A comment in Jessie’s post last week prompted me to rise to her defense – alongside many others – after a reader taunted her life as a “main line mom” being “so difficult.” The reader also suggested that “working moms” were somehow more worthy of writing about their struggles. The comment bristled me in a number of ways, but I was particularly disappointed to see that clichéd battle line between Stay-At-Home-Moms (SAHMs) and Working Moms (WMs) drawn here on our pages.
Newsflash: Anyone who wants to fight this fight should take a long look in the mirror and do the internal work necessary to come to terms with their own insecurities about the choices they have made. Because the rest of us are not at war.
Still, the topic of how we live our lives remains relevant if for no other reason than there are readers out there who find themselves in similar circumstances to the writers here at MoB. So, Jessie and I thought we would dedicate some space this week to our respective choices – and some truths that lie behind them. For my part, I present to you….
Five Truths from One Working Mom
- I often put work before my children. My very choice to work full time makes this truth somewhat obvious, but I will take it a step further when I tell you that our family schedule –and my day-to-day involvement with my sons — is usually driven by what’s happening with my job. Sure, we working Moms like to say that “family comes first” and that is true for the major decisions. But truth be told, conference calls often trump after school pick-up, business trips trump field trips, and late night writing assignments trump good night kisses. When this happens, I feel shitty – particularly leaving a sick child at home as I fly thousands of miles away — but I always plow ahead with the thought that having them rely on someone other than me, even in times of need, is good for them. That cuts the shitty by about 20 percent.
- I am more domesticated than I would ever be if I didn’t work. I actually fancy cleaning the kitchen, doing the laundry, and sweeping the floor in my home. Whereas I might chalk these chores up to annoying busywork if I was faced with them as an expectation every day, I look forward to the certainty of the tasks at hand when presented to me just a few times each week – and I crave the uber-control given to me in completing them. Somewhere deep inside my head, a little voice is singing, “I’m going to fold this shirt and no journalist or member of Congress is going to stop me!”
- My children are coddled because I work. Although they may disagree with this truth, I really do let them off the hook a great deal. I chalk my behavior up to one part guilt, two parts exhaustion. I want the time I spend with my boys to be peaceful and fun. So when it comes time to render or enforce a punishment, I am often relegated elsewhere in the house so justice can be served. I also find myself doing things for them that no SAHM might ever consider doing for her teenage boys like making lunches, cleaning rooms, and cutting meat, er, I mean, dropping off forgotten homework at school (even when they were reminded to pack it up.)
- Leaving them gets easier. I remember in the early days of motherhood, I could feel the magnetic pull from my desk to the Exersaucer miles away. It took everything in my power not to rush home by mid-morning to breathe in the oatmeal smell of my babie’s sweet little heads. Now, I can go for days without talking to them and the pang in my heart when I think of my children – whether I’m on a flight or in a meeting – is fleeting and temporary. I think this peace comes with knowing that they are alright – and that my decision to work hasn’t hurt them in any way. If I could give a gift to any of my SAHM friends, it would be that liberation of being able to leave their children for longer than a few hours and do something for themselves without feeling like they abandoned them. Many of my SAHM friends struggle with this, I know for sure.
- I think studies are crap and detract from the greater good. Every time I hear about an academic piece of research suggesting that children of working moms or SAHMs are ___ percent more likely to ___________ (fill in scary blank here), I want to debunk debunk debunk. (Plus, I love saying debunk.) We parents have enough fears about our choices that bubble up from the inside; we don’t need any more thrust upon us. Here is my conclusion after years of first-hand reserach and observation: It doesn’t matter if you go to work or stay at home with your children. That choice isn’t going to screw up your kids. It is every OTHER choice you make as you parent within the reality you have created for yourself that matters. And it is there where working and SAHM’s have an entirely equal ability to do harm or good.
Here’s to us all rising together.