Moms, I want to talk about something that is a little taboo among us, but that’s ok, it needs to be discussed. Can we talk for a minute about the silent battle of the working mom verses the stay at home mom? Do you know what I’m talking about? No matter what side of the fence you sit on, you have probably felt judged and possibly even attacked by the “other side” at some point in time.
I’m here to call for a cease-fire by opening up the dialogue and identifying the real enemy. The bottom line is we aren’t at war with each other, we are at war with ourselves. The majority of our feelings towards the other side stem from our own jealousy and insecurities. If you’re a working mom, you know you feel a tinge of jealously when you see all the cool projects on Facebook your stay at home mom friend posts. Stay at home moms, you also feel it when you see those fresh manicured hands your working mom friend got on her lunch break. Lunch break…what’s that? Of course, then we have the constant questioning of ourselves… Am I getting this right? Did I make the right decision?
For those of you who don’t know me, let me give you my credentials on this subject before diving in. I have been a full time working mom, the traveling every couple of weeks – high stress kind of work, with three kids (well technically 2.5 – some people don’t like me to get “credit” for having 3 because one of those children is a step child that doesn’t live with me full time, but that’s a different subject for a different day, I count him). Now I am a stay at home mom of four.
After the birth of my first son, I was immediately thrown into this inner turmoil of working vs. stay at home. After all, my mom stayed at home, my mother-in-law stayed at home, my sister stayed at home, it seemed all my neighbors stayed at home, and it’s what all “good” moms do, right? There was a part of me that wanted to stay at home. I hated dropping him off at daycare. It broke my heart when he called me “Ms. E” (his daycare teacher), but I also was enjoying my job. I had worked hard to establish by career, did I really have to just drop all that? What would I do all day with just a little baby at home? So I decided to pick a side – the working mom side.
Except I didn’t know I had “picked a side”, I thought I was just making the right choice for my family and I. I didn’t realize the comrades I would gain from the working mom group and the arrows that would be thrown my way from the stay at home camp. I won’t go into any battle stories, but we all have them. If you’re a mom I can guarantee you have felt judged and criticized for your choices. But why do we do this to each other?
The heart of the battle sounds like this “you have no idea how hard it is.” In the spirit of resolution, let me break it down for you. Your right. The stay at home mom who has never worked, has no idea how hard it is for you! They don’t know the emotional battle you fight every day. They don’t know how hard it is to schedule and plan and organize every detail so that everyone gets to their places on time. They don’t know you feel like you have worked a full job some mornings before you even get to work to do your full time job. They don’t know how men look down on you when you have to cancel a meeting because you have a sick child, despite being a parent themselves. They don’t know how hard you have to work to prove yourself as both a woman, but even worse a mother, because you are a liability to them. They don’t know the emotional toll of only having a few short hours every day with your child.
Now, before you think I’m picking a side, let me go the other way. Working moms, you have no idea how hard it is to stay at home. To have to constantly entertain one or more children all day long, to feed them all day (my goodness how these children can eat) to be everything to everyone one all day long!! You don’t know what it feels like to never get to never have a clean house because someone is always home, to never go to the bathroom by yourself, or go grocery shopping with children in tow. You don’t know the emotional battle of feeling like your brain is turning to mush or the isolation of staying at home. You constantly question: am I getting this right? No one is there to validate your efforts or give you feedback.
Each side comes with pros and cons. No one side is right or wrong, better or worse. Ladies, I’m imploring you to please stop fighting each other, stop the judgment of other moms that aren’t doing it the same way you are, the self-righteous attitude of I’m doing it the ‘right’ way and embrace each other. Let’s waive our white flags right now and come together for some bipartisan change.
Here are some suggestions: if you’re a stay at home mom, make an effort to get to know the working moms in the neighborhood too, maybe even take them a meal every once in a while. You know how hard meal times are at your house, imagine not getting home until 6:00 and just getting started. A simple meal already prepared would have brought tears of joy to my eyes when I was working. If you’re a working mom, invite your stay at home mom’s kids over for a play date on Saturday so your neighbor friend can get a couple hours of peace and quiet to do whatever she wants, which might only be to clean her house when no one is home. I know you relish Saturday’s and it’s your “only day” but you haven’t had the noise and commotion of a crazy house all week. Give your comrade a break and who knows maybe she will include brownies next time she makes you dinner.
Now that you are at peace with your fellow mom, take some time to come to peace with your own choice, no matter which choice it is. Because at the end of the day, that is how we will really be able to embrace others choices, by first embracing our own. Oh, and don’t forget to tell your other mom friend, she is doing a good job. After all, she is doing the best she can, just like you.