Somewhere between June Cleaver and Gloria Steinem is the modern, at-home mom. And we like her.
That article title is actually a little bit of a lie, seeing as though I have only lusted over the strikingly gorgeous exercise gear within Lululemon's retail stores and online shop. At the moment, I'm actually more of a Fabletics girl, a frequent buyer from Kate Hudson's brilliant exercise clothing subscription-based website. But you get the idea (especially if you remember the birth of the nickname "Lululemon moms" for stay-at-home-moms in viral Forbes article back in 2012).
Perhaps you saw me today in my driveway, filling my mountain bike's tires with enough air to make them sufficiently taut to ride five miles down the nature trail in the manner in which I love to begin my mornings. However, not all things are as they seem, and women like us make assumptions about one another and our parenting styles all the time.
Yet in my heart of hearts I must ask: Are certain presumptions correct?
I bring home a paycheck, but is it enough?
The other day I warned my husband not to turn into a bitter old man, and in his response, he inferred that he was doing all the heavy lifting in his career in order to provide a stable environment for his wife and children.
Part of me took offense, knowing that running my own publishing and media business from home brings in its own good portion of cash into our coffers. Yet I wondered whether if he was right. His salary does indeed represents the bulk of the money coming into our home, and it's his position in corporate America that pays for our health insurance, mortgage, utilities, cable and plenty of other bills.
My income covers things like my own gas, the children's needs, lots of takeout food, clothing, groceries — and oh yes, plenty of pretty makeup, 100 percent human hair extensions, plus that lovely workout gear. You know, all those things that tag us as "Lululemon moms," fit, looking younger than our years, because we have so much time on our hands to make it a Stepford Wives-type of reality.
I'm not sitting around eating bonbons
My husband's comment may have been accurate to a certain degree. I'm so grateful for men like him, his dad and my father who made their own sacrifices in order to keep a roof over their families heads, unlike men who abandon their wives and kids for other pleasures.
But another side of me, perhaps the rowdy and rebellious and unteachable side of me, felt like it was a dig.
Despite the fact that plenty of nights I'm up past midnight toiling away at words like these, trading letters and time for money, I know there will always be people who'll look at women who don't scoot off to an office building, with their ID badges clipped onto their blouses, as someone sitting around eating bonbons.
All things truly aren't what they seem. In fact, the two-hour bike ride I took gave me time to reflect and pray and served as a mental Google Calendar helping me organize the rest of my day. But you don't see that. Or perhaps now you do with this post.
"So…what do you do for a living?"
Yes, when I attend cocktail parties and speak about things like SEO and the Google search, I notice a wide-eyed interest combined with bewildered looks from folks who aren't in the same industry. I can talk about topics that are diverse — not just my kids or working out or baking or just whatever it is that people think at-home moms might.
And yet, a comment from "DH" that hinted I was living off my husband's wealth, enjoying the hot tub and steam room and all these luxuries on his dime, awakened a part of me that made me, for a moment, wish my paycheck were bigger — if only to prove that I'm not worthless, that all these hours upon hours spent slaving away to get our debt paid off would show folks that I'm not wasting my time.
"I would feel worthless if I stayed home." That's what my sister told me once. She's a mom to three girls who's had a very successful career since she graduated from college in 1989.
She didn't say it with derision or condemnation or even in a condescending manner. She said it quite quietly and in a way that lets you know a person speaking their truth is not trying to hurt you.
I totally understood where she was coming from. She, like so many women, swore they'd never, ever rely upon a man for their source of income in any way. Those are the women who probably didn't grow up with moms like mine, who, although she worked throughout her entire motherhood also believed it was a man's duty to pay the mortgage.
Old school + new school
My mom was like a combination of June Cleaver and Gloria Steinem. Born in 1931, she lived through the 1950s in segregated Chicago and was one of the first African-American women to decorate the desks of the "lily white" law firms downtown.
The '60s and '70s, especially when the Equal Rights Amendment movement showed women burning their bras in the streets, changed her a bit from a Leave It To Beaver mentality (that, honestly, was never her strong suit) into a more of an "I am woman, hear me roar" type of sassy gal. It was a good combination.
Therefore, I see all sides of this new feminist-homemaker-Lean In woman within my own psyche. I'm the type who is not a big fan of cooking but will be humble enough to bring my husband his dinner literally on a silver platter into bed and ask him if there's anything else he wants.
Other women, however, grew up with moms abandoned by their men or experienced hardships that taught them "money is power." They knew they'd never let a man hold monetary power over them ever again in life. They needed to know if they ever needed to leave they could. Money wouldn't and shouldn't be the issue or deciding factor in whether they stay in their marriage or not.
Now as a 45-year-old woman in the 21st century, I look at all these "sugar baby" and "sugar daddy" websites and shake my head.
On one hand, I almost buy into that wicked philosophy that young women in their 20s might as well take what they can get from these horny old dogs in their 50s who have more Cialis prescriptions and credit card limits than perhaps brains — at least the ones who want the pretty young things on their arms to try to prove somehow they are younger or more of a man.
But I also wish these hot, young girls could look to the future, like I wish I had. If so, they'd invest more into their own careers or their own independence.
I'm a luxury to my husband
Recently, I read a great article on Babble from a writer that spoke about how being a stay-at-home mom makes her luxury to her husband, not a hindrance.
As I made my way to grab my Emperor Acai berry smoothie with coconut, kale, spinach and two soy protein boosts, I thought about all the intrinsic benefits of a spouse who stays home as they relate to the working parent. I would easily throw a load of laundry in the washer and dryer as soon as I arrived home around 10:30 a.m., which will make it a breeze for the family to have fresh towels and clothes at the ready when needed.
There are big benefits to not having a 9-to-5 that forces one to play catch up on the weekends.
The untold positives run deeper. I don't have to compete with my husband's schedule. He can travel or work late as needed. There's no discussion about carting the children to a relatives or hiring nannies.
He knows that he has me at home, like a fixture, able to take up the slack for all those things that a corporate career compelled to the stratospheric levels of upper management might entail. It's almost a status symbol to have a wife who stays home, like having a Jaguar in the garage.
My presence makes him what companies actually call a "no-drag employee," one who doesn't have to worry about family responsibilities dragging him away from the hours and face time needed for a career.
I am whatever you say I am
Admittedly, I use that role to my advantage as needed. To those who feel like a woman's place is in the home, I can play up my housewife and "full-time mom" value, always thinking back to my loving grandmother and her kitchen filled with warmth and sweet hoecakes.
To those who wouldn't be caught dead in a bathrobe past 8 a.m., I can brag about how I've incorporated my writing business into a cash cow that has brought home $50,000 or more during particularly profitable years.
What value can you place on all the little things, like being home to haul the empty garbage cans back from the curb before noon? There are so many unseen at-home moms do, like all things my mom and Grandma did for me that I only truly really appreciated years after their deaths.
And yet I've managed to mesh all these parts of my life together into an existence that allows for a smooth sailing lifestyle — not necessarily lazy, not necessarily easy, but not a harsh life.
I often used to say when I'd hear people complain about being a stay-at-home mom that while I appreciate her sentiment, I know there's a coal miner out there that has a worse job than me. Or a mom somewhere in Bangladesh who wishes every second she could trade places with me. So I'm grateful.
Call me a Lululemon mom all you want. (Hopefully Lululemon will read this piece and send me a lifetime supply of those boss jog bras for my boot camp classes.)