Mommie Dearest: Being A Stay-At-Home Mother Is A Job, Not A Hobby, And Nothing Like Doing Heroin

The newest log to stoke the fires of the hyped-up “Mommy Wars,” is an xoJane essay that got extra legs when it was recently republished over at Liz Pardue Schultz’s piece “Being a Stay-at-Home Mother Is Not a Job,” compares being a stay-at-home mom to a hobby, like camping, throwing a party for a friend, or doing heroin. Now, while I’m actually an avid camper and always enjoying hosting a good shindig, I can’t personally speak to the last example, but just based on — I don’t know — logic and good judgment, I’m going to go out on a limb and say that being a stay-at-home parent and a heroin user aren’t quite the same thing. At all.

But, Pardue Schultz doesn’t care. She knows her essay will ruffle some feathers. But it’s okay, guys, she was a stay-at-home mom for a few years, so that gives her the right to make sweeping statements, generalizations and judgmental gems like, “‘Mothering is the hardest job in the world!’ is a phrase I’ve grown to loathe, but only because of the unemployed, self-righteous idiots who love to proclaim it after spending all their energy harping on their children or bitching about their spouse’s ineptitude.” Later on in her piece, she admonishes a mom she met through a parenting group who spent thousands of dollars on fertility treatments in order to get pregnant only to later have the audacity to complain about having kids.

Is parenting, and in particular mothering, a job? I’d say it most certainly is, but not in the same way we think about a career. It’s one that goes unpaid, for sure, but it’s a job nonetheless. After all, when we can’t do it ourselves, we actually pay people to do it for us, whether that’s a babysitter, nanny or daycare. Try finding someone that babysits as a hobby and see how well that goes (but seriously, if you find anyone like that, send them my way. Have you seen babysitting rates these days?!). Yes, it would be amazingly awesome if there was a way for a stay-at-home parent to get paid. Off the top of my head, I could make a case for at least one year’s mandated paid maternity leave being such an option, but this is the United States, the only developed nation in the world that doesn’t actually offer that.

Pardue Schultz also has a host of assumptions in her piece, when she talks about stay-at-home parenting as a privilege and something people choose to do. That’s a pretty myopic view, and while it may be true of a certain population in this country, it’s not representative of every family that includes a stay-at-home parent. For some, it’s much more complicated than she makes it out to be.

She also assumes that complaining about your day-to-day life and the people you interact with (be it co-workers or kids) is something relegated only to stay-at-home moms. Are there some stay-at-home parents that bitch about their kids, spouses, and household chores? Of course. Are there working parents that bitch about the same things? You bet. To make working parents the martyrs here doesn’t help either demographic and only serves to divide the two camps even farther. It also upholds these ridiculous standards of motherhood, where women need to be happy with their lot in life and are chastised for complaining or feeling unsatisfied. Excuse me while I call bullshit on that.

This essay is just another one of those stay-at-home versus working parent tirades that does nothing to uplift parents or families, but rather drags them down into another drawn out argument that only ends in screaming, defensiveness, and the inability for anyone to listen to each other. Nobody wins with pieces like these. Except maybe heroin addicts who now have the green light to call their substance abuse a genuine hobby, because of that one time they read about it on