Hmmm…a blog like this could be one of two things…insightful or inciteful (or maybe both). I was one of those moms who read the blog post by Matt Walsh about stay at home moms. He’s a bit harsher than I would be, but I found nothing all that heinous in his post. But many of the commenters did. It seemed some felt he was personally insulting working moms and also dads. The whole war waging in the comments section got me thinking about this mommy war. My thoughts have been all over the map so it’s been difficult to pull them together in something even remotely followable (which is unfortunately quite normal for me…just ask my husband).
Introductions for these kinds of touchy subjects set the tone for how someone will read the rest of your blog so this is what I want to lead with (of course I’m already a paragraph in, but I actually haven’t said much of anything yet, so apparently I’m good at wasting time. This oughta be good.) Question: Do you love your kids? Another question: Do they know you love them? If you answered yes to both of these, you’re a good parent. Enough said. I don’t need to know anything else…whether you cosleep, cry it out, nurse, formula feed, eat McDonald’s drive through every night, or feed your children food you grew or slaughtered yourself. YOU ARE A GOOD PARENT!!! Have I drilled it in yet? Do we sufficiently grasp the concept? Well, either way I’m moving on.
My first thought in all of this was on mommy wars themselves. I have rarely been insulted about my parenting choices to my face. I may get a condescending look on occasion. But they are relatively easy to ignore (I just rant about them on my blog later). But no one comes up to me and tells me that I mutilated my son because we circumcised him, or that my bean pole kids will be obese because I gave them formula. No, that only happens online. Where the other person doesn’t have to see the face of the person they’re talking too. They don’t even have to humanize the other person at all so they can vent out all their frustrations at their choices freely without any hindrance of common respect and courtesy. This is what fuels the mommy wars in general, the SAHM (stay at home mom) vs working mom war is no exception.
Another problem is how different the two experiences are. Working versus staying home are very different. They both have their own rewards and challenges. SAHMs have more time. We get the whole day to complete basic chores, and still have time for helping in lots of other ways. We have flexible schedules (barring kids school and extra-curricular activities). I never miss the big moments in my kid’s lives (well…rarely. We won’t talk about how King Toot decided to take his first steps at the airport for everyone else while I was retrieving luggage. Even though I spend all day, every day with him!) Having more energy and time for my kids, more energy and time for my hubby, and time to pursue my own hobbies also top the list for me. But working moms get actual bathroom breaks. They need not fear that if they go into that bathroom, one coworker will hit the other coworker with a bat while a third one comes in to watch you and keep you company. My daughter yesterday brought in all her stuffed animals one by one while I was pooping to keep me company. She lined them up against the wall to all stare at me. That wasn’t creepy or anything. I sometimes would give my left arm to shower or poop or pee without fear that the house will be on fire when I finish. Also, working moms have more validation. Not because people think less of me for staying home, but because at work…out in the real world… you interact with other adults. People see when you do your job well. When I taught, I had parents requesting me, gifts from students, and PTA members gushing over me. Then I stayed home. I have three little ones who can barely say thank you, and then my husband (my hubby is great, but he’s just one guy and he kind of has to be nice. I cook his food.). My first valentines day I got nothing from my hubby. I had always gotten nothing but hadn’t noticed before because my students had always brought things in and basically covered his butt. Since the they are like two different worlds with different challenges and rewards, to try and say one is more important than the other is impossible. Mathmatically. I’m sure Sheldon from Big Bang Theory would agree with me.
