Someone Needs To Stick Up for White Picket Fences

posted in: Acceptance, Parenting | 68

Recently, I’ve been seeing a lot of articles written by stay-at-home moms and “mommy bloggers,” exploring what it is to be those things. Struggling with what it is to be those things. Not liking how the world views what it is to be those things. And defending what it is to be those things. I guess since many of us now find ourselves with our children comfortably back in school, that insane need to answer the loaded question “what do you do all day?” has made some of us feel the need to champion for ourselves.

But as for me, I don’t care to tell anyone what I do all day. Because I don’t owe anyone an explanation of what I do, or why I decided to give up my career to stay home. I am aware I appear to be the bright and shiny cliché that cool people like to mock and hipsters would rather die an early death than one day become. I’m not joking. You want to see me on paper? Behold the Cliché with a capital C:

perfect housewife
Pretty much a picture of me. Source

I am a married mother of two children, one girl and one boy. We have a dog named after a beloved literary character. We live in the suburbs. I drive a minivan. I love Starbucks. I occasionally wear yoga pants. I’m the Girl Scout leader for my daughter’s troop. I am on the PTO. I watch Real Housewives. I worship Target. We go to church. I drive my kids to sports-related events at least three times a week. I better my life through Pinterest. I blog about my children. I make my husband do all the gross things like kill bugs and pick up dog poop. I wear an apron when I bake cakes. I’ve borrowed eggs from neighbors. And…this one’s the kicker…I ACTUALLY HAVE A WHITE PICKET FENCE.

Guess what? I’m going to own it, because frankly, I am tired of being defensive about being a cliché. Things become clichéd because lots of people do them. Well, maybe lots of people do them because they’re awesome. So I’m not going to apologize for it anymore. I’m a freakin’ cliché, and I’m fabulous. So is my freakin’ minivan.

I think people, stay-at-home moms in particular, are afraid of others seeing us as this carbon copy of something because then that’s all we are to them. Whatevs. I do what a do and I am what I am. If someone wants to simply see me as a typical Girl Scout leader, teaching my daughter and her friends how to make Swaps or sing about making new friends, and ignore the fact that I’m also coaching her basketball team and making them run suicides, fine. If someone wants to see me as the typical soccer mom in my minivan and ignore the fact that inside that van, my kids and I are rocking out to Circe Link’s “Tiger Swami instead of The Lauri Berkner Band, fine. If someone wants to see me as a typical woman who gave up her career and ambitions to stay home and wipe butts, showing her daughter and son that nothing has really changed for women, and ignore the fact that doing so has ended up giving me the chance to pursue a career in writing which I always wanted but was never courageous enough to try before now, fine.  If someone wants to see me as a typical suburban chick addicted to Starbucks and ignore the fact that we just got our own espresso machine so we can make fancy coffee at home…wait, that’s kind of the same thing. We just like coffee, okay. I also really like tea. So there.

My point is that I finally realized that getting defensive about how I choose to live my life only signals to others that I’m having my own doubts about it. And I don’t have doubts. I am happy with the choices I have made. I’m going to stop worrying about someone thinking I’m a boring suburban housewife, because I am sometimes. So what? I’m going to stop apologizing for what I am and answering the question, “what do you do?” with “I’m a stay-at-home, BUT I will probably go back to teaching soon now that both kids are in school.” As if somehow adding that disclaimer at the end would keep people from assuming we are rich (why would that be bad?) or that I have no ambition. I know what is true of myself, and so do the people who matter to me. And I’m going to stop caring if someone writes me off as a “vanilla mom blogger,” because sometimes I am, and I happen to consider myself in good company. (Although those people obviously didn’t read my post about how I used to make my Barbies have sex. That at least puts me in the vanilla-chocolate swirl category.)

I don’t think any of this, people seeing me as a cliché, needs to call for outrage. In general, we all get way too outraged about things that just aren’t deserving of the emotion. (In fact, just imagine me saying all these words in my best Matthew McConaughey impression…that’s how non-outragey I am about this whole thing.)

