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?