When you don't work outside the home it can be tough. I say that because I've been there, done that. It's a really tough thing. How so? The lack of respect and validation and feeling of self-worth can be hard to maintain. I write this for two reasons.
One a friend talked to me about how she felt being "only" a mom. She had done her phd as well in biology and now she was "only a mom." She feels like she needs to work to find herself outside of the kids. I told her I totally get it. That it's really hard to go from an important "job" to not having a job. It's really hard still for me to be in a group of people and not work full time and have a "career". I have a "job". I like what I do. But I still feel embarrassed at times. I told her I do still feel judged. I have definitely felt lesser at the company holiday party when people say "what do you do?" And I hear "why don't you work?" The answer now interestingly even though I started my own business is "I take care of my kids."
I usually get a gasp and silence but i decided after I started my own business I no longer needed validation from anyone. I only needed my own self worth. Maybe it was after 40 I give a rat's behind about anything. I now say random stuff like I could care less what my kids do as long as they are happy and productive. I pulled them out of gifted programs because they weren't happy. We turned down a choice school opportunity because I thought my kid would struggle making friends.
Yes I say all those things now and I sometimes I mention working but often I say I don't work and I'm free. It's still a bit weird that I don't use my phd, but at the same time it took a long time to figuer out I hated it. I told my friend I achieved pretty much everything a parent could want. Excellent test scores, grades, extracurriculars, and acceptance into every school I applied to. I got into every top program both in undergraduate and graduate school. My resume read like someone who did everything right and yet I detoured and found my zen with my kids, new job, and life.
But then again I am married to guy who also quit his 1st career and found his zen. His resume also reads "accomplished everything parents want" then quit job, moved, changed careers and let wife not work and raise kids. If we lived the way everyone else expected us to we'd be a "high power couple" climbing the ladder. But instead we meander our way on 1 income, driving crappy cars, and working at jobs that are fufilling. Maybe it's my husband's acceptance.
The second reason I wrote this? This weekend he was trying to recruit someone to work for him. The guy asked "how do you do it? how do you have a family and do a start-up?" DH "my wife does everything." And the accceptance of it works. At the same time we both committed to this short term insanity knowing that it was his dream to start a company (yes when I met him he wanted to do this no lie). He wanted to make a mark and build his own company and he passed on one about 15 years ago and regretted it. This time I said he had to do it, and we knew it was not going to be easy. And now at the startup? When anyone asks I just say I stay at home. I am definitely not embarrassed because we wouldn't be doing this if he was pulling his weight at home. I know my worth and contribution right now.
Maybe it's age. But truth it is still really hard to be "non-working" spouse. To be the partner who takes the step back and follows and supports. But at the same time you have to look at yourself and say it's enough. That you know what you are truly worth and give yourself a pat on the back. It's okay to be happy with a "lesser" role. So to all my friends struggling with finding their place and being okay with it.
You have value. You are amazing and can do anything you want. A career doesn't define it. It's just money or a job. The title means nothing. Who you are is defined by whatever you want it to be. And it's not "less". What you do is work. And you do not have to work outside the home to have a job. (wish someone had told me that at 30!)