I’ve been reading a lot lately about the differences between the stay at home mom vs. working mom. Maybe I’m spending too much time in comment sections, but I see a lot of petty snarkiness.
Working moms feel judged and misunderstood. Stay at home moms (SAHM) want to make it clear that “all mom’s are working moms,” a sentiment that I heartily agree with, but then struggle to find the nomenclature that describes the reality that I leave my children in the morning for paid work and then return to them at night.
It’s easy to see how a battle of stay at home mom vs working mom seems inevitable. But the more I read from both sides feeling judged and misunderstood, the more frustrated I get. In fact, at this point, I’d like to call “Foul!” on the working mom vs. SAHM fight.
We really aren’t so different from each other. One of us certainly isn’t superior to the other. In fact, here are five truths that apply to BOTH working and stay-at-home moms:
Truth #1: We didn’t always choose this path.
Those of us who work for pay usually need to in order to support our families. Even if we are barely getting by during the day-care years, many of us know we have to stay in the workforce to keep our job and our level of pay when are kids are in school where childcare costs might go down a tad.
We might actually be the primary breadwinners, but our spouse needs to or want to work as well. But being a working mom isn’t always a deliberate choice we make. Same goes for SAHMs. I know plenty of SAHM who didn’t make enough to cover childcare, or got laid-off, or had flexible work schedules that turned them into the primary caregiver for their children without it entirely being their plans.
We need to stop pretending that, after having a child, a woman is faced with a golden angel who presents two paths: the paid work path and the stay-at-home path and it is really just up to our desires and conscious about which path we choose. We all know it is not nearly that simple, nor is it often that kind of a choice!
Truth #2: We have (many) days when we wish we were somewhere else.
I struggle with Monday mornings. Seriously struggle. It’s hard to get out of bed. I feel sad and desolate as I leave the house before my children wake up, and think about how I won’t see them again until 5:30 pm. At various parts of my workday I wish I was home, doing a puzzle with my daughter, or being there for for my son’s school pick up.
I struggle with Sunday mornings. My children wake up at 7:00am on the dot, ready to need me, to ask me to play with them, to climb all over me, to demand my constant attention. There are dishes to do, people to feed, laundry to start. At various parts of the day I look forward to tomorrow when I can sit at my desk, flooded with work, but where I control a tiny bit more of my own destiny.
I’ve been a stay-at-home mom and struggled with the tedious nature of it, the constant need, the realization that I haven’t showered in a while. I’m a working mom who feels an underlying guilt of always neglecting someone or something. They are both hard. And they both have rough days when we fantasize about being the other type of mom. Being a working mom and a SAHM means we sometimes (often) wish we were somewhere else.
Truth #3: We still do the brunt of the housework.
The American Time Use Survey (released in June, 2015) shows that women still do more housework and more childcare than men, even if they are also working for pay. You can read more here and here, but my favorite quote from the study is this one:
“–On an average day, 20 percent of men did housework–such as cleaning or laundry–compared with 49 percent of women. Forty-three percent of men did food preparation or cleanup, compared with 69 percent of women. Men were slightly more likely to engage in lawn and garden care than were women–11 percent compared with 8 percent. ”
This findings come 27 years after Arlie Russell Hochschild’s revolutionary book The Second Shift, all about how working women face the same home demands of the SAHMs of the past. Ladies, it doesn’t matter if we stay-at-home, work-at-home, or leave home to work. We’re still usually doing more than the dudes when it comes to house, home and kids.
Truth #4: There are too many balls up in the air
One of the truths about being a parent is that the minute you had that baby (or even had that positive pee test) is you just added about a dozen items to your to-do list. And most of them will never be done. Ready to feed the baby? Great! You got that done – now do it again in 45 minutes! Ready to make lunches for school? Great! Do it all over again in 24 hours, now with the added challenge of running out of bread! When you are a working mom you have multiple projects and demands at work, and the minute you step back into your home you have all the needs of your children, home and family back in you head. When you are a SAHM you have a ton of things you need to do to keep your house running, you children functioning, get everyone where they need to be going, and you do it day in and day out. We all have too much going on, and every day that we pull it off we should celebrate.
Truth #5: We need some love
Parents have it rough. Moms have it rough. Everyone needs things from us all the time. Sometimes (often) we forget to take care of ourselves. It doesn’t matter if you are a SAHM or a working mom: you need some love! All moms understand this. Even when we are all at little jealous of the other one (see truth #2) or even when we feel doubt about the mom-path we are on, we all owe it to ourselves and each other to show some love. Give your mom friends a minute to talk about their work, or their stressors with their kids, even if it feels like it might be a struggle to understand where they are coming from. Show some appreciation to a mom who is on a different path than yours. It won’t devalue the work and the parenting you do to acknowledge that, yeah, this mom thing is HARD! No matter which way you slice it, it is darn hard work.
I’ll close with one of my favorite thoughts about being a mom from Tina Fey’s Bossypants. She writes:
“Of course I’m not supposed to admit [as a working mom] that there is a triannual torrential sobbing in my office, because it’s bad for the feminist cause. It makes it harder for women to be taken seriously in the workplace. It makes it harder for other working moms to justify their choice. But I have friends who stay at home with their kids and they also have a triannual sob, so I think we should call it even. I think we should be kind to one another about it. I think we should agree to blame the children.”
We have more in common that we might think, no matter what parenting path we’re on. There is no need to feel like it is stay at home mom vs. working mom. Show love and kindness to each other and we can get it in return. And when in doubt: blame the children.
Marie Levey-Pabst is a parent educator and founder of Create Balance. She uses the very practical Create Balance Method to teach parents how to create balance between family, work, and personal fulfillment. Read more at the Create Balance Blog at her website: www.createbalancedlife.com
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