Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Power, Politics, Profession, and Place Of The At-Home-Mom

It has been a decade since I hung up my suit and scarf, put on jeans, white blouse, and a scarf, and became the Chief Home Officer of my family's enterprise.

In so doing, I had to journey through the professional questions of why someone with an MBA would not be in the corporate halls of power making the money I used to make.

Sometimes, people close to me would think that I am putting too much pressure on that man, not doing enough to iron his shirts, and should be scrubbing the floors on my hand-and-knees since I'm not bringing home the bacon.

Othertimes, people close to me look at my body of work over the past decade and applaud the time put in tutoring and driving to lessons and sitting through rehearsals and brokering time that resulted in my last three children having the fullness of their childhood.  They had me in their classrooms, running their programs, or driving them to lessons that the work (I have worked outside the home, as a consultant in charge of my own time) I have done helped pay for.  They look at how well spoken and well read they are.  They look at the scholarships my son has because I devoted an entire academic year to marketing his performance abilities in a way that got him accepted to six universities with five of them offering scholarships.

There were times when, while working, I wondered if I was able to leave in time to pick the girls up for their lessons, wondered if I had enough time to make dinner before jetting off to one of their activities.

One organization that was a lifeline for me and other women-of-color was Mocha Moms, Inc.

My home chapter, in Johnson County, was a breathe of fresh air for me, especially when my daughter was a baby with major illnesses that had my residence in the children's hospital.  These women, everyone from marketing and management types like me to pharmacists like one of the women, all shared together our joys and tears in this profession that existed without dollar signs.

Dr. Melissa Harris-Perry, on her show, discussed the topic of the worth of at-home moms and the destitute wages other women are paid to take care of the homes of professional women who work.  She and her panel discussed the devaluing of these things like being an educator, a manager, a chef, a medical assistant, a chauffeur, a fundraiser, a speaker, an event planner, a laundress, a housekeeper, etc. that are part of the the toolbox of the CHO. Discussed were the treatment of women-by-women who do those things for others to work, having their own families to take care of.

It is a topic that continues to intrigue me.

Black women, and increasingly Latino women, were put in domestic service when the doors of other opportunities were closed to them, despite the degrees that lined their walls.  Black women have always worked, always, from slavery, as recounted in 12 Years A Slave, idle time to just think was not granted.  They have always had their hands to the plow and after a long day, still had to come home and take care of the needs of their household.  It was for this reason that Mocha Moms, Inc. was so liberating to so many of us who were working in our homes.

White women, alternatively, had other women who cleaned their homes and took care of their children.  Entering the workplace was liberating to them. The Women's Movement allowed them to have the independence they craved and the accomplishment of earning their own money.  Conservatives in their four year assault on women's rights have wanted to put these women back in their homes, ecking out rights after rights in their backward quest to control their actions.

In this backdrop of the politics of controlling women's bodies and movements, many of us continue to hold strong to our mission, despite the slights, despite the questions, and despite the five-year-old-jeans.  We stand strong to make sure our daughters and sons are able to have the things they have.  Many of us own our own businesses and structure our work around their school hours.  Some of us have gone back to the workforce now that the children are older and in school full-time.

We continue to have dialogue of the place and rights of women to choose what is right for them.  The choice may be for a season and some may be called to it for just infancy.  Others have been vocal in helping the United States realize that there is value to family leave, why are we one of the only industrialized nations that do not guarantee paid maternity and paternity leave.  Why do we devalue the work of nurturing children, whether parents or teachers?

One day, this season will be over, my last two children will be graduating from high school and like my sons, venturing out into the world to make their place.  One day, their mess will not be all over the TV room floor and their clothes will not be falling out of the basket.  One day they will be in college and not being scurried to lesson after lesson.  One day they will be adults.

And in moving on, it makes these brief eighteen years even more precious.  My profession over the last ten  years has expanded my reach and view of the world.  Stepping out of the corporate office has opened my eyes to the things the millennial generation already knows, life is more than work, work is possible around one's life, and life is only something that happens once.

The discussion will continue and there will continue to be those who want to control the lives of women, who believe motherhood is devalued, or that stepping off to raise a family will not land one as the CEO of GM. And that is ok.

1 comment:

  1. It's a complex issue. I feel that it's only when men and women both do the nurturing that the devaluing will cease, but which is the 'chicken' and which the 'egg'? My son works as a childcarer, he works long days in a difficult and highly responsible job, looking a after a room full of 2-year-olds. He earns about half as much as his girlfriend, who works in a storehouse, helping to organise supplies for scientists and support staff who go to the Antarctic, and little wore than someone stacking vegetables in a supermarket. Somehow that's ok, because most of his co-workers are women and women are expected to do work for the love of it!


Thoughtful dialogue is appreciated.