I grew up the oldest of three girls being raised by a single mother.
Momma is now retired from many years working in the Georgia Department of Behavioral Health and Developmental Services. These days, she can afford to spend as much time as she likes visiting with her grandchildren for as many days as she likes. Even so, she spent three months visiting with my family this summer. My oldest child didn’t shy from telling me that the reality of living with the both of us for that long was a bit much for her. After summer vacation ended, Jenesis asked me, “Momma, when you were a girl did Nana sit and watch television all day like she did when she was here?” The innocence of her question caused me to ponder how differently she must see her grandmother from what I witnessed as a child. I explained to my daughter that my mother had worked hard every day of my young life and she had rightfully earned the right to sit and choose to do whatever now that she is retired. I also explained that when I was a little girl, I longed for my mother to be able to attend events at my school and have lunch with me like I am able to do with my children. But my mother was never available for PTA meetings, parent lunches or school assemblies. When I left home for the military, my mother was there but then she had to go to work. So, my boyfriend’s sister actually waited with me at the airport.
I watched Good Times and The Brady Bunch as a young girl. Naturally, I paid attention to the female characters in these television shows. Like many shows of that era, the roles of the mothers in the home resembled the lives of the women of that time. Therefore, Florida Evans, the mother on Good Times, and Carol Brady lived very different lives. Florida, a black mother, was constantly looking for work to share in the responsibility of making enough income to care for their family. Carol Brady, who had twice the number of children for than Florida, was a stay at home mother. And though the life of a stay at home mother is far different from how it is portrayed on The Brady Bunch, deep down in my soul I envied The Brady Bunch. Why? I think back on that little girl who was once my daughter’s age and longed for her mother to be able to attend those special school events when I was recognized for performing scholastically well. I remember those field trips and school assemblies when the parents of my classmates showed up. I could count on which ones would be there. My mother was working.
Recently, my godmother said to me, “Black women have always had to take care of our children. We have always worked. Many can’t afford to stay home with their children.” My godmother knows that I have been blessed to be at home for all three of my children. Yet, her comment is troubling because it is not the first time that I have heard it. I think this idea that “we have to work outside the home” has perpetuated this status that being a stay at home mother is undesirable for most women, whether you identify with Florida Evans or Carol Brady. According to PEW Research Center, affluent stay at home mothers that look like me only represent 3% of the 370,000 married stay at home mothers in the United States in 2012.
Today, I quickly glanced the announcement about Ivanka Trump’s call for child care reform. I do think it is worth the conversation that we help more mothers and fathers have more options for ways they can have a family and work if they choose to do so. I watched a TEDtalk given by Jessica Shortall on the need for the US to support paid family leave. I hear her loud and clear and I agree with much of her arguments for why we should choose family. These are my reasons why I think child care should be a hot topic for 2017.
- God made us because HE chose to have a family. (Even if the human race disappoints Him over and over again). He loves His children. He commands us to multiply and replenish the earth.
- The posterity of this nation’s health and well-being depends on couples having babies.
- Men need to better support and defend the options for families, whether staying at home or working from home. If our men are better educated on the values of focus on the family then this undesirable status on stay at home parenting will radically change.
I haven’t worked a full-time job since I left the military in 2005. My choice is to stay at home with my children. Jenesis has never had a school awards assembly that I didn’t attend. I have been there for every first day of school. I am present and I am able to do so because I choose to stay at home and work. I choose family.