I am a working mom, but I was once a mom who stayed at home. The battle between the two "sects" of motherhood (not sure what else to call it) seems to be something that may never die. In my opinion, whether you're home for your kids or you're paying for day care, being a mom isn't a job, but it is a choice — a choice to raise another being to hopefully contribute positively to our world. And some moms make the choice to stay home either because their incomes don't allow for day care, or because they just want to and have made smart financial choices to help them be home. The deck cuts the same way for a mom who works: some of us work because we don't have the finances and support to stay home, some because we want to work, and perhaps some because of a mix of both reasons. No matter what "sect" you're in, I feel women should support each other and not look to prove who has it the worst or who has it the best. That's way too simple in itself: one SAHM could have an easy life and the other not. You can't make blanket statements about any group of people or style of mothering. Life is too complex. Just try to be supportive of the choices your friends make whether it's to be home for life, be home for two years, or be a CEO mom. That's the best way we can support mothers and help each other succeed instead of contribute to tearing each other down, something women cannot stand to do.
There were a few months last year, though, in which I admit that I wasn't the most supportive lady around. After going back to work full-time, I sort of resented my SAHM friends. Some would post how they needed a break from their kids or perhaps that their kids were driving them crazy, and meanwhile in my little life, I was commuting to work a total of four hours on an easy day and working late. Seeing my child, it seemed, was a luxury. To see social media posts from folks who were able to see their kids complaining, it stung me. I was the mom who came home to see my kid right as she was about to go into the bathtub . . . only to have her snub me out of anger from never seeing me.
A year later, I feel bad for admonishing women for complaining to me about seeing their kids too much. I was waist-deep in my own anger about my life situation. As a current working mother with a long day (but not as long as before), I enjoy working even though I miss my days at home and look back at them with fondness and wish I didn't have to work full-time.
The other day, I took a half-day from work, and it reminded me of the days when it was just my daughter and me, not me, my daughter, school, drop-offs, after care, and the rest of it. It had me thinking about all of the good times I had with my child at home, and then, it had me thinking about all the mothers I know who stay at home with their kids and why they're so amazing.
When you're a SAHM, a lot of your old identity as a person disappears. Of course, you're choosing to be at home, but still, so many of my wonderful SAHM friends have unselfishly put their careers and wants aside so they could focus on their kids. Do they complain about this? No, although at times they miss the days before they were just known as "Mom," but they do so with acceptance and peace in their choice.
Since I'm at work most of the days, I don't have to be educator, entertainer, and chef all day. Others help do that for me. SAHMs do that all day, and honestly, gone are the days in which moms just stick their kids in front of the television and hope that Sesame Street will do the educating for them. The stay-at-home mothers I know are creative and find all kinds of ways to play with their children. This isn't to say that working moms don't do this — remember, it's not a competition, ladies — but that these moms at home are inventive and have to be tireless.
When I didn't work, I was invisible to so many people as if I didn't exist. At parties or events, men (including men who were fathers) barely spoke to me once they heard I was raising my child at home. They must have thought that I couldn't possibly have something to say that was of interest. Female friends even did this to some extent. Being at home almost equaled not existing. Sure, there are tons of forums and websites that speak directly to stay-at-home mothers. Marketers that target the population. But among real conversation, my input wasn't wanted like it is now as a working member of the planet.
So many of the mothers I know raising their children at home have been a help to me, the working mother. They have offered to pick up my sick child, watch her when she works, help me out if I am at home sick and need a helping hand. Again, my working mommy friends do the same thing when they're not working, but the mothers at home can do it more often. I see so many of my SAHM friends helping other moms out. The fact is, we need people at home to help not only with their own children, but also with ours. Remember, it takes a village to raise a child. Thanks to these lovely ladies and stay-at home dads, they're helping the economy by supporting the workers who are running it.
Many of my SAHM friends are home because their children have special needs and it makes more sense to be home than to pay someone for care. I applaud these ladies. Many of them were employed in careers ahead of time and had to put their goals aside. Some may not have been CEO mothers, but still, it is tiring to parent a child with needs sometimes — especially if a mother feels a lack of support from her family and community.
Whether you're punching the clock like I am or punching Play-Doh at home, all motherhood lifestyle choices are valid and wonderful. The fact is, we need each other, and we need each other to wave one another's flag. I thank all the stay-at-home mothers for commending me for my hard work in the office and helping me when I need my community. We are all a part of a greater village. The sooner we understand this, the happier we will be.