Jul 10, 2012

The Mommy Wars

Does this post title not just make you gag?  Maybe I have been perusing too much of STFU Parents, but I am soooo over all this "my life is so difficult, being a (stay at home) mom is the hardest job in the world, I don't get vacations" drivel. 

First of all, getting to stay at home with your children is a choice and a privilege. Quit your moaning, and rejoice in the fact that you are financially able to be at home with your children. Yes, it is hard work. No, it is not the most difficult job.   Being a parent in general is hard work, whether you have additional responsibilities at home or not.  I realize that some like to complain, and others to incite.

What I don't understand?

The competition!  Who gives a flying flip who works harder?  We're all working hard.  We're all slogging through the best ways we know how, trying to balance financial needs with family, while maintaining a semblance of our own self.

This Time article was surprising regarding the mental health of stay at homers vs. working mothers.  It seems that mamas working part time are happier than SAHMs.  Furthermore, working mothers reported greater happiness than SAHMs.  Apparently, the key to working-mother happiness is giving up the "super-mom" aspiration and not doing it all.  The part-timers seem to get the best of both worlds.  Unfortunately, many careers and positions to not translate well into part-time.  For example, I am currently working 80%, with Fridays off (and a commiserate pay reduction).   I am a lot happier, and very thankful that my firm was willing to let me try this out.  My brain was simply fried by Friday, and preparing lengthy legal documents was simply not feasible. However, this is not an optimal schedule for the advancement of my career, and I'm sure my bosses do not see it as a permanent schedule change.

This article about Lululemon moms presents an excellent plea of not judging those mothers we see, working or not.  Who am I to make assumptions about those lithe mamas swanning about the country club or bouncing around during day time Jazzercise classes.  I can't help be jealous of their toned post-baby bodies, and relaxed faces.  However, the grass is always greener.  Some of the Lululemon moms might have to beg and plead for every little penny from their husbands.  Some might miss being in an office and swanning about in suits opposed to yoga pants.
A friend of mine works for her family's business.  Their family is quite well-to-do, and I have often heard people question why she works outside of the home instead of staying home with her children.  It's such bullshit.  No one would question her choice if she was a man!  She is passionate and dedicated to her career, yet denigrated for being there.

This article from Great Britain is an interesting discussion of women's guilt/dissatisfaction with staying home and working outside of the home, and our generation's tendency to romanticize the housewives of the fifties and sixties.

It's interesting- people often tell me not to feel guilty about working.  I have a lot of emotions relating to being a working mother, but guilt is not one of them.  Longing, sadness, stress, and exhaustion, but not guilt.  I cry because I miss my crazy little baby, not because I feel bad for leaving her.  She has a blast with her fun little nanny while I'm gone.  I'm the one missing out, not Dell Harper.

There is no good answer to the working or staying at home issue. 

I'm a bit of a perfectionist.  I need good answers, people!

Until that answer arrives, please read this rebuttal to Elizabeth's Wurtzel's inflammatory article referenced above.  In defense of SAHM


  1. Thank you! No offense to SAHM, but I do get tired of hearing " it's the hardest job in the world". I think the hardest jobs are the people working on our roads in 100 degree weather, the man working at Kroger to make ends meet, or the garbage men who have to pick it up, rain or shine so we don't have the second Bubonic Plague. I understand SAHM have sacrifices to make as well and their patience is often tested, but some of them really need to think about true hardworking people in this economy before voicing some of their complaints.

  2. i'll admit, i want to transition to staying at home because i'm selfish and i want that time with my son before he wants nothing to do with me. i've already missed a year of the best times, but i won't for much longer.

    to top it all off, i'm planning on transitioning to an entirely different career field that would leave me running my own business and making my own schedule. thankfully i'll be free to peruse the business at my own pace because we won't be relying on my income to survive.

  3. Yeah, I don't get all the competition. And as a working mother like you, I agree with you that our children are doing just fine!

  4. I think you did a really good job with this topic. It is a hard topic. I work full time (and then some) at a very demanding job. I often leave my daughter from 6:30am-5pm. On the one hand my situation is really hard but I can remember how hard my leave was for me. Being at home all day with a fussy little baby was hard in completely different ways.

    What really upsets me is when other people impose there feeilngs/values onto your situation. My husband recently moved into a new job with a substantially higher salary. When my daughter was born it wasn't a financial option for me to stay at home and now it is. Almost everyone's immediate reaction to my husbands good news was "so are you going to stay home now". I found this so offensive. Some people have gone so far as to say it would be better for my daughter if I were to quit and stay home. I can't even tell you how offensive I find this. Not only is she fine. she is being loved and cared for by my mother every day when I'm at work. And as you said it's me whose missing out, not her. But I have worked my tail off to reach the point I am in my career. I have an AMAZING job which I love despite it's crazyness. For people to suggest I should give it up when I don't want to is crazy talk. Okay rant over:)

  5. everyone is entitled to their own opinion and i am glad you wrote this...like you said EVERY job is difficult and i understand where you're coming from!

    preach on friend!!
    P.S. i am a nerd and am going to read all of these articles!!!