No one needs to care how I spend my Tuesdays while my kids are at school; at the same time, I don’t need to get indignant if someone does. Maybe that person is honestly just curious, the same way I would be curious about what a physicist does all day (for the record, I don’t care what a physicist does all day). But if that person is a condescending jerkstore who somehow wants to make me feel I am single handedly bringing the feminist movement to its knees, I’m just going to let him or her be a condescending jerkstore. Getting all righteous and screamy and ragey is just going to make me the person who argues with a condescending jerkstore. And who wants to be that person? Those kind of rants have a way of getting out of control, and before you know, it turns into something like the Sinead O’Connor/Miley Cyrus Open Letter Marathon Catastrophe. And then you have to pick whether you want to be Sinead O’Connor or Miley Cyrus. In other words, your hair loses either way.


miley cyrus and sinead o'connor
By Pymouss (Own work) [CC BY-SA 3.0], via Wikimedia Commons / photo credit: DSC02032 via photopin (license)

Basically, I am going to approach my status as a stay-at-home mom, as a mommy blogger, as a cliché, the same unapologetic way I approach being a Monkees fanYeah, I am one. So suck it. End of discussion. 

Now, if you will excuse me, I have been simultaneously baking a batch of apple cider donuts that I found on Pinterest as I wrote this post, and it’s time to go artfully arrange them on a plate so I can Instagram the hell out of them.

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68 Responses

  1. sistersara

    “In general, we all get way too outraged about things that just aren’t deserving of the emotion.” —- I agree 100%!
    And…… i think it is awesome when Mom’s have the opportunity (and take it) to stay home with their kids…. I am jealous of it – and most likely so are the people who are acting all jerky about it, which is why they are being jerks about it – but i hope i am just nice jealous and not a jerk about it!! 🙂
    Also anytime anyone invites others to “SUCK IT” i get a good laugh! – So thanks for that!

    • AreYouFinishedYet

      Ha!!! I’ll be sure to say “Suck it” more often then 🙂 Thanks for your comment. Mostly, I just don’t know why the whole stay-at-home versus working thing even needs to BE a thing. Moms on both sides of the spectrum are doing amazing jobs…and some moms on both sides of the spectrum maybe not so much, but neither instance has to do with the status of their paychecks. And I feel pretty confident you wouldn’t be jerky about it. Also, there are some pretty cool things about staying home to be jealous of. Equally, there are some things about working outside the home to be jealous of as well. No one has a perfect situation, so we just need to find happiness with our own and be happy if others are content with theirs. Done deal.

  2. Katie

    Good for you! To be completely honest, when I was younger, I was pretty narrow minded about stay at home moms. Growing up with a single mom who had no choice but to work all the time, I just couldn’t imagine anything else. Now that I’m a little older and I’ve been doing this whole adulthood thing for a while, I have a new appreciation and respect for it.

    No one’s life is easy–whether your wiping butts at home or kissing someone’s ass at the office.

    • AreYouFinishedYet

      Preach it, girl. All of us can only picture motherhood the way we experienced it as a kid until we get older. And for a lot of us, the way we experienced it is the “ideal” or favored way. I grew up with a stay-at-home mom, and I loved it. So naturally, I wanted to do that for my kids if I could (granted, they might NOT love it so much…who knows). But kids who grew up seeing their moms bring home the bacon likely admired them for that, and want to be that kind of example for their own children. It’s all good. And neither way is something for anyone to get their panties in a bunch about.

  3. zeudytigre

    * applause *
    I love being a stay at home mom and feel privileged to have that option. I don’t understand how more people aren’t aspiring to the life I lead rather than dropping condescending comments in my direction at every opportunity.

