I began my mothering career by being at home full time for the first six weeks of my daughter’s life. Six weeks and five days after her birth, I returned to my full time weekday and part time Saturday job with breast pump and tissues in tow. I continued this journey for the next 17 months until I was pregnant with my second child and taken off of work at 32 weeks gestation due to pregnancy complications. My daughter was 18-months-old at that time and I felt as though I had missed all of her infancy. We spent the next 8 weeks cuddling and playing to make up for the time spent apart, finally with me as a stay-at-home-mom (SAHM).
After my son was born, I began working part time when he was five-weeks-old. With two babies in tow, I am ever so thankful that my husband was able to finally find a job after a two year search. While I still have to work to make ends meet, I am now a work-out-of-home-mom (WOHM) two days a week, a work-at-home-mom (WAHM) one day a week, and a SAHM for the other four days. Having experienced all of these different mothering styles has allowed me some insight into the challenges and rewards of each one, and I can now say that I think the enjoyment and difficulty level of each one just depends on the mother and the circumstances surrounding why she is one of these three things.
When I was a WOHM, I would often receive snide comments from sometimes well meaning and sometimes not so well meaning individuals. They were from all three types of mothers—not just from SAHM’s which many people assumed. The interesting thing, though, is that as a SAHM and now part time WOHM, I’m still receiving comments—they’re just of a different sort! It seems as though the dreaded “mommy wars” hound mothers for their titles of WOHM/SAHM/WAHM. It’s too bad, because being a mother is hard enough without being judged and criticized for your work status.
Here’s a secret that a lot of moms seem to forget: we don’t all like the status we’re currently in. I despised being a full time WOHM and I still hold true to that even after being a full time SAHM (contrary to the ever popular “so do you still want to be home?” question I’m asked after experiencing the life of a SAHM…like I’m supposed to start dreading it after two weeks or something)! However, I know women who hate being SAHM’s and prefer to work away from the home. And guess what: it’s okay to be different.
Remember that the mothers in your situation and those in a different situation may not be there because they want to be. Be careful what you say, because your innocent comment may strike the dagger into the heart of the mom who would do anything to be in your shoes. Having now seen both sides of the story, I can attest to wanting to pull my hair out from being home with two babies for three days straight and not even having had time to pee. But I can also attest to crying all day at work because someone else is watching my daughter roll over for the first time. Motherhood isn’t about which role is more difficult, and if we’re honest, the martyrdom of having the “toughest” work status (whichever we determine that to be on any given day) doesn’t actually make us a better mother than the one who we think has it “easier.”
A woman’s work status doesn’t determine her intelligence level, talent, or capabilities. It shouldn’t determine her character, either, so let’s stop warring over the great WOHM vs. SAHM debate. Instead, next time we’re about to say something or be offended by something someone else said, let’s remember that we’re all different. Sometimes, a mama just needs to vent. It isn’t a jab at someone else for the SAHM to say that she’s ready to ship her kids to Taiwan or for the WOHM to say that she would be fine if the only people she ever spoke to again were her kids. Sometimes, a mama just needs encouragement, and sometimes, a mama just needs to know that it’s okay to dislike or even to like her status.
So the next time you’re about to be offended by something someone said, or when you’re about to say something in regards to working in the home, at home, or away from home, stop and remember. Remember that what makes us mothers isn’t our work statuses. It is the fact that we love our children, want what’s best for them, and are going to do whatever we have to do to make that happen. Love, not work, is what makes the world go ’round.