Thursday, November 6, 2014

The Perks of Stay at Home Mothering, an Open Letter to the President

Dear Mr. President,

So, you gave a speech last weekend, huh? And . . . three, two, one, BOOM went the mommy wars.

I'm pretty sure you didn't intend to say that being a stay at home mom isn't "a choice we want Americans to make." I mean, that IS what you said, but it can't be what you MEANT to say. Right? I'm pretty sure you MEANT to say that parents shouldn't be forced to choose between being able to care for their children and being able to provide for them.

Being a stay at home mom is a choice *I* made. I knew when I made it that it would mean I would have less money-earning potential over the course of my lifetime. I'm fortunate in that we are able to afford to make that choice. I don't want you to worry about me Mr. President.

In fact, I think you might want to be jealous of me.

Because, maybe I DON'T get a paycheck . . . but I'd happily pit the perks of my job against the best of those offered to working gals in corporate America.

Here are some of the "BEST PERKS AT TOP EMPLOYERS" according to Business Insider. Let's take a look, shall we?

1. Google has free food, a bowling alley, and bocce courts.

"Among other benefits, employees can help themselves to whatever's in the overflowing food pantries or cafeterias and use the company's bocce courts, bowling alleys, or gyms."

I TOTALLY get food at my workplace, whenever I want. And I get to pick exactly what food is available. If I want goldfish crackers and a root beer float for lunch, I can have it. If I want a bowl of Cap'n Crunch and a glass of Pinot Noir, I can have that. And WE have a trampoline and a treehouse and 567,894 Legos and I get to use them.



2. Chesapeake Energy has an indoor rock climbing wall.

Okay, okay, MY rock climbing wall is outdoors. But I live in Los Angeles, so our outdoors is better than your indoors, right? Plus, I have a sandbox. And a rope swing.



3. General Mills employees can work from any space they choose within the office.

"The company has begun to adopt the FUSE (Flexible User Shared Environment) program, where employees can sit and work wherever they want in the corporate headquarters."

ME TOO! I get to work in ALL the places in my environment. I get to work from my kitchen, my bedroom, the garage. . . . Hey, *I* even get to work from my BATHROOM. Take THAT General Mills. (No hard feelings, though. I like your cereals.)



4. Campbell Soup Company has on-site kindergarten and after-school programs.

"Campbell also has on-site fitness centers and day care centers, as well as a full kindergarten program, after school program for kids six to 12 years old, and a lactation room for nursing mothers."

Hah, Campell Soup Company! I'll see your "on-site kindergarten" and raise you an on-site second grade, an on-site fourth grade, an on-site fifth grade, and an on-site seventh grade. PLUS an on-site pre-school and on-site infant care. And this whole PLACE is just one lactation room after another, as far as the eye can see . . .



5. The J.M. Smucker Company holds bowling nights and softball games for its employees.

I get bowling nights, plus movie nights, and game nights, and dance parties, and birthday parties, and court-side / 50 yard line season tickets for a wide variety of sporting events. A VERY wide variety. I can go to a sporting event just about every day of the week.



6. Johnson & Johnson offers private concierge services to its employees.

"At the family company Johnson & Johnson, 12,000 employees have access to a concierge service that will see to it that their chores get done. This ranges from returning overdue library books to making sure your dry cleaning gets picked up on time."

I've got this too. Now, it didn't come right away. It took a few years to reach a seniority level at which I started getting some "concierge service." Note to self: start calling it that.

Well, that's not true. The complimentary wake up service started right away.

But then, about three years in I also started getting laundry put away for me, and trash cans emptied, and clean silverware put away. By seven years in I was getting laundry sorted, and dishes done, and some meal preparation. By ten years in I got errands run (library books and EVERYTHING), no kidding cooking and laundry, cars washed, babysitting . . . the works.

It's awfully nice.



7. Mattel, Inc. allows its employees to take paid time off for their kids' school field trips.

"Mattel is devoted to the happiness and futures of employees' children. Employees can . . . take advantage of a program that offers 16 hours of paid time off for school-related absences like parent-teacher conferences or field trips."

Sixteen hours? Is that per YEAR? Jeesh. I get like ten hours a WEEK off for school-related field trips. And the husband and I make a point of having parent-teacher conferences, like, all the time. I would even go so far as to argue that my own family is even MORE dedicated to the happiness and future of my children than is the Mattel Corporation.



8. Microsoft Corporation has a very generous paid maternity and paternity leave.

"The Microsoft Corporation gives new parents at the company generous maternity and paternity leave, but what sets Microsoft apart from other companies in this regard is that the leave is paid, rather than unpaid. Microsoft also provides a network of support systems, such as mentoring programs for parents."

