I was raised by a working mom, who was raised by her working mom, who was also raised by her working mom. Before my great-grandma, there weren't distinctions between stay-at-home moms and working moms, but I'm pretty sure my foremothers worked a lot harder than I do now. I also live in an expensive region where a larger than normal percentage of the adult female population works, and growing up I knew very few stay-at-home moms.
And yet, here I am. I am a full-blown stay-at-home mom to my three young boys. I made my decision not as a reaction to my upbringing, but with gratitude to the women before who made my choice possible and socially acceptable. I love staying home with my boys, but after having lived on both sides of the home versus working debate, I have to say that we're getting it all wrong.
If you want to know the truth about the home versus working mom debate, here are a few things we have to clarify.
All moms work
I've worked full time outside the home, and I've worked part time with kids. Going to work is not a paid vacation away from your kids. Work is... well, work. There are incompetent bosses and obnoxious coworkers, and most jobs aren't that exciting. On the other hand, there is a good reason working moms have to pay someone to watch their kids all day. Staying home and tending small children is also hard work, whether you're the daycare provider or a stay-at-home mom tending your own children.
Either way you look at it, having kids is a tough job, no matter who supervises during the day. Let's stop competing over who does more "work" throughout the day because we're all pretty maxed out. No one wins by being a martyr.
We have more in common than different
Sometimes, as mothers, we create these arbitrary labels that define our status in the world, but when it comes down to it, we're all just moms. We all worry about our kids, we all fear making the wrong decisions, and we all need a network of support. Just because a mom's employment status differs from yours doesn't mean her kids don't throw tantrums, refuse to eat vegetables, and wake up at inconvenient times the same as your kids.
We have so much more in common than we think. If we could look into the hearts of the mothers around us, it would surprise us how familiar their thoughts felt. No matter what decisions we make for our families, the end goal is raising great kids.
We all think the grass is greener sometimes
I have days where I profoundly miss my job, including the adult interaction and the potential for measurable praise. I also hear employed moms say how much they miss spending those little, inconsequential moments with their kids each day. No matter how much we love our lives, we all still go through periods of self-doubt. We all wonder, what if my life looked different? What if I worked? What if I stayed home? No matter what choice you make, there are still benefits to the other side.
While we're busy fighting with each other, we're missing the point. Getting to choose either working or staying home is a luxury very few women get. Many of us don't have a choice about our financial arrangements, so it's pointless to judge. Imagine if we banded together to give more women the option to choose the life that felt most authentic to her. That's real power.
We are women, and we are mothers. We are not enemies, and we're not competing with each other. No one has it better or worse, and in the end, no one wins. Let's celebrate the life choices of our sisters, and step it up for those who don't have a choice. In our hearts, there's no difference between stay at home and working mothers. We're all just moms.