February 4, 2013
Are you a woman who leaves home every day to earn a paycheck in corporate America, or are you a “stay-at-home” mom (which, as we all know, means that you work all day every day with no paycheck)? I ask this for a reason, as I just recently had a conversation with a dear girlfriend who is struggling with a conundrum that I remember myself from my hectic, busy, torn days of being a work-outside-the-home mom, and a single one at that.
Many women, for whatever reason, feel that they have the right to comment on or criticize other women’s choices with respect to whether they work a conventional job or choose to make children, family and home their career. Why do we do that? I remember feeling so terribly torn as a working mother of two young children. As a single mom with no resources other than what I earned myself, I had no choice. As a single mom with no family that lives in Georgia, I had no choice other than to find the best daycare I could to care for my children while I worked.
Those years were without a doubt the toughest, most stressful of my life. And it didn’t help when other moms would make casual remarks about how much better it would be for my children if they could stay at home with their mom instead of being farmed out to the care of others while I worked. Those comments were like salt being rubbed into an already very sensitive wound.
The flip side of this issue, of course, is that moms who make the choice to “stay at home” to make family and home their career are also made to feel guilty by their working counterparts. Once I married my husband and was blessed enough to be able to make the choice to be at home with our children, I fielded comments like, “It must be nice to stay home all day,” or “How can you stand not having a career; aren’t you bored?”
The fact of the matter is that, no matter which situation we moms are in with respect to working and caring for our children, sacrifices are being made. Neither choice is an easy one. I think I can say unequivocally that the years during which I stayed home and cared for our children, did my best to keep our home in order and kept up with all the extracurricular activities were the years during which I worked the hardest. I used to direct a Marketing Department with a $7 million annual budget. I traveled internationally and often, and all that was a piece of cake compared to being an “at-home” mom, believe me.
Working outside the home and constantly feeling as though we’re not doing anything right – not our jobs, not parenting, not anything – is simply an awful feeling. We stay exhausted but always feel as though nothing has been completed, and never to the best of our abilities. The stress is constant and at times, suffocating.
The bottom line is that these choices are difficult enough all on their own; other women making snide or even careless remarks about our own personal situation only makes life harder. Shouldn’t we be supportive of each other? Rarely does a woman make either choice for selfish reasons; rather, finances, family and home most likely drive our choices.
The next time another mom gives your child a ride to soccer practice because she’s not stuck in a meeting on the other side of town and has the time to do it, be sure to thank her. Ask her to have coffee with you sometime soon. She might be just one sticky Cheerio or finger-painted windowsill away from her own personal mini-breakdown. A little adult time, some one-on-one conversation with a member of what I’ve come to call “the sisterhood,” might mean a lot to her.
And if you ever get the chance to give a “working” mom a slight break by offering a kindness rather than a criticism, do it. She’s stressed, too. It probably wasn’t that long ago that she walked into her office with juice and peanut butter dribbled down the front of her blouse, the result of hastily making school lunches before the bus arrived. Or maybe she’s just been told by her teenage daughter that she’s ruined her life because she didn’t have the time to sew a button back onto the only pair of jeans that would do that morning.
Perhaps former Israeli prime minister Golda Meir said it best: "At work, you think of the children you have left at home. At home, you think of the work you've left unfinished. Such a struggle is unleashed within yourself. Your heart is rent."
Ladies, stop and think before casually undermining another woman’s delicate balance of peace of mind, of keeping all the balls in the air day-in and day-out. When you think about it, we’re all in this together, aren’t we?
Carole Townsend is also a Gwinnett Daily Post staff correspondent and author of two books: “Southern Fried White Trash” and her newest, “Red Lipstick and Clean Underwear” (released October 2012). Townsend has been quoted on msnbc.com, in the LA Times, USA Today and the Christian Science Monitor, been featured on FOX 5 Television News and CNN, and is often a guest on television and radio shows nationwide. She currently travels throughout the southeast, meeting readers at festivals and book signings, and speaking publicly at various events.