I’ve been thinking about writing a post about my experience as a WOHM and how I think it compares to what my experience as a SAHM would be (in my specific set of circumstances), but I’ve always held off because I worried I’d say something that would upset someone and start some kind of flame war on my page (I know I could manage it–I’ve done so before). But I’m hoping that if I stick to my own personal experience (which is unique enough that it’s probably only tangentially relevant to others), I can manage it without ruffling too many feathers.
Why write the post at all? you might wonder. Especially if your situation is not relevant to others? That is a good question (and an even better caveat), one I’ve asked myself a lot. Mostly I want to do this for myself, because every month or so I start to consider my life and its circumstances and I wonder if I would be happier “doing something else,” as they say, and of course an easy “doing something else” scenario to consider is being a SAHM, because I know a lot of women who do that and, as a teacher, I’ve had enough time at home with my kids that I can kind-of imagine (but definitely not understand completely) what it would be like (for me).
Of course me being a SAHM is totally and completely impossible for my family for a lot of reasons, which might lead one to assume the exercise is futile (which it is), but actually, I think the impossibility of being a SAHM is exactly why I consider it, because it’s easy to covet something you know you can’t have, and because it’s easy to inaccurately image the impossible scenario, for no other reason than it’s impossible. But mostly I do this because in the end, I generally abandon these little mental exercises when I arrive at the same conclusion my mother does, that I am happier as a WOHM than I would be as a SAHM. It’s really helpful for me to remember that, because not having a choice can make one feel trapped enough that they resent their circumstances without ever realizing that they would choose those circumstances if they did have a choice. It’s almost as if the lacking of a choice forbids a person to recognize they would make it anyway. Or maybe only I do that.
I think a lot about the SAHM v WOHM debate and why those fires rages so fiercely and uncontrollably. I think in the end it comes down to a deep need to be seen. For our efforts to be recognized and our struggles validated. I’m not quite sure why we need others (who are so far from us and so irrelevant to our own lives) to judge us and our daily pursuits as worthy, but it seems deeply ingrained in the human disposition. I know I do it. Recognition and validation are two things I would basically prostitute myself for, I’m so desperate for them.
I think this pursuit for recognition and validation is especially important for mothers because motherhood is, for the most part, misrepresented by our society. The general message presented is that motherhood is this amazing apex in the human existence and we should all be elated and endlessly grateful to join the ranks of those who respond to the moniker “mommy.”
Which would be all fine and good, except that parenthood is fucking hard. And women are generally relegated to the position of primary caregiver, and it’s an intensely demanding and mostly thankless job 99% of the time. And of course there is the history of women’s subjugation and the general attitude that women are less than men and the parallel belief that the ways women have historically contributed to society (cooking, cleaning, ahem, raising children) aren’t very compelling or important or require much skill (beliefs which are reflected today in how little we pay the people who do these jobs for us). Basically women have been told for the entirety of humanity that they are less than, that their contributions are less than, and that their abilities are less than. So it’s no wonder that now, in the age when women are supposed to be free of these societal limitations (bwahahaha!) and able to achieve everything they’ve ever wanted (bwahahaha!), we are desperate for someone to recognize all that we accomplish honestly and without prejudice.
And now that I’ve written 750 words before I even started my actual post, I’ll have to stop and add a “Part 1” to the title because clearly I have a lot to say on this issue. Tomorrow I will try to present the dialogue I have with myself when I come back to the (non)possibility of being a SAHM and what it would look like for me. In the meantime…
What are your thoughts on the SAHM v WOHM debate? Why do you think it gets so heated?