I change diapers. I make bottles. I cook three meals a day.
I fold clothes. I do dishes. I clean bathrooms.
I run errands. I mop floors. I do laundry.
Sounds like a far cry from stitching up lacerations and responding to seizing patients. Right?
Well, the stay-at-home mom life, at times, may appear to be a bit less glamorous than my past life as a physician, but does it mean I’ve fallen into the category of “traditional?”
To answer that question, I’ll actually need to take a moment to discuss everyone’s favorite trending topic—presidential elections. In the last 100 years, there have only been three occasions on which any political party has remained in office for more than two terms at a time. The general trend has been a one to two term flip-flop between the Democratic and Republican parties. Why is that? To put it simply, human nature. One president claims to have all the answers that will make everyone happy, the president’s performance fails to meet expectations, Americans vote for the next guy.
The same idea is true regarding history’s treatment of women’s issues (and most issues really). In the Time Magazine article “History Is a Pendulum Not an Arc,” the swing is described as follows: “greater acceptance of working outside the home during World War II in the 1940s, a rejection of that progress under the family-centric conformity of the 1950s, the rise of feminism in the 1960s, the rise of the pro-life movement following Roe v. Wade in the 1970s.”
We’re now at a place in history where the pendulum is slowly gaining momentum as it moves toward women reconsidering a role in the home. A Pew Research Center analysis found that there has been a recent increase in the number of stay-at-home moms (up to 29% of all mothers in 2012, from the modern-era low of 23% in 1999). And interestingly enough, there’s now a new subgroup of SAHMs, known as “opt-out mothers” –a category into which I fall. These are highly educated women, who have decided they want to define success on their terms, and in so doing, have chosen to step away from successful careers to stay home.
So, what’s the difference between the 1950s Stepford wife and the rising generation of millennial stay-at-home moms? For me, it’s the existence of a choice. In times past, women often were not given the ability to pursue an education, and staying at home was simply expected of them. It goes without saying that these days, that’s no longer the case.
Women can stay home because they want to, not because they have to.
Incidentally, I’ve also found the same to be true regarding gender roles within marriage. I grew up in a traditional immigrant home where the expectation was that my mother, who worked outside the home, was expected to come home, cook, clean, help us with homework, etc., while my dad, shared very few of those same responsibilities, to put it kindly. My husband and I, however, subscribe to the idea that marriage is 100/100 (not 50/50). We both give all of ourselves, all of the time. If I’m not up to making dinner, he does it. If he asks me for a back massage, I give him one. There’s no score-keeping or lines drawn in the sand. That’s how we believe God calls us to love—to give because we want to.
So, to answer the original question, “Am I considered traditional because I’ve decided to stay home?” I suppose it depends on who you ask. If you ask me, I’d go with trailblazer over traditionalist. I like to think of myself as a woman, alongside many others, who has decided to not allow society to define what life should look like for me; even if I do have letters behind my name. I’ve decided to put my family first because I know that on this earth, you only have one life to live, and I want to live that life doing what matters most.