I've had seven babies, and each time, I've had the generous support of my husband, my parents, my in-laws, my neighbors, and my friends to help me, all without ever getting my pay docked. I have people who'll stay with my older kids while I'm in the hospital. I have people who come and pick up my kids and take them over to play at their houses, so I can have some alone time with the baby. I have weeks' worth of meals delivered, hot and fresh and at my doorstep. All for free. And I do the same for my friends when they have babies. It's lovely how it all works out. Support systems. We got 'em.

Plus, my boss is the GREATEST.



So don't you worry about me and my choices Mr. President. I'm good. I'm sure you could find something else to spend your time and resources upon. Like, and I'm just throwing this out there, like encouraging the kind of workplace flexibility that would allow parents who need it to be caregivers AND providers for their children. That would be awesome.

Please give my best to the family.

Cheers,
Kendra Tierney

p.s. Hey, working mamas. I don't know your situation, but I'm pretty sure you love your kids just as much as I do and are trying to make the best choices for your family. I feel lucky to stay home with my kids. I know it's not something every family can make happen. Hopefully you can still enjoy pictures of an almost forty year old woman jumping on a trampoline.



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55 comments:

  1. I've done both. Staying at home is a choice, much like finding a job and going to work is a choice. Bills don't magically pay themselves. A decade ago it made sense to work, but we did the math and it didn't. Now my kids are older, it makes sense I should be working again. I volunteer with a stipend, but its not work.

    People may like their job/careers, but we do it for the paycheck. Being a parent working or at home isn't about money.

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  2. Yes, being a parent is work. You can't get fired, though. Then again you can't quit or leave.

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  3. Even as a working mother just the perks of my motherhood in general outweigh my earning potential. I could go back to school or try for a more demanding, higher salary job - but I love the flexibility, ease and low stress of my lower paying job. I could care less about my long term earning potential even being employed right now - as long as when I'm working to help meet financial needs of my family I can meet them.

    I've said it once and I'll say it a thousand times, as a working mother I don't want more daycare or more earning potential - I want the job market to be more understanding of mothers and the needs of the family; whether a mom needs to work or needs to take a long term break from her field we need to do more to support more time with the family, not less.

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    1. More understanding of mothers AND FATHERS and the need of the family! Both my husband and I have full time jobs outside the home, and we are fortunate that we each have work environments supportive of our family priorities. If it were just me that were the one always taking time off if the kids were sick, or just me who was not given the stink-eye for leaving at 5 pm, or just me who [whatever], it would be soooooo much more difficult.

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    2. That is actually what he suggested first in his speech, that all employees (male or female) should have the right to be there for their families as needed without being financially penalized.

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    1. Its not just money. For all we know, it could be economicly feasable to hire a full-time nanny.

      It's NOT just the money, it's the social supports!

      The biggest indicator in economic mobility is nongovernmental social supports.

      Over the past few years I helped a working mom who was finishing her degree. Her husband also worked and here and there she needed someone to pick up/watch the kids for 30 minutes. Here and there, just as needed.

      At her graduation party, she was so thankful because of that help she finished her degree.

      A reliable family member, friend, or nieghbor in walking distance is PRICELESS

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    3. Allison, I totally get what you're saying. My husband is working on his phd and we have two kids under 4. I stay home because even if I got a job (I have a BA in English Lit), ALL my paycheck would most likely go towards child care. It is ridiculously expensive where we are! So I stay home, but as a TA and student, my husband doesn't make enough for us to live on (this is while taking out MAX student loans) so we swallowed our pride and applied for public assistance. Kind of a lose-lose situation for us, but I still feel blessed to live in a country where that safety net is in place for those of us who need temporary assistance while trying to better our education (even if we are going into boatloads of debt while doing it). It can be hard to look at posts like these and not let jealousy creep in, or a sense of "unfairness", but we all have our own crosses to bear and seasons of life. This is HER experience with being a stay-at-home Mom. Not everyone's. And knowing how loving and encouraging Kendra is, I don't think she is making light of anyone else's struggle or taking her blessings for granted. :)

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    4. I second you on that, Neely! We're in the same situation; my husband is getting a PhD, so right now he's a student and TA. As ridiculous as it seems to some of our friends and family, I stay home with our six-month-old girl. And while we don't currently need to take advantage of public assistance, we absolutely WOULD, in a heartbeat, if we needed public assistance in order for me to stay home with our baby. Having me at home with her is all-important to us, as it is to you! I agree, we are blessed to live in a country wealthy enough to have that safety net, and I won't stand for anyone bashing people who take advantage of assistance. Period. God bless :)

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    5. Okay that was kind of a tangent, sorry, so I do want to add that I also don't think Kendra is making light of people's struggles. I think comparing office perks was an entertaining, clever, and unique spin on a very hot topic that's been making rounds on mommy blogs for the last couple days. Obviously, she's not writing the definitive critique of the President's comment, nor is she offering an exhaustive comparison of working a job or staying at home.

