It seems ridiculous that this would be a “raging battle” but it is. If you hit up any of the parenting sites they all have at least one post on this subject. Its usually spurred by some news article that calculates how much a stay-at-home mom would make if she were paid for the hours she puts into being a mother, cleaning the house, cooking, etc.
And then you get to the comments and it starts with one side saying how much they work. Followed by the other side saying how much harder they work. And all of a sudden, a bevy of words and insults are flying and they’re figuratively rolling around in the mud, pulling each other’s hair, and scratching faces.
And I feel trite and exasperated and stereotypical because all I want to say is: Can’t we all just get along?
OK, I want to say more than that. So here’s my chance:
Dear Mothers of the World,
There is no universally correct answer to whether staying home or working is best for your family. Can we please — PLEASE — just agree to support one another? Our similarities outweigh our differences.
Stay-at-home moms: You get to watch your children every second of every day. You’re there to pick them up after every fall. To kiss every boo-boo. To put them down for every nap. You’re also a little bit isolated. You yearn for adult conversation. For a meal in which you can actually eat with both hands and focus on yourself. You probably are part of a mommy group for camaraderie. There is no such thing as downtime. When your kids go to bed, you still have to cook, clean, and get ready for the next day. You feel under-appreciated. You neglect the things you want for things your family wants or needs.
You feel looked down upon by working mothers who say things like “I wish I had the luxury of staying at home with my kids.” Or people making comments about how much your husband/spouse/significant other must make to enable you to stay home. You probably pinch pennies, use coupons, and pull back on the expenses to make it work.
Working moms: You get your kids up early each morning so you can take them to day care. You feed them breakfast, get them dressed, take them to day care, give them a hug and kiss and leave. Nobody knows how long it took you to find that day care or how many providers you interviewed until you found one you felt you could trust with your children. Nobody knows how it gnaws at you that you might miss a milestone moment. From there, your commute starts. You go to work and put in your 8 hours. You commute home. If you’re lucky — like me — your spouse picks up the kids from day care. By the time you get home, everyone is hungry and wants dinner. You get them fed, bathed, and spend a little time with them before its time for the kids to go to sleep. You cuddle them, kiss them goodnight, and shut the door. Then you make dinner for you and your spouse, and the kids’ lunches for the next day. You clean up. You do something for yourself (maybe). You sit with your spouse for a little bit and look up to find its close to midnight and its time to go to bed. You live for the weekends, so you can spend all day with your kids.
You feel looked down upon by stay-at-home moms, because you have to or (gasp!) want to work. You’d like to stay home with your kids, but financially it doesn’t work. Or maybe you love your job and want to see where you can take it. Maybe — like me — all your family’s health benefits are through your employer. You feel unappreciated. You feel haggard, because you’re always running around. Possibly, the only downtime you get is during your commute. You neglect the things you want for things your family wants or needs. You probably pinch pennies, use coupons, and pull back on expenses to make it work.
Here’s the bottom line: Parenting is hard enough without jumping down each other’s throats for either working or staying at home. I completely respect stay-at-home moms, because there is no break and even harder to get downtime. I also completely respect working moms, because trying to balance work and home is really freaking hard. Impossible if your employer isn’t understanding. (I am so very lucky in this department.)
Whatever you choose, I know you made that decision based on what is best for your family. And isn’t that what really matters anyway?