Change, Ambivalence and the Facts About Stay-at-Home Moms

Stay-at-home motherhood is a highly examined aspect of modern life with a Babylon-level of voices and opinions. Lisa weighed in last summer with her writing, Nine Reasons I Regret Being a Stay at Home Mom, Grown and Flown’s most widely read and debated post to date. When Pew released research this week entitled, After Decades of Decline, A Rise in Stay-at-Home Mothers, we thought it was time to take another look at the facts and stereotypes that surround mothers who do not work outside the home. Regardless of one’s opinion on the “optimal way” for parents to raise their children and provide for them financially, having a grasp on the facts should be the shared starting point.

stay at home mom, Pew

While Pew’s research showed a marked increase in the number of SAHMs, the causes of this increase were manifold: lack of childcare, declining employment opportunities for those without a university degree and a drop in women’s participation in the labor force.

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Calm Before the Storm, Hurricane Sandy

calm before the storm, empty nest, college son

Dear Son,

While I trust you will be absolutely fine in your college dorm room these next few days with Hurricane Sandy heading toward shore, I cannot help but worry. You may be 22 years old but my instinct to protect you and your sister will remain undiminished throughout my life. Today it is the calm before the storm and we are prepared here at home. Unlike every other storm, this is the first time you have not been with us when the forecast has turned grim. A large swath of the eastern part of the country is in harm’s way and that includes you, dear.  So, just in case you have not already thought of these things, please humor me – you are good at it – and keep reading: [Read more...]



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I Will Be There for You Again

I get that you think that you never want to have kids.  I get that they look like a lot of hard work, and you don’t really like small children.  I know that you cannot even imagine being a father. I was nineteen once, I understand. But one day, years from now, I am hoping you will change your mind.  So here is the deal.  If you change your mind and decide to make me a grandmother, I will be there for you. Here are the things I promise:

 be there for you, layette, grandmother

1. I promise to love and respect your partner, to respect the sanctity of your home and your relationship and I promise to keep my mouth shut about both. You may not do things the way I would, but even now, kids grown and life half gone, I am not sure I did it right.

2. I may hate the loads of laundry that you and your brothers leave all over the house when you are visiting now, but when invited to visit the home of my grandchild, I will joyfully do laundry, clean kitchens and tidy up toys.  I know each of these things are small potatoes. I also know that when a young mom who has been up all night with a baby walks into a pristine kitchen, with the clean laundry piled neatly in a basket, she feels loved and cared for.

3. I will walk, talk and rock that baby until she lies sleeping in my arms and I will do it as many hours as needed, letting her mother catch up on much-needed sleep, work or just reconnect with her friends.  I know my grandchild won’t remember that I did this, but I will.  I can barely remember you being a baby.  You were tightly sandwiched between two brothers and, frankly, there are years of long blackouts in my memory.  The doctor handed you to me and then, five minutes later, I sent you to nursery school.  Holding your child will be a cosmic do over for me and I won’t forget a thing.

4. I will listen.  I know you feel that I have been doing a lot of the talking during the last nineteen years…there may be some truth to that.  Having a child will shake the foundations of your being and nothing in life will ever look the same again.  You and your partner may talk about this endlessly, but if you ever want another ear, from your biggest admirer, it is my turn to listen.

5. I will speak, give advice, show you how things are done, but only if you ask me.  Babies can be scary, parenthood is a leap into the unknown and words of comfort from someone who has traveled this road can often be all that is needed, or conversely, just about the most irritating thing on the planet. You and your brothers turned out alright and I learned a thing or two along the way. I am available to download that information, upon request.

6. As a new parent you will be tired and miserable, grumpy and sometimes short.  You will think you know everything even when you know nothing.  You will be nervous and anxious and not always great company. Sometimes you will be euphoric and think you are the first person on Earth to experience such feelings.  Don’t worry, I lived through your teenage years, I have seen you like this before, and I will be there for you again.



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In Gratitude: Thoughts from a College Graduation

Gabby, a Grown and Flown friend, writes: Returning last week from our oldest daughter’s college graduation, I feel somehow aligned with those graduates, as I am a parent moving from one major life phase to another. During the very joyful weekend, my husband, more literal and fiscally oriented than me, kept repeating  ”one down, two to go” referring to our younger two children. Meanwhile,  I tried to silence my more sentimental thoughts for fear of getting weepy, or sounding cliché and down-right old.

 

Graduation day, college graduate, cap and gown

It doesn’t  feel like yesterday that I brought this child into the world. Remembering those early days of motherhood seems more like walking around a neighborhood I lived in long ago — quite familiar, yet vaguely dream-like, with some of the important details completely elusive.  On the other hand, it actually does feel as if I just dropped off my daughter as a college freshman. [Read more...]



