The Flipside

Today I ran across 2 blog posts from the Huffington Post that deal with some of the issues working moms and stay-home moms have. The first one was written by Amy Shearn, who is a stay-homer, and gives us a list of comments that are not appreciated by stay-home moms. The second is from Devon Corneal, who gives the flipside perspective of a working mom. It is so true: nothing is perfect. 

I’m no longer on the fence about going back to work. I have finally and most definitely embarked on the adventure of a tech startup. I’m excited about what I am doing. But I like reading things that remind me that no option regarding kids and work is ever perfect. After struggling with my inner demons about my professional self, I decided that I had to go back to work. Somehow. Any how. I flip-flopped, trying to figure out something that would work for me and for my family. I fought for my right to go back to work– no matter how much I earned or how late I would come home. But I knew that I didn’t want to disappear from my children’s lives completely– or at least not for too long. And I also knew I didn’t want to be away all day just to make enough money to pay the nanny. And to top it all off, I was living in a country plagued with unemployment with no end in sight. (Spain has reached a 26% unemployment rate.) 

So anyway, about to launch my first app, my first MVP, I had to smile reading these two opposing, two valid and two very true points of view.   

(Para la traducción al castellano. Apareció en Huff 

By Amy Shearn

One happy mom — at home with two small children — explains why some “helpful” comments are actually not so helpful to stay-at-home moms.

1. “I love how you’re always working out.”
I know that French mothers sashay around in chic blazers and skirts and such, and that dressing like a human being makes you feel more like one, but here’s the thing: Yoga pants and sneakers, while not exactly flattering, really do the trick when you need to slide under the couch to scrape peanut butter off the springs. So no, no, I’m not working out soon, or even anytime today, or maybe ever. And yes, I’m wearing stretchy pants and a hoodie. Do stay-at-home dads get flak for dressing like college students during finals week? No, no they do not. They get looks of adoration for being at home at all.

2. “So, honey… dinner, dancing or tequila shots?”
Like so many off-putting comments, this is said with love by people we love. Of course it is. But after 12-plus hours of feeding, chasing, playing, teaching, disciplining, cleaning up, comforting, protecting, peeling off the ceiling and feeding again, in a repeating loop every 15 minutes or so, once spouses get home, you know what we want to do? Not have a nice dinner together (also known as: even more feeding and cleaning), not anything. Nothing. All the way to 8:30 p.m., when we pass out against our wills.

3. “Too bad about all the dough your parents spent on underwater-welding school.” 
My friend has been a devoted, happy stay-at-home mother for about a decade now. Her elderly mother (who was previously also a stay-at-home parent) still struggles to understand what went wrong. “She had a good career,” the mother is known to say, shaking her head. “I know she didn’t get fired. I just don’t know what happened.” Choosing to stay home with your kids is often thought of as an elaborate ruse designed to mask a larger, sexier failure. As in: “You must have lost that awesome underwater-welding job you had in your 20s; why else would you be in your current predicament? Why would you do something as unambitious, unexciting and unpaid as guide small people through their early childhoods if you had the option of doing something, you know, real? All of which reveals the assumption that the hands-on rearing of the young is a kind of a vacation from work. To which all stay-at-home parents in the world respond in unison: “Ha! Ha! Ha!”

4. “You look like you could use some you-time.” 
Unless… you’re offering 2 to 12 hours of free babysitting on the spot.

5. “I’m just checking in because you didn’t respond to my email from three minutes ago.”
Hey, you know what kids love? Pressing buttons. Looking at glowy screens. Fondling the devices that also contain their beloved Elmo-ABC apps and YouTube videos of horse dressage. (All kids are into that, right?) Most people know it’s hard for moms to get to the computer. But smartphones aren’t any easier. We’d love to get to that email or voicemail or text. But we can’t. And it’s also probably impossible to meet for lunch or shop for underwear. Or go to a thing. Any thing. Instead, we’re racing fromplaydate to errand to music class to other errand. And no, the post office is not on the way. Ever.

