The great mommy debate.

Today has been a really great day.  I started off the morning by waking up at 6:48am and realizing that I hadn’t gotten up at 5am to the sounds of a giddy little WIDE AWAKE baby.  For some reason she’d actually slept late (late for us at least).  We scrambled some eggs together, I watched her eat more than me, and we went to Crossfit.  For the first time ever, she actually fell asleep during our WOD!  It is amazing to me that anyone could sleep through all of the loud music, yelling and clanging sounds of weights hitting the floor, but I guess after almost 6 months she is just used to it.

6 months.  I’ve been a stay at home mom (for the most part, I still work once a week and take her to daycare on that day) for almost 6 months now.

I’ve been wanting to write a blog about the Working Mom vs Stay at Home Mom topic for a while now.  I mainly want to write/vent about it here because I feel like I’m in a pretty unique place right now.  I worked full time when Poppyseed was smaller, and then after being laid off I jumped into being a SAHM.  At this point I think I have been a stay-at-homer for about as long as I worked (roughly 6 months).   And so I feel like I am able to relate to both sides of the fence.

First of all, a disclaimer.  If you’re a friend reading this right now, no this is not a backhanded way of trying to tell you something or send you a backwards message.  Sometimes when people read my blog they’ll ask me later, “Were you referring to ME?”  Ha, no.  The answer is almost always going to be no.  (Unless it was a compliment and then I’ll usually just call you by name.)

A second disclaimer.  I wrote this post and pushed “Publish.”  I didn’t proofread and I don’t plan to.  These are my feelings, spilled out onto the page for all to see and interpret.  I say one thing in one paragraph and say something entirely different in the next.  I continue to contradict myself.  I get that.  It’s honestly how I feel about this whole topic…. good or bad.

Second, I would say my friends and family are pretty much split down the middle where half of them work and half of them stay at home.  And honestly, they all do beautifully.  My stay at home friends and family are amazing… most of them have multiple kids, are involved in various clubs and have tons of friends, volunteer at their kids’ schools regularly, and are honestly just very confident, beautiful, wonderful mothers.  My working friends are similar… they may work full time, but they will tell you that their most important job is being a wife and a mother.  Their children are well adjusted, smart, loving and most importantly they are happy.

But today I went to a coffee shop and I heard someone say something as I was leaving.  And honestly, it just really chapped my ass.  I was walking out the door with a coffee in one hand and baby on my hip.  YES, I was in workout clothes with my stringy hair in a bun behind my head (as is appropriate attire when one has just spent an hour in a mostly outdoor gym).  And yes, that is pretty much how I spend my mornings – going to the gym with a baby and then hitting the coffee shop for an iced americano before going home to prep dinner, grocery shop, play with Poppyseed, meet a friend at the park, etc.  I heard a really lovely looking woman (wearing a suit and typing on a computer) say, “Geez I could just never do that.  I could never just keep my baby all day and only go to the gym and get coffee and have nothing else to do.”

Now, I get it.  I’ve been the woman in the suit in the coffee shop before, looking at a SAHM decked out in Lululemon (I was wearing Target workout clothes) and thinking she had it pretty darn easy.  I actually don’t fault that woman for having those thoughts.  I think if we were all being honest, we’d all admit that we’ve been judgmental about one side or the other at some point in our lives, perhaps maybe before we entered mommyhood.  But I do fault her for having those thoughts and saying it loud enough for me to hear it.  Especially since she followed it up with this statement:

“I’d never want to spend all day at home with my kids.”

I won’t lie, I was pretty much floored.  I swear, I think she may have wanted me to hear her.

She didn’t say, “I wish I could stay at home but I have to work to support my family.”  She didn’t say, “I have thought about staying at home, but I dreamed for years about my career and I feel like I need to meet my professional goals.”

