The truth is, I hate the labels. For me, they aren't mutually exclusive, and have merged, blended and overshadowed one another at different times.
It sort of depends on the day of the week and the season of the year, which one I am.
I like to think of it as the best of both worlds. I concede, however, that some might see it as "neither fish nor fowl."
My vantage point, though, rendered me able---or so I thought---to see all sides to The Story of Moms.
From the first moment I became a mom, I'd been regaled with tales about the mommy war between SAHMs and WOHMs. I never believed in it, probably because my knickers weren't too twisted up about many of the hotly argued scenarios.
I have heard a lot about the war, though, and have participated in a few debates. On the whole, I considered it an intellectual exercise: arguing sides of a scenario is an excellent way to live consciously, I think. At the end, we should all go away feeling more open-minded, more aware of others and their lives...shake hands like good sportsmen.
I knew some ladies walked away still quite angry, though. And I really didn't get it.
From my perspective, parenting is parenting, and I figure the vast majority of us do it the best we can.
Yes, this means I hold no opinion in general about whether it is better for a parent to work, or stay home with the kids. I thought I'd continue working, but it ended up that this wasn't the right call for us. A friend of mine was sure she'd stay home, but then she realized she missed working, and she went back. At the end of the day, we both ended up doing what felt like the best thing for all involved.
So why, then, is there this alleged friction between working and at homing moms?
I think it just might be that a misunderstanding, a false assumption about who the other is, and where her priorities are.
I don't think there is any one type. Consider the stay-at-home mom...what image pops FIRST into your head?
I'm beginning to believe that a pure and simple stay at home mom is a mythical creature. I've never met one, or maybe the truth is, we don't really know what one is. I think she's kind of hard to pin down, if you really think about it.
Many moms I know have kept their feet in the door of their career. They might appear to be stay-at-home moms, but then they tackle their second job, fitting in a few hours in the evenings, mornings, or weekends.
For example, some are medical professionals who have taken on some agency or contract work, such as my best friend, who spends her weekends trying to keep premature and sick babies alive in the NICU. Others freelance or work for themselves, like me. Still others have flexible hours and are able to work quite a bit from home.
Other moms I know volunteer their time, such as spending days in the classroom helping out, shuttling food to shut-ins, running craft projects for mom's groups,and so forth.
Others create art, continue their education, teach parenting courses, walk dogs, remodel their home and more.
Every mom and dad I know has their hands in more than one pie, especially the stay at home ones.
All in all, it truly is individual how each person responds to work and children.
Parents who work do need someone to care for their children while they work.
Parenting around work days is not the same kind of parenting as being home all day.
Momish put this into words really well when writing about a snow day at home with her daughter:
I honestly think if I spent all day everyday with this child, either she or I would be dead by now. By the time my husband got home yesterday, I was two shakes away from being committed. My patience is next to nothing when it comes to a two year old.
I felt like all I did all day long was yell out orders and reprimands in an endless frantic stream. “Stop that! Get down! Put that back! Don’t touch! Watch out! No screaming! Be good!” Occasionally, once in a blue moon, we actually had some fun and laughed together. But, those happy moments seemed to be fleeting and so fragile that I felt like I was holding my breath each time things were going smoothly, waiting for the bubble to burst.
I believe the occasional day---with no set boundaries, routines, etc.---can be harder. However, at home all day every day with kids is hard, too. There *is* a lot of "can't do this but can do this" and redirecting and preventing and solving and disciplining and so forth. That's the job.
The fun moments, the loving ones, etc. are fleeting and fragile. That's the reward.
I think the biggest trap moms (and probably dads too) fall into is thinking that quality time = Hallmark moment of pure joy.
Anyway, in my experience, nothing can drive you to your least favorite aspects of yourself like a two year old.
Momish and I are both moms of two year olds; beyond that, who knows how many differences or similarities we have. I do know one thing: I'm not more momish than she is because I am home all day with my kids.
And I think that is the first, big, ugly stereotype I've hit that has really, really pissed me off since becoming a mom who is home.
(I want to make this clear: Momish had NOTHING to do with that. She wrote a beautiful post that moved me because I could 100% identify with it. Reading it simply motivated me, gave me the words to write about something that happened last week. I owe Momish many thanks for inadvertantly helping me process something that troubled me.)
Last week, a WOHM said something that really annoyed me.
She said, "Well you stay at home, your friends stay at home, can't one of you just watch my child?"
How innocuous that looks just written there, in black and white. Deceptively innocent and simple.
No, I can't just watch your child. I don't have the time. And, moreover, I don't want to.
It might be a shocking admission, considering I went through years of infertility treatment, tried oh-so-hard to have children, and now have dedicated my life to them, but...I don't really like caring for children, in general. As cute as they can be, as lovely, as amazing, they can also be loud, messy, illogical, tempermental, demanding, and troublesome.
I love my kids. I love my nieces and my nephews. I love seeing them. I love hearing about their lives, and interests. I love my kids' friends. I love my friends' kids. I enjoy playdates and time together. I'll willingly volunteer to watch kids when their parents need assistance. For a few hours. Now and again.
That doesn't mean that I could become a childcare provider. It takes a very special person to regularly care for someone else's children, whether it is all day five days a week or pinch-hitting days here and there as regular back-up. I don't have the time, or the inclination.
What it does mean, I think, is that I just might have met, finally, the no-longer-mythical Snobby Full-time Working Mom who believes all this "mom stuff" is for lesser mortals. She's the woman who, when she says, "I don't know how you do it," isn't really complimenting, or at best, means it in a backhanded way.
She doesn't really appreciate the job stay at home mothers do. She doesn't really understand what is going on. She takes the "at home" part too literally.
My visceral reaction stunned me, as did the defensive thoughts that roared through my head.
I understand how frustrating it is to try to find and keep reliable childcare. I understand how stressful it is when you need to find a last-minute back-up plan. I understand the inclination to ask for help or seek ideas or suggestions. I understand that someone you know seems better, and easier, than shuffling through myriad nanny applicants or daycare visits.
But...but...this was such a clear misunderstanding on so many levels.
This wasn't a friend asking a friend. This was working mom asking a stay-at-home mom to find her childcare, find her some stay-at-home mom who will take on her child---a group, apparently, that is legion in this woman's mind.
This was someone not getting that stay-at-home moms, any of them, might not have the time or inclination for childcare.
And worst of all, it was a huge lack of comprehension about what caring for someone else's child involves, all day, every day. To frame it with, "no big deal" and "my child should be no trouble" and "just watch" along with "since you are at home anyway" is so flagrantly offensive that I can't quite grasp the kahunas you must have to say such a thing.
No child is no big deal. Kids vary on the challenge scale, it's true. But childcare is a Very Big Deal.
It's hard for me to comprehend how a mom doesn't comprehend this.
I stay at home with my kids because they are my kids, because I love them and this is what we prefer to do. Doing so doesn't mean I've put out the red light and am open for business.
copyright 2007 Julie Pippert
Tags: SAHM vs. WOHM,childcare and homecare,working parents and childcare, stay-at-home mom childcare, stay-at-home mom and work-out-of-home mom childcare, mommy wars and childcare