  4. Anne Nestor Blind

    Kelly, I agree with you 100%. It really shouldn’t matter to anyone but you. And as a Mom who HAD to work when her kids were young… I always wanted to be a Stay at home Mom and always wanted a white picket fence. I remember when Mike and I were buying our first house we wanted some advice from my Dad (as we always did). He said, “Can you afford the payments on one salary?” My response was , “Well no Dad, I’ll still have to work.” Of course him being from his generation he didn’t approve. I eventually won him over because right before he died he told me how proud he was that I was able to both and do a damn good job of it – as only he could. It meant the world to me because for years I felt guilty that I had to leave my babies on a daily basis (at least 9 months a year). Of course (and you may have heard this too) there were those that said being teacher was an easy job, hours are pretty good, benefits (for most) are pretty good, and you get June, July, and August off! Really… What about the mounds of paperwork that had to be done after your kids were asleep, the workshops that had to be attended during the summer and on and on). But I am thankful that I had that job because it did allow me time be be involved.
    But what I was most thankful for (and yes jealous) were the stay at home moms that got to be room mothers and go on field trips and those great ones that allowed me to drop my kids off so that they could get them to school for me or yes, even watch them so I could “work” … Like they were doing “nothing” (being school nurse, lunchroom duty, recess duty, laundry, shuffling kids schedules, coaching,etc.)
    So thank you all you “Stay at Home Moms” that make it easier for al of us that have or had to work!

    • AreYouFinishedYet

      Absolutely. It really does take a village. The world needs moms in every shape, form and capacity to get sh*t done…whether it’s in the workplace, or the carpool line, or wherever. And I’m going to quickly step away from the teaching is an easy job remarks…because as I said…outrage just isn’t healthy 🙂

  5. kathy sack

    As a Mom who stayed at home and worked (sounds like an oxymoron), I think it is wonderful to have the choice. Not everyone does, I know many women who have to work to pay the bills, and they are not just working for the big screen TV and fancy vacation. I know Moms who wish they could stay home, and Moms who are fulfilled and happy working outside the home. I guess my issue is with the title working mom as if the at-home mom isn’t doing anything. SHe is, and she is so important to the lives she touches. When my boys were young, I found some people very critical of me for working outside the home and having some one else care for the boys while I was at work. Working for me was something I did with joy and it made me a better Mom when I was home. I was lucky to be able to have very flexible hours, I don’t know if I would have been so happy if I had not had that. I could still be room mom and get the guys to their activities and let them have friends over, and get the laundry done and bake cookies and on and on. You have nothing to apologize for, ever, for your choice. I think that Moms need to support each other, no matter what our choices. And we need to remember that we will all second guess our decision at times. Just know that our children will survive our angst, and the most important thing is to love them. Somehow, they manage to survive , no matter what we decide to do. So whether you work outside the home, or in it, you are doing the best you can. And each of us needs to acknowledge the sacrifices of our fellow moms.

    • AreYouFinishedYet

      Brilliantly said, Kathy. Some moms must work outside the home, some moms want to work outside the home, some moms have the choice and want to stay home, some moms feel like they should stay home. Motherhood is like anything else, full of people who all have different choices and needs and wants. That’s why I always think the “debate” is so silly, and in the grand scheme of things, I don’t care if someone else wants to look down on the choice I made as “cliched”…because that’s THEIR hangup, not mine. I

  6. CJ

    I’ve actually been composing in my head this morning a blog post with a very similar sentiment to yours. Since you beat me to the punch, I can just sit back and have another cup of tea and enjoy reading your post again. (Or I could write mine, too, since as a homeschooling mom, I rarely get “what do you do all day?” but I do get, “are you a religious wacko or just a plain old wacko?” (not in so many words, but that’s the upswing) which inspires another flavor of defensive. I also rarely get time to finish a cup of tea, but that’s another matter.)

    • AreYouFinishedYet

      Ha! That happens to me a lot. I have an idea and then I see someone write about it. We all must be somehow in tune. But you should still write it…everyone has their own take on things, and it’s great to hear what other people think about the situation. And you have a unique perspective being a homeschooling mom!

  7. jmlindy422

    Awesome! I haven’t gotten what do you do all day, but my kids think that I just sit around waiting for them to come home and tell me what to do. I read a Facebook post from another SAHM stating that she was going to “punch the next person who asks me what I do all day in the throat.” That’s a bit extreme, I think. Better to write a post about how insane it is to question others and then tell them to suck it.

