I am sick and tired of people saying stay-at-home motherhood is a sign of class privilege.
When my husband and I got married, I was 23. I had just graduated college and started my freelance writing career. My husband was a full-time student and line cook. Together, we made less than $20,000 a year. We got pregnant shortly after getting married, and I had no intention of giving up my budding career. However, once we took a look at the cost of daycare, we realized we would have to find another solution.
Our low income determined many of our parenting choices. There was no way we could afford a decked-out nursery, so we decided to co-sleep. Diaper service? No way—we’d have to go with disposables. Furthermore, we’d discussed my husband being a stay-at-home dad. However, I wanted to breastfeed, and we couldn’t afford a fancy pump, so logic told us I’d be the one to stay home. Plus, I was already working from home. I thought while the baby napped I’d try to sell an article here or there, but I had no delusions: I would spend the next couple of years being, first and foremost, a stay-at-home mom.
We paid for a $3000 home birth out of pocket over the course of my pregnancy instead of opting for a free hospital birth through Medicaid (take that, you who think poor people are all freeloaders). When my daughter came into the world, I was honored and delighted to be a SAHM. At first.
My husband went back to work after his two weeks of unpaid paternity leave, and suddenly I was responsible for this constantly crying newborn. She was the kind of baby who needed to be held every second. Just showering or making lunch was tricky—so doing anything work-related was laughable. Things gradually got better. Now that she’s 10 months she can keep herself entertained long enough for me to put a bra on in the morning, but my work time is still limited to when my husband or a friend can watch her. My husband has had two promotions and raises since the baby was born, but my income has catapulted in the other direction. This isn’t ideal. What we’re really experiencing is a rut.
So when I hear claims that SAHM culture and natural parenting are becoming status symbols for the wealthy, I can’t help but roll my eyes. I wish I was staying home because of our abounding riches, but that’s simply not the case.