I have seen a lot of posts on FB and blogs lately regarding the plight of the stay at home mom.   Most are kind hearted and calling for ...

Perspective from a Working Mom

I have seen a lot of posts on FB and blogs lately regarding the plight of the stay at home mom.  Most are kind hearted and calling for help, understanding, and value for the mom staying at home taking care of her children every day.  One blog post even nudged at the idea that homemaker women have a harder time because our society devalues family, children, and the ministry of motherhood.  This issue had not occurred to me, the thought that stay at home moms may be carrying around a chip on their shoulder because they are told that the job they do every day is not valuable, not important, and anyone could do it.  That’s because I envy stay at home moms. Yep, used the wordy derd “ENVY.” 

I’m one of those women forced to work outside the home due to the financial needs of my family.  I’m good at my job, successful in my career, and I love having adult relationships with my work friends.  I’m not bitter or mad, sometimes very sad, but able to appreciate and be as content as possible with my situation.  I do not, however, fall into the category of women who need and want to work.  Women who know they are not the personality type to stay at home and find themselves to be better mothers and wives when they work outside the home.  I do not get energy and satisfaction from my work life that helps fulfill me in ways that my home and children cannot.  This is a perfectly understandable and right way to be a good mom.  It just doesn’t fit my situation. 

Lately, these many posts I’ve seen related to stay at home moms and their difficult situations have offended me a bit.  I have never seen a post from a working mother related to how hard it is on her.  I’ve never read a blog article representing my specific situation.  I’ve never read a post from a stay at home mom with empathy and compassion for her fellow mothers working outside the home.  I have seen articles on how we should all support one another and how each role is equally valuable and there is no one right way to be a good, Christian mother and wife.  Those are encouraging.  They are few and far between though.

So, I needed to blog a minute about this issue.  I said earlier that I envy stay at home moms.  Let me clarify that I do not have an idealized version of what it is like.  I was able to work from home for a year when I had two small children at home.  I worked 30 hours a week from my computer with a very tight deadline each day and cared for my home and children.  It was a sacrifice so that I could be more than just a nights and weekends mom, but it was not a perfect solution.  I did not consider myself a stay at home mom because while I had all of the expectations of one, I did not have all the capabilities considering my work schedule.  I had to trade being either a good employee or a good mom on a daily basis.  I got all the poop and puke, sibling fights, social isolation, meal time messes, grocery store trips, laundry and dishes, diapers and snot that any other mommy gets while also fighting a deadline and squeezing every possible working hour I could into nap time and after bed and the dreaded Saturdays.  When given the opportunity for a promotion and considerable raise, I prayed and sought Godly advice and decided I would be a better mom on nights and weekends than I was M-F while working.  I decided to give my babies back to daycare and head back to work full time.  It was terrible.   I was pregnant with my third baby and facing the horror of leaving another tiny helpless infant in the hands of a stranger.

Honestly, the offended part of me wants to scream.  How could any woman who has never experienced this kind of pain ever find it in herself to ask others to feel sorry for her? (Please keep in mind this is a gut reaction and not where this rant ends!)  If you’ve never sat at your desk with the door closed praying nobody walks in while you are wearing your hands free pumping bra hooked up to the moo cow double electric pump while trying to answer emails and not pick up your phone since the noise is incredible only to get 2 ounces of liquid gold all the while just wishing you could pick up your baby and let her nurse but she’s getting bottle fed half formula and half precious breast milk by a kind hearted stranger or probably a pillow they propped up in her crib because she’s one of 10 babies in the classroom……um, I got off track.  If that has never happened to you because you are blessed with the opportunity to raise your children full time, then I want to scream and tell you to be grateful.  I know there are stories on the other side of this and envy runs both ways.  I blow dried my hair today and put on a nice wool blazer from Loft and wore some jewelry and I will not get pooped or snotted on for 8 hours!  Woohoo!  I am a rare bird though, who would rather wipe snot then toil my day away at a job that has no eternal purpose. 

My two year old still cries when I leave her each morning at daycare.  I have to walk down the long hallway listening to her scream that she wants her mama.  My older two have started school so I’ve already missed the remaining time that they were mine.  Sometimes they beg to stay home with me.  Sometimes we do!  I still pray to God that I would have the opportunity to stay at home with them, but He doesn’t see fit to answer that prayer.  Even though we have two incomes, I still can’t afford to hire anybody to help around the house.  Talk about needing help, when exactly would you expect that a full time working mom has time to do dishes or laundry or go grocery shopping or cook or vacuum?  Seriously, I don’t understand the seeming lack of alternative perspective. 

