Tuesday, October 17, 2006

Semantic argument of the day

So I woke up this morning and wondered how bad I could piss off stay-at-home-moms. Hell, why not throw in a bit of guff to the stay-at-home dads, too. And, I doubt if the go-to-work folks will be much impressed either.

But let's see.

I was at a brief social event with adults and kids a couple weeks back where I got quite pissed off. It was simple, innocuous really. I was chatting with an acquaintance I had not seen since early months after the birth of our first children; like me she recently delivered a second child. I asked her if she had been working. She shot back - quite within her rights -- "OOOHHH, I've been working. Oh, SHE'S my work. But, I know YOU know that."

Now, since I have such good meds manners these days I smiled sweetly and nodded. I moved on with her in the conversation. For, yes, I do know what she means. I hear or read this stuff all the time. Still, this case has bugged me for two weeks now and I thought I would dump on you guys about it.

Why are our children considered our work??? WHY? WHY? What is the deal with this careerification of motherhood? Is childcare in the context of your family your job? Really??

I will make my confession. Despite the fact that raising kids taxes my management skills to their limit... Even though I nearly drop dead at night after all the tasks required to keep this place running as efficiently as a Wonka Chocolate Factory, minus the Oompaloompas ... THIS IS NOT MY JOB. I am away from my job, away from my work. This is my family and no matter how hard it is it ain't work, duckie. Don't worry about the pensionable years I'm wasting. Don't give me your bullshit $100, for having my kids.

One thing that bothers me about the 'this is my job' theory is that is undermines Dads as parents -- oh, he isn't a 'family worker'. I would expect that this tends to make it more difficult to build families because parenting comes down to punching the time clock? Being more of a parent than others who go to work, say? I don't know about you but our family needs two functioning parents in constant evolution to make decisions jointly or in sequence and time is not a factor. Further, the idea just plain comes off as a cop out to me. I don't want to justify being home with daughter and son as me undertaking some new JOB as their mother AND caregiver.

Another thing I don't like about the posture is that it supports a largely horrid stereotyping of families based on that lunatic benchmark of the Baby Boom generation. The blip in childrearing that setup this crap dichotomy of women as either traitors or heroes of the stay-at-home dream is -- as I say -- crap. Or -- just as bad -- traitors or heroes to the increasingly oppressive go-to-work dream.

Generations have come before us where mothers AND FATHERS looked after children out of love, desire and duty. Unlikely, they did the job instead of being a 'hunter' or 'seamstress' or 'miller' or whatnot! I just don't think anyone was putting their 'career on hold' for the sake of the family. I have grown to hate that characterisation. Likewise, I hate those of us at home being cast as putting our selves out there to 'do the family's work' ... What the hell does that mean?? Work in my mind implies the production of something. My kids, they are like alchemy -- maybe a bit voodoo -- sure isn't like any kind of production line I know of. I am not working to produce a certain 4 year old, or 10 year old or 20 year old.. whereupon I will then seek new work and something new to produce.

But, honestly -- my main concern is how will SHE feel when Mommy persists in saying "Oh, I'm working. SHE'S my work." ??? You can be sure at that party the two-year old looked right at her with a hint of tension and nervousness. I knew what Mommy meant, yes. But, I like it less now.

ps.The Blogger spell check suggestion for Oompaloompas is employment. Perfect.


Blogger Her Bad Mother said...

You know what? I've never thought about this in exactly this way, but you are absolutely right. I think that where the difficulty emerges is in the distinction between the 'work' of parenthood (the labour, the drudgery, of which, yes, there is much) and the idea of parenting as a job.

You are quite right - my child is not a JOB. She is my life. There is work, in the sense of labour/effort, involved, but there must be a distinction between this 'life's work,' this exercise of love, this mission, this LIFE and the idea of a job, whether understood in Marxist or capitalist terms.

8:53 a.m.  
Blogger L. said...

Mo-wo, would you mind if I submitted this to the Carnival of Feminists? This deserves a larger audience -- and not just because you link to me! :)

The dad angle is one that can`t be stressed enough. Why are guys SUPPOSED to have careers, and women CHOOSE to have them, over putting our kids first? I don`t buy that.

And the whole "work" thing... my daughter slept 20 hours a day when she was an infant. She was literally no work at all. If I didn`t also have an older (high-maintenance) toddler when she was born, I could have freelanced fulltime from home while she was sleeping (or read magazines all day!). Taking care of kids is often "hard work," but sometimes it`s quite cushy.

And as you say -- it`s not my JOB.

10:38 a.m.  
Blogger Crunchy Carpets said...

Hmmm....I am a bit conflicted about this. Part of me totally agrees with you, and the other...

Well, it IS my job (but not in a negative way)...perhaps role is a better term.

I didn't HAVE a career. I had a job. My career ideas were all over the place and out the window. I was not a good worker.

I do far better at home running the house and kids.

Now, this does not mean that my husbands role is merely bringing home the bacon...it is way more than that, but even he will agree that I take on do and accept the lions share of the day to day stuff while he works on earning the money.

But this was OUR choice and I still see us as parenting equally and needing the both of us to get through it all and support each other and our kids.

So I agree, the implications behind some of the 'wording' out there regarding our 'roles' and the almost shame we are supposed to feel because we are at home, does lead us to get a tad defensive about what we do or choose to do.

And most of us 'modern' SAHM's and 'traditional' families feel quite defensive of our situations and spend a lot of time trying to prove that we are modern and cool and hip and not sell outs to conformity and letting our side down.

I am doing what I want to do and am happy (mostly) doing it.

It is DAMM hard work but to me far more fulfilling than any work I have ever had!

11:04 a.m.  
Blogger Mrs. Chicky said...

Interesting take on this, Mo-Wo. Perhaps there are times when I mix how much work it is raising a child with how it's my "work" or my "job". With that said, however, I find it does help some days to think of my new role as a job, it helps me approach the craziness of being a mother with a clearer, more objective mind. It also helps me get through the monotony. Hell if I could get through the day to day tedium that is Corporate America I can certainly get through the constant diaper changes. And the benefits are way better.

5:35 p.m.  
Blogger mad_hatter said...

Why just last week I was making this same point to some poor slob of a colleague who couldn't have cared less but was unfortunately stuck on the reference desk with me.

I find I spit out the expression, "And I am stuck with the child care!!!" only in those moments when I don't feel supported in what I do as a mother. When both parents have time and energy inside the home (and that doesn't mean that one or the other or both isn't also working for the $ka-ching$) then parenting is my life, my joy, my reason to get up in the morning. Sometimes either my for-pay work or his upsets the balance, though, and that's when the resentment-speak comes out. I do admonish myself for such feelings in the sober light of day.

Having said all that, we are still dealing with centuries of human history that have taken women for granted in their roles as mothers and we do have an anti-child care gov't right now that would like to see more women in the home (fine) and unrewarded for it (not-fine).

8:06 p.m.  
Anonymous krista said...

Hey, this is my first time here. I completely enjoyed that post.

And that oompaloompas turns into employment with the blogger spell checker- that is hilarious.

6:13 a.m.  
Blogger sunshine scribe said...

I love how you put this and I stand here clapping loudly.

Seriously. I have been a stay-at-home mom and a work-away-from-the-home mom and I never thought of the raising of my son as a job or as my work. It isn't.

That doesn't mean I respect someone's choice to stay home any less. Or that their time spent isn't valuable but the semantic distinction you make is pretty powerful.

here her.

2:34 p.m.  

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