Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Motherhood: The Most Powerful Job in the World

The other day at school pick up time, I overheard a couple of moms talking in the hallway. One woman asked her friend, "Do you want to see a movie Thursday night?" and the other one replied, "I don't know. I'll have to ask my husband if it's OK with him. He doesn't like me to go out during the week, and I don't know if he'll babysit the kids." (At this point, though my blood pressure was definitely on its way up, it was all I could do to keep from smacking this woman. Must. Not. Explode. It makes PTA meetings awkward.)

Immediately, I had a flashback to a Moms' Night Out group I started when my kids were toddlers. Several of us got together once a month for drinks, dinner, maybe a movie, if we weren't too drunk - although someone was always pregnant or nursing, so it was easy to find a designated driver. (That's the benefit of hanging out with younger moms, by the way. I'm finished with those non-drinking, baby-making years while they are just starting out.) A mom in our group had had an unfortunate haircut and coloring incident, so I asked if she'd found someone to fix it. She said, "My husband won't let me talk about it anymore. He's tired of hearing about it." OK, first of all, WTF? And secondly, HE'S NOT EVEN HERE. But even as I was formulating a response, another mom called and said, "My husband won't let me come tonight because he doesn't want to babysit the kids." While most of us immediately began (loudly and drunkenly) mocking him, one woman asked, "What's the big deal? My husband won't let me go every month, either. It's too hard to do dinner, baths and bedtime by himself."

Where do I start? Are you kidding me? I don't know about you, but I have never in my life asked my husband's permission to do anything. He's my husband, my partner, not my father. I guarantee you, the words "my husband won't let me" have never come out of my mouth - and they never will. On my wedding day, I promised to love, honor, and cherish him, all the days of my life, but that "obey" part? Took that right out of my vows. And "babysit" the kids? What, is he 16? Does he need a little extra spending money? Aren't they his kids, too? He's never once asked ME to "babysit" the kids while he goes to the gym or Home Depot or even to the office on a weekend. I'm not sure he could afford me, anyway. (And for the record, I'm not talking about using common courtesy and talking to one's spouse about one's plans. I always tell my husband in advance when something comes up that will affect our family's routine. I just don't ASK him if he'll LET me. C'mon.)

So, as usual, I started thinking: Why do some women feel the need to ask permission to do something for themselves, or ask their husbands to "babysit" the kids? He's not your father; he's your partner. What is it about being a mother, about being home with the kids, that makes some women feel that they have to be subservient? Is it having a job, making money, that gives one power and authority?

I say no. If anything, being a mom is powerful stuff. I make thousands of decisions every day that impact all areas of our lives. From budgeting to education to health to the daily running of our lives, I'm in charge of everything - except bringing home a paycheck. I'm raising the future; I'm educating another generation; I'm creating people who will go out into the world and make it a better place. I am all things to all people, all the time. I'm the mom. What could be more powerful than that?

To his credit, my husband points out all the time that I am the heart of our family, that I make our house a home (otherwise, our "home" would be a recliner, a TV, and a lot of takeout), that our family is what it is because of me. The traditions we have, the friends we make, the memories we cherish - don't they usually start with us, ladies? Not to minimize my husband's contributions, which go far beyond financial support and killing spiders, but mommies provide something essential to the family - the nurturing quality that makes little girls pick up and cuddle a baby doll while little boys are bashing their cars into the wall.

So, back to my original question: Why do some women feel the need to obtain "permission" from their husbands? I guess it's because they don't feel valued, or valuable, at home. Maybe their husbands don't tell them often enough how much they appreciate all that they do. Maybe they feel that money equals power, that the breadwinner gets to make all the decisions for the family, that their contributions to the family have less value because there's no monetary amount assigned to them. But I disagree. There is no price that we can put on being the person raising our kids. Forget all the crap about society not valuing the contributions of stay-at-home moms. We have to value our work ourselves! What we do is important, to our kids, to our husbands, to ourselves. We need to take pride in our work, just as we did when that work came with a paycheck. How many times have your kids walked right past their dad to ask you a question? And who do they cry for when they get hurt, or scared, or sick? Yep. That's right. They want Mommy. Ask any child, "Who's in charge at your house?" Every single one of them will say, "My mom."

Slacker Mom Says... when you get right down to it, we moms rule the world. Motherhood is power. Whether we work or stay home, moms do the bulk of childcare, housework, and decision-making for most American families. We determine how our kids are raised, what they learn about life, how they learn to cope with adversity; we give them roots and wings. Whether we work or stay home, we exert our considerable influence over an entire generation of Americans. We are raising the next generation, the ones who will, with luck, find a cure for cancer, solve the world's energy crisis, and fight for freedom and equality. We are moms; we are the world. Embrace the power.


  1. I agree. I couldn't imagine having to ask permission to go out, and that whole "babysitting" thing just makes me sick. In addition to possibly being doormats, could it be that these ladies are married to jerks?

  2. Well, that's MY take on it! I really think people can only mistreat us if we let them - whether it's our friends, our families, our husbands.

  3. Well all I can think is that you are lucky to be married to such a nice man. Good for you, and I say that in all sincerety. I wish that I could have gone back to my 20 year old self and said "run run away" but alas my low self-confidence failed me. All of my girl friends know that my husband won't "babysit" our son. Yes, I know you are cringing at the word "babysit", but yeah I married an a**hole. I'm one of the "stay together for the sake of the children crowd". Let me give you a little background for my decision to stay. My son had colic, my husband has a terrible temper (which developed after the birth of our son), and couldn't be trusted around our son. I wanted a divorce like you wouldn't believe but he would get my son the weekends and as I said he couldn't be trusted, so I stayed. Now my son is 4 and my husband is fine around him but in order to keep his temper in check he needs his me time 24x7. He watches my son when he feels like it and can be a great playmate when he feels like it but for the most part I cannot leave the house without my son unless he is sleeping - otherwise I will get hell. So in case you wanted the perspective of a mother who "asks permission" there you have it. A lot of us will not say in public what I said but there is a lot behind when a woman says that she has to ask permission. These women know that they are not in a good marriage. We are not uneducated or stuck in the 1950s. I was an engineer prior to becoming a stay at home mom and I'm married to an enginneer. Unfortunately, often times we take on the role of down-trotten wife to protect our children. Now in 14 years (and yes I am counting down the days) when my son is in college that will be a different story.

  4. S, first of all, let me say a huge THANK YOU for sharing your perspective and experience. It's always easy to sit here on the other side of the fence and spout off one's opinion, isn't it? I admire you for doing what you feel is best for your child - isn't that what being a mom is all about? Putting your own needs after the needs of your child. Secondly, I can only hope and pray that after your son is grown, you will meet another man who treats you like the amazing, wonderful woman you are. Or not - and enjoy being on your own, if that's better for you!

    I do know that I am lucky - my husband has his faults,as do I, but he's a good man. I don't know if my over-inflated ego/self confidence helped me "find" a good one, or if marrying older (we met at 27 and married at 30 - I'd dated enough to know that I'd rather be alone than with certain guys) was part of it, or if it was my beloved Grammie, who used to say, "Lambie, you're the highest peach on the tree. You make sure that he knows that and is willing to climb high up on that ladder to reach you - and you make sure he deserves you!" watching over me and steering me to the man I eventually married. I'm sure there are many, many women who are highly educated and very intelligent but feel trapped by circumstances.