    • AreYouFinishedYet

      I don’t get the urge to punch people very often, and the question about what I do all day certainly doesn’t inspire that urge. And that’s pretty funny that your kids think you just sit at home waiting for them to get back. Because moms have no life outside of their children. We definitely don’t go shopping for shoes without them, or read books in peace, or watch all the shows we don’t want them to watch. And things like laundry and dishes and such just magically get done my little elves.All the while, we are just waiting, barely being able to contain ourselves for the moment our offspring walks back through that door. (P.S. Please never tell my kids that when I notice it is 2:30 I sometimes think, “Crap. It’s time.”)

  8. The Waiting

    This is awesome. Do you know what I love about you, Kels? I love the fact that you AREN’T screamy. That is so hard to come by these days, in life but also in blogging. The irony of blogging is that many people do it because they have felt ostracized and isolated in their quirks their entire lives (myself included) and they use blogging as a way to be embraced for what makes them different. But then, they turn around and arbitrarily criticize everything that they may not understand – white picket fences included – in the exact same way that they were always criticized. What did white picket fences or Pinterest or soccer ever do to them? Nothing. These things are not inherently evil or less-than.

    • AreYouFinishedYet

      Very good point. And yes, blogging does seem to bring the rage out in some people. It’s just not my cup of tea. However, you have obviously never gotten me going on the topic of The Monkees not being in the Rock ‘n’ Roll Hall of Fame. Then you might see some screamy, ragey behavior. But who could blame me?

  9. mamabro

    You know oddly enough I haven’t gotten the comment of “what do you do all day?” But since I am usually out with my three girls who are currently all under 3 or out with my 5 kids who are 7 and under, I get the comments of “I don’t know how you do it.” “You’re brave” and my favourite “You do know what birth control is right?” Ya I almost karate chopped him in the throat 🙂

    Excellent post!!!

    • AreYouFinishedYet

      Oh, what the freak??? It boggles my mind that people say rude stuff like that out loud. I think the “what do you do?” question doesn’t rear its head as often when parents still have little ones at home, especially multiple little ones. But once kids get to be school aged, that’s when a lot of people are like, “You have all this free time from 8:00-3:00. Do you go to the club and play tennis.” Yes. That’s totally what I do.

  10. RFL

    This: “I know what is true of myself, and so do the people who matter to me. And I’m going to stop caring if someone writes me off as a “vanilla mom blogger,” because sometimes I am, and I happen to consider myself in good company.” All day long.

  11. Shannon

    I’m not even a SAHM–just a SAHW–and I feel defensive about it quite often.

    After getting an education and working/supporting myself for the last two decades I’m not sure why I feel bothered by my current status. I paid my dues, you know?

    And it’s not that I don’t work–I’m self-employed. But I don’t “go to work” every day and much of my money-earning can now be done sitting in my pj’s with a kitty on my lap. And my money-earning isn’t what it used to be when I had a full-time, salaried position with benefits.

    But it works for me and my husband and really it shouldn’t be anyone else’s business. Yet I feel judged. Like I’m not ambitious enough. In some ways, the feminist movement did a lot to disempower women by making them feel they’re only valuable and important if they have a career outside the home. Blah to that!

    • AreYouFinishedYet

      I can agree with that. And you know, it’s not even about paying your dues. I think any person who finds herself in the fortunate situation of being able to do what she really wants to do, regardless of pay, would jump on that in a heartbeat. Some people thrive on and feel fulfilled by high-paying, long-hour jobs…some don’t. Some feel fulfilled working outside the home, some don’t. There are so many people in the world stuck in situations that don’t fulfill them. So those of us who are lucky enough to escape that shouldn’t have to feel defensive about it…but we should feel very grateful for it, and not take it for granted. I mean, seriously…anyone who can work in their pj’s is revered by me 🙂

  12. Korisa

    Amen, Kel! “I’m a freakin’ cliche, and I’m fabulous” = my new motto perhaps? Poetic genius! And I agree: I’d rather keep my hair than be Miley or Sinead…

  13. Stephanie

    You actually have a white picket fence?? EVEN BETTER. I couldn’t agree more with this post, and I have a lot to say: 1) “Staying at home” is not easy and some people literally can’t do it. And that’s OK but judging those who do is BS. 2) I’m in a similar boat because I’m not working and I don’t have children.. and I hear the “what do you do with your time” a lot, and most of the time, it’s sheer curiosity but still stings. 3) The fact that being a SAHM opened a door to writing for you is such a gift. 4) Starbucks and Target are for winners. 5) You are most certainly vanilla/chocolate swirl girl!

