There are a lot of parenting debates that make me want to smack my head against the wall, but high on that list is the working mom/stay-at-home mom dichotomy.
I’m not even talking about the old “I do work, I work on raising my children” thing, although that’s certainly true. No, I mean the idea that mothers have to do one or the other and never the twain shall meet. Not to mention the idea that whichever one you choose you’re going to suck at everything else, because it will be an all-encompassing choice.
Society has this idea that you either have to abandon your career and forever become a boring and dumb stay-at-home mom baking cookies, or else you’re a career go-getter who barely even notices she’s got kids. Of course, both stereotypes are utterly ridiculous.
There are so many problems with society’s views on this issue, I barely know how to start. Do women lose their brains if they stay home? Hell, no. There are lots of stay-at-home moms who do things like run the PTA, volunteer in the community, come up with neat and educational activities for their kids, pay the bills, act as caregivers to aging parents, etc. and so on.
On the other side, is a working mom necessarily ignoring her kids/family/house? Hell to the no. Plenty of working moms bake cookies for school, attend the school play, do fun things with their kids, do all the housework, take care of their parents etc. and so on.
And then there’s my living room this afternoon, which contained three work-at-home moms. All three of us have different arrangements, but we work for the same organization and we’ve all found a way to combine work and home in a reasonably satisfying fashion.
Now, in my experience, being a work-at-home mom mainly means I don’t get credit for either working or staying at home 😀 I work 20-30 hours a week from my home, during naptimes, after dinner, in the morning before the kids wake up, and (sad to say) while the kids are watching TV. But I also take the kids to the zoo and Brookside Gardens, cook dinner, do the laundry, help Barak do a puzzle, and read Knuffle Bunny to Yael for the millionth time.
I’m not a perfect mom. They watch too much TV and eat too much junk. There are too many times when they’ve asked me to do something after dinner and I’ve had to apologize and say it’s time for me to work. But I’m doing the best I can.
In fact, that’s what all the moms I know are doing. We’re trying to find the best way to take care of ourselves and our families and our mortgages at the same time. And we all have different things we do well.
I know working moms who are doctors, engineers, editors, lawyers, store clerks, nurses, and teachers. They work because they can’t afford not to, because they love their jobs, because it makes them feel good, because that’s what they know how to do, because that’s what their parents did, or because somebody has to.
I know stay-at-home moms who have lists of things to accomplish with their kids, who take them to music classes, make homemade play-do, make a mean paper cherry blossom, keep their families organized, and volunteer in the schools. They don’t work because they can’t afford the day care, because they can afford not to work, because it is simply a joy to spend a day with their kids, or because they think they should.
There should be more opportunities like the work I (and the two lovely ladies in my living room today) do. More women (and men!) should be able to work part-time, enough to get a chance to talk to people who aren’t their kids, without having to make the commitment to put their kids in daycare. Okay, not everybody is qualified to do a job from home and not every job can be done that way, but a hell of a lot more can be than we currently have available.
We waste the skills of women while denigrating us for whichever choice they make. It’s a no-win situation for moms and society.
I often say that being a work-at-home mom is the best of both worlds and the worst of both worlds, but I wouldn’t give it up for anything. Not when Barak picks up his play laptop and leans against me, happily typing away along with me, occasionally pausing to murmur “Mommy” and nuzzle my shoulder. Or when my daughter’s teacher informs me that Yael said she was going to be an editor when she grew up.
Now pardon me, I’ve got two loads of laundry to fold, a pile of dirty dishes to wash, kids to round up, and some metadata to finish. Those events won’t tag themselves, you know!