To begin my small book review and personal reaction I would like to quote Dr. Schlessinger’s Preface for “In Praise of Stay-at-Home Moms”: “With appropriate apologies to Shakespeare, I come to praise at-home moms, not to bury full-time working moms. This is not another missile attack in the ‘mommy wars,’ nor is it debate on day care versus mommy care.” These were literally the first two sentences that I read in this book and they served to immediately allow me to enjoy and finish her work in less than a week.
I received the book as a Christmas gift from my husband and appreciated it but in the haste of the holidays and family in town I never looked at it until one of my exhausted and depressed evenings last week. I guess I was a little skeptical at what this Dr. Laura would have to say. In truth, I’ve not listened to her radio show nor read much of her writing expect for excerpts from folks that don’t have glowing feelings for her in the mainstream media.
After ingesting this book I believe it’s a great book for all types of mothers out there, not just those whose full-time position is regarded as SAHM (Stay-at-Home Mom), homemaker, CEO of the Home or my favorite per one of my girlfriends: domestic goddess. She breaks it down into several chapters including poignant sections like: “The Decision, How Staying at Home Impacts the Marriage, The Good the Bad the Unforgettable”.
Overall the style of “In Praise-“ is conversational and has many transcripts and letters from her radio show and correspondence of listeners and readers. It is a strange comfort to read other women’s struggles with leaving the career-driven workforce for what can seem to be mundane housework, child care and certainly no financial rewarding reviews at the end of each pay period.
It was also refreshing to learn of Dr. Laura’s odyssey to becoming a SAHM herself during her life. It was reminiscent of my own experience and those of many of my girlfriends and colleagues in general. She was educated, went on to pursue a path of career excellence and in the course of it all found that even the markers of secular/business success were not “completing” her personhood. A comical reflection on watching the old PBS NOVA 60 minute presentation on the miracle of life is what finally propelled her to seek what ultimately brought her joy, albeit not perfection and not always happy times, but true completion as woman, wife and mother.
Although I was married nearly 8 years when my first child was born I still consider myself a late-bloomer to being a self-professed CEO of the Home and full-time wife and SAHM. I was simply petrified to follow somewhat closely in my own mother’s footsteps of having children at an early age as a young woman in my twenties. It’s as if I felt I needed to rack up respect or evidence that I was competent in “real life” in the full-time workforce. This brings me to Dr. Laura’s Chapter Two: The Stay-at-Home Mom’s Inner Struggles. “The older you are when you decide to marry and have children, the more ingrained you are with your own habits, and the more control you’ve been used to having over your own life…It was remarkable to me that something that barely weighed anything, couldn’t roll over on its own, couldn’t feed itself, and couldn’t talk to me literally ruled me, my husband, our time, and our home…There were days I didn’t shower until my husband came home”.
The dirty little secret for many of us SAHMs is that although our regret ratio is low, we still battle our inner doubts, our jealousy of our husbands and colleagues who have kid-free workdays and the loss of income that is especially felt if we had once enjoyed the cushion of being DINKs (double income no kids). Dr. Laura doesn’t mince words to this truth and share many experiences from her own life as well as other women who have shared their lives.
Undoubtedly the most impacting part of this small book were the tidbits sharing tender interactions between mother and child/children or quoted words from the children of SAHMs or their own written words. I was even more floored when I read about a mother who wasn’t a SAHM but then became one later during her son’s young life: “He handled it all so well, never complained when he had to be shipped off to another location or do things he didn’t want to do. It was the greatest gift to give him when I told him I would be home all the time to take care of him. He became less stressed, happier, calmer, and more loving. He could actually have a childhood with friends, play dates, and join things if he wanted. I will never regret staying home. Wish I could have done it sooner, but it’s never too late to make your child a priority…”
I realize by sharing this book review and personal reaction piece that I risk making some of my female colleagues feel certain emotions that may not be positive, perhaps downright hostile or defensive. Yet I would rather risk this because as my own life journey has taught me, there is nothing like being there for my child and husband even though we at the moment don’t even have our own personal living space. It is not the easiest and many times seems like it lacks any rewarding element—especially as my 33 week pregnant self with our second child fatigues easily. However, there are moments that I am able to witness and relay to my husband that I would otherwise miss if cloistered away in my work office during my son’s active days.
A final note on Dr. Laura’s book “In Praise-” is that even those women who are without children or unmarried can benefit from reading it as there are great pieces of advice on how to prepare for life as a SAHM—even though the reality is you can never be fully prepared for the ride it truly is when it occurs. Another touching shared experience from Dr. Laura’s book: “My son proceeded to tell me that he’s glad that I don’t work because at the CDC (child day-care center) you don’t get to do whatever you want, like go to the fridge to get a snack or go to your room to play with your toys, which he enjoys immensely after a long, structured day at school. He continued with, ‘Mom, do you know why I like to be in the kitchen so much?’ I replied that I didn’t and could he please tell me. My adorable son then went on to tell me that it’s because I’m there”.
Does Dr. Laura ‘preach’ that once you’re a SAHM you can’t take on any work that brings a paycheck to the household?—of course not, she herself still worked on her radio show, the caveat being that she went to the studio after her son had gone to bed for the evening. I myself am hashing out this blog piece at a start time of 4:57am on a Thursday morning; my track record usually is after my little man has passed out in the evenings when my own thought processes are delirious at best.
I encourage you to read this book if possible, especially if you have decided to take on the now-taboo work title of “homemaker, stay-at-home mom”. We need to remember that although the feminist era in the 20th century may have given us some freedoms and allowances, they also did us a disservice by trying to convince us that “quality time” with our children is better than “quantitative time”—try to teach your child or children that when they recall their childhood one day and either remember you being there during the good and bad times or just the “quality times”.