What Am I Worth as a Stay-at-Home Mom?
I am a stay-at-home mom. I am one of the 2.4 million women who left the labor force during the first year of the pandemic. That I should feel compelled to write about work may come as a surprise, given my current circumstances. Many would ask, myself included, is what I do considered work?
Although I’ve been a stay-at-home mom for almost two years, I’m not entirely comfortable with the title. Sometimes, I avoid eye contact when I tell people, fearing their judgment. My straight-shooting sister has said to me, “I don’t know how you can stay at home. I would get so bored. Like, I have a brain. I can’t read Clifford the Big Red Dog twenty times in a row.”
I often ask myself, “Am I stupid? Lazy? Not ambitious enough? Should I be doing more with my life? ” I imagine my friends who work full time, shouldering the emotional burden of managing their households and providing primary care for their children on top of navigating a pandemic that has made the balancing act more precarious. So many women juggle two balls while I seem only to be able to handle one. I know there’s a joke about the patriarchy in there somewhere.
From a global perspective, the UN confirms the following:
“Widespread closure of schools and childcare facilities [during the pandemic] has resulted in increased unpaid care work which continues to be predominantly performed by women. […] Such a sharp increase in care, housework and homeschooling […] assumed by mothers reinforces pre-existing gender relations and social norms.”
These norms affect fathers too, who are often penalized for prioritizing family responsibilities over work. My partner received one week of paternity leave, after which he worked 80 hours a week from home — 30 feet from our shrieking, colicky baby — to meet the project deadline his employer had set for him. He wanted to do more to care for our newborn and couldn’t.
When I say that I’m a stay-at-home mom, I usually feel compelled to explain myself as a preemptive apology.
My daughter was born in 2019. During my maternity leave, the college I worked for discontinued the program I supported as an academic counselor. I returned to the college after…