6. “That’s so nice for you, that you can afford to be home.”
As my great-uncle Jerry was wont to say, “You don’t know what’s inside someone else’s pocketbook.” (Unless of course you’re a 2-year-old obsessed with emptying out people’s purses when they’re not looking.) You don’t know why or how other people deal with a one-income life. Sometimes it means the working spouse is making bank. But sometimes it means the family has decided that this parenting situation is the priority and that the budget will be adjusted (read: squeezed) accordingly. Sometimes it means no date nights, no cable, no premium caffeinated beverages, no vacations. But a lot of giggly, flashlighty blanket-cave-spelunking staycations.

7. “Enjoy every minute!”
Really? Every minute? Like the minute when the children’s coordinated tantrums are so noisy they set the neighborhood dogs howling? Like the minute when everyone poops at once, and none of them where they should? Like the minute when you’re so tired at the end of the day that you sit down to the computer to draft the long-overdue holiday card and wake up with a dented forehead and three pages full of commas? The sentiment, of course, is not a bad one. I know I try, when I get this loathsome advice, to understand that enjoying every other minute will do. To remember to slow down. To ignore the dishes when my child really wants to show me her LEGO tower. To take a moment to appreciate the shrieking laughter of the verboten jumping-on-the-bed right before I go in to break it up. It helps me to try, when I can, to set aside my natural human desires for languid sleep-ins and dinners that don’t involve ketchup, and remember that really children are children for such a short time. You don’t have to enjoy everymoment. That’s crazy talk. But the good moments, well, it’s your job to love them like the gifts from the universe that they are.

And then  tells you the hings not to say to a working mom. 

Recently, Amy Shearn shared a list of things not to say to stay-at-home moms. She could have just cited anythingElizabeth Wurtzel has written in the past year, but that would have been too easy. Instead, Shearn came up with a list that was funny and clever and pointed in all the right ways. Which got me thinking about questions or comments I’ve heard about being a working mom. I don’t think anyone sets out to be rude or judgmental, but I’ve been surprised at what well-meaning and generally thoughtful people say to mothers who aren’t staying home full-time with their children. There’s a subtle hostility or judgment that comes through in some of these statements that makes me wish that everyone would, every so often, think before they speak.

(Before anyone freaks out, I completely and totally support stay-at-home moms. They work. They work hard. Their choices are valid and awesome and please stop glaring at me. There are days I envy them more than you know.)

Can’t you afford to stay home?
Let’s assume for a minute that I can’t. Let’s imagine I work to help pay the mortgage and buy groceries and send our kids to college. Where does this conversation go now? Awkward, right? Next thing you know, I’m going to be asking you how much your husband earns so you can stay home. Let’s agree not to go there.

Then let’s say I can afford to stay home. The question assumes the reason I work is entirely financial. Which is part of it, to be sure. If I could make money watching bad reality TV and doing yoga all day, I would. Since I can’t, I work at a more traditional job — but it’s not all about the money. I value my education and the years I’ve devoted to my career. I think it is good for our boys to see me working outside our home so they know that a woman isn’t confined to being a wife and a mother. I also know that some day our kids will be off at college or started on careers of their own and I want to keep a foot in the working world so when that time comes, I’m not staring at a big gap in my resume that makes it harder for me to get a job. I also like the equality that exists in my marriage because both my husband and I put money in the bank. That’s just me. But this particular question devalues all of those considerations and, in turn, my choices. Please don’t do that.

I’d give anything to get away from my kids for an entire day.
If you really mean it, I’m happy to help you polish your resume. You can be away from your kids all day, every day! Of course, along with that “freedom” you’ll feel guilty about being away from them and will wonder if they’re ok because they’re home with a babysitter or in day care. Going to work every morning and waving to my kid from the upstairs bathroom window isn’t a spa day. It’s sort of like doing a triathalon. You start each day with a morning plunge into icy water, getting everyone to school/work then do an an eight-hour bike ride, all topped off with a half-marathon of dinner, homework, baths and bedtime. During your bike ride not only will you be expected to pedal hard, you’ll also have to take phone calls from the school, the babysitter, and the doctor, respond to birthday party invitations, take a quick side trip to grab supplies for an art project, order groceries and a new pair of jeans and remember to return library books because it all needs to get done RIGHT NOW. If you’re lucky, there’s some wine left over in the fridge.

