The mommy wars

March 8, 2011 by Carrie Cherry
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 I have been a stay-at-home mom to my 4-year-old daughter all of 77 days of her existence. The other 1,500 days or so, I was a working mom.

  Why am I telling you this? Because The Mommyhood moms have gotten some recent feedback from a working mom who says she can’t relate to our lifestyle of having the time to “worry about the organic green beans” we’re going to feed our child when “he or she wakes up from a nap.”

  I don’t know about the other moms here, but I’ve never bought an organic vegetable in my life, and nothing green has passed my daughter’s lips since the days of that pureed stuff from a jar.

  I’m a single mom for the time being because in a six-month period, my daughter lost her father to cancer and I uprooted her from the only home she’s ever known to move back to West Virginia to be closer to friends and family. I made the decision to take a break from work for a few months so I can help her adjust and cope and get settled in to our new lives before shipping her off to daycare while I toil away in a cubicle. It was not a decision made lightly, but one I felt was in the best interest of my daughter.

   But I do understand the struggles of working moms. I am a journalist. I have been a reporter and a copy editor for the past 10 years. So I know what it’s like to drop my daughter off at daycare some mornings when she was crying hysterically and had to be literally peeled off of me by her teachers. I sat in my car and cried a little myself before heading into the office where I had to pretend that everything was ok and get my job done.

  So I get it.

  I have been given a project by an editor 20 minutes before I was supposed to leave work so I could relieve my husband of his child care duties so he could get to work himself.  That usually meant waiting until my own mom got home from work so she could watch my daughter and I could go back into the office on my own time to get the project finished.

  So I get it.

  Because I work in the news business and news doesn’t stop for the holidays, I’ve had to sit in my cubicle on Christmas Eve, trying to hide the tears running down my face because I was missing my husband reading “The Night Before Christmas” to our sweet baby girl. I used to work a 4 to midnight shift on the copy desk of a newspaper. A baby doesn’t care about the fact that you’ve had no sleep when she’s up and ready to play at 6 a.m.

  So I get it.

  The working mom who wrote in wanted to make sure we knew that working moms do just as much parenting as stay-at-home moms. She listed all of her roles: homeroom mom, t-ball coach, dance mom, laundry, meals, cleaning, etc.

  Yep. I get that too. Just like her, I too, did laundry, cleaned the house, went grocery shopping and prepared all the meals. And while my daughter was too young for t-ball or dance or a homeroom, I did have a husband who was fighting cancer for two years. There were days I would get up early to spend some time with my daughter, then sit with my husband for hours of chemotherapy before rushing in to work until midnight.

  So I get it. I really do.

  When I was working I was so envious of stay-at-home mothers. I envisioned leisurely mornings of playing and watching Sesame Street, baking cookies from scratch and long afternoon naps. The reality of my brief stay-at-home stint is this: I’m frazzled, things are a mess and meals come from the freezer.

  But so what if I wanted to fret about organic green beans? Why are mommies criticizing the choices of other mommies? Why are we tearing others down for making different choices?

  Fellow mom blogger Kara says the elephant in the room is guilt. The emailer has working mom guilt. Kara, who left her job to stay home with her newborn, has what she calls feminist guilt, feeling ungrateful for a century of feminist advancement.

  I had working mom guilt for sure. I felt like I was shirking my responsibility as a mother by handing  off  my daughter to someone else to care for. I felt terrible missing some of those firsts. I felt like I wasn’t putting her first, or worse, that I was abandoning her all together. And I have guilt now that I’m staying at home. I feel guilty for not doing craft projects or organizing all the toys or putting her in front of the TV so I can take a breather. I feel guilty that  some days she stresses me out so much that I can’t wait for her to go to bed.

  It seems to me that working moms and stay-at-home moms should be on the same team. We’re all moms, just trying to get through the day, loving our kids and trying to make the best decisions and do right by them. It’s hard being a mom, no matter what the circumstances.

  Anyone care to wade into this one?

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9 Responses to “The mommy wars”

  1. Katy BrownNo Gravatar says:

    I thought the war between working mothers and stay-at -home mothers ended a few years ago, but now I see that we’ve entered a second wave of attack, and that’s justifying the TYPE of work we do.

    I was the director of marketing and business development for the law firm of Jackson Kelly for my daughter’s first year of life, and it was an expensive endeavor to secure childcare for the hours I was at the office … or on a plane. When my dad entered the last stages of Alzheimer’s disease, I resigned to take care of him in our home, and then I was changing two types of diapers, as crude as that sounds. It was heartbreaking, backbreaking work, but it was how I wanted to spend my time.

    After his death, I knew I had to start earning some money again, so I cashed out my 401K and put every dime into starting my own writing agency, which assisted law firm marketers and attorneys. It was the greatest financial and professional risk of my life, but I was determined to try it on my own because quite frankly, I needed to be my own boss. I worked twice as hard to get it up and going, and thanks to five years of that ground pounding, I now owe Uncle Sam. In fact, I worked so much last week alone that my daughter asked me why I stopped playing with her. It broke my heart. I work from home yet I admit that I’m rarely ‘here’. I’m distracted and I’m busy… but thank God, in this economy, I’m billing.

    A woman I used to respect told me that home based businesses weren’t real jobs. I was furious. Why must I spent $1,000 a month in a shoebox office on Main Street to justify my career? Why must I get up and go to a rented space to be taken seriously? Why must I argue with another mother over who REALLY works and who plays office in her basement? Why am I doing it now? BECAUSE EVERY MOTHER WORKS, no matter where she does it, or HOW she does it.

