While riding in the car today, the kids and I got on the topic of what they want to be when they grow up. I don't think they quite grasp the concept (how lovely to be blissfully unaware of the real world), so I was trying to explain it to them. I was telling them how they can be whatever they want to be when they grow up - Fireman, Ballerina, Pilot, Doctor, etc. - as long as they work really hard. We were talking about the different types of things they could "be" when they got big. I asked Peyton what she would like to do for work when she grew up and her response nearly floored me. "Mommy, girls don't go to work, only boys!", she said lightheartedly with a little chuckle thrown in. I almost swerved off the road. We talked about how both boys and girls can go to work, not just boys, and by the end of the conversation she had decided that a firefighter or a pilot would be her professions of choice (for this week, at least).
Although it was just a quick conversation in the car, my daughter's response to my questions really made me step back and think. I know the reason she thinks that girls don't work is because she sees me home with her and her bothers and sister every day. And though I do consider what I do every day is "work", I can understand why she doesn't view it that way. But how do I explain that in the grand scheme of things? I did not grow up thinking that I would be a stay-at-home mom, even though my mom stayed home with us throughout our childhood. And I have no issues with being a stay-at-home mom now. I am lucky enough that we are financially stable with just one income that I get to be the one who stays home with my children while they are young. This is something very valuable to me that I am ecstatic I am able to do. I know it is not what everyone desires or is able to do with their children, but it works for my family and in the end that's what matters the most. But what impression is my staying home making on my children and their understanding of a woman's role in society?
I want my children to grow up believing that they can be anything they want to be and their gender should not limit them from pursuing any career they desire. I want them to strive to be the best in everything they do so they can create opportunities for themselves throughout their lives. But I also want them to understand that my choosing to stay home with them while they are children is because of how much I value my vocation as a mother. I want them to understand that a job is not just about what you get paid or what time you leave and come home, it's about what goes into it. The sweat, cleaning, (endless) picking up, meal preparation, and fun that we have together IS my job. But it's also my life. I am more invested in this job than I have been with any other before because my job is my life and my life is my job. And I can understand how that would be hard for a 3 year old to understand.
All my girls see is that I get to be home with them every day, kiss them when they're sad, have dance parties, read them books, play outside, and feed them when they're hungry. They are having FUN every day and they see that I am having fun with them as well. And all their little minds can figure is that if you're having fun, you're not working! So, after thinking about it for a while, I decided that I shouldn't be worried about my daughter's statement, I should feel blessed. Blessed because she thinks that all the things I am constantly doing for them is not work, it's FUN. And you know what?? It IS fun! Sure it can be frustrating and tiring some days, but for the most part I get to have fun with my kids and they get to have fun with me.
I will always encourage my girls to be whatever they want to be in life. They are so fortunate to grow up in a time where women are experiencing less and less limits professionally. And, as they get older and understand more, we'll be able to have more talks about why Mommy stays home with them and Daddy goes to work. Being a stay-at-home mom is my work, life, and family all tied up into one messy package. And the fact that my daughter thinks that what I do every day isn't work makes me smile because it means I'm doing something right!
After our conversation in the car about how boys AND girls can work, I asked Peyton again what she wanted to be when she grew up. Here's the conversation that ensued ...
Me: "So Peyton, NOW what do you think you could be when you get big and go to work?"
Peyton: "Um, Mommy, I told you I can't go to work when I get big."
Me: "Why not? Girls can go to work too." (I assumed she was still stuck on the "girls don't work" issue)
Peyton: "Because Mommy, if I went to work, then no one would be at home to play with YOU!"
True point, my dear. And what would the world be like without a little FUN??