Even as a young adult I knew categorically that I would never be a housewife. Myopically, being a housewife meant financial dependency, limited professional options, a uniquely multi-faced but seemingly one dimensional life, and a definite loss of identity. I had too much pride and dignity to ever depend on anybody else for financial security. I knew I would always work, for pay – be gainfully employed.
Then, San Jose happened and here I am, an over educated unemployed housewife and SAHM. I am not speaking for the many women who choose to stay at home after the birth of their kids. I am not ignorant of empowering discourses about housewives and SAHM that assign agency to those “choices” either. As a feminist and as a person, I firmly believe that women who stay-at-home, by choice or otherwise, contribute equally, if not more to the household than the money-earning partner/spouse and yet I simply cannot shake off the dependency I feel on Aaron for supporting my life, my unemployed existence.
Even though I am slowly learning to accept and embrace my SAHM identity, I don’t think I will ever completely shake off that dependency feeling. In the past when women I know who either were housewives or didn’t earn as much as their husbands, hesitated to make a purchase either because the item was expensive or because the husband did not approve, I reprimanded them for feeling that way by arguing that their husband’s money was their money too and that there should be no hesitation in buying something they wanted, if they really wanted it. Funny how that doesn’t work for myself.
When I want to really buy something and I ask Aaron for his opinion of the thing I want to buy and he gives it, honestly and often skewed toward not needing to buy it, I get extremely agitated and angry, not to mention upset and get into a low self-esteem inflicted poor-me mode. I get angry at him, threaten to spend my own money of which I probably only have a little over a $1000 (we merged our accounts after we moved to SJ), make sarcastic comments about not having a job because of him (since we moved to SJ for his job), find myself irreversibly stuck in a situation I feel is unfair, and generally, let the inner demons get the better of me.
Now of course, getting to be with my kids is not the issue here. I am crazy in love with my kids and I absolutely cherish the time I spend with them but do I enjoy and appreciate every single moment of that time? No, not at all. For my own sanity and sense of personhood, I need to have an external outlet – an outlet that allows me the freedom to engage my professionally acquired knowledge, my intelligence beyond learning new recipes and trying to read my son’s mind.
I feel truly blessed and privileged to be in a position where I am able to spend my kids’ formative years with them without the stressors that come with that professional life I so covet, to be in a financially secure place where the fact that I don’t have to work affords me this opportunity that so many women would want but cannot due to financial constraints. I get that. I know how immensely fortunate I am to be able to do this.
I was, am, and will be with my son for his many firsts. I love taking him to storytime, playdates, parks, the zoo, and museums. I love actively introducing him to books and culture, teaching him social engagement and negotiation when he plays with new kids or even otherwise, kissing a boo boo better, calming his fears and hesitation with new things, reading him the over 1000s of books we have so far and continue to, seeing the smile on his face every time I show him a garbage truck or dumptruck or train or fire truck, the list goes on. I hope to be there for all of my daughter’s firsts as well. HOWEVER, I know I will be much happier if I had a career, even a part time one that allows me the flexibility to be and do all that I want with my kids but continue to contribute to the family’s finances or special treats I want to get my kids or Aaron with my own money.
Because that is currently not an option…no, that is not quite right. That is still an option but one I don’t want to exercise yet. I could always look for a job now and if I actually get one, we would leave the kids in daycare which we will be able to afford with two incomes. This situation – that of me having a job right now, is not an option just yet because I don’t want E to go to daycare until she is at least a year old. J did not start daycare and even that, he only did for two months, for two days a week, for 4 hours a each day, until he was 2 years old. Until then and for most of his two years, J got the undivided attention of a full-time nanny and two parents, one of whom exclusively worked from home and another who almost always worked from home. I want E to at least have that exclusivity for her first year with me being home with her. After that, having a part-time job would be the ideal situation for me so I can have the best of both worlds, a job to engage my intellect, and time with the kids to engage with them and their interests.
This embracing of a SAHM identity is a work in progress. I am coming around to it but not quite wholeheartedly and only because I have no financial source. Should this be fixed, the “stay-at-home” part would be more easy to accept and need I say, embrace.
(Photo credit: Mary Ann Moses via Flickr)