Saturday, April 30, 2016

The Paradox of Being a SAHM - Am I a SAHM or Part 2

This post is part 2 of a three part series exploring the conundrum of modern motherhood. Read part 1.

Am I a SAHM?

While the "housewife" just makes sure her family is clothed and fed, the SAHM clothes hers in hand spun, vegetable-dyed, Cottage Emporium cotton and feeds them organic quinoa salads everyday. Rather than spending her day phoning her friends about her domestic accomplishments, the SAHM will flood her social media with lomo filter applied photographs of health food and responsibly-sourced clothing, and happy baby smiles. And maybe blog about it.

SAHMs, in this brave new post-housewife world, now feel the need to justify their choice to stay at home because they don't have a fat pay check to show for their domestic accomplishments. They occupy the other end of the spectrum, treating their home life with the kind of zeal most of us would reserve for monetary remuneration only.

In raising E, I find myself wanting to hone my domesticity - cook great meals, keep a reasonably organised and colour coördinated home (with pretty labels on all the things) - while retaining a part of who I was before I had E. I wonder what effect social media has to do with me wanting this. And how all of this reeks of home making in the 1970s. Smart women who, for lack of education or social stigma, were prevented from going out to work. They kept their houses gorgeous, their families nourished, and their persons stylish. All of this without Instagram.

Even if no one's ever said this to me, I often ask myself if I'm dishonouring those women of generations past who fought for my right to be educated and go to work when I could (or is it should) just pay someone to take care of my baby. After all, babies really only need food and naps and any idiot could manage that.

My mother worked outside the home, took care of us, and cooked every day. She's a neat freak so she also cleaned every day. My parents juggled it so well that one of them was always at home with me. Amma didn't need to work but did because it was important to her. Even at their busiest, my parents never left me in the care of a maid but a lot of my friends' parents did and it showed (I knew an Arab kid who spoke English with a Filipino accent because he learnt the language from his nanny).

Before we had E, the husband and had talked about gender roles and how both of us didn't want a maid to be E's primary caregiver. Since he has a few years on me in the profession, he was making better money so it made sense for him to occupy the traditional gender role of chief breadwinner. He has never, not once, made any request of me that speaks to my traditional gender role of chief nurturer. But still, it feels as though I need to earn my keep.


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