The Sexism of the Stay-at-Home Mom
I was walking my first grader into elementary school a couple months ago, when one of the other mothers said to me as we passed (with comically exaggerated intonation):
I was just saying to Susie—“Evan’s Mom is here—what a suuuuurprise!”
This was months ago, and I’m still replaying it in my head. If I have a sensitive spot, she found it and jumped up and down on it with both feet.
In general I feel like I’ve experienced less sexism than I expected in life. But the sexism that has caught me by surprise is the sexism of a certain class of wealthy stay-at-home moms.
I wish I had more time to volunteer at our school. Our elementary school is excellent, and a great part of the reason why is because of superb parent involvement, primarily by stay-at-home moms. They invest tremendous amounts of time, and my children benefit from their efforts. I appreciate their efforts, and feel guilty that I can’t contribute more.
I have made different life choices, and I accept the tradeoffs involved. My home is not as impeccably furnished or as neat. My children are not as neatly dressed. But I read to them more, and they’ve been taken to more museums than probably anyone you’ve met. My time is tight, so I prioritize.
Notice that the sarcastic mom did not comment on the fact that my husband is rarely at school. Nor are any of the fathers in our class. They’re not expected to be. They’ve got jobs, after all. Well, I also have a job. But somehow I’m expected to do everything the stay-at-home moms do and everything working dads do? Really? It’s not possible. Her sexism is so blatant and yet I’m sure she’s entirely unaware of it.
OK, I can tolerate a frosty attitude from a fellow parent—not a big deal. But where it begins to bother me is that this negatively affects my children. It turns out that the stay-at-home moms in my son’s class meet sometimes after school in the park—with a bottle of chardonnay on Fridays. The moms chat, the kids play. And they get to be friends. And the moms who are friends arrange playdates for their kids on weekends. So the children of stay-at-home moms get invited to playdates and birthday parties when the children of working moms get left out. No one planned it that way, but that’s how it happens. And the crazy thing is that who the children actually like and play with at recess has little to do with it—it’s all about which moms are friendly.
To my working mom friends: Don’t let this catch you by surprise.
To my stay-at-home mom friends: Thank you for everything you do for our school! It is sincerely appreciated. I respect your choices, and I hope you will make a bit more effort to understand and respect mine.