I’d miss my child too much to be away from him all day.
I know. I completely understand. You get over it. Because you have to.

The problem with this country today is that not enough moms are home raising their children.
I know! I couldn’t agree more! Oh, wait. You’re not advocating for paid parental leave, flexible work schedules or telecommuting, are you? You’re not picketing in support for working parents (because, let’s face it, some dads would like to be able to spend more time with their kids too) so they can make good choices for their families, right? You just want more moms to stay home. It’s possible those families would be better off living under a cloud of financial or psychological stress to adhere to a traditional view of families, but I’m not buying it. If I see one more comment about how dual-earner families are undermining the very fabric of society I will lose my mind. Last I checked, no one in my family had shot anyone, stolen anything, cheated on a test, run a red light, or even so much as littered. Of course, I’ve been working all morning, so things may have changed since breakfast.

Why did you have kids only to let someone else raise them?
People have said this to me. People have said this to my friends. It’s a good thing that I didn’t have the power to incinerate them with my laser beam eyes. If I hear it again, I’ll refer you to item no. 1 for the reasons I might work outside of my home. And then I’ll just ask you to be a TAD LESS JUDGMENTAL THANK YOU VERY MUCH. I had Little Dude because every fiber of my being wanted to be a mother and we felt like our family was incomplete without another person in it. Loving and raising a child is not incompatible with having support to do that. We are grateful and proud to have wonderful people who help us — from family to friends to teachers and babysitters. But make no mistake, my husband and I are raising our kids. We aren’t home every day, but we are a presence in our kids’ lives at every moment.

I don’t know how you do it. It must be so hard.
It is. I don’t know how I do it. But I don’t think that’s because I work, I think it’s because parenting is hard whether you stay at home or go off to the office. I don’t know how any of us do it. It’s glorious and rewarding and full of love and it is the hardest thing I’ve ever done. Balancing kids with anything else, whether a paying job or running a household or finding time to watch Honey Boo Boo, is nearly impossible.

You must be so organized to be able to balance everything.
I have a love/hate reaction to this statement. At first, I bask in the affirmation. I believe I am organized. Then I remember — I am one set of lost keys away from a meltdown. I have mismatched socks, my kid went to school with jelly on his face and I haven’t exercised in a week. I have piles of books and clothes and god knows what else in my bedroom. I forgot a conference call yesterday and lost the planetarium permission slip. I let something slide every day. There is no balance. Only carefully controlled chaos. Pretty much like everyone else’s life.

There’s always time to work later, these early years are so precious.
All the years are precious. And why don’t people say this to fathers?

You look exhausted.
Gee! Thanks! Wanna give me a day at the spa? And then watch my kid for me so I can relax? No? Then let’s just pretend we can’t see the bags under my eyes.

At least you treasure every minute you have with your son.
Well, maybe not all of them. Because sometimes Little Dude is a monster and I get home at the witching hour, just in time to force him to eat his carrots, make him brush his teeth and go to bed. Which, as any parent will tell you, is just the most relaxing time of day. This is why I keep a chilled bottle of wine in the fridge. Despite that, of course, I do treasure my time with my kids, but I have a hard time believing that would be different if I were home more.

Don’t you worry you’re missing out?
Every day. But then my son runs into my arms when I pick him up from school and climbs into my bed in the morning to tell me I’m the “best mommy ever,” and I know it’s going to be ok.



About CoffeeWithKath

Passionate about Technology in Education and how it can make a difference in the lives of students with Dyslexia. Founder of @ForDyslexia. Mom of twins. Juggling entrepreneurship and kids.


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