WORK-LIFE BALANCE / APR. 19, 2014
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How to Beat the Stereotypes about Stay-at-Home Moms

I had been a stay-at-home mom for 12 years when I went back to writing on a freelance basis…three years after my youngest started school. With that long a stretch at home, I’ve heard all of the stereotypes about stay-at-home moms: lazy, dumb, selfish, moochers who refuse to work despite their husbands’ objections, fat, sloppy, etc. And I can honestly say that most of those stereotypes never bothered me. Why? Partly because I was absolutely sure I was doing the best thing for my family. But the other reason is that I made darn sure they didn’t apply to me. A lot of people would say that you should just be who you are and not worry about other people’s prejudices, and, in principle, they’re right. But if you do worry about what other people think of you as a stay-at-home mom, saying you shouldn’t care does nothing to help you feel better right then and there. With that in mind, here are some tips for proving those stereotypes wrong.

Keep up with what’s going on in the world.

One of the main reasons people think stay-at-home moms are dumb is the blank-faced stare when everybody else is talking about world events. I had three babies in under three years – my last two were less than a year apart – so I understand being so exhausted that you just don’t care what’s happening past your own front door (maybe as far as the mailbox if you got an extra hour of sleep the night before). But if you want to be able to hold your own in adult company, you can do it without a huge time commitment. Here are some suggestions:

  • Listen to talk radio. If you have toddlers, talk radio can be one of your best options for keeping up with things. If you have it on in the background while you’re building a block tower or playing Candyland, you’ll absorb a lot just by osmosis.
  • Take five minutes to read headlines on a news aggregator like The Drudge Report or Google News.
  • Put a small TV in your kitchen so you can catch up on the news while you’re preparing meals.

Take care of yourself.

Is there anything wrong with being the stereotypical mom who only manages to squeeze in a shower every three days and never has time for makeup? Not at all…as long as it doesn’t bother you. If it does, you can find time for yourself if you want to badly enough. I did it with a newborn and two toddlers in diapers. Sure, I got up at 5 a.m. so I could get myself ready before my husband left for work (4:30 when he traveled and I needed to be finished before the kids woke up), but it was important to me. I had given up so much of my pre-mommy self – my career, my writing, my own income, sleep, etc. – but I just wasn’t willing to give up looking my best. Even with two of three kids still waking up at night, I was willing to sacrifice some sleep to continue feeling like…well, the old me.

Be productive.

I had days when the only thing I accomplished was keeping the kids safe and healthy. And that’s important – it’s why I was staying home. But it didn’t feel like I had accomplished anything. I was much happier on days when I got something done, even if it was just paying some bills or clipping coupons. Try making a list of small tasks you can knock out in just a few minutes…just something you can point to and say, “I did that.”

I’m not suggesting that all stay-at-home moms need to do these things to banish the stereotypes from our society – far from it. These tips are all about how you feel about yourself. And you don’t have to tackle everything at once. Pick the stereotype that makes you feel the worst – for me, it’s somebody thinking I’m dumb – and take small steps toward making sure no one would ever think it applies to you. The stereotypes will still be just as wrong, but they’ll have far less power to make you doubt yourself.

 

photo credit: freeimages via bjearwicke

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