Why the SAHM vs. WOHM Debate Is Stupid -- and Inaccurate
Thursday, February 16, 2012Tweet
Last Friday, Melissa Jenna posted a great video, which you can watch below. Essentially she said that because she stuck to her values, acted in accordance with her priorities, and made the life choice that made her the happiest (starting a family and staying home with her daughter), she shouldn't be considered less "successful" than her friend who was featured in Esquire for her professional work (something that her friend prioritizes and which makes her happy).
What I got from this was that women shouldn't be pressured or congratulated for making one choice over another, but rather should be encouraged to do (and considered successful for doing) whatever works best for them and their family.
I agree, and I think it's ridiculous for anyone to say that working when you have children or staying home with your children is always the right choice. I would speculate that many of the people who make hyperbolic claims one way or the other ("Staying home means throwing your dreams and your ambitions away!" "Working when you have children means you're heartless and love money more than your family!") do so out of some guilt about their own personal decision and feeling a need to defend their choice.
I feel that I should point out that this whole argument is another false dichotomy. It presents two options: a woman can stay home with young children while her husband works, or they can both work and have someone else watch their children. I bet you can think of a family right now that doesn't fit this mold.
Besides the obvious variations (you might have two parents of the same gender, or the man might stay home while the woman works, as we plan to do), there are plenty of other possibilities. You might have a single parent who feels he or she has no choice but to work, or who chooses to live off welfare in order to stay home. You might have two parents who each work part time so they can alternate which days they stay home. Perhaps one or both parents work from home and has to find a way to watch their children and work at the same time. Maybe one or both are students, and they have to figure out class schedules, work schedules, and childcare.
This isn't a disagreement with MJ's point, but an extension of it. How can there possibly be one right choice when there isn't even one single situation to begin with?
No matter the situation, a family with young children will work to find the solution that best meets their needs, their priorities, and their life goals. Those who find a way to do this should be applauded!
There is never going to be a solution that makes everybody happy 100% of the time, but I believe that those directly involved are the best equipped to figure out what works for them. People are most likely to be unhappy with their decision when they're trying to follow a script that was written for someone else. This is true not just for raising children but for many areas of life.
I would honestly laugh if anyone tried to tell me and Mike that our plan (him at home, me working) was not the best choice for us or our family. The other night at dinner he was saying how he gets exhausted thinking about staying in his current job for more than a few years. He said he would get so bored doing the same thing every day for the rest of his life, and that he can't wait for the unpredictability of kids and getting to plan fun things to do with them. I said the thought of that exhausts me, and that I would go crazy if I didn't have a job to get up and go to every morning! Clearly we are suited to complementary roles for the future.
What is your take on this "debate"? Is it even worth discussing?