Surviving the Mommy Wars

 Posted by on August 13, 2009  Add comments  Tagged with: ,
Aug 132009
 

On yesterday’s post, a reader left a comment, wondering why we have to “pit working mothers against stay at home mothers?” She, as a working mother, took offense at my comment that I didn’t want to pay someone to raise my children. She thought that I was saying that because she works, she doesn’t “raise” her children. This is not what I meant at all.

This whole issue is really a minefield – one that I prefer to stay out of. However, I do stand by my comment, and I’ll explain why. In college, I worked in a day care center, and most of the parents worked full-time. They dropped their kids off in the early morning so they could commute to work, and they picked them up around six. They took them home, fed them, gave them baths, and put them to bed. That was the extent of their interaction during the week. Those children spent a minimum of 55 hours a week with us, (sometimes more), so naturally we were a primary influence in their lives. If someone spends as much, or more, time with my kids as I do, aren’t they raising them just as much as I am?

I’m not saying that’s bad or wrong. In fact, in many cultures, children are not raised by parents alone, but by an entire village of people. However, in our culture that’s not the case, and sadly, we live in a society where the values I hold dear are not necessarily held by everyone. For this, and many other reasons, I always knew that staying home with my kids was the right choice for me.

I have friends who work, and I have friends who stay home. I think they are all good and loving parents – some have just made different choices than I have. It’s not my place to judge or criticize anyone. Unfortunately, I’ve been on the receiving end of plenty of judgment. Back in 2002, when I was first at home with Bee, staying home was not as common as it is now, and I couldn’t believe the things people said to me. At every social gathering, the “What do you do for a living” question inevitably came up, and when my answer was “I stay home with my child,” there was either dead silence and the sound of crickets chirping, or a question along these lines….

“Really?! Don’t you get bored? I mean, what do you do all day?”

Do you know who nearly all of the comments of this type came from? Working mothers.

Just yesterday, I received an e-mail from a very sweet, lovely young woman, who is a new reader here. She used to work, and when she did, she felt confident and sure of herself, but since becoming a SAHM, she’s having a crisis of confidence. She said,

“I often get criticized for being a SAHM. (People say) What do you do all day? My child needs more stimulation and activity? I would be so bored and feel so unimportant? On and on. But I feel I can’t say anything back because I am truly the minority on this topic and the back lash would be relentless.”

This is exactly what I’m talking about, and exactly the reason for yesterday’s post. In our society, stay-at-home mothers are not respected as they should be, for doing a very, very important job. I think the comments on the CNN article pretty much speak for themselves. Is it any wonder that we get defensive and upset? On the other hand, my friends who are working mothers get upset when stay-at-home moms insinuate that they’re selfish because they work. It goes both ways.

Why all of this hostility among mothers? We all want the best for our children, and we all have different life circumstances. We also live in a country where mothers and children are not highly valued. The only way that all of us, on both sides of the so-called “mommy divide” can survive, is if we unite to support and encourage each other.

To my reader, who wants to know how she can build confidence in her role as a stay-at-home mother, I can only say this – if you believe in what you’re doing, and you recognize its importance, that will come across in your interactions with people. There is support here for you, and you’re not alone. And when people criticize your choices, you’re welcome to use my standard response…

“Well, I’m happy, and my family is happy, so I think we’re doing OK.”

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