by Tina Bietler
Throughout my life I have been a stay at home mom, a working mom, and even a single mom for four years. My thoughts are not a judgement against any woman or the choices she makes for herself. We need to lift each other up, not knock each other down.
I am a stay at home mom. Admittedly I used to be an elementary teacher and working mother for many years, but several autoimmune illnesses lead to an early retirement from a job I loved. When I first quit teaching I was at a loss. I had been a teacher for over twenty years. I loved being a teacher so much that I was even one of the very first Teacher YouTubers on the platform. If I wasn’t a teacher anymore then who was I?
Here is a secret though about my working days. I suffered terrible anxiety. I had panic attacks so bad that on occasion my husband had to leave his job to come pick me up from mine. I also suffered terrible pain from rheumatoid arthritis and fibromyalgia which led to debilitating chronic fatigue. Once I even fainted at work and left the building in an ambulance.
While trying to cling to this career under less than perfect health, I was also mom to two young boys, a wife and homemaker. My husband is a rock star. He works an average of 55-65 hours a week as a robotics engineer and project leader, and did his own laundry and all the home maintenance. However, I was the one who put dinner on the table seven nights a week, got the children ready for school in the morning since he was already gone to the office, and did easily 90% of the housework.
My normal day started at 4:45 am and didn’t end until about 8:00 pm, where I would crash on the sofa, watch an hour of television, only to go to bed and repeat the whole process all over the next day. I was well known to be in the middle of something and just bust out in tears. When my husband would ask me what was wrong I often replied, “I don’t know.” I was too exhausted to put into words the myriad of thoughts and to do’s swirling about in my head. I was never caught up. If I was on top of work then I was behind at the house. If I was on top of the house then I was suddenly way behind at work. If I was miraculously on top of both I inevitably came down sick because my immune system gave in to stress and the many germs in an elementary classroom.
This changed a little over two years ago when my illnesses forced me to quit teaching. As I said, initially I was lost. Not only did my career come to an abrupt end, but even my YouTube channel stopped. It’s pretty hard to be a Teacher YouTuber when you no longer have a cute classroom to decorate or awesome lesson plans to write. But as the weeks and then months went by I began to realize something.
My house was clean; cleaner than it had been in a long time. With my oldest son’s help sofa’s were moved and the floor vacuumed, and years worth of junk in the basement was sorted through and loaded into the SUV where it was then taken for donation. We were all eating healthier because I had time to cook from scratch as opposed to the semi home cooking I had been doing when I was working.
With time my anxiety and stress began to lessen, and I even went an entire year without catching a cold, flu bug, sinus infection, or bronchitis. When I was a teacher I would have on average 3-4 colds a year, two sinus infections, and at least one bronchial infection. Antibiotic resistance was a real worry for me as I seemed to always be on them. True, I still suffered pain from my illnesses, and even chronic fatigue, but honestly, by my definition of healthy, it was the healthiest I had been in forever.
Best of all, I found I truly enjoyed being a stay at home mom. Even though my boys were older, they still needed me, especially my teenager who was struggling terribly in school. I was there for them. I had patience! Instead of getting flustered and losing my temper I was able to listen to them, talk about silly stuff, play games, and help with homework. My youngest even told me one night that I was less crabby now that I stayed home all the time. As for my husband, I was now free to take more tasks off his to-do list and try to free up some of his time at home.
On my good days I enjoyed researching new recipes on Pinterest and actually prepared them after I pinned it. I meal planned and made a loose cleaning schedule. If I had a bad day or two and was bed ridden, so be it. I would get back to the schedule when a good day came round again. In the end, I love being a stay at home mom much more than a working mom. I was a better mom, and a better wife, because of it.
Today, thanks to Covid-19, many moms around the world are finding themselves forced back into their homes with their children. Even more, they are having to home school on top of it. Most definitely there will be many moms eager to get back to their jobs and hand their children back over to their teachers, glad to be free of quarantine and of the mundane tasks that come with being a housewife. On the other hand, how many women are going to realize over the next two, or three, or possibly even four weeks that being home, cooking healthy food, raising their children themselves, and having quality time with their spouse is wonderful. How many women will realize that even though they work all day taking care of their children and home, they’re not exhausted and run down like they would usually be? Just because a woman can do it all doesn’t mean doing it all brings happiness or good mental health.
