“I like to refer to myself as a Professional Mom,” a friend told me.
Yuck, my eyes rolled so far back they almost got stuck in my throat. I hear this statement coming up more and more at church, at school and on the playground. I can’t help but get frustrated with some of the ways people try to redefine stay-at-home-moms, or SAHM, partially because I am one.
I get what they’re trying to do. People often assume SAHMs don’t do much work … or anything at all. It’s my peeps trying to give us credit for the valuable way we spend our time.
But aren’t working moms professional moms too? Aren’t all dads, whether working, retired, unemployed or full-time caregivers, “professional dads”? My husband Ryan travels three nights out of the week. Yes, he doesn’t spend as much time with our kids as I do, but he is still their dad (and not just by birth). We talk about how the day went with the kids and decide, together, how best to deal with each situation. He sends video messages for them to watch when they wake up, he snuggles with them at night when he’s in town. He texts the kids’ phones throughout the day. He is as involved, just in a way that is unique to his/our situation.
How much time we spend with our children shouldn’t dictate our status as a parent or the quality of our parenting. SAHMs can be neglectful or attentive. Working moms can be toxic or healthy. Stay-at-home-dads can be distant or involved. Usually, we’re all of these things on any given day.
I’m convinced the only difference in the involvement of each type of parent is the amount of caregiving that happens. I take care of appointments, taxi driving, medications, nutrition, cooking, schedules, homework, etc. It’s a lot, but it’s caregiving, not parenting.
As far as parenting goes, both of us mentor and both of us teach. Both of us take time to connect with each kid each day. Both of us lead our family council. Both of us teach problem solving and conflict resolution skills. Both of us read and snuggle with them at night. Both of us worry and pray over them. Both of us model apologies and vulnerability. We are both professional parents, I just happen to also be a professional caregiver.
But if our society didn’t look down so much on caregiving, maybe the term “professional caregiver” might start gaining some traction. When I tried to get into the HR profession a few years back, I used a resume consultant. As she tried to pry for more information, I was embarrassed that the only experience I could come up with had to do with managing a home and raising kids — because that was all I had time to do. Despite how proud I was of how I spent my time for the past 10 years, it showed up as a blank page on a resume.
This really bothered me until my neighbor taught me the term “transferrable skills.” It’s where you gain a skill from one industry that can be applied to a different one. In my case, I now see that managing a home makes me an excellent team player who’s willing to do the undesirable jobs (nothing is worse that cleaning up throw-up while you’re still throwing up).
My time spent discovering my son’s rare digestive disorder taught me to approach problems slowly, without jumping to conclusions, and to give people, including kids, the benefit of the doubt.
Constantly being around childish emotions has helped me hone the skill of dealing with adult temper tantrums without breaking a sweat. And finally, I can convince the most immature human to do something she/he doesn’t want to do, all while keeping the house from burning down.
Today, I have no problem defending how my unique way of managing my four kids and two dogs are full of worthy, transferrable, soft skills for human resources or any other mid-level position.
But being a woman doesn’t give me the right to tell other women how to identify.
So with a spirit of humility, I say: I’m proud of you, Professional Mom, for finding the words to validate how you spend your time.
I support you and I salute you.
Just don’t be afraid to tout those transferrable, caregiving skills with confidence if your professional aspirations ever change.
Stacey Carruth is a parent with four children in Arapahoe County.
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