From the moment you make the decision to stay at home, you start to hear the question.
"When will you go back to work?"
I don't know if people are trying to be intentionally rude, and I doubt that they truly mean to convey the sort of condescension that accompanies the implication that every stay-at-home mom is really just biding her time at home with her kids until she can jump back into the world as a so-called real person again.
I happen to like the time that I spend with my children. I place a high value on the time that I spend doing things for them (though I reserve the right to bitch and moan about said contributions to their general welfare whenever I please).
And I have yet to meet a mother who doesn't "work" on a daily basis.
Apparently, though, work doesn't qualify as work unless somebody pays you to do it.
If I went to work in a daycare, I would get paid to play with children and keep them safe and prepare their meals and clean up their messes.
If I went to work as a teacher, I would get paid to read with children and help them learn their ABC's and all sorts of other life lessons.
If I went to work as a personal chef, I would get paid to shop and plan and prepare meals.
If I went to work as a chauffeur, I would get paid to drive people around all day.
In none of these situations would anybody ask me when I was going to go back to work. They would consider what I was doing to be work, simply because I would be doing it for strangers and getting paid for it.
Except, I don't get paid to do any of these jobs. I do them for my own family out of the goodness of my heart, so apparently they don't count as work. But they are work. Hard work. And they count as work too.
I will never go back to work because I never stopped working in the first place.
I will, however, return to paid employment, which is what people actually mean (and what they should say) when they ask about going back to work.
Language is a powerful tool. Often, the words that we use convey far more than we mean. By simply asking a mother when she plans to return to work, we automatically devalue the work that that woman does everyday taking care of her own family.
I am actually in the process of returning to a paying job right now -- on a part-time, work from home basis -- but I don't consider it going back to work. I consider it adding more work to the work that I'm already doing.
The definition of "work" should encompass more than just work that is financially compensated. Defining ourselves through our paid employment and not the many other aspects of our lives just doesn't make sense, because most of us are so much more than the things we do to pay our bills.
And stay-at-home moms like myself might not be earning the big bucks or receiving compensation in any form other than sloppy kisses and crayon drawings, but our work is just as (if not more) important than anything else we might be doing.
And usually at night too.
We don't have to go "back" to work. We're already here.