My other thought was about how we view what makes someone important. In our culture, you or only important if you’re “busy”. Not busy doing small things either….it’s the busy that’s always running around, always doing something, never stopping. If you aren’t busy, you aren’t important. This is where the crux of the difficulty between SAHM and working moms comes to play. Often, in an attempt to prove their importance, SAHM put forth a martyr complex. They work very hard to portray how busy they are. How slammed with chores and errands and volunteering they are and this is what makes them important. It can often come across as a woe is me attitude. Bahumbug I say. Don’t ever feel sorry for me. I’m happy, and quite content with my choices. I have been caught in this trap of business too many times and it’s time to break this vicious cycle! Being busy doesn’t make you more important. It just makes you more tired. I chose to stay at home because I wanted to be less busy. I wanted plenty of time to spend with my kids, to maintain the home, and to maintain healthy relationships with my hubby, kids, and friends (not to mention myself) without running myself into the ground. This isn’t to say that when you stay at home that you aren’t busy. You are. But you’re busy with things you chose to do. I train 6-8 hours a week for triathlons, run the preschool area of our church, lead a bible study, teach in our church’s AWANA program, and am on the PTO board. I do stay busy, but it’s all stuff I wanted and chose to do to be helpful to my community. I LOVE it! I can do all that, and still have time to play games with my kids, read them stories, listen to them sing, go for walks and to the park, and have time for my hubby too. It’s fantastic. So no, I never want to make someone pity me for how hard I’m working in order to gain their respect. I want their respect because of the love and energy I pour into my kids to make them amazing little people. I want them to respect me because I made a choice that was best for my family. I want validation just like everyone else.
Which brings me to my next thought. Most of the moms who were insulted, were working moms. Why were they insulted? Because in his praise of moms who stay home, they felt that their choices were being invalidated. All any of us want, no matter where we fall in life, is for people to see our hard work, all our sacrifices, all our accomplishments and respect us for it. They felt that had been taken away from them. The truth is, no matter what you end up choosing, sacrifices will be made. Matt Walsh said that staying home was ideal. I agree. But before you jump down my throat with anger and vengeance, let me explain. For your kid, no one is better than you. THIS IS NOT A BAD THING!! Perhaps it is better put this way: You are so amazing, so wonderful, and so perfect for your child that no one else will ever compare. Don’t you see? No one will love your kid like you, be pierced through the heart when they cry, or melt when they hug you like you will. No one. You are their ideal. But we do not live in an ideal world. Every situation has an ideal, and sometimes you have to sacrifice one ideal in order to keep the other ideal. Like, for example, the ideal of being able to eat every day versus the ideal of staying home with your kids so they get more of you. One ideal probably trumps the other and for some that is the choice they have to make. In an ideal world, our kids would never scrape a knee, get sick, be bullied, have their heartbroken, or run away. But these things may happen. It doesn’t make us bad parents, it just means we live in a broken and unfair world where we have to choose what ideals are more important. Health insurance, getting out of the house for a few hours each week so that you don’t go insane, paying off debt, all come into play. Breast feeding is another good example. I firmly believe breast feeding is ideal for your child for at least a year if not longer. Ask me how many kids I was able to do that for? (Hint- it rhymes with zero). Other ideals came into play, and I made my choice. I still believe breast feeding is the ideal, but for the family as a whole I had to make some tough decisions between ideals. So basically, it’s one thing to say that staying home with your kid is ideal…which it is. It’s another thing to say you are a bad mom (or dad…hate to leave them out!) if you don’t.
Basically, we all make sacrifices. We all look at our choices and options and then choose based on what’s best for our families. I have many working mom friends whom I respect highly. One works opposite hours from her husband. They sacrificed time together so they could pay the bills and still be their for their kids. That’s fantastic! I have a friend who is a supervisor but is considering asking to be demoted so she’ll be able to come home earlier and be less stressed. She wants her kids to get more of her, and a higher quality her. That is true sacrifice. I have a friend who works from home two days a week. Not because it’s easier (don’t make me laugh!) but because she wants to have has much time with her little boy as she can. They are all fantastic moms and their kids are so incredibly fortunate to have them! So how about we stop trying to figure out who’s more important and instead suck it up. Embrace our choices instead of regretting or resenting them. Live purposefully. But most of all, take time to tell other moms that we see the sacrifice they make…whether at work or at home…and commend them for it.