As if mums didn't have enough things to feel guilty about already...
Mum guilt is an unfortunate feeling that is described in various forums, usually with working mums* at the center of the discussion.
These mothers are often judged and made to feel horrendously guilty for leaving their kids and heading to office to work.
However, there is another segment of mothers who are made to feel as guilty, showing that no mother is spared from judgement: they are stay-at-home mums.
You might wonder why. After all, they are at home with their kids all day, looking after them and running the household (as a mother should, right?).
But just the other day, someone asked me if I was thinking of heading back to 'work' (I wanted to yell "but I DO work!") now that both kids are in school. It's almost like the reverse of working mum guilt: they should stay at home with the kids, we should head to an office (there are no winners in this game, I tell you).
Here are the most common reasons why stay-at-home mums are made to feel guilty (when they really shouldn't feel guilty, even one bit):
1. "But you don't contribute financially"
Often, the reason many women choose to stay at home and look after the kids is to help save money that would otherwise be spent on childcare and/ or transport. There's also money saved on medical bills given that little ones who stay at home tend not to fall ill as often as those who are exposed to daycare germs.
The decision for one parent to stay at home is usually one that has been thought through carefully by both parents. Sometimes, it's not even a choice given that some salaries barely cover the cost of travel and childcare expenses.
If you've ever been shamed for not 'earning', know that a survey documented by Forbes.com has revealed that for all the work stay-at-home mums do around the clock, they should be earning an annual salary of over US$100,000.
Ultimately, the value of any mother is priceless, regardless of her 'work' status.
2. "What do you do all day?"
This has to be one of the most common and guilt-inducing questions anyone could ever ask a stay-at-home mum.
What does she do all day?
She wakes up before everyone else, prepares and packs lunches and snack boxes. She fills water bottles and checks school bags.
She rouses up sleepy children to make sure they get to school/ preschool on time. She makes and feeds breakfasts, changes diapers, washes bums, helps older kids brush their teeth, shower, change their clothes, put their socks and shoes on.
With the buzzing computer that is her brain, she remembers to double check on homework, on school projects, that a favourite blankie is in the preschooler's bag and a zillion other matters. She does school runs and enrichment class runs. She cooks lunches and dinners, feeds kids, helps the with homework. She counsels, comforts, disciplines and loves.
The question "what do you do all day" is not just guilt-inducing, but it is thoroughly insulting because it insinuates that the innumerable tasks a stay-at-home mum does all day are insignificant.
What doesn't she do, is probably the better question to ask.
3. "You need 'me-time'? But you get it all day!"
Staying at home when you have little ones to look after is hardly relaxing and there is little to no naturally occuring me-time.
Even the supposedly private function of using the bathroom is more often than not interrupted by a tiny person. If your child is too young to stay alone outside while you use the bathroom, then said tiny person will probably be strapped in his bouncy chair, watching you as you pee.
In fact, staying at home all day with the kids is one of the most stressful, tiring and isolating experiences ever. Any stay-at-home mum will tell you of the many times during her day that she wished she were in an office.
So, yes, me-time for stay-at-home mums is completely justified and utterly deserved and needed. What there's no justification for is making a mum who takes a break to head out for a coffee, pedi or catch-up with friends, feel guilty for doing so.
4. "Oh, you're just a housewife?"
There's nothing worse than making inadequacy-inducing statements such as this. Many women who opt to stay at home with their kids are highly qualified individuals who made an informed decision to stay at home. Sometime's it's a choice, other times, it's not.
Statements such as these are nothing but blatant disregard for the millions of women around the world who have selflessly given up years of education, established careers, even aspects of their self-identity without thinking twice, for the sake of their kids and families.
Mum guilt is a battle every single woman deals with from the moment she becomes a mother. We certainly don't need others fanning the flames of this unfortunate feeling.
(Which is why everyone needs to watch this video now)
*Disclaimer: This article focusses on the topic of stay-at-home mums and in no way intends to discount the parenting efforts of full-time/ part-time or work-at-home mums. Mum-guilt spares no mother and this article is one is a series meant to point out the challenges different segments of mothers tackle in the face of mum-guilt.
How do you deal with mum-guilt? Do share your thoughts in a comment below.