    In conclusion (cause this is an essay) and in my humble opinion, sometimes the most feminist choice is the one where the woman does what makes her happy. If that means the same thing as her grandmother, then so be it. It speaks nothing to the choice of the woman next to her.

    • AreYouFinishedYet

      Oh my gosh, I love what you said at the end. Especially, “it speaks nothing to the choice of the woman next to her.” That’s brilliant. And I can imagine you get that question quite a lot. You have my permission to tell people to suck it 🙂 And yes…Target and Starbucks ARE for winners.

  14. Angie

    What would the children of the world do without the benefit of mothers and fathers who love them and want the best for them? We may each have our own definition of what that means but it is definitely true that we all want our kids to be happy. I remember just wanting “my kids to be happy”. Unfortunately, I didn’t have a clue what really that meant except in a materialistic, feel good way.
    I can’t wait until the world out there begins to realize that moms at home (and dads, too) should be financially remunerated for continuing our society and our world and doing the most important work raising competent, moral, mature people we all want to
    You have nothing to be embarrassed about. You should be very proud of your family.
    Now lets give accolades about the heroic work our “go to work every day” dads do!

    • AreYouFinishedYet

      Those go-to-work dads are pretty amazing. Actually, anyone who goes to work every day to support their family does a great thing. Actually, anyone who does right by their family in whatever way they can is doing a great thing. With so many pitfalls in the world today, I don’t know why we continue to pick on people for stupid stuff, people who are doing a good job in the grand scheme of things…however that looks for their family,

  15. Anna Lea West

    I love that you know who you are and OWN it. So refreshing and wonderfulvilleness (I like to make already good words better by adding random endings … and you’ll grow to love it, too). Simply awesome! 🙂

  16. Holli

    What a great post! I can relate to feeling judged, but as mother who works outside the home. I don’t think any one of us should feel this way. No apology or explanation for what you do is required! Anyone who makes those types of assumptions about a SAHM is clearly perpetuating the stereotype. Shame on them. PS-I love Starbucks too and put cups over spiders to let the man of the manor deal with them.

    • AreYouFinishedYet

      See? It’s so dumb. We judge the moms that stay home. We judge the moms who work outside the home. I think the only situation that is generally accepted (but not always, I’m sure they get their fair share of criticism as well) is moms who work a paying job from home. But seriously, Judgey McJudgePants need to just step off and let us do our thing. Unless that thing is killing spiders.

  17. Gretchen Kelly

    Love this. I am working on a post about feminism not being a dirty word. Your comment about about “bringing the feminist movement to it’s knees” resonated with me. Do people not get that it’s all about doing what works best for you, for your family…. it doesn’t negate equality of any kind…. Also, we (women) need to be supporting each other, not knocking each other down. I never understood “the mommy wars”. You don’t hear about “the daddy wars”! Great post!

    • AreYouFinishedYet

      Very true. And I guess I can see that people super entrenched in the feminist movement would look at someone like me with disappointment, because those who aren’t enlightened to the equality of the sexes can point to me as an example in their favor. Or maybe they are disappointed that I don’t seem to be taking advantage of the opportunities women before me didn’t have. But I don’t live my life to prove a point for someone else. And I do think you are right in that the major goal of the feminist movement was that women had choice within their circumstances. And I do. So I’m very thankful for that. Looking forward to your post!

      • jmlindy422

        If you’re writing about how feminism isn’t a dirty word, then look up was Gloria Steinem said was the goal of women’s liberation. It wasn’t really about liberating just women; it was about liberating everyone from the shackles that gender roles put on us. She said that children didn’t need less of mom, but that they needed more of dad. I can’t remember where I found those words, but I bet you could google it and find them pretty easily. And now I have to go follow another blog so I can see this post when it comes out!

