Thursday, August 16, 2007

Working vs. Stay At Home Moms

Contrary to all things hip, I still catch an occasional Oprah. I don't bother with the majority shows, but when I hear an interesting topic, and I happen to have an hour, I watch or at least listening while I'm folding laundry. A few days ago she had women on her show representing both sides of the working verses stay-at-home moms. I think it was a repeat. Both sides of the issue made me think.

One woman took her child out of daycare and quit her job at the suggestion of a care provider to place a disposable camera in the diaper bag to catch the milestones which might arise while the mom was working. During the woman's story, I remembered the time my husband took our middle son across the street to a birthday party and announced that Tater took his first steps. I wasn't mad or hurt that I missed those first steps, because the milestone is to be celebrated no matter if I was watching or not. I'm not saying the woman on Oprah felt this way, but I would have been a complete train wreck if I hadn't let someone else give me a break from the daily grind sometimes. All this is to say, even as a stay at home mom, I missed milestones.

On the other hand, I have been sheltered from what another working mom called "Sophie's Choice". Everyday at the daycare door, her son would cling to her leg and cry out, "I'll be a good boy, Mommy. Please don't leave me here. I'll do whatever you say." How difficult! Hopefully, that mom took time listen to the voice inside in order evaluate her circumstances apart from that difficult moment to be sure she was making the right choice for her family. If so, her decision's noone's business including mine.

Another stay-at-home mom regretted not making more of herself. She felt like it was a poor example for her daughters to simply make dinner, clean house, and shuttle her girls back and forth to events. I say it's never too late, and that the mom can find her dream again and begin to live it if it was lost in the mothering shuffle. I think of how the author of one of my favorite all time books, Cold Sassy Tree, was in her 80's when she published.

I'd say the debate came down to something simple on Oprah's show. Working mothers feel judged by stay-at-home moms as not loving their children enough. I was unclear about any stay-at-home mom conclusions. Either way, the stakes of women being at odds with others due to different choices indicates insecurity at best, competition at worst. Noone wins at those types of games.


amanda said...

Having been both a working mom and stay-at-home mom, I remember watching the daily progressions my son was making and realized then just how much I had missed with my daughter. I didn't miss milestones. I missed the subtle developments.

truevyne said...

Dear Amanda,
Thanks for your insight.

Kat said...

I managed a daycare for several years. My policy was, if a child experienced a milestone at daycare (first step, rolling over, whatever) I didn't tell the parents. It would have just been painful for them that they missed it, and I figured that if the child took a step during the day, they would probably do it again that evening at home, or the next day, when a parent was present. If they thought the child's second step was the first, so what? I dealt with enough working-mommy guilt without adding to the burden.

Having said that, I dealt with a lot of moms who had to work and felt guilty about it. However, some of them literally had to work to keep food on the table and a roof over their heads, while others "had" to work to pay for the new boat or the lake house or the new car, or whatever their current extravagance was. Sadly, they didn't know the difference between what they nedded and what they wanted, and their children got shortchanged.

almostgotit said...

Great post!

How I hate the "mommy wars," which pit woman against woman when we need each other so very, very much. How different this whole topic would be if we asked how best we can support each other rather than which side is right? How can we support women without sacrificing their children, and just as importantly, how do we support children without sacrificing their mothers?

All of us are implicated and all of us need to work on answering these questions together. We need to honor our children AND our mothers more. We need to make it easier for women to make the best choices for themselves and their families, whatever those choices may be.

The unfortunate truth is that for every 80+ year old late-blooming career woman, there are many more women who really CAN'T have it all, despite what our feminist mothers have been telling us. The penalties for careers on childbearing, and for childbearing on careers, are real, quantifiable and enduring.

I don't know the answers, but we need to find them.

truevyne said...

Dear Kat,
I know running a daycare is an amazing job. I suppose you'd have all kinds of parents and children. I know many adults who haven't figured out self reflection- even I fail sometimes. Ask my husband

Dear Almost,
I told you I am depending on you to get a great job to make up for the parenting years, so I can become your personal assistant. "True, can you find perfect file on... and I want coffee, cream not sugar."

John said...

My wife and I are trying to get into a position where she can be a stay-at-home mom. That is the family dynamic that I always wanted, and I was fortunate to marry a woman who dreamed of that aspiration.