At exactly 5pm last Tuesday, I became a SAHG. Translation, a Stay-At-Home-Girlfriend. I was aware that I might face some criticism or have some conversations with concerned loved ones, however, I have been very surprised at quite how much I have had been pressed to explain myself. First, it's by choice. I did not lose my job, I quit. I will look for a new job, but not immediately. I know that I am very, very lucky to be in the position where I am able to take the time to pursue creative endeavors, help older family members and eventually find a new job that makes me happy. I have the most amazing supportive boyfriend, who urged me to leave my job when I wasn't happy.
The question that I have been getting the most is, "But what do you do?". I am always tempted to reply with, "nothing" or "it's none of your business". However, I always try to explain that I have a laundry list of things that need to be accomplished. I don't sit on the couch watching TV all day.
We are a society that is so wrapped up in having our career be our identity, that people don't know what to say when they meet a person who doesn't have a career. I always encounter this when meet someone for the first time. I've had fairly steady employment and have mostly enjoyed my jobs, but it's never anything that I want to talk about. It's a job, not what's interesting about me. Personally, I'm never very interested in what a person does for a living unless they clearly enjoy it and light up when talking about it, because then it really is something interesting about them as a person. It's a passion.
Recently at a party, upon meeting someone new, I revealed that I was soon to be a SAHG. They looked at me appalled and the conversation soon became very awkward. This situation has since been repeated in various scenarios. This makes me feel like I need to figure out a different way to connect with new people.
I know many SAHM and SAHD, who also face a stigma of staying at home and they have children to raise. What could possibly be wrong with that? What's funny about this stigma, is it feels like it's imposed by nosy people. I always looked at it as, if it works for your family, then that's enough. Who cares what other people think? However, I think opinionated people and shifting norms in society, have us doubting what makes us happy and what is best for our family units, whether it's staying at home or having a career.
I was born in the late seventies and raised by a single working mom. Most of my friend's parents worked and it was driven into me that a career is nonnegotiable. My mom has passed away, she raised me in such a way, that I think even if I had kids, staying at home would felt like a failure to her. That stigma has been deeply ingrained, but I just don't buy into it anymore.
A few week's before I worked my last shift, Dan sent me a link to a blog post that initially made me angry. It was by a blogger named Brokelyn, who wrote a post titled "How to Survive as a SAHG". It was the first time that I had heard the term SAHG and realized that it would soon apply to me. The post offered tips like making sure to clean up after your boyfriend, as he is the one working hard. Also making sure dress up and have a cocktail ready when he arrives home. The best tip, make sure that you are always ready for sex when he wants it, because you can no longer claim being tired from working. It was like a 1950's homemakers guide. Although I know it was a joke, it sort of set me off.
I have no problem taking over a majority of the housework, as I have the time and we need to save money. I learned how to use an iron and have done all of our clothes since we started dating. And I actually enjoy doing it! I really relish the idea of taking over the house hold duties and being in charge of homemaking. What put me off to the article, was the insinuation that just because I didn't have a job, that I had nothing better to do or was not working as hard. I've never felt like having a job made me more valuable.
I think this is the crux of the stigma, the perception that being at home equals less of a contribution. I think that the stigma can be lessened by supportive family and friends. After all, if the people important to you are on board, then it acts as a shield against negativity from outsiders.
I'm off to another party tonight, where I will meet more new people and be faced with inevitable question of "What do you do?". I may surprise them by proudly rattling off a list of everything that I accomplished today.