Not long ago, I had a phone call from another mom. She wanted to give me some information and ask me a question. When she called, she sounded tired and frustrated. She said it hadn’t been a good day. I was surprised to hear that, since I had just talked to her the day before and she said it was going to be a relatively easy day. In the interest of being a good friend, I asked what had happened. She snapped at me that it had just been a long day, and she didn’t “get to stay home.” She was, of course, making a dig at the fact that I am a stay-at-home mom (which, in my opinion, is somewhat of a misnomer—I don’t spend a lot of time in my house). The worst part is, she is benefiting from the fact that I stay home. It was all I could do not to tell her to bite me.
There were several things that bothered me. I do understand that this woman was under stress, but there was no reason to attack my lifestyle because she was having trouble coping. Also, she has, on the surface, been very supportive of my choice to stay home and homeschool our kids. When under strain, our real feelings can surface—and hers surely did. I suppose I should have realized sooner that her “respect” for me was somewhat less than genuine, since that is exactly the same opinion she shared about stay-at-home mothers before I had children. Her tune changed when she found out that was my plan, and I should have suspected she was merely being polite.
The larger issue I have, though, is this ongoing battle between working mothers and homemakers. I admit, a big part of me would really like to tell all those judgmental working mothers to just shove it up their rears.* I have had as much as I can take about how they would be “bored” if they were at home. Why? Because implicit in that is the idea that we who stay home don’t do anything and are either bored or boring. You may think, when you make that off-hand comment, that you are expressing your own desire to nurture your career. But to those of us who aren’t working, it really does make it sound as though we probably don’t have enough to keep us busy all day (trust me, not true). I have endured a boatload of nonsense about how we at-home moms are always “judging” working mothers, followed by a long, dull speech about why they “have” to work. While I understand that there are some families that really do need the income, I also know that sometimes we use anything to justify something we would have done anyway. I have stomached more than my share of listening to women sound off on why their lives are so much more fulfilling, satisfying, and meaningful than mine. I have grown weary of being asked when I am going to pack my younger child off to school so I can go work and be a productive member of society. And yes, I have gotten absolutely all of those comments, without ever once telling those women off or extolling the virtues of staying home. I absolutely do not want to hear anything about how “judged” you feel when you are simultaneously taking verbal pot-shots at my life.
Guess what? Those comments hurt. A lot. They are designed to make women feel inferior. Many of us already struggle with self-worth. And let’s face it, in a time and place where men still get paid significantly more for the same jobs, and where our voices often don’t count as they should, do we really need this kind of garbage from each other? I know that our mothers and grandmothers worked hard to make things better for us. I don’t think they meant for us to tear others down in order to lift ourselves up. Feel good about the choices you make, don’t try to cover up your own feelings of inadequacy by shredding someone else’s choices.
I am not going to sit here and tell anyone what she should or should not do with her life, her family, or her career. That is not up to me. There are benefits and drawbacks to both styles of motherhood. What I do want is for everyone to just plain shut up about it. Stop telling me why you think I am worth less because of the path I took. I don’t do that to you, so please try to return the favor. When I want your opinion on what I ought to do with my life or my kids, I’ll let you know; I trust you’ll do the same. Let’s stop beating up on each other over which path of motherhood we’ve taken and simply enjoy the journey.
*For those of my friends who are working and have always been supportive of my choice, I thank you and I am glad to have women like you in my life. For all my “friends” who are stay-at-home moms who can’t keep their mouths shut about how much better you think it is, blow it out your ear. No one cares.