Whenever I see the kindergarten set, I am asked one or all of these questions, rapidly:
- Why did you do that to your hair?
- Why did you paint your eyes?
- Why aren’t you at work?
This last one caught me off-guard the other day as it was posed in front of Arlo’s entire class. Suddenly 20 pairs of eyes locked on me, a kindergarten tribunal: “Yeah, Arlo’s Mom, WHY?”
“Farrah is my work!” I said, evidenced by the fact she was sitting on my lap while I was giving a presentation about Arlo, next to Arlo, in Arlo’s classroom. Calling your child “work” though never feels right and the kids were equally dissatisfied with my response. “EXPLAIN YOURSELF,” demanded 20 pairs of furrowed brows. I stammered out some nonsense before the teacher took over and generously said how being a stay-at-home parent was the hardest job of all and even made a joke about how she herself came back to work just so she could have recess breaks. I smiled – no – beamed with gratitude while also worrying about Farrah’s dangerous proximity to nap-time and Arlo’s degree of maternal attention. It never stops, people.
It is always difficult explaining stay-at-home-parenthood to someone else’s child because you wonder if he wonders, “why isn’t my mom with me?” I cringe a thousand cringes at those connections connecting but is pure ego of course, as parents and children everywhere address their family decisions with great aplomb and tenderness, and well, not every parent wants to do what I do and not every child needs what mine needs. That’s what it comes down to really – choice. When I think about working moms (ugh, that term) I think about choice and how you, devoted kindergarten teacher, doctor, real estate agent – represent freedom, the single most important thing I can offer my child, especially my daughter. As parents united, I hope I symbolize the same for your kids.