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Long Distance Love

 

VAlentine's gifts, Valentine's Day packagesAfter I married and had children I became a little jealous of my friends who lived near their parents.  In those families, grandparents held the tiny hands of grandchildren as they grew and grew.  Fortunately, I learned from my far-away mother how to be close regardless of living sixteen hundred miles apart. She helped me understand long distance love.

Now eighty-five, Mom still travels to see us once or twice a year, refusing to let her slightly weak knee call the shots. [Read more...]



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The Lavaliere

Cathy, a Grown and Flown friend writes: Her face was a perfect oval, with large round deep-set eyes and a Roman nose. That face possessed a genuine beauty far exceeding the allure of any gemstone. The wedding band she wore was gold, small and unobtrusive.  She rarely wore other jewelry, saving her lavaliere for special occasions. Her jet black hair was always simple, pulled back in a chignon or loose and wavy around her face. She was, in fact, of Roman descent. My mother.
lavaliere necklace, lavaliere, mother, grandmother, vintage photograph of woman

If I close my eyes and think of her, I picture her in a pair of Bermuda shorts, blouse tucked in, sneakers on, headed out to the garden to weed. Or dressed in a pale yellow shift dress with a simple pair of pumps and a handbag. Her skin was medium olive and she tanned easily. As a girl, she spent summers in Milford, Connecticut where her father, an Italian immigrant and New York merchant, had a summer home. There she learned to seed the garden, look for plover’s eggs and listen to the sound of the sea as it strummed the shoreline. Raised in the city, she was a country girl at heart. [Read more...]



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“You’re a Good Mother”

My mother’s philosophy on gift giving tends toward the mundane. It was my father, before his death,  who would come up with the “wow” gifts for each of us that would be waiting under the tree on Christmas morning.  My mom, a good mother, supplied the other packages (pajamas, turtlenecks), and would fill stockings with staples – socks, underwear, toothbrushes.  When we asked her what she wanted for Christmas, she answered with her own list of basics -nylon stockings, hand cream, and the perfume she liked best.

empty nest, tropical flower, good mother, gifts

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A Memory of Love

Gabby, a Grown and Flown friend writes: One of the most interesting things about teaching non-English language learners is that often my students “enlighten me” about life in America.  It most frequently happens when I try to cover some aspect of American culture and their pointed observations and questions offer a fresh perspective worth deeper consideration. My memory of past classes is full of these moments.

memory, Dominican Republic, tropical flower, red hibiscus

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A Gift for Ivy

Barbara, a Grown and Flown friend writes: My favorite gifts that I have received are those that were given for no special event. I never particularly liked the idea of Mother’s Day. Sure, I loved the homemade menus and breakfasts in bed provided by my kids and the sweet cards they drew for me. I felt lucky that my children let me know on a regular basis how much they loved me. I didn’t need a special day to be singled out or to get a tangible gift.

springtime, tree with blossoms, tree in springtime, park, a gift

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Work-Life Balance: Home for Dinner

Cathy, a Grown and Flown friend, writes her story about work-life balance: That little face. My daughter had a face like a kitten. Being an only, she had developed the ability to amuse herself on her own, just like a cat! To me, the middle child in a big family, this was a marvel. I was always in the fray. Unlike my child, I could not amuse myself and I never had the time or opportunity to try.

 

work-life balance, working mom, stay at home mom

When my daughter was born, I negotiated six weeks of leave with an extra two if I had a C-section.  I didn’t have the section but I took the two weeks anyway. When I went back, I pushed for a four-day week and got it. I became sort of a champion of “working moms” in a tough fast-paced ad agency. Herein lies the rub we all know. In those four days, I worked longer and harder than I ever had. When I got home, most often quite late, there was my little kitten, padding around our kitchen in pj’s with Dad or our live-out sitter Michelle. She would run to me with her sparkly eyes and her Mamie (a fuzzled lamb she usually had pressed to her face.) I would put her to bed and sing to her—she loved my versions of old Broadway tunes.

Working late was my norm, and an unspoken requirement in management. When I left the corporate world, my homecoming was sweet. My daughter made me a drawing to welcome me home, and it brought me to tears. “Hello…Hi..Hello…welcome home…I missed you”…those words still bring tears to my eyes.  She drew a picture of me with my fur-trimmed coat, earrings, a hairdo and lipstick.

What I never got was how she missed me so much in the evening, when the day winds down and families eat dinner and hang out. I talked to her about it as a teenager. Her response to my query was quick and poignant. “I was so proud of you, Mom…. but I missed you, I really missed you. But I know you were busy in your job.”…she let me off the hook. I feel I shortchanged her. I can’t take the time back and the larger notion of my career was positive. But I wish I had been home for dinner more in those days. She would have liked her spaghetti with Mom at the table too.



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