        • AreYouFinishedYet

          I love that…they don’t need less of mom, they need more of dad. That’s so true. My kids definitely benefit from having the influence of my husband balance out what I throw them on a daily basis 🙂

    • AreYouFinishedYet

      Aw, thanks!!! It’s a totally fun idea. I was happy Rara asked me to do it, even though I totally put it off and sent it to her at midnight last night. I briefly looked at the post but am about to head over there to look at the others more closely and visit some blogs. 🙂

    • AreYouFinishedYet

      Sadly, they were a bit of a disappointment. I had these super amazing apple cider donuts at a fruit farm in Michigan a few summers ago. I still have dreams about them. I found this recipe, and the blogger actually talked about trying to replicate some apple cider donuts SHE had had at a fruit farm (not the same one, but still). So I thought for sure I had hit the jackpot. But they just ended up tasting like apple muffins. Sigh.

    • AreYouFinishedYet

      Thank you! Yes, I’ve heard that some women worry about that “gap” when going back into the workforce, especially for certain professions where things change rapidly. But I guess the way I look at it is that if a potential employer has an issue with a gap, all the defending in the world isn’t going to change her/his mind. You have to find an employer who is open to the fact that you’ve made that decision in the first place. And if that doesn’t happen, you find a new option for yourself. We all have to accept the consequences our choices yield. Those consequences may not always be fair, but the older I get, the more I believe that we have to be truly adaptable creatures to have happiness in our lives. Hoping this situation ISN’T an issue for you. Many women successfully return to the workforce after staying home. I know quite a few of them, and may just be one myself someday. Good luck!!!

  18. rarasaur

    Stay at home moms are awesome! I’m always confused by the perception that SAHMs are living their life based on what their neighbors say– it seems like in this world, they’re the ones swimming upstream. Loved the post! And white picket fences.

    • AreYouFinishedYet

      Thanks, Rara. I guess mostly I’m just not sure why so many people concern themselves with the way others live their lives, or what is so wrong about sometimes being a stereotype, when there’s nothing inherently wrong with the stereotype in the first place. It kind of goes along with what we were talking about with labels. Labels aren’t always bad…neither are cliches. And white picket fences are pretty darn cute. It’s hard to argue with it.

  19. Sue

    Flat out awesome post. Found you via Dawn’s blog TFTML. I was a stay at home mom for many years. Drove countless minivans (seriously – my husband has a car fetish – I probably have had 6 minivans, not to mention a station wagon, a full size van, and a couple sedans while my kids were younger)and even did daycare in my home for a while after my kids went back to school. And yes, often felt judged for choosing to stay home with my children instead of having a career – like I was ‘less’ of a person. Even now, when I tell people, they shake their heads and say “Oh, I could never do that”. Now I have a career selling commercial furniture and trying to jump start one in writing, and I miss those days home with my little ones. You never get that time back. On another note – I also made my Barbies have sex…lol.

    • AreYouFinishedYet

      You’re right…you never get that time back. Which is precisely why I don’t regret any of it, even the rough parts. And since posting about my Barbies having sex, I am loving how many others are “coming out of the closet.” I feel very normal about the whole situation now. Thanks for visiting from Dawn’s blog!!! I love new visitors!

  20. ginjuh

    I just had to share this awesome post on Facebook for my stay at home girls. I stayed at home for a couple of years. The hardest part was feeling like I had to have the perfect answer for strangers who’d request an itemized account of my time, reminding myself that what worked great for my family was, well, for my family and that that was enough. I don’t give a rip what you do all day, but I’m glad blogging is part of it.

  21. rachealizations

    The next time some impolite douchebucket asks what you do all day, just say “I rock.” And “suck it.” Because that’s just awesome.

    And personally, I don’t feel I’m advancing the feminist movement by working 60 hours a week for some condescending jerkwad who underpays me and doesn’t promote me.

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