Research shows that women who stay home are happier than those who go out to work. A survey for the insurance group LV asked 3,000 women whether they were satisfied with their lives. The ones that were categorized as homemakers with children scored the highest for happiness at 87.2%, higher than all other categories for work.
According to the U.S. Department of Labor’s most recent Bureau of Labor Statistics News Release, stay-at-home motherhood is on the rise with 29% of mothers now staying home with children (a sharp increase from 23% in 1999). When taken in context of children, there are many reports and studies that show having a permanent parent at home is better for children. No one disputes the fact that small children need their parents, but many overlook the pressure and stress today’s teens are dealing with.
When this global pandemic is finally over, I am curious to see if more women will chose to walk away from their jobs to become stay at home moms. Even more curious will be the reaction from feminists if some women actually make this choice. About the only thing more distasteful to most feminists than men, are women who actively choose to be a traditional homemaker. Even worse yet are women who are well educated and give up a career to stay home.
In the past year I have made online friendships with many stay at home moms here in the US and Great Britain. Many of us share happy thoughts or moments, recipes, and old fashioned skills that are dying out, and thanks to Covid-19, many of us have talked about how we were prepared for such an event because we shop sales, use coupons, and stockpile when our favorite goods go on sale. It is totally normal for us to have huge pantries with rotated foods so none are lost to spoilage, a second or even third freezer filled with ready made freezer meals and dump and go bags stored for the slow cooker or Instapot.
Our social media posts are public because it makes it easy to be found by others looking for such advice or camaraderie. Some are modern homemakers, some are non-denominational, some are Catholic, some are Muslim, some are subservient to their spouse, some say they are equal to their spouse yet acknowledge they follow gender roles and that the two roles complement each other. The one thing we all have in common is we all truly love being home with our families and taking care of our homes.
Over the past few months the stay at home moms on Twitter seem to have drawn a lot of attention. The hashtag #tradwife or #tradwives became a thing, especially once Alena Kate Pettitt, author of Ladies Like Us, English Etiquette, and Founder of The Darling Academy, was interviewed on several news networks. Since then the pushback and insults have been vicious at times. After all, in 2020, how on earth can an intelligent woman choose to be something as worthless as a housewife? Only a lazy, or stupid woman would make such a choice. Only a woman who enjoys being abused or controlled by an overbearing man would make such a choice. No sane woman in this day and age would chose femininity over feminism. To do so is to turn your back on all the women who came before us who fought so hard for a woman to have the same choices and opportunities as men.
I do appreciate all the hard work and glass ceilings women broke though. They were brave and daring and bold. They put up with harassment and sexism and showed the world that they could earn a paycheck and raise children at the same time. They were so effective in their argument that now the option of being a stay at home mom isn’t really an option for most women anymore. I’m not talking about single mothers. For obvious reasons a single mom, and yes, I was a single mom for four years before my second marriage, have to work to support their children.
I am actually talking about men. Many men today take for granted that their wife will maintain a full time job. Sure, she might take a few months off right after having a baby, but then the baby goes to daycare and she goes back to work. The notion that being a homemaker and mother is itself a full time job is considered obsolete by many men and women alike.
Women who actually want to be housewives and mothers are viewed with scorn and disdain by the feminists movement. They believe our desire to be old fashioned only hurts the cause of equality and the right to have a choice. Never mind the fact that a stay at home mom has made a choice, and even found a husband who agrees with their choice. After all, a real woman doesn’t need a man to take care of her, or hold doors open for her, or to pay for her dinner. In fact, why bother getting married or having kids at all.
In the end, all families will do what is best for them, whether that involves two working parents or one provider with a stay at home mom. How you choose to live your life is entirely up to you and all choices should be respected. We need to not pit working moms and stay at home moms abasing each other.
Written by Tina Bietler
A Happliy Ever After Blog