    Who am I? I am a mother first, a wife second, a business owner third, and a friend fourth. Yes, in that order. I take care of my loved ones and clients and friends in the best ways that I know how, and I often do it alone because my husband travels for his company. So when someone tells me that I don’t have a ‘real job’ because I can stay in my pajamas until noon and not get caught, I beg to differ. The last time I wore pajamas after 12:00 was when I was sick during a snowstorm on a Sunday.

    Please….let’s stop pointing fingers as to who works, who doesn’t, who works where, who has it rougher, and who annoys whom. Our “real job” is to love our children and take the utmost care of them. With a task like that, no one on God’s green earth has it easier than anyone else.

  2. Bonnie MarquisNo Gravatar says:

    I think the point of guilt is a big part of this – but so is the lack of support – from society at large and sometimes from our own families –

    I work full time and so does my spouse – where we differ from most folks is we BOTH have VERY flexible jobs – and this makes all the difference in the world – Sure it’s tough get a healthy meal on the table – and for what it’s worth I DO think about organic greens and lament my lack of good food choices here in WV –

    So I agree – let’s stop pointing fingers and criticizing others choices – I stayed home for a time (from age 7 – 14 months after a family move) I loved it and hated it all at the same time – walked off all the baby weight but was so ready to go back to work part time – I had the absolute luxury of working part time – which is what I think many of would choose if we could since it provides a nice balance – I was SO happy to go back to work JUST so I complete a thought!

    None of us has it easy and we all make choices we think best for our families – so let’s do our best to support each other – even if it’s to say – I get it!

    • CaraNo Gravatar says:

      Bonnie, you’re one of my supermoms! I agree with you; one thing I miss about working at the newsroom is getting out of the house and getting some adult conversation. Not to mention the uninterrupted potty and lunch breaks…

  3. Katy BrownNo Gravatar says:

    It is extremely difficult. I’ll never forget the day I had to go into a client’s office to work on something, and I hid my toddler under the desk for two hours until I could leave. My sitter canceled at the exact minute she was supposed to help me, and I had no one to call for backup. Support is absolutely critical. You are so right.

  4. CaraNo Gravatar says:

    Your last graf nailed it. All parents should support each other, regardless of where we work or what we feed our children. Our most important job is making sure the kids are OK (to steal from Hollywood).

    However, to add my two cents, I worked mostly from home for two years before I started at the DM and well before I had my son. When I told people that I had the freedom to work from home, every single person supported that. No one said I wasn’t working because I wasn’t in the office (which I was, a couple of days a week, but the other days and nights I was home.)

    Now that I’m doing a very similar job, but have a child, I’m not a working mom? That logic makes zero sense.

    Carrie, I admire you so much. It takes a lot of strength to do what you do and you do it well. Keep it up mama!

  5. bradmcNo Gravatar says:

    I’m always amazed by anyone who has the discipline and concentration to work at home when there are kids around. I have trouble just sorting the laundry when I have pint-sized company. On the other hand, I have trouble sorting the laundry anyway.

  6. RachelleNo Gravatar says:

    I applaud any mother! I was blessed to have a stay at home mom who was there waiting to hear about my day; making me special snacks; my best friend. I knew that was what I wanted for my children. My daughter, Katelyn, now 22, I had when I was 26 and gave up my second car and worked from home around my husband’s schedule until she was in pre-school, then working part-time, to always get her from school and be there for that special time with her; I was blessed again at 40 with a son and quit my job to stay at home with my beautiful new son (my husband also worked from home); I was approached when my son was 16 months to return to the workforce and after weighing it all, did return to work at that time BUT my husband was working from home. I am proud to say neither of my children ever had daycares or babysitters other than family. I would never in any way put down a mother’s choice for their child because being a mom is hard enough on any level. I will say that our babies are only that for such a short amount of time — I blinked and my daughter went from infant to graduating from college in what seemed like minutes. I used to get offended when people would say “do you work outside your home.” I would often become defense and say I work “inside” my home 24/7. There is no better nurturing or gift we can give our children than our time and protection. There is no greater protection than a mother or father’s care. So, I would say whatever works for your family dynamics, then sacrifice and do what it takes to make that happen. With sacrifice, a parent can do just about anything they put their minds to. My son is now 10 and is being homeschooled by my husband. There is no such thing as a “working mom” in my opinion — moms regardless of having “careers” or “jobs outside the home” or “stay at home moms” — we are all working moms. My hats go off to all the mothers whatever you do for your families. I don’t judge others nor wish others to judge me. God bless you all.

  7. karanirelandNo Gravatar says:

    I have found that I judge judgmental people. I really need to work on that; it’s probably going to be my Lenten sacrifice: to give up judging the judge-y. Also, I might give up carbs.

    Other than that, I have little to say except: “Good job, parents who love their children and do their best!”

  8. TriciaNo Gravatar says:

    I think one of you (or all of you) – hit the nail on the head with the diagnosis of guilt. And then defending our choices. Those who work outside the home – feel guilty for not being home. There – I said it. Other than 10 weeks maternity leave, I have worked every day since. And some days, like last night, I saw my daughter for about an hour before it was her bed time. I can build a very good argument for why it’s good for me to work, but I could just as easily build the argument for why I should stay home. It is what it is. We do what we have to or want to do. And we make the best of it. Then someone comes along and makes some smart *@$ comment about daycare and you retreat to your innermost guilty place and come out swinging.

    Maybe we all need Lenton goals for all year – that encourage us, no, require us, to support each other, regardless of our situations and choices made. I’m guessing our children would turn out to be much better human beings if they learned by that example.

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