Thursday, April 24, 2008

I'm Not a Stay At Home Mom

Just before logging onto blogger, I was surfing the baby registry of a friend of mine so that I can figure out what to buy for her for her shower this weekend.  I couldn't help but think, as I'm scrolling through lists of wipes and blankets and diaper genies, about something I have come across in several of my books on housewives and the feminist movement.

Caitlan Flannagan's book, "To Hell With All That," was the first one I read to make the distinction between a stay-at-home mom and a housewife.  Her statement, "I'm a stay-at-home mom, not a housewife--there's a difference," struck me.  I immediately understood exactly what she meant.  Since then, I have encountered that very distinction in other literature on the topic.

It seems to me that the first option--stay-at-home-mom--though not quite what the feminists were hoping for, is at least partially accepted in society at large.  During my time at the bank, when I was asking clients about their professions (a question I frequently asked), I often heard the response "I'm a stay-at-home mom," or simply "I stay home."  The answer was often sheepishly given, as if I was someone judging them for not working, but it was given nonetheless.  However, never once did a woman answer "I'm a housewife" to my question, as if housewife was not even an option in my drop-down menu (which, incidentally, it was).  

Reflecting more on this trend, I recall that at no time during my education was "housewife" presented as an option for me to choose when I grew up.  Even the sitcoms that were popular for my age group--Full House, Family Matters, Growing Pains--never cast the moms as housewives.  N0--they were lawyers or tv anchors or journalists, magically balancing the responsibilities of home and profession the way that only sitcoms characters can do.  

The overall message that is communicated (in my opinion) is that to be a mother and devote yourself to that role as an occupation is okay.  Not great, perhaps, but okay.  But to devote yourself to your home and your husband--that is unacceptable.  It is politically incorrect.  This is why, though many of my friends have chosen to stay home with their babies, none of them identify their new role as a "housewife."  They are mothers, staying at home.  And I...well...I just stay home.  

I wonder, though, when I finally become a mother myself, if I'll really become a stay-at-home mom.  I doubt it.  Instead, I think I'll probably remain a housewife (for lack of a better word--see earlier post...).  Because there is a difference.  A difference I'm sure I'll talk more about in the days to come.

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