All Akimbo On Choices

By Kim Blakely, Mojo’s mama

A couple of weeks ago when I was dropping Mojo off at preschool, I got into a conversation with a dad who was dropping off his son. I had seen this man around town, at storytimes and parks and various other kid-magnet kinds of places, but I didn’t know his name.

We introduced ourselves and chatted about the teachers, the classrooms and our decisions to start our kids in preschool. The dad was holding his infant daughter as we talked about how our boys had never been in the care of anyone who wasn’t family.

Eventually, this dad worked his way around to asking what my husband did that allowed me to stay home with our son.

(I know that might sound like a rude question but, really, it didn’t come across that way.)

Well, I answered, I work, too, but I’m lucky enough to be able to do it from my home office (or living room or backyard or closet …). And then I turned the question on him.

It turns out his wife is a medical resident. He left his career when their first child was born because his salary didn’t justify paying for daycare.

He seemed far more defensive than I thought he needed to be as he explained that he finds little ways to bring money into their household, and once again I was struck by the fact that so many people struggle to justify staying home with kids.

I can’t fault my new friend, though, because I feel defensive about my decision to leave the daily grind, too, and I’m sure that with all of society’s expectations those insecurities must be magnified for a man.

But why is that the case for either of us? Why is it that I have an overwhelming compulsion to make people understand that I don’t just stay home with our son, that I actually work – for money – while I’m there? I’d like to believe it’s all in my head, this feeling that I’m looked down upon because I chose to leave the workforce after giving birth, but there have been slights that prove outright it’s not my imagination.

It’s not like taking care of a child is an easy or insignificant matter. Is it really something to be trivialized? And yet, here I am, a hybrid of sorts, identifying most closely with stay-at-home moms, and I catch myself trivializing it in my own head on occasion.

Lest you think this is an argument for staying home, listen up: I don’t have the slightest urge to say to anyone, “You mean you leave your kids in daycare every day while you go out and earn a living?” I know that argument gets tossed out by stay-at-home moms all over the country, but I tend to stand apart – far apart – from that group.

In fact, I often wonder if I should have stayed on the job myself. (Granted those musings are at their strongest after Mojo pours entire bottles of bath oil on the bathroom floor or when he’s screaming as I try to do a phone interview or when he’s chasing the cat with a broom and insisting that he just wants to play with her …)

I usually come back around to the idea that Mojo is much happier, and that I am much, much happier not having missed all the moments that have made up his 3 ½ years, but that’s not to say that other moms would be as happy in my shoes – or that they should be. I think we all just do what we have to do.

I’m sure there are exceptions, but we all make our own decisions about what’s best for our families, right? And while we may do things differently, shouldn’t we have the respect to let each other decide what’s right for them?

Our fore-mothers argued for women’s rights and I thank God that they did. Without them, there might have been no choice to make. We might all have been stay-at-home moms and that would have been that. (Judging by the fact that I was almost undone by the song about hot cross buns in Mojo’s music class last week just because South Beach, phase one, says I can’t have one, I’m sure if that were the case I would be beating down the door to get a job.)

But they did make it possible for us to decide, and I hope that we can all set examples for future generations that make it evident that choice is the most important freedom of all.

I’m trying to remember that, too.