  6. Amen sister! I get this all the time from people who know what (pay range) my husband brings home. It's not always about the money.

    We recently went to visit his parents and saw some other family while there and every single person asked if I was working. How many asked him if he was working? zero. And, the thing is I felt like I needed to justify it by saying, oh, I just got a promotion and yada, yada, yada. Ugh!

    I do get really tired of my SAHM mom friends who act like such martyrs. I get it, it must be hard to entertain a child all day long. But you could also utilize mothers day out and stop throwing yourself on your word, you know. I've actually been considering removing all of the SAHM blogs from my reader. I feel like I don't have much to relate to, but working moms seem much more willing to band together. (Oh, and if one more person tells me, "all mothers are working mothers" I will lose it!!!)

    And, like Natasha, I'll be reading them as well. :)

  7. You should read the book The Secret Life of Wives. It's in no way about Mommy Wars, but like the TIME article it does suggest that the happiest women and the best marriages come from women who have a life of their own outside their home, husband and (gasp!) even their children. I don't have children, but from my view it's women who have the choice to work part-time who are getting the best of both worlds.

  8. PREACH!

    Another angle: my SAHM sister is dying NOT to be a SAHM - she feels like she's going nuts with the kids all day, every day. But childcare is so expensive (and the economy is so lousy) that she's been searching for six months to find a job that will pay more than the cost of sending her two kiddos to daycare. She doesn't see a way out at this point that makes financial sense. And OH how she misses adult conversation!

  9. Adding one more thing- I don't understand the guilt comments either. I feel worse for me when I want to play hooky and snuggle Julia all day than I do her her. She loves her teachers and smiles so big every morning when she sees them.

    Yes, she smiles huge for me too when I pick her up, but she's having fun all day; there is no need or time for guilt.

  10. Very interesting post! I've always been torn on the subject... I'd love to stay at home with my (future) babes, but that would mean my master's degree would go to waste and I worked hard for that! But I think being a teacher kinda gives me the best of both worlds (hopefully). My mama had it made... she stayed at home with us while working full-time from home. She was always there if we needed her, but we knew when to give her her space while she worked!

  11. Here is what I know: I have a BA and a JD, I'm a licensed attorney and stay at home mom of two under two. I was lucky enough to have that option. And I completely respect mothers who work, at home, away from home, part time, full time. But I work my butt off too. I have a lot of days where I literally have no pause from my children, 7 am to 8 pm. It is utterly exhausting. I love it, I wouldn't change it, but it is a lot of work. And there is no reason for anyone to disrespect what I do nor for me to belittle what they do. Can't we all just get along?

    (For the record, I don't wear yoga pants and I don't have help... And I don't have time to work out either).

  12. I was coming to your blog to get the recipe for the egg frittas that I was going to make while I had the help of my baby sitter because I haven't had the chance to eat breakfast yet this week. I, of course, was distracted by your brilliant writing and read this post. ;)

    There is no right or wrong answer, the judgement and jealousy is what kills me. Why can't we just respect the path that each one of us is on and support one another? Like you said, being a parent is hard, each of us is looking for what works for our family and happiness.

    I have a BS and and MBA and worked 100+ hour weeks in corporate America before becoming a stay at home mom. Without a doubt being a full time mother is much harder than anything I have done outside the home.

    I also know it's an honor and privilege to be able to do this, and I don't complain or at least don't want to.

    For me, my son is the greatest accomplishment of my life, so I want to put every resource into raising him that I can. I enjoy doing it. Like anything I work hard at, I am exhausted at the end of the day.

    One article that I have enjoyed that I didn't find a link to in your post is titled Why Women Still Can't Have It All, I think you would enjoy it.


  13. I think you did a great job with this post. I agree on the judging front. It just needs to stop. Being a Mom is hard whether you stay home or work outside the home. It's just plain hard. The thing is, I do get tired of the complaining that SAHM's do because I do feel it's a privilege they get that I don't have. But, like Maggie above said, that's not always the case. We can't ever know why people make the decisions they make which is why the judging needs to stop. Worry about your own business ladies and do the best for your families. End.

  14. I'm waay behind getting to this, but - thank you. Well said, as always.

    I too am extremely tired of people trying to declare this mothering choice or that one harder than the other. It's insulting, it's irrelevant, and it's more than a little sexist. Aren't we all just trying to do our best, and facing our individual challenges as best we can?


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