There’s a popular piece floating around right now about how being a stay-at-home mom is a luxury … for your spouse. Perhaps you’ve read it. When I first read it, I wanted to fist bump the author (one of my fellow writers who I love) and say, “YEAH! This is it! You’ve got it!”
But the more it sat with me (like good writing tends to do) the more I realized why I loved the piece at first, and then came to hate it – not so much the piece itself, but the feelings it elicited and even more, how it was being shared.
If you haven’t read it (you should), it explains how nice it is for spouses of stay-at-home moms to have someone who’s always there – someone to take care of the kids when they’re sick without worrying about missing meetings, someone to have the cooking and the cleaning done, the errands run. You know, the kinds of things stay-at-home moms do so their husbands can work. (You know, work, that thing that makes the money so your family can do pretty much anything. Like eat. And go to the doctor.)
See, I wanted to love this article. I wanted to immediately copy and paste the link and passive aggressively shoot it over to my husband’s Facebook wall. Because I wanted him to read it. I wanted him to appreciate me and see the value in all I do and how I make life so grand for him.
What the heck is wrong with that? He’s out there every day working his butt off, and I want him to thank me for not having to miss a meeting if our son gets sick? That’s screwed up. But still really true. Despite acknowledging the reality, I still wanted him to know some of those hidden benefits of having me so readily available all the time. That’s when I realized what it was really about:
The need for validation.
Despite bringing in a paycheck while still being home with my son, I have this yearning to be validated externally. I know I’m doing important (if unglamorous) things for our household, like teaching my 2-year-old letters and manners, keeping our family fed with nutritious meals, and being there for doctor’s appointments and field trips. But no matter how much I know I’m doing needed things, it doesn’t always feel like enough. I desperately need other people to know — to really know — that I’m doing important things.
While the need for external validation may be dumb, it’s real; it may not be logical, but it exists and it persists. It’d be my guess that’s why the aforementioned piece is resonating so deeply with my moms everywhere. We all need some sense of validation, appreciation, necessity.
As I hinted earlier, what struck me so deeply about this piece wasn’t actually the piece itself but the rampant wildfire in which it was shared and the captions that came along with it. I saw it pop up repeatedly in various mom groups I’m in on Facebook, and the comments that accompanied the link didn’t have as much to do with the content of the piece so much as how it made the moms feel about their stay-at-home role. It wasn’t that the moms suddenly discovered they were an asset to their families, it was that they finally felt they could justify it and had words to explain it. You could practically feel the desire for validation in each of the simple comments on the threads. Someone had finally found a way to say stay-at-home moms were important, beyond simply being there for the kids. I wanted to reach out to each of them and give them a big hug, saying “Yes, you are needed.” Yet at the same time, it seemed to somehow discredit my former role before “mom.” That my husband’s job was so much more important than mine that not only should I stay home to raise our kids, but also make sure he doesn’t have to miss anything important work-related himself. (That’s probably a different argument for another day.)
While the post is making a lot of moms feel good about their roles, I’m personally being cautious about telling my husband I’m a luxury to him. It is helpful that he doesn’t have to take sick days or miss meetings, but I wouldn’t say clocking in a 40+ hour work week at the office is exactly luxurious no matter how you spin the bonuses of having a wife at home. Still, I do think it’s rather important that husbands are reading this piece. If not for the gentle reminder of what duties their wives take on, then for the underlying sentiment of expressing the maternal need for gratification, acknowledgement, and thanks.
(And just to be clear, because I know how the Internet is, the need for validation is not the same as a lack of gratitude.)More On