Last week, I posted on Facebook a remarkably banal status (i.e. like most of Facebook) about my dislike of cauliflower, regardless of its preparation. This caused a minor uproar among cauliflower lovers on my little friend list. More Butter! Roast it! I love cauliflower! What?!
These are my friends, so they know better than to try to convert me to their heretical love of the white cabbage. We tweaked each other, of course, because we are friends, but no harm was done and everyone moved on and enjoyed life. No one told me I was wrong (mostly because I’m not) or crazy (even though I probably am), and I let my friends share their adoration of cauli. My tastes are probably not going to change at this point, and trust me, I’ve tried cauliflower eight ways to Sunday. (Cauliflower Eight Ways to Sunday is also the title of my new book of poetry.) My friends are not going to suddenly hate cauliflower, and that in no way affects me except for the nasty photos of roasted cauliflower they keep sending to me to squick me out.
Several weeks ago I was berated by a fellow (and admittedly much cooler) parent for not caring much for most of the modern music that the kids enjoy these days. I listen to it occasionally, mostly to know what my kids are listening to, but much of the pop ain’t my scene. My ears have always been tuned to 1966-1979, with some roaming. That’s ok. “How could you not like [name of major pop star redacted because it’s not the point.]?!!” Other Parent seemed horrified that the sounds I choose to put in my ear weren’t the right ones.
This rubs me wrong. What I like to listen to in no way affects Other Parent, especially because this person does not ever have to sit with me in a car or when I’m cleaning my house and singing along to “Star Collector.” (Pisces, Aquarius, Capricorn, and Jones Ltd. Fun tune.)
When we want children to try a new food, we do not shove it down their gullet. We introduce it. We ask them to take a small bite (in my house we call it a “no-thank-you” bite.) We keep trying, as we know their tastes are still forming. We respect the dislike, especially if the child eats other foods that offer similar dietary benefits and he does not disparage the food as a whole. After all, I love tomatoes and do not need to hear an Ode to the Grody Tomato.
Opinions about things that in no way negatively harm me and mine are a waste of my time. You want to like cauliflower? Good. You want to like current pop music? Have at it. You don’t want to eat raw tomatoes under my roof? Super, here’s an entire veggie tray and some marinara sauce. Go nuts.
The issue here is respect and reach.
An online mothering/woman site posted an article the other day, written by a former SAHM (who blatantly challenged anyone to be offended by her piece because of her own history!) stating that staying at home to raise kids is (a) not a job (b) a privilege in many cases…[and privilege is a loaded word these days, isn’t it?] and (c) a hobby.
Not only in her case but in almost every case. Suck it up, stay-at-homers. You chose to breed, you get to stay home, it’s an honor, don’t bitch after a hard day or if you have children with special needs or if you just have cleaned up vomit for the ninth time. You chose it and if you bitch maybe you shouldn’t have had children.
Ah…if only I’d kept my legs shut…I’d only have my job to complain about…not that I chose that either, what with my degree and my job search and work history.
But remember, she Stayed-at-Home once (presumably when she was younger and less employed and loved her children more than I do because I do find motherhood to be wonderful hard work for me), so it’s (a) not offensive and (b) applicable to everyone ever.
Many people responded to the article, both on the site and on Facebook, where more than a few of my friends argued about it. My heart sank with each repost…
Ultimately, my parenting may be a hobby, but it’s one I choose over lobbing grenades into the Mommy Wars.
Whether moms work or not does not directly affect me unless their work impacts my own parenting or my life in some other way…therefore it’s not for me to say one is better, worse, or, as this article more than strongly implied, more valued. Parents who work outside the home have it hard. Parents who stay home to parent have it hard. Some aspects are better. Some are worse. There are factors that are unique to certain families. There are factors, such as parental leave, that are more universal. There is a history of women fighting to work outside the home. There is a history of women fighting to be taken seriously as fully valuable human beings if they chose to stay at home and raise children. There is a history of women all over that spectrum. There is a history of women fighting for the right to say they don’t want children without people telling them that they couldn’t possibly feel that way.
There is a history of women balancing precariously, trying to make it through the day and feel we’re not dropping the ball, not being judged, not letting ourselves or someone else down.
I think that goes without saying.
I would hope it goes without saying that if you are sitting around parsing words, assigning some sort of currency (actual and/or psychological) to critical aspects people’s lives – aspects by which many of us partially identify ourselves – you’re setting yourself up to be seen as part of the problem.
You may have your demons about your choices. Share those. Know that so many of us feel the same way. Know that many of us don’t but are willing to give it a no-thank-you bite if you respect our tastes and don’t ram things down our throats. Otherwise, the sounds you are putting in our ears are just wrong.
Be confident in your choices, or at least in the intentions behind your choices. I truly believe that most parents, nearly all parents, are doing the best they can. Sometimes our best means working outside of the home. Sometimes our best means staying at home. Sometimes our best means the kids wear hand-me-downs. Sometimes it means getting that totally extraneous but cool pair of socks just because. Sometimes our best means being able to cheer the kids on at every school event we can get to. Sometimes it means Skyping them to hear how the spelling test went.
Sometimes our best means holding it in until after the kiddos are asleep and then sobbing into a container of Ben and Jerry’s (I find Karamel Sutra Core perfect for these moments).
And sometimes out best means needing to let off a little steam and share that it’s not all fine and dandy and it hurts sometimes and it’s hard a lot and it feels a hell of a lot like a job that few people seem to respect and yes respect and other people’s opinions aren’t why we do it and yes we wanted it and want it still but Jesus Christ why are people so judgy and why do I have to be worse for you to be better and who cares what you call it but why do you have to call it a hobby like it’s frivolous?
— take a breath
— take a giant spoonful of Karamel Sutra.
Choices of how we spend large chunks of our time, the ways we impact the world (via our work, via the children we raise, via our volunteer activities, via our play, via our other relationships) are many things, but describing stay-at-home-parenting as a “hobby” and implying it is a hobby of privilege and love (and therefore any complaining is anathema) is destructive.
Everyone has their guilt, their worries, their glances at the neighbor’s green, green grass.
Everyone second guesses some difficult choice, everyone has made a difficult choice that forced them to roll all options around endlessly.
Everyone has had to proceed with something less than confidence.
If you don’t believe this, you either weren’t paying attention in English class or you’ve never actually interacted with another human on any level deeper than “Chocolate or vanilla?”
Being a parent can be hard sometimes. Not being a parent can be hard sometimes.
Being a person? That’s hard.
Being a compassionate person who understands how vulnerable this whole life experience can make us? Sometimes hard. Always worth striving for.
These choices: To be a parent or not. To work or not work. To have to work, in any way one wishes to interpret that. Whether parenting is work or not –
These choices are life.
Enjoy your cauliflower.