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03/12/2010

Do men get asked if they work outside the home?

Advice I was talking at a table of successful women about balancing life with little ones.  Strategies were exchanged for working at home - be it house work, remodeling projects or a paying gig.  Tips for finding time for a haircut, grocery trip, or possibly even a bathroom break without kids were traded.  Then the conversation turned to the various intrusive comments mothers of young children always seem to elicit, “Are you staying at home, then, now that you have kids?” or “I don’t know how you could possibly leave those sweet little faces, even for a second!” and even, “So now that you have one of each, you’re done, right?” 

What is it about a woman with young children that compels a stranger to offer up personal questions or solicit unwanted advice?  Is it the slightly dazed look that we sometimes posses due to lack of sleep or a harried schedule?  I don’t think I’ve ever heard a man be asked if he’s going to stay home after he has a baby.  So why ask us – don’t we look like we have enough on our minds?  At least at our table we were easily able to agree – there are few easy decisions when it comes to parenting and family life, but we’d rather make them ourselves than depend on the opinions and advice of strangers to guide us!

 A woman’s choice to work is personal and rarely ever hers alone.  Generally it is a family decision based on many factors that aren’t anyone else’s business.  Now that I’m unemployed (thanks to this fantastic Ohio economy we’re trying hard to resuscitate) everyone things he has a say in my future career goals.  “You’re going to stay home, and let that master’s degree go to waste?!”  “You’re going back to work, and let someone else raise those little girls?!”  I’ve heard it all in the past four months.   I am tired of feeling the need to defend my position, partly because I’m torn, and I know there is no “right” answer.  I will heartily admit that in hindsight our plant closure was a blessing to me – I’m very glad to be home with my girls at the moment, and to have a chance to decide (again) what I want to do when I grow up.

Knowing the intrusive comments are coming, I’ve assumed an offensive position – I have a set reply that is firm and not particularly informative, and I rattle it off without much thought and with a direct look.  No fear, no hesitation, no indication that I’m still torn about my direction and I likely always will be.  I may not be any less opinionated after this experience, but I am much more likely to keep my opinions to myself – unless someone asks me about them, that is.

This is an original post for the Ohio Moms Blog.

Steph writes about her problem solvin' approach to parenting and life at Problem Solvin Mom and can be found on twitter as @psmom

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