Right now, I am sitting at my desk, which is down the hall from my girls’ room, listening to Thing 2 cry and scream at the top of her lungs. She says that she has terrible nightmares and can’t go to sleep. So, apparently she wants no one else in the house to sleep either. She wants someone to come in the room with her, which unfortunately, she shares with her sister, Thing 1, (and yes, I’m waiting to hear her yell “STOP THAT CRYING” at any moment) which means that she really doesn’t want just anyone in the room, she specifically wants Mommy or Daddy with her. I’m not going in there. I just refuse to. I tell you folks, it’s nights like this that I wish I worked outside of the home…third shift…anywhere. Don’t judge me.
In all honesty, there are mornings when I envy my husband as he leaves for work. Not that I would ever want to do what he does for a living (who am I kidding, I don’t even understand what he does for a living), but, just the fact that he gets to go out and have adult interaction and never mention Justice, American Girl or any Disney Channel show in any conversation in his entire day leaves jealousy in my heart. I repent for that at least once a week. Ironically, I don’t think he ever envies me. In fact, there have been some Monday mornings after a weekend home with me and the girls that he is up extra early racing to get out of the door. I’m laughing as I type this (really, that’s laughter you hear). And don’t even get me started about, when he goes on international trips, which is like, monthly. I can hardly hide my contempt. Although, now that I think about it, I would never be able to stay away from the Dynamic Duo for more than a few days so, I’d just end up taking them with me. I think that would defeat the whole purpose.
You know that I’m sorta, kinda kidding, right? Right? As much as I would love for that girl behind Door #1 to stop all of the drama and go to sleep, I am very grateful for the opportunity to share all of those little moments that I would otherwise miss if I worked out side of the home. Yes, often I do long for adult conversation however, the conversations of 5 and 6 – year – olds, especially when they are sharing something of utmost importance, no matter how long and convoluted, are rather charming. And, having the opportunity to be there should something happen during their day and they need me is priceless. However, make no mistake, I live the life that I live, as a mother, wife and woman, because it’s the life that I want to lead not because I think it’s somehow universally better than the alternatives. This is what works for my family.
The other day I came across an article entitled “Who’s Winning the Mommy Wars,” by Lindsey Olson (U.S. News & World Report, April 12, 2013) which talked about the continuing divide between working moms and stay-at-home moms. It cited a survey of over 500 respondents conducted by More magazine and Women & Co., Citi’s personal finance resource for women. If you want you can Google it for the specifics but, basically, the article said the same thing that these types of articles have been saying for years: working moms feel like stay-at-home moms guilt trip them about putting work over family and having someone else raise their children, while stay-at-home moms feel like working moms belittle them about not really doing anything valuable with their time and lives and being subservient to their husbands. Really? Are we still at this same place after all of these years?
I must tell you that I have a very broad perspective on this issue because I have been both a working and a stay-at-home mom. In fact, I have done both while being single and married. Initially, I was a single mother who returned to school while my son (then only 6-months-old) and I lived with my sister and her husband. After finishing school, I went to work for the next 12 or so years as a corporate paralegal. Obviously, I needed to take care of my son and myself, therefore, I needed money and benefits. Then, I got married and worked another couple of years before being laid off. Since then, I have been home with my kids. The lay off was a blessing because I really didn’t have the guts to quit my job, making myself solely dependent on my husband even though, with my husband’s career being what it is, it really would have been the prudent thing to do. To Big Poppa’s credit, he has never said a word one way or the other but, has always left the decision about my career, inside or outside of the home, up to me. I really appreciate that about him. As someone who has experienced both sides of the argument, I can attest to the fact that they are both correct. I have felt first, the pity of those who were so sad for me that I had to work and spend so much time away from my son. After I married, pity changed to bewilderment as to why I would not quit my job and go home to my kids. I was actually having a conversation with a few women one day when one of them (knowing that I was the only working mother in the group) stated that working mothers needed to learn to live with less stuff, as if that was the only reason that they could be working. Self fulfillment or just making ends meet never figured into her picture. On the flip side, as a stay-at-home mom I have encountered countless “jokes” and comments about what do I do with my time as if my whole day must be really leisurely or how I’m “spending up all of that man’s money.” And these are comments from family and friends! People who supposedly love me ?!? Wow.
Wait! Silence…finally Thing 2 is asleep.
Anyway, as annoying as all of this is, instead of wondering which side is right or which is best, the bigger question for me is “Who cares?” Why are we (women) doing this to each other? Do we have nothing better to do than to be that far in someone else’s business? What is this all really about? I’ll tell you what it’s about. It’s about insecurity. It’s the same insecurity that causes us to run out and buy the latest handbag or shoes or whatever so that we don’t feel left out. Or causes us to dress to the nines just to walk to the corner to pick our children up from school (I show up in my yoga pants because anything else requires way too much effort). Or that causes us to deny ourselves as unique individuals our own personal satisfaction in an effort to conform to some ideal of a perfect wife and mother as defined by someone else. There is no universal perfection in this so, stop looking because you won’t find it. So often, in an effort to make ourselves feel better about our decisions, we have to tear the other side down and that’s exactly what we are doing.
This argument is tired, worn out and stale. We all have unique situations and there is no one size fits all solution. So, instead of the mom wars, why don’t we help each other come up with mom solutions. And, instead of finding fault with one another, why don’t we offer help and encouragement or at the very least, be honest about where all of this is coming from. Ultimately, let’s just focus on our own needs and the needs of our family and put the boxing gloves away.