      I think she and everyone reading her blog are in agreement that some mothers *need* to work in order to make ends meet, and that's just the sad reality, and of course perks don't factor in. They don't have a choice. And yes, she's able to stay home because she is privileged. All moms who can stay home, who don't have to work, are (even me, and I don't have much ;) ). Anyways. Like I said, the blog post is what it is, let's not critique it as something it's not.

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    6. Renee, and Allison, and Neely, Thanks ladies. I do understand that I'm very fortunate to be able to stay home with my kids. I wish that the focus of government programs to help parents would be tax credits and workplace flexibility, so that mothers really do have GOOD choices.

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    7. Allison asked me to remove her comments from this thread. So, I did. Thanks Neely and Hannah for your comments. That is absolutely the spirit in which I meant this post to be taken. :)

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    8. I thought it was hilarious, Kendra! And I may or may not have eaten cereal and washed it down with a little red wine. Just sayin'. ;)

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  5. Right on! I feel with relative certainty that Mr. President didn't intend what his words actually said (he's not great at off-prompter speaking). I sort of chuckle when I think about having to quit my job because quality preschool isn't available. I mean, I didn't mind leaving them in sub-standard 6-week old through preschool care, but now, as they reach preschool age, I just can't stomach it anymore and NOW I am forced to make the choice to stay home. (Heavy sarcasm)

    I worked because I had to and I found the best chilcare I could afford while still allowing me to meet my family's needs as sole, then primary, breadwinner. When working became a choice...the choice was clear as to which job had the better benefits and was more to my liking. My stay at home job is the best...and we don't even have a trampoline, but we do live in Michigan so we have sledding and outdoor ice skating. Though, when working outside the home was required (and I worked in a professional environment), the concierge service (when reasonably priced) was my favorite perk. Because I still hate going to the dry cleaners.

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  6. Well if this isn't the most adorable thing ever.... I've got a pretty sweet boss, too!

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  7. I think the important thing is whether or not it is a choice people are able to make. About 57% of all college graduates are women. Which means more women are graduating college (quite possibly with a good amount of DEBT) and probably intending to join the workforce. And it is all good until we decide to have a family. And then the choice is almost GONE for most of us. It is hard to miss something you never thought you would want. We are told that a balance is possible, that it is easy, but really it is not. And those issues really affect the future children you may be able to have. It means another child care expense. It means saving the little paid time off you have to not go on unpaid maternity leave. Because perhaps some women earn more than their husbands. Perhaps we are the ones who provide health and dental insurance for our families. Not even including the heartbreak over handing over your infant for someone else to care for because you have to return to work. If people like you are able to chose to stay at home and make it work; that is TRULY GREAT! However, we can't miss the point. Our country is way behind on parental leave and family friendly work places. I think that is probably what he was trying to say. And that is just 100% true!

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    1. I have to agree. It may not have been your intention, Kendra, but the flippant tone of your post really just dismisses the struggles of the people who were actually being addressed in that speech.

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  8. Love this! I'm a little jealous of your trampoline, I might have to approach 'the boss' about getting one of those for our workplace ;)

    And, um, your boss is freakin adorable! Good thing it's not inappropriate for you to kiss and cuddle the boss when you're a SAHM, haha!

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  9. Jeez, there seems to be a high level of nepotism in you workplace... ;)

    I do think the president's remark was a result of poor wording, and he wanted to say that nobody should feel that their only options are to quit their job or send their kids to a crappy daycare. BUT, he (like many people) doesn't really seem to appreciate the benefits stay-at-home parents offer their family and society, or the idea that staying home full-time can be desirable and fulfilling. I think responding to that attitude, as you do here, is a much more interesting conversation than the sensationalist outrage over his poorly-worded comment.

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  10. Microsoft's month of paid paternity leave is absolutely amazing though, just saying :)

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  11. I totally agree! Best job ever, and I feel very blessed that my husband and I can make choices that allow me to stay at home and homeschool. The time with my kids is priceless (and loud and exhausting) but worth it!

