Monday, June 4, 2012

Mama Bears, Retract Your Claws

Maybe because it's Monday, or maybe because it's been raining for days and I've been cooped up with two overly energetic children; who can tell, but I am particularly irritated by a particular, ongoing topic of discussion these days. Who has the tougher job; the stay at home mom, or the working mom? Why is it important that this even be debated? Mama bears from all angles get their claws out whenever they feel threatened, and it seems, anyone doing it differently is a threat.

Allow me to digress a little here. What is it about girls and their absolute need to tear others down in order to feel better about themselves? It starts in elementary school, and, as I've been learning, it apparently never ends. In elementary school it is used as a tactic to make oneself appear "cooler" in front of friends and, more importantly, boys. In high school the same rules apply, but it goes a little deeper, and is used to tear down those who are working hard and excelling at something so that you appear cool and their hard work appears lame. As adults, I'm learning that women use these same tactics as a means to feel better about themselves in various areas; working, parenting, cleaning, managing finances, cooking. However, the working and parenting seem to be the most prevalent among idle gossipers. Most of us ladies have all been victims of this at one point or another, and most of us have also participated in it at some point as well. Why is that? Why, instead of focusing on ourselves and the job we're doing, do we have to point fingers and judge someone else in their performance, in order to feel good about our own endeavors?

How does this apply to the topic at hand? Well, over the years, as my generation has gotten married and had children, I have witnessed so much negativity (on facebook, mostly) directed at moms who might do things differently. While I am sure that some stay at home moms have said or done nasty things to working moms, most of what I've seen has been working moms trying to put down stay at home moms in one way or another, in this war to prove that working moms have it harder. STOP IT. This is not a war, and if it is, we are all on the same side! We are all moms working toward a common goal of raising up good and decent human beings in a world that is making that more and more difficult by the second.

Let me be clear, I am not at all arguing that being a stay at home mom is more difficult, and I have no misconceptions about the difficulties of being a working mom. I was raised by one of the hardest working moms I've ever met, who woke around 3 or 4 am, loaded trucks all morning, and then walked anywhere from 5 to 10 miles a day with a 75 lb bag of mail to deliver, and THEN came straight to whatever basketball game, tennis match, or other school activity my sister or I was participating in on any given day. If there was no said event, she'd come straight to the gym and chase after balls in her postal uniform while we shot in order to spend time with us and help us practice. To this day, she is the reason why I am much more inclined to argue the side of the working mom. However, as a stay at home mom myself, I have learned about the other side, and I have learned that though the hardships and challenges are different they are still just that; hardships and challenges, and I don't appreciate, nor do I take it lightly, when working women try to make me feel lazy for staying home. It took me a long time to realize that my negative feelings about staying home with my children weren't my own, but rather projected on me by others over the years, and I shouldn't feel lazy for choosing to stay at home. How would they like it if I tried to make them feel like less of a mom for leaving their children? I would never! People just do things differently, under different circumstances, for different reasons, because of different situations. 

I have spoken with several moms who have spent time doing both. Some have gone from working to staying home, and others have gone from staying home to working. I have received the same feedback from both. There were, of course, challenges on either side, but the general consensus was that perhaps the work for a working mom was slightly greater because of working a job and still coming home to manage a household, but that the emotional and mental toll of staying home was much greater and more exhausting. It seemed that no matter how much they may have disliked their job, and no matter how much they loved their children, it was still nice and refreshing to be able to get out alone, and it made them, as well as their children, appreciate the time they had together more. However, that may not ring true for everyone, but as you can see above, the key word today is different.  

Speaking from my own personal experience, allow me to give you a glimpse into my circumstances, but understand that I am not complaining, merely stating the facts:

              I do not have anyone to drop the kids off with on any given afternoon or day, let alone a whole weekend, so this little thing that I do is literally 24/7. I do not get sick days. I cannot ever call in sick to work and have some time to rest before the kids come home from school, daycare, preschool, or the sitter. Also, because I "don't work," my husband has to, so he cannot take a sick day to care for the kids while I stay in bed. I do not have a car. We are a one-car family, so rain or shine, I am here with the kids, by myself all day, at least 5 days a week. Because we are here all day every day, there are constant messes. Dishes are 2,3, maybe 4 times a day. Clean-up is all day. I am not able to leave in the morning and returning to the same house in the same condition later that day. Also, because I "don't work" we can't often afford the luxury of eating out or getting take out whenever I'm far to exhausted to make dinner, so I am also a full-time chef to a growing family. Lastly, because I am a stay at home mom, and I do consider it my "job," I alone am responsible for my children if they need anything during the night. Though he has voluntarily done it on occasion, I do not expect my husband to ever get up in the night to tend to a crying baby when he has to get up and work the next morning. We have never alternated nights or taken turns with a sleep schedule for that reason. But keep in mind that just because I don't get up to go to work in the morning, does not mean that I can stay in bed. I have children that will need me the next day regardless of how rough my night's sleep was.

