By Melissa Ford
I was a stay-at-home mom, raising two children while volunteering for PTO programs and community projects. When it came to my contributions as mother and household manager, there was no overtime pay, paid vacations or weekends off. I never received a raise or holiday bonus or an Employee of the Month parking space.
Choosing full-time motherhood over a career, at times, bothered me.
Now I'm not here to argue the merits of staying at home to raise children versus pulling off the same miracle while holding another job. Either one has its pros and cons.
So what was my problem? Wasn't I fortunate to have the luxury of being at home?
Sadly, it didn't always feel that way because every one in awhile I'd get that niggling feeling that my efforts weren't enough. It didn't matter how much I accomplished during the day, how many children I fed and comforted or the number of volunteer projects I checked off my lists. Perplexed by this unease and daring to look deeper, I discovered the thing I feared:
I wasn't enough.
Without even knowing it, I was doubting my value, my worth simply because I wasn't producing an income. Ugh.
I would try to hide it, that feeling of less than. Sometimes I'd find myself embarrassed even apologetic because I wasn't contributing cold hard cash to the family coffers. Often my contributions were intangible, hard to quantify monetarily.
When I broke the silence, admitting these doubts to other mothers whether they stayed-at-home or worked full or part-time, I realized I was not alone. This lack of worth issue ran rampant.
Then along came the book The Price of Motherhood: Why the Most Important Job in the World is Still the Least Valued by Ann Crittenden, an award-winning economics journalist. Crittenden confirmed my fear:
Our culture undervalued motherhood, and not just the stay-at-home kind.
No longer hiding my feelings of shame, I became justifiably angry, a victim of society's diminished view of women's contributions within the family. I had society to blame for undervaluing my efforts.
Or did I?
I ranted and raved. Of course, nothing changed. Victimhood is never empowering. Ever. But I learned it wasn't society's judgments which caused my low self-esteem; it was my belief that my value was determined by an external measure. Money.
It was time to change that measure by looking inside rather than out.
Over the years, I chiseled away at this mindset. I'd catch myself feeling inadequate and remind myself about my contributions. I'd feel better. Those feelings would cycle around again and I'd shift my perspective.
It became easier.
A few months ago, my son turned 24 years old. A man. Home for a short visit, he wanted to talk; Thrilled to listen and fully focused, I heard his views on life, work, happiness, his accomplishments and concerns.
Then it hit me.
All those years of love and patience, fear and frustration, caring and support were worthwhile. In fact, they were priceless. With new eyes, I saw my part in helping my son transform into a loving, thoughtful, capable young man with opinions of his own, desires of his own, a life of his own.
My value was there every day. Yours is, too. Claim it.