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  14. You have to admit some of the corporate perks are pretty great though. I mean, the marquee benefits at Google, like the free food and indoor slide are nice I guess, but as a family we've appreciated the 4-months fully-paid paternity leave (women get 5 months fully paid plus 12 weeks FMLA if they so choose) and the nap rooms, which mean that even if he gets up in the middle of the night with our toddler, he can still get some shut eye there. He also gets unlimited sick days and the ability to work from home when he needs. I work full-time from home on East Coast hours so I can be with my kids in the afternoon, but he has way way way more flexibility than me. I have to tell my boss if I'm taking a coffee break; his whole office is a coffee break. Anyways, many of the corporate "family friendly" perks are really just token accommodations, but there are some companies that make working families lives much easier.

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    1. also they have a resistance pool and a complete T. rex skeleton on campus, which his just silly.

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  15. I think an important distinction is how we define the mom's roll-- is it to advance in her career, with that being the highest priority, while still being a mom? Then, yeah, one needs to look at what businesses are doing to support that choice. BUT, if the mom's roll is primarily that of raising children, the adults of the future, then we need to look at what *society* is doing to support that. I strongly believe that my roll is my children first. I will spend my prime years raising my children. Then, by the time they are out of the house, I will help them and their children, and enjoy my retirement. It seems to me that society, our American culture, places paid careers as the apex in society, when it should be that culture exists to support the family, and society's future. If society made that (the raising of children) as the priority for moms, then laws and cultural practice will shift to make that possible.

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    1. Renee, this is exactly what I wanted to say. Beautifully worded!

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  16. I wish bloggers would stop twisting the president's speech and taking things out of context....Kimberly Michelle has written THE BEST take on this whole thing....please read!!
    http://www.kimberlymichelle.com/2014/11/05/another-mommy-war-but-this-time-ill-jump-in/

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  17. This is an awesome post in response to the one line in Obama's speech. I don't agree with that line either when it stands alone without the context of the rest of his speech, and I'm not at all a fan of the Obama administration. However, after reading his full speech here: http://www.snopes.com/politics/obama/sahm.asp, I understand what he was saying within the broader scope, which is that women should have the *choice* to work and not feel forced to stay home solely because of a lack of affordable and trustworthy resources for their child's care or education. Like you, I believe 100% that whenever possible a mom should be home with their children. I'm personally planning to homeschool mine. I am all for getting riled up over injustice, particularly when it comes to our children and their future. This is one case, however, where I think the broader scope of the speech needs to be taken into consideration. I do love your blog and am grateful for your passion!

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    1. You're totally right Kelly. I know that within the context of the whole speech, what the president said isn't something I disagree with. I agree with his assessment of the problems, I'm just don't know that I trust his solutions. Still, this post was just my attempt to bring a little levity to a tense debate.

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    2. I'm with you. I wish that his solution was more in the direction of promoting the family unit rather than continuing to split the family by having two parents who are financially forced to work. I have seen more and more women make the choice to stay home when they are able, forgoing the high paying and prestigious jobs to care for and even home educate their children. That gives me hope. I admire your family's commitment and wish you many blessings on this wonderful but sometimes difficult road.

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  18. I love this. My husband actually does work for Google, and sometimes I'm a bit jealous of the snacks and stuff (he does get to bring me to lunch there now and then), but like you say-- my job has even more perks than his if I look at it from the right angle.

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  19. "The complimentary wake up service started right away." bwhahaha. It did indeed.

    I sincerely doubt Obama meant to say no American should stay home with her kids, but I DO think he probably wants us in the workforce. More employed workers (us and then whoever cares for our kids) plus we'd put them in school. From a financial perspective, that is better. The article you linked to points out that it's just never going to be free to have someone reliable care for your kids, and if that's what he's hoping for, sounds like wishful thinking to me.

    I'm someone who doubts Obama's commitment to what's really best for individual families. After all, the main thing we've gotten from this administration is free birth control for everyone. It's not too hard to see the expectation that we'll use it and just need less childcare.

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    1. I disagree that more employed workers is better for the country financially. The more people there are in the workforce, the less jobs there are availble and the higher the rates of unemployment and underemployment. I also think that a glut of people in the workforce means employers can pay lower wages, hence propogating the cycle of unemployment and underemployment because less families can survive on just 1 income. I think the high rate of unemployment our nation is currently experiencing is partly due to the fact that there is a much higher percentage of working adults than there were in times past and there just aren't enough jobs to support that high a percentage of working adults.