Nope, it just seemed like she was saying that being at home with her kids would be horrible.  Now, maybe she doesn’t even have kids and that statement was purely hypothetical.  But I got the feeling that she was a mom, and that sentence honestly just made it sound like she was an absent mom.  I’ve heard of these types… the moms that really just don’t seem to like their kids all that much.  They work longer hours than necessary.  They choose child care based on who will keep their kids for the longest hours and pass the least amount of judgement if their kids are the first to show up in the morning and the last to leave… and not because they are really that busy at work, but because their kids have never seen the inside of a grocery store, dry cleaners, or gym and the parents prefer to keep it that way.  These parents see their children awake for less than an hour a day… because they choose to.  I have to admit, right or wrong, I don’t think I’d be close to “that” mom.

I don’t know any women like that.   Like I said, about half of my friends or family work, and honestly they do it FOR their children, not because they don’t want to be with their children.  An old college roommate of mine has two sons.  From what I can tell, she and her husband have adjusted their work schedules so that their kids spend as much time with one of them as possible, and they frequently visit their kiddos’ daycare during their lunch hour.  I love spending time with them because they are just so real, loving and positive.  I have another college friend with a son and daughter, and she has been climbing the ladder at her company for years now.  She and her husband should seriously teach classes on multitasking and raising well rounded children while being full time employees (not that they have the time to teach such a class).  I had her name on speed dial when I was pumping full time at work and needed advice on milk storage, because she knew exactly what it was like to have to stop working every 2 hours to fill a ziploc full of milk.  I could confide in her that I missed Poppyseed like crazy while I was away, and she absolutely knew what it was like to bust her butt to get out the door in time to see her toddler perform in a play or pick her baby up early.   My neighbor is a teacher.  She is one of the most loving mothers I’ve ever seen – the way she looks at her son is something out of a movie.  She works so that she can provide him with the best and looks forward to every minute spent with him.  I have a sister (and sister in law) who stayed at home for years until she became a teacher at her kids’ school, and another sister-in-law who is a musician and travels the nation (with her children in tow) in order to perform.  These are all working moms who love their children and want the very best for them.  They would do anything for their kids – anything.

But then there are the “other” working moms.  Before I was married with a baby of my own, I sat next to a lady who had two kids.  She seemed to hate her children.  No kidding, she may have used those words.  I worked within earshot of that chick for almost a year and I doubt I heard a single positive thing come out of her mouth.  Now maybe she just had very challenging kids.  Maybe they were very close in age (I think they were) and she was just going through a rough patch.  But it certainly seemed like she would do anything in her power to keep from being “just a stay at home mom.”

Now while I’m venting, let me just put it all out on the table and talk about the most idiotic argument ever.  You know which argument I’m talking about… it’s the “Who has the harder job… stay at home moms or working moms” argument.   I am amazed at how many women have such a strong opinion on this.  I have heard women swear with 120% certainty that working moms have it tougher or that stay at home moms have it harder.  Um, really?  How is this possible?  Doesn’t it depend on the woman, child(ren), state of her marriage, spouse, and job?

As for me, I hate to blow a big hole in the argument that staying at home is incredibly hard work, but I’d argue that my life is FAR “easier” now that I stay at home.  Sure, budgeting is a huge part of my household responsibilities, but my days are not hard.  Not in the least!  I love waking up each day and having nowhere to be but with my baby.  I love thinking to myself, “Should we go to the bookstore or to the park today?” and having that be the most pressing decision I have to make all day long.  To me, at this particular stage in my life, staying at home is, well… easy!  It’s not without purpose – I am raising a human, after all, but it’s not what I would refer to as difficult.  Now yes, there are days where Poppyseed seems to be very demanding and I feel like I get nothing done.   There are days where I feel a little bit ashamed because my husband gets home and the house isn’t immaculate and dinner is not yet on the table.  I do have worries regarding our financial future.  My husband has assured me that if we ever truly need something that we cannot afford, he will “get a job sweeping a warehouse on the weekends” before he’ll let me blame myself for staying at home rather than getting another job.   And I know that this will happen more and more as we have more children… the costs will increase as we add more little ones to our family.   But as our family grows, our need for a stay at home mom to take care of things will increase as well.   There will be schedules and homework and extracurricular activities and transporting to and from practices and events.  I’m not trying to downplay the role of a stay at home mother.  I recently ran into some former work acquaintances while at lunch with Poppyseed.  They sat in their seats with their laptops and stilettos and asked me how I liked staying at home ever since getting laid off.  I was honest…. I said that I loved it but that sometimes the days were a little long and I wasn’t quite sure what to do with myself.  One of the comments I got in return was, “Eh, you know you’re a stay at home mom when you have time to clean your baseboards with a toothbrush.”

