What Matters

Friday, May 8, 2009

Nothing seems to make women more defensive than a conversation about stay-at-home mothers versus working mothers.

These "Mommy Wars" have inspired books, TV shows, and blogs.

It is a mix between what women see as judgment from other women and our own self-imposed guilt.

If we are a stay at home mom, we think that working moms are judging us for not having a career, for giving something of ourselves up. We also have our own guilt that we could have done something else or more with our lives.

If we are a working mom, we think that stay at home moms are judging us for picking something else over our children, for having our priorities wrong. And we struggle with the guilt of not being there for our children ever moment.

I used to think that the perception of being judged by other women for the choices I had made was just that: my perception. No one was really judging me. It was just my own guilt that I projected on others.

However, that's not complete true. I've had conversations with other women, relatives, and friends. I've heard a lot of things.

Example: "I don't see how you do it all. My children are way too important for me to be able to do work and take care of them." So, are you saying I don't think my children are important?

Example 2: "I'm surprised you choose to have children at this point in your career. How can you focus on getting a good residency?" I don't know. How do you explain that you don't have kids and you didn't even get a residency spot?

Example 3: "I feel bad for your kids." Yes, they have spent time at daycare. But we have game nights and weekly outings. They are read to every night, given horsey rides to bed. What exactly do you feel bad about?

I can't understand why women aren't more supportive of each other, regardless of our choices. Motherhood is hard. Maneuvering through the professional world as a women is hard. Why do we have to make it harder for each other by heaping on the guilt?

I never wanted to be a stay at home mom. All I saw it as was a lot of repetitive thank-less work. I did not want that for myself.

Until I had my boys.

I love my boys so much, it approached Old Testament idolatry.

Given the choice, I would stay home with them every day, just playing, reading, throwing balls, racing cars, going on outings.

But I don't want to stay home with them in a tiny apartment, living paycheck to paycheck, knowing that the next time the car breaks down our savings will completely disappear.

So I'm doing my very best to have the best of both worlds. I'm hoping that when I'm done with residency and fellowship and all that goes along with it, life will be more comfortable for us. I should only have to work 2-4 days a week.

Hubster also loves our boys a ridiculously huge amount. He wants to be with them as well.

I don't think it would be fair for me to get to spend more time with them at his expense. I could be a stay-at-home mom, even now. But that would involve him working extra hard, including evenings and weekends (which he has had to do in the past.) I would get more time with the boys at the expense of Hubster having almost no time with them.

Neither of us wants that.

It's going to take a while for us to get to where we want to be. But when we do, things will be great.

Yes, it probably is unfair that my oldest son will have spent is youngest years during this difficult time. But he is happy. He knows he is loved.

And THAT is what matters.


Karen said...

I'm with you. I don't understand why women have to waste their efforts making each other feel guilty about their choices.

Personally, I didn't go on with school after earning my Bachelor's because I don't want a "career". I want to stay at home and raise my as-yet-unconceived children. But that's my choice. That's what I want to do. And if my neighbor decides she wants to or if she needs to have a job, then I'll do what I can to help her with her own kids, too. Because that's what we should all be doing for each other.

And I love your retort about getting a residency with kids vs. someone w/out kids who didn't. Priceless.

Bonnie said...

I feel it always. The judgement, not just personal perception, from men and women. I never cease to be amazed by my own precious mother, but feel like there is an impossible expectation to live up to. The oohs and aahs are for the career youth councilor, soccer coach, bake sale co-ordinator,den mother, career, and weekend job mother who is thrifty, tidy, never shops second hand and gourmet cooks from scratch 3 meals a day. Nothing else is remarkable. It isn't the exaggeration that it seems.