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    2. Amelia, this just isn't supported by the evidence. Historically, the unemployment rate has been up or down a few percentage points from its current value all the way back to the 40s, if you go by sketchier data, the unemployment rate was 7.2 percent in 1900. It's only that we became accustomed to extremely low unemployment rates during the Clinton Era that we perceive them as remarkably high now. Also, your assessment assumes that new workers don't provide value, that jobs are just something that are doled out and that the amount of work to do is relatively fixed. But in fact, in a functioning economy, workers create value and new innovations, which then creates demand for more goods, which creates more work to do. I also think that right now, there is no "glut" of people seeking employment. The people who do have jobs are overworked and exhausted, but companies have no incentive to hire more people because they can scrape by and pocket the profits -- they have no legal obligations to provide livable jobs with decent work hours, sick time, time for family, etc... At some point you do get to a point where each additional worker is not contributing much value to the economy because they are marginal, under qualified, or unemployed for very good reasons, but at that point you start to see things like inflation set in, which there has been no sign of for years.

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  20. Kendra. The pictures. I'm dying!!!!!! All over lactation room????? 🙌

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  21. This post was great. Had me smiling the whole way through. Your boss is absolutely adorable and you are such a stunning mama (tangent, I know, but true! :)) It's sad you had content to write this in the first place. Women are continually being pit against each other or being made to feel like whatever they are doing is not enough. There is a war on women, but the media and our culture at large are completely missing the mark. All we can do is keep on living our feminine genius and pray that value will be restored. :)

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  22. Living in a country where you have a choice to work outside the home or not, is a privilege we all share. We have made choices since adolescence that lead us to the point where we are as adults. If you want to be a stay-at-home mom and you can work with your husband to figure out how to make it happen then great. Not everyone can and it would be wonderful to have more supportive business environments for these and other women who just want/need more balance. Both moms and dads have it rough working while their children are young and if you are a single mom obviously you have a rougher road. We all have different circumstances and different challenges and this is a hugely complex issue. Choosing to stay at home is a sacrifice for all families who choose that. 34% of stay-at-home moms are living in poverty.The choice for some to stay-at-home and live on assistance is a function of our broken welfare system (where families don't qualify for assistance if they are intact or have dual incomes but they do qualify when dad is gone). In other instances the choice to stay at home follows years of schooling, college and higher education debt, and lots of hard work for both the paid and the unpaid parent. I am a full-time mom with a PhD who does feel like this is the best job ever. My husband worked very hard to acquire two masters degrees and works well more than the 40 hour week to provide for our family. We don't travel Europe or eat in fabulous restaurants but that isn't our goal in life. Stay-at-home moms are not just a bunch of "privileged white women" or a "paycheck sitting at home". Where one woman sees privilege, others see squandered opportunities, and yet others see that being a full-time mom means a lifetime of sacrifice and a beautiful example of having the right priorities.

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  23. While I agree that better workforce parental leave and free childcare and options to help moms work is a GOOD thing.

    Ultimately, I think it's BETTER for society as a whole if having a SAHP (doesn't have to be the mom) is more attenable for more families. Wages (for those in professional professions) should be high enough and housing costs should be low enough that having a SAHP is NOT a "luxery" and doesn't require "lots of sacrifice" but is something that is more common and attenable for more families. Our society is set up that in many parts of the country two-incomes are almost needed, which means there are twice as many people in the worforce and unemployment and underemployment rates are higher because more people are working and looking for jobs.. Before 2-income families become so common, I think it was actually easier for a parent to find a job and earn enough money to support a family on just 1 income. However, now that 2-income families are so common, there are more people in the workforce, meaning there are fewer jobs available and lower wages for those jobs....which just causes this cycle of fewer jobs, lower wages, more people working, etc., etc., etc.

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  24. Why has this lighthearted post turned into such a debate? Really boggles my mind!

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    1. Thanks for the heads up Mandi! I'll skip reading the comments.

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  25. I love this post!

    A light hearted reminder to the president that parenting is not about economics.
    People don't become parents for economic gain and people (usually) don't make decisions about their children strictly based on economics.
    Like you, I hope the president misspoke and I hope workplace flexibility that allows parents to be both providers and caregivers will be a reality for our children.
    Or maybe the development of an economy and culture that isn't reliant on dual incomes.

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  26. "...this whole PLACE is just one lactation room after another, as far as the eye can see . . " Truly, we SAHMs are very privileged.

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  27. I love this Kendra! Perfect response. I always found the perks at home better than any work environment I have been in, and my pay in hugs, totally worth it. Laying up riches for Heaven, Mr. Obama.

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  28. To sum with a quote found on Pinterest (where else do quotes come from)...
    "Parenting is hard work, thank goodness my co-worker is hot!"

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  29. You are hilarious. Thanks for the laughs today.

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