None of this is to say that other, working mothers don't go through some of this same stuff. Single mothers especially have to deal with all sides of a situation. What I'm trying to point out is that everyone has different circumstances and different challenges. (There's that doggone word again). For example, some single mothers might have really tough and tiring weeks, but occasionally they still get a weekend when the child is with the father or father's family, and as much as that child is missed, it is still time for refreshing and rejuvenating an exhausted woman. On the other hand, you might have a stay at home mom with a participating husband and father, who has no outlets, and no time to herself, and she might wish she worked, at least part time, just to get out of the house.

I once had a friend on facebook who is not a mother at all, write a very long rant on how stay at home moms who do not home school their children are lazy. What an awful, judgmental thing to assume! Now that my children are approaching school age, and I have been considering home schooling, I have had to really evaluate myself and my intentions. I will be adding teacher to my list of full-time jobs, and I had to ask myself, am I just doing this because I will feel lazy and judged by my peers if I don't? I concluded that the answer was, no. I am doing it because it is what I and my husband, feel is best for our children at this time. All of the negative rants in the world won't keep me from doing what I feel is best for my children, so I have learned not to take them personally.

To conclude my personal rant:), ladies, a little competition is healthy, I believe. I am a huge advocate of competition, and I believe strongly that it makes us all work harder towards being and/or doing better, but this is not a competition. I am not here taking a stand for stay at home moms. This isn't "stay at home moms unite!" There is no need for segregation. From the mom on welfare who's going back to school to make a better life for her family, to the stay at home mom with a husband pulling six figures, to the mom working 2 jobs to make ends meet, and everywhere in between, we are mothers. We should all be united in this war together, not fighting to prove our own righteousness. Pray for each other, listen to each other, and understand that our challenges are different, but that our rewards are great.

Although I am nearly a month late for Mother's Day (woops), here's to all the mothers out there, working or not, in school or not, single or not; doing the best they can do to raise up the next generation!


  1. Thanks for standing up for personal choice! And Happy Mother's Day to you too!

  2. Erin,
    I too see these rants from both sides on my fb page. I am obviously not a mother but still feel very strong about this debate. I don't like the competition between moms... you hit on the head, everyone is different with different situations and there is ONE goal - raising good children who will become good adults.

    I see a lot of stay at home moms at my job (baby store) and I can tell it's not as easy as they make it seem. And I grew up with a working mom, so I know how that side is as well.

    I guess all I'm saying is WELL SAID (as usual) and job well done!

  3. I think the way you described your own situation contradicts the rest of your blog.

    1. How so? I am merely explaining my own personal struggles...not negating others' personal struggles. And I followed that up immediately by explaining how I'm not saying that working moms don't deal with much of the same.

  4. I have the opposite experience. I get more negativity from the SAHM. I also get ostracized by them at my kid's school by way of the PTO. They set everything up during the work day, nag nonstop that they need help with xyz and give attitude when I explain I just cannot take time off from work.

    Just to clarify, the paragraph where you describe your particular what I go through and I'm a working Mom.
    -My husband works long hours (90 hrs per week) so it's just me and the kids before and after work. I have SAHM-friends who said things like "well I don't get sick or vacation days". What do they think I do if I take vacation days, I'm with the kids! When my 6 month old keeps my up night after night (as he has been lately), I still have to get my butt up, get everyone out the door and get to work.

    1. I'm sorry SAHMs are putting you through that. I don't like the attitudes from either side of it, and I understand what you mean. I didn't mean to imply in my personal circumstances that there aren't any working mothers who also deal with the same issues. Part of the problem is that we all assume we know what other people deal with day to day, and we just don't. Every one deserves encouragement and understanding. :) I support the working moms! And I don't fully understand why there is such a divide in the battle grounds right now.

    2. I'm with you there, I don't like the attitudes that some give from both sides. I even take crap from my own mother (she was a SAHM).

      I love my friends whether they're home, working out of the home, working from home.....I just want to support them in their choices and lean on them for support when needed.

      I think the divide comes from people who put down/judge others as a way to deal with their own insecurities.

      As I type this I'm nursing my 6 month old. I'm out of my mind tired cause I haven't gotten more than 3 hrs sleep since he was born. But it doesn't matter, it's my choice and in the kids are worth it :-)