Stay-at-home mothers, social pressure and feelings of inferiority

I’ve been meaning to write this post for a while, and I only hope I have enough eloquence to express myself properly.

In the first neighborhood where my husband and I lived as a young couple with children, it was lonely during the day. Most women worked, except those who stayed home with the really tiny babies. Most children were in daycare by 6 months of age. When people heard that Shira, then less than 3 years old, wasn’t going to attend any type of daycare or preschool that year, they were shocked. No, more than shocked – scandalized. Certain that I’m depriving my child of a very important developmental step. “You’ll have to work very, very hard with her at home to be as good as a daycare,” one Mom told me. I didn’t work hard. I just enjoyed life and we did fine.

I felt very much alone. In all the time we lived there, I didn’t meet one person who shared my views about education and family life. Still, I was convicted that what we’re doing is the right choice for our family. This gave me strength, though at times I reverted to what I now call “the no choice tactic” – telling people “I’m staying home to watch over my children because daycare would be too expensive”; “I’m not getting a job because there aren’t any good jobs available locally, and I don’t drive”. Call me weak, but sometimes it was just easier to do that instead of arguing with people.

Then we moved to our next neighborhood, where I instantly felt at home. Most women were homemakers. Most children were home at least until they were three years old. There was a homeschooling family with girls the same age as mine, and we immediately hit it off. We hosted sleepovers. We hung out in the mornings, watching over the kids. Until I was there I didn’t even realize how good it feels to fit in, to be – if not like everyone else – not a freak either.

Seasons passed, and due to a combination of various circumstances we were forced to move again, to the place where we live now. Socially, I now find myself in the same place as in our first neighborhood, with one further disadvantage: my children are now older, which makes my desire for us to stay together and learn as a family stand out even more. Also, I keenly feel the loss of that environment in our old home which was so supportive of our educational choices.

I see the women all around me. They are all such good women, mothers, friends. They all love their children, take care of them and teach them, just the way I do. They all nurture their homes, cook nutritious meals, and bake delicious treats, just the way I do. Only they do it part-time rather than full-time. They also work hard outside the home – as a personal sacrifice rather than a career achievement, I must add. Many of the men here struggle to provide for their families, and so their wives step in and work extra. Several are nurses working night shift, sacrificing their sleep so they can later be with their children during the day. The families all manage on a very tight budget, even with both parents working.

I am, truly, full of respect for these women. Seeing them sometimes makes me feel spoiled, indulged. Not that I sit twiddling my thumbs at home; I have three children and am a freelance writer and editor. I get no help with household chores or child care. I thrift shop and have become a really economical cook. Still, I sometimes wonder what it is about me that makes it nearly impossible to even let a baby out of my sight, let alone go to work for part of each day. Is something wrong with me?

But I guess that what makes me ache most is the feeling of mental isolation. I would so love to develop close, trusting relationships with at least some of my neighbors. I feel that what we have in common – the love for our G-d, our families, our children, our homes – is far bigger than our differences. Unfortunately our neighbors feel differently. I sense people are wary around us. Like it’s not enough to have a lot in common; like you have to be exactly the same to be friends. And I think that’s a real pity.

I guess the key here is that nobody should feel threatened by the different choices others make. I don’t pass judgment on the Mom whose young children are in daycare from 8 to 4, and then in various afternoon classes from 4 to 6 (though I might think this lifestyle is quite hectic). Similarly she shouldn’t pass judgment on me (though she might privately think our lives are boring). We can disagree on some issues, but we can agree on many others. And we can be friends. At least that’s what I believe.

Author: Anna

An Orthodox Jewish wife and mother enjoying a simple life with her family and chickens, somewhere in the hills, in Israel.

12 thoughts on “Stay-at-home mothers, social pressure and feelings of inferiority”

  1. You are so talented at putting your feelings and thought into words. I have always loved your blog, but today you out MY thoughts and feelings into words. I wish we were neighbors. We are from the U.S., but in Nigeria and the other families think we are crazy for homeschooling instead of sending them to the “amazing international school” here. It is also Nigerian culture to send babies to daycare and the mother to work, out of necessity.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Megan, how can it be Nigerian traditional culture? I can imagine that in a village, grandmothers and aunts might look after young ones in place of the mother when needed, but it isn’t the same as daycare.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Its a product of colonialism. Traditional values that weren’t the same as white values were deemed inferior and dirty. This continues today because you can rarely make a living off traditional values. The International school is the ticket to prosperity.

        Liked by 1 person

  2. Anna, I envy you. I was a stay at home Mom when my children were young, but homeschooling was virtually unheard of unless the child was ill and couldn’t go to school. Even then, the homeschooling was done by the public school teachers. If only I could turn the clock back and do things over, I would definitely home school.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. I think home schooling is a wonderful way to teach your children. I never did this but always wanted to do home schooling. It was imperative that I worked during the time our children were growing up. I still made sure that we had a home cooked meal at dinner time and both my husband and I were there to help with school home work. We always did everything as a family and supported one another with individual interests. We always did eat dinner at home and and it was important to eat the meal together. Sometimes you just can’t do everything the way you would like but you do it the best that you can. I support all of you who are taking the time to do this. God bless all of you.

    Liked by 2 people

  4. Mind telling me where your second neighborhood was, and where you are now? (You can contact me via the contact form on my blog.) I also live in Israel and I really really wish there were other families around who shared our views (and I think I share at least most of yours).

    Liked by 1 person

  5. While you are very kind towards working mothers, you also seem to immediately forget how busy you say they are. Yeah, they’re probably judging you, but not for your lifestyle, but because you’re whining that they don’t want to be your friend–they don’t have time for the friends they already have so why would they be looking for more friends they don’t have time for?!

    If you are trying to make new relationships in your community, find the mom that looks the most frazzled and bring dinner to her house one evening so she can have a break. Help her have time to just breathe and hopefully she can find some time to share with you.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Catherine, unfortunately, we have some issues in our community which I do not like to go into here, but which put a distance between us and our neighbors.


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