In the winding path my career has taken, I have spent substantial time both in and out of the workplace since my children were born. As a result, I am constantly at war with myself and have a hard time “picking sides” in the Working Mom vs. SAHM debates. So instead of taking a side, I offer seven non-negotiable truths I’ve revealed from my time moving across the battle lines.
1. All working moms “have” to work.
Anyone, I repeat ANYONE who spends the greater part of their waking hours doing a job that takes them away from their kids HAS to work. This is non-negotiable, even though I admit I am SO guilty of putting up this defense mechanism. But it’s just not true.
Some people work to pay the electric bill, some people work to afford private school, some people work in an effort to break glass ceilings and kill the patriarch, some people work to preserve their sanity. But telling a working mother she doesn’t really “have” to work is the most offensive thing you can possibly say. I’m guilty of it, but since I’ve gotten it thrown in my face — never again. It’s simply not true. If they didn’t feel they had to work they would be spending their time at museums or the mall (with or maybe without their kids). No one gets up each day and goes to work without a sense of duty. Don’t rob them of it.
2. All stay-at-home parents make sacrifices.
All working parents make sacrifices as well, but that seems to be a given. Many people like to think of SAH parents as privileged, but I find 99% of the time it’s not true. Especially in today’s economy, no one can afford to sideline an income without important sacrifices. That means giving up dreams of owning a house, time for a hobby, or buying organic food. Even if they have enough to make ends meet, they worry more about their spouse losing their job, they worry about future costs and how they keep growing. Even if they have all the money in the world, they are still sacrificing time and energy that could be put towards a job or charity or leisure. And unless they popped out babies before ever having to enter the working world, they are sacrificing part of their identity that existed in their career. Most stay at home parents sacrifice a lot to do what they think is important as a parent, and it’s not fair to minimize that or act like they “do nothing” all day. What they do all day is vital to their new identity and it doesn’t deserve to be trashed.
3. We are all trying to do the best for our kids.
I have never met a parent who didn’t think about what was best for their children and act on it the best they could. For some that means staying home to be a guiding force in their kids lives from a young age. For others it means going to work to provide their children with more than the basic necessities of life. For some parents that means knowing that their career is inextricably part of their identity and giving it up would leave that child with a depressed and directionless parent who serves no one by staying home. Everyone is thinking and making choices. There should be respect for that process, even if the outcome is different from what you believe in.