Riiiiigggghhhhtt.

breakfast date

A picture I snapped while having breakfast with my wee one on a weekday… something I only dreamed of doing when I worked! I cherish our little outings together.

Play date

I snapped this on a play date with several other babies and toddlers. Yes, stay at home moms make sure their kiddos get out into the world and socialized too.

SAHM front yard

Loving my little one, aka not cleaning my baseboards with a toothbrush.

But in their defense, working was not easy either.  I had to wake up early, get myself and a baby dressed, feed that baby breakfast, pack a bag with diapers, frozen breastmilk and clothes and get out the door in time to make my first appointment.  I had to stop working and pump for 20-30 minutes 3 times a day… in my car.  Sometimes I had to excuse myself in front of other colleagues in order to pump, which was always awkward and made me feel really exposed.  I’d venture to say that every “break” I got at work was spent on the stupid pump.   Then at the end of the day I’d pick up the baby, drive her to the grocery store, get home and cook/clean as fast as possible, all while trying to play with her and give her the attention that she needed.  And honestly, I had a really flexible work schedule.  I don’t know how working mamas do it when they truly have to work rigid hours.

Working Suit

Think it was easy leaving a baby every day to go to work? Think again.

Pump and work

Do you see a working mom and think that she gets the whole day to herself to sit around leisurely and sip coffee? Hey, maybe she does. Or maybe she spends her only free time in her car or office on the pump.

Milk

Imagine pumping, cleaning, labeling and storing these 4 bottles every single day. They don’t just appear out of thin air, you know. Any working mom will tell you that this takes some serious commitment.

Lunch for work

Even now, work days mean at least an extra half hour of prep work the night before or morning of if you want to send your kiddo to childcare with healthy meals, clean clothes and feeling well rested. Working moms have to plan almost every minute of their day or inevitably drop a ball somewhere.  (AND so do SAHMs!)

But the worst part about working with a baby was the judgement.   I HATED the judgement.  You can feel “the look” from other moms who stay at home.  They love to calculate the hours you don’t spend with your baby because you are at work.  They love to make claims that they can tell the daycare kids from the stay-at-home kids based on their behavior on their first day of kindergarten.  And no, it’s not just the stay at home moms who do this.  I hated when my customers would ask me, “Don’t you miss your baby?  Wouldn’t you rather stay at home with her?”  I wanted to say, “OF COURSE I want to stay at home with her you bonehead!  I just don’t know how!  All I’ve ever known is working…I never planned to stay at home.  I never imagined I’d love a baby this much, so I worked hard for my job and I cannot imagine quitting it now that I’ve invested so much of my time and have come so far.  Working was a huge part of my identity before I met my husband and that doesn’t always change overnight when a baby is born.  I want to spend every minute with her AND work…. but I can’t.  So I just keep trying to do both.  I pack every minute of my day and I never stop moving…. I try to be Superwoman and Supermom and Superwife, and yet people like you just keep on judging me!”

Strangely enough, my most supportive friend while I was working was/is a stay at home mom who would probably rather walk into oncoming traffic than get a job.  She is 100% pro-stay at home.  I think that she would happily move her entire family of 4.5 into a cardboard box on a street corner before she would go to work and leave her children with someone else.  She and her husband are in complete agreement that her place is in their home with their children.  If a woman with such a strong opinion on this subject can still be supportive of a friend like me while I try to balance work, baby, and mommyhood, why can’t everyone?  Of all of my friends, she was the one who said to me, “Look, fake it until you make it.  If you want to work and that’s what makes you happy, stop feeling guilty about it.  Just figure out why you want to work and own it.  Stop letting other people make you feel guilty.”  Good advice.

