled women. Truly knowing and loving women who make different choices, and seeing how it works so well for them in their lives has really helped me to appreciate all the differing walks of life. Give it a try.