“So, what do you do?”
One thing I’ve noticed since my transition from a reporter on maternity leave to an official stay-at-home mom is how I answer that question.
I’m ashamed to say, I respond a bit sheepishly: “I’m a stay-at-home mom…”
And there’s always a “but.”
“But I used to work as a reporter.”
“But I do some freelance work.”
“But I’ll go back to work after we have a second child once he/she is old enough for preschool.”
Why do I feel the need to justify to strangers and friends my choice to “just” be a mother?
Often, it’s when I think about my high-achieving female friends that I feel a stab of guilt.
The amazing women I developed relationships with in university and beyond are now completing medical school residencies, finishing up PhDs, and generally achieving more prominent career posts than their male counterparts.
Most will complete their education and establish their careers before they have children, likely in their mid-30s like many women these days. (In 2008, 49.6 per cent of Canadian women who gave birth were 30 years old or older.)
My girlfriends think it’s great I am the primary caregiver for my daughter at a time when families tend to need two working parents to afford the cost of living (according to Statistics Canada, in 2009 72.9 per cent of women with children under the age of 16 worked, and 64.4 per cent with children under the age of three). Heck, my husband is jealous and wishes we could switch places.
The judgment is mainly self-inflicted, and I’ve struggled to figure out why.
Perhaps I feel like a bit of a sellout in the ongoing battle for equal pay and opportunity, when only four per cent of Fortune 500 CEOs are females (according to the nonprofit organization Catalyst).
More so, (I hate to say it) I think my feeling of self-worth has taken a hit. I love being with my daughter on a day-to-day basis, watching her grow and learn.
But any woman can be mother. You don’t need to pass a test or complete a Masters thesis. There is no bar set or glass ceiling to break.
After putting six years of my life into post-secondary education, I want people to know I’m educated. And then there’s the presumption that I should be doing something with that education.
Yet I am doing something with it. While any woman can be a mother, my experiences will shape what kind of mother I am and will be.
It will take some practice to drop the “buts.” In my internal monologue, I’ll aim to replace that insertion of “just” in front of stay-at-home mom to “a darn good” one.”
How’s that for self-worth?
Kristine Salzmann is a former Black Press reporter and mom to 14-month-old baby girl Elise. She writes monthly for The Leader on parenting issues.