I am not a housewife.
I made this clear one angry evening after my husband unhappily came home from work to a messy house, with dirty dishes cluttering the kitchen counter tops, and a pile of clothes that still needed washing.
This doesn’t mean that I don’t try to perform these household tasks when I’m home and able, but, make no mistake, I am no one’s maid.
I am, however, a stay-at-home mom.
This might not seem like a grand declaration to many people, but it is for me. It took me many, many years to actually be okay with calling myself this. More, it took me even longer to be proud to say this, which is pretty sad, really.
Here I am living out the world’s most important job, and I’m ashamed to say this is what I do.
I told myself for a long time that I had a semi-valid reason to not use the phrase “stay-at-home mom” to describe who I am and what I do every day. Partially, I was also a yoga teacher and a writer and, even after I stopped teaching because my “mommy” job became too elaborate to perform both careers well, I still mentally used this as an excuse to not call myself what I really was, every single day: a full-time mom.
This isn’t to say that women with jobs outside of their homes are not full-time mothers.
I firmly believe that a mother carries her children within her tender breast wherever she goes and wherever they are, when away from her. Regardless, when it’s lunch time, I’m not unpacking my tupperware container like my husband or meeting in a lunchroom with other teachers like my own mom did. Instead, I’m sitting down with a baby in a high chair and a little girl nibbling on cheese and hummus over a Disney-themed plate.
And when I dug deeply and got in touch with why I wasn’t using the phrase “stay-at-home mother” when people asked me what I do, I realized it was two parts: I am a writer, and a woman who still has other interests and functions, but the second part was something that was unsettling to acknowledge—pride.
I am a writer—I use this, as well as the phrase “self-employed” when filling out paperwork. Still, when I began verbalizing and also using my mother role in conjunction with it, I gained a sense of freedom that surprised me.
I did not feel pigeonholed, embarrassed or dishonest, the way that I thought I would, when calling myself a “stay-at-home mom.”
No, I felt transparent in the best way possible—authentic, genuine and open about who I am in my life, right now, where I stand.
And where I stand is, occasionally, hovering over an open laptop to blurt out a new blog while also watching my kids play. Where I stand is, sometimes, over a sink filling up with soapy water to wash out coffee mugs and sippy cups.
Where I stand, equally, is next to two tiny children who, so far, think I’m pretty amazing at what I do. This job, in all its frustration and with its appropriately serious level of responsibility, has garnered the most rewards, perks and kudos I’ve ever gotten from employment.
Yet I don’t work for my kids—in a strange way, we’re partners, although I recognize that I’m in charge; we are collaborators in this intricate puzzle of family, motherhood and child-rearing.
So, you know what? I am a stay-at-home mom—and damn proud.
The reason that I felt joy in finally owning this label is because I realized that any stigma that full-time mothers feel is only going to diminish if people like me begin to find the honor and pride in our daily work.
Because at the end of the day, it doesn’t matter what the outside world thinks of me—what matters is how my children see me, and how I see myself.
Photos: Author’s own; Flickr/Laura.