My question is this… why can’t we all just get over ourselves?  My bottom line opinion is simple.  Your job or lack of job does not reflect who you are as a mother.  It does not indicate the amount of love you have for your child.  There is no Superwoman.  No Supermom.  No Superwife.  The stay at home mom down the street IS contributing to society and using her education… for all we know she is raising your kid’s future best friend or spouse.  And the working mom with a laptop at the coffeeshop may actually be working her ass off so that she can get home as quickly as possible to her babies and still pay the mortgage or private school tuition.

Really, who are we to judge?

 

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Comments

  1. Love the post, Laura! Working mom who loved my job for 1 year, SAHM mom since we moved to Cali for almost a year. I didn’t notice the judgement stuff so much- probably a mix of being in Chicago prior to our move (lots of working moms) and being too exhausted to be very social during my working mom period. However, I cried almost every AM I left Hudson and had a weekly breakdown! Although I miss medicine and hope to go back to it eventually, I am so grateful for the opportunity. I thought I would miss “stuff” when we started budgeting so much more strictly, but I haven’t. Life has just become pleasantly more simple (and yes, easier). Noticed hubby is much happier now too. 🙂 I was not a pro at the whole working/home balance thing- I was just tired, all the time. I totally understand why some moms work and applaud those who do for the right reasons (not the “I can’t stand my own kids” reason). Thanks for sharing. So many people are so extreme in their opinions that I can’t relate. I’ve been there with both- enjoy one more than the other but appreciate why moms choose different options.

  2. Christina Rose says:

    Thanks for sharing this! It is such an important message to share with women. I’m not a parent yet, but after focusing on my career for years and finding myself often stressed because I can’t take care of our home enough I see more and more clearly the significance of the stay at home parent. I continue to respect mothers who have careers outside the home and know many who are very fulfilled with their lives balancing a career and family life. I’m the oldest of six children and my mother stayed home with us. I never would have told people my mom didn’t have a “job” because she definitely was busy working. She missed my school concerts on occasion because she was working – at home caring for my baby sibling! All mom’s work – some outside the home and some in the home. Both options have sacrifices and I think that those sacrifices can unite mothers instead of dividing them. This post takes an important step in that direction, thanks for openly sharing your experience!

  3. Great post. And yes, I reckon we should all just get over ourselves too! Make our decision and be happy with it, and keep our noses out of other people’s choices.
    I’m currently a SAHM (I think my daughter is about the same age as yours – she was born on May 1, 2012) and I love it. I’ve never I worked long and hard for many years before going on maternity leave and honestly I was over work and ready for a break. My baby is pretty easygoing and my life is much easier now than when I was child free but working. Our second baby is due in January and I imagine life will be much trickier then so for now I’m enjoying this quiet pace 🙂
    However, for me, I like to have something that is just for me, and to feel that my life isn’t just about children, so I do a bit of freelance work and study part time. I’m also confident that should I ever need to work to support myself and my family I am still quite employable and could do so. I think having that back-up is important for mothers.

    • Ah, yes, our kiddos are only 8 days apart! So you are having #2 in January – CONGRATS! – and, you are very brave! I thought I was pregnant and going to be due in January as well, but it didn’t work out. Now that we have a big trip on our calendar for July I suppose we will wait until then, meaning that if it works right away we will have 2 kids almost exactly 2 years apart. The more the merrier, right?

  4. Love this! I’m expecting my first baby in Feb. I will have 6 months of unpaid maternity leave and then I have to go back to work 3 days a week so that our family will have health insurance. I’m Trying to figure out how many freelance projects to arrange during those 6 months so we can afford that leave while stilll giving me time to care for the baby and heal after birth. It’s already a heart wrenching decision and my baby isn’t even born yet! Your post helped me feel better about it; we just do the best we can with the circumstances we have at the time.

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