On being a working mom (and the real “mommy wars”)

There seems to always be discussion about the “mommy wars” – the stay at home mom vs the working mom. I have seen threads where these debates can get pretty downright mean, but to be honest, those virulent conversations I’ve found are the exception, not the norm. The majority of these external conversations I’ve seen are women telling other women to “make the right decision for themselves and their families.” A lot more women understand that everyone and everyone’s family is different. But the sensationalism of a “mommy war” sounds so much more interesting – so that’s what the magazines will try to sell you. This so called “war” still rages, but I think the reality is it takes place within ourselves. It’s hard to be 100% happy in the path we’ve chosen because it’s always easier to look at the greener grass on the other side.

For me personally, I am content in the path I’ve chosen but only now after I’ve given all the other paths a try. I was, at first, a full time working mom. Rachel went to daycare at just 6 weeks old and I returned to work. We did that for a number of years. Then when I got pregnant with Zach, I quit everything and tried being a stay at home mom. As he got older, I started working from home. So now I’m straddling the fence. I work full time from home. This has the best balance for me.

That’s not to say that I don’t still often question if I’m doing it “right”. I think I’m doing it the best way I can. Every path has it’s pros and cons. When I was a full time working mom, I was making more money, I had a steady paycheck, I was advancing my career, I had better health insurance. BUT if my daughter was sick, I had to somehow get myself out of work without getting into trouble to take care of her. I missed being with my daughter and felt like the weekend wasn’t enough time. When I was a stay at home mom, I was with my kids all day, we didn’t have to pay for day care. BUT I felt like I was losing a very important part of who I was, I felt like I needed more mental challenges and I missed the feeling of being able to contribute financially to the stability of my family. What I’m doing now, I can be home if my kids need me, but I’m still getting the mental workout I need. I’m bringing in my own money. BUT there is a downside to this too. I’ve talked before about how this life is every bit as hectic as the full time working mom life. In some ways more hectic. I’ve talked before about how I am walking a fine line next to burning out. Here’s a perfect example: On Thursday, I was cooking a fever of 102, sweating and chills, and I’m sitting in bed on my laptop trying to finish a project for a client because *I* am their resource. And unless I want them to dump me and find someone else, I need to do the work, sick with the flu or not.

I read on someone’s blog about how the blogger was a working mom and absolutely hated it. If you’re in that boat, then you need to step back and evaluate what can you do to make changes to live a life that you can tolerate. It won’t ever be perfect – but if you absolutely hate it, then this does not sound like a decision that is “right for you and your family”. You may not have the option of being a stay at home mom, or it may require changes in your life that you’re not willing to make. But that’s the tradeoff I guess. I was originally a full time working mom because I thought I didn’t have a choice. We lived in a very expensive state, in a very expensive house. (I LOVED that house. It was the house I dreamed of living in my whole life. I still mourn the loss of that house to this day!) But there are always choices. It just might be that you’re not willing to accept the alternative. Yet.

We struggled to get pregnant with my son, and when we finally did, after what we’d been through, I was willing to accept any alternative to avoid going back to work after he was born. Years of trying to get pregnant, only to hand him over to daycare at 6 weeks old? No freaking way! So we gave up living in the expensive state. We gave up the house (=sniff=), we gave up living near family (=BIG SNIFF= this is definitely the hardest part!!) and moved to a less expensive state and a less expensive house so I could stay home. (At least for that first year) The life we’re living now is definitely not perfect. I still worry if 20 years from now, will my kids be in therapy talking about how their horrible mother spent hours on the computer doing web design instead of sitting next to them on the couch watching Wow Wow Wubzy. But I think my working is good for them too. I can see that my daughter is an extremely bright little girl. I want her to see that women can have a family and a career. I want her to go on and do things that challenge her and help her grow, even as an adult. Even as I am working, I am teaching my daughter about being an independent and strong woman. Since I work from home, every day is bring your daughter to work day.

This is just me explaining my life and choices however. I have a number of friends who are stay at home moms or fulltime working moms and who are perfectly happy in that choice. They are teaching their children, just as much as I am, the same lessons. Do what is important to you. Do what will make you happy and what will work with your family. Life is all about choices, trade-offs, compromises. End that war raging in your own mind and be happy.

4 Comments

  1. Camille
    Aug 18, 2009

    Yes, it is an interesting debate, but I appreciate the point you made that the decision is individual – what’s “right” for you and your family. Right now, I’m a full-time working mom (outside of the home) and although I love my job and the flexibility that comes from having worked there for so long, I seriously wish I could be at home with my children, raising them and spending much more quality time with them. I’m a single mom so my income is the only income and for that I “have” to work full-time – until I can find some other means to make money while raising my girls. :) (Let me know if you hear of anything!) But, regardless of the individual situation, the key is how to make everything balance! I enjoy your blog!!

  2. Jennifer
    Aug 18, 2009

    Thanks Camille. Single moms definitely have the disadvantage and fewer options. Whenever I think of how difficult things can be, it’s a lot more difficult having to do it alone! You have my admiration!! It’s good that your job has flexibility. Had mine had more, I might have stuck around longer.

  3. Liz
    Aug 19, 2009

    Hi! I just found your blog & I love that you wrote this post. I’ve been struggling with this for 2 years since my first daughter was born. I have a great career that I love, but long before I even went to college I always knew that when I had kids, I wanted to be home with them. To me, that was more important than my career. When I met my husband, he didn’t agree with that, so when we got married, we both agreed we’d have to come up with a compromise on the working front once the kids came.

    I got extremely lucky & managed to find a part time job in my industry where I work 15 hours a week (two 5 hour shifts in the office, the rest from home). They pay me the hourly rate I’d get if I was working full time & they are extremely flexible with when I work. I have my oldest daughter in daycare but my 6 month old has been coming to the office with me for now. I’ve just decided to start putting her in daycare soon because I realized that I really do need some “me” time.

    I think you’re right that it’s all about what is right for you at the time. I never thought I’d actually want to work when I had kids, but I love how things are for us right now. It’s working great.

  4. Jennifer
    Aug 20, 2009

    Hi Liz. Thanks for stopping by. 😀 It is funny how things change as you go along. That sounds like a really nice job to let you balance working in the office and at home, and let bring your baby with you!! I wish more companies would understand the importance of flexibility.

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