We are all trying our best.  I also understand that stay at home moms aren’t crying out for a job outside the home, they are crying out for support and appreciation of what they are going through.  Amen to that.  You are appreciated by this lady.  I also know that it’s not about me, it’s about the individual and their needs and their place at the time.  So, I’m over the offended part and I’ve moved into more of the action phase.  My action is to offer perspective, not comparison, but perspective.  In fact, I live in a social realm where at least half the folks I am very close with would actually devalue my role as a working mom.  Talk about feeling unappreciated.  I’m not filling my eternal destiny and obeying God’s commandments because I don’t stay home and take care of my husband and children.  My house is filthy most days and I cuss sometimes.  The other taboo thing that happens in my house is that I have a partner.  He’s my husband and he is the head of our household and I love and honor and respect him.  He does dishes.  He does laundry.  He bathes babies.  He changes diapers.  He cleans poop and puke and snot.  He keeps kids while I shop and go to the store and go for a jog and garden and attend church meetings and go out with friends AND all summer long while I am still at work and he’s on summer break.  He is a parent, not a figure head.  He does not get to come home and put his feet up, nor does he deserve to simply because he’s a man and he worked all day for his family.  So did I, so did you, stay at home mamas! 

I’m sure most modern women don’t live in such a patriarchal fairy tale, but sweet gracious do I see some delusional ideas out there about the role of a man in the home.  No working mom on earth has ever been given that role just because she brings home the bacon.  I’m not saying to go burn the recliner, ladies, but I am encouraging a partnership that requires 100% participation from both parents.  Your man may be a terrible cook, but he can learn and he can certainly find other ways to help.  It upsets me when men are allowed to feel like they did their wife a favor when they changed a diaper or loaded the dishwasher.  Same thing when women think they did a great service to their husband by taking out the trash.  There’s always something else to be done and unless you are a puritan pilgrim, there are not gender assignments on household chores.  I don’t have the physical strength or infallible gag reflex to unscrew the u-pipe from the sink to remove butter knives and toothpaste lids from the drain and my husband is physically incapable of putting our daughters’ hair in ponytails.  That’s ok, we’ll trade.  It took three children to break ourselves of these terrible habits.  We’ve been in our house for almost six years and I haven’t mowed the lawn one time.  I’m not going to expect a parade if I ever do though.  Basically, I’m saying that being a stay at home mom or ANY MOM would probably be easier on women if the family structure was based on a true partnership and help-mate mentality.  It kinda makes me want to gag that it’s 2013 and I would still have to beg women to stand up for themselves even in their own homes.  I could not be a good mother and would never have had more than one child if I were in this domestic business on my own.  Wait, let me rephrase to be more shocking and terrible, I would rather be a single parent than stuck being a mother and caretaker for all of my kids plus my husband.  I am grateful beyond words for my husband, but not because he “babysits” or helps me with my chores.  I am grateful because he is my partner, friend, spiritual confidant and guide, and co-parent. 
It's still hard though.  Even though I do have a partner, it is still so hard.  We compete over who is more exhausted.  He got a second job doing online tutoring to help make ends meet.  We miss our kids.  Time is flying.  I am trying to focus on gratitude though and I don't want anyone to ever feel sorry for me.  I have more than half the world will ever see.  My children are already blessed beyond measure because they were born in this country.  If I fail at everything else, I gave them that.  I will not squander my blessings with comparison, worry, self-criticism, or envy.  I will empower women, equip my children with gratitude and tenacity, and thank God for a spirit of fire despite a pressing societal demand to douse it with feminitity defined by meekness.  That proverbs 31 woman is a bad ass and so am I. 
Ok, whew, that got intense.  So, I just needed to get some of this out because I don’t like being frustrated just because there’s a lack of perspective.  I don’t like feeling as if my story is unheard when I’m perfectly capable of telling it.  I do like writing.  I do like my freedom to have opinions.  I do like being a mom.  I hope that I’m not just labeled a crazy misguided liberal.  I’m not…well, I’m crazy and pretty liberal, but not misguided.  I’m a feminist who would love to be a stay at home mommy.  I’m a feminist who thinks we should be teaching our kids to knit, sew, and garden.  I’m a Christian who thinks women are abused and marginalized in the evangelical Church.   I have a crazy liberal best friend who comes and loves on my kids every week and tells me I’m a good mom and although she never wants children of her own (for now anyway), she encourages me in motherhood, Godliness, and helps in real physical ways that are invaluable.  My daughter will be President someday and my son says his favorite color is pink.  I’m a nights and weekends and two weeks of vacation a year mom.   I get to spend 3.5 hours per week day in the presence of my children.  That’s it.  PERSPECTIVE!!  I get to spend those 3.5 hours in a nice home and put dinner on the table and drive a mini-van with duct tape on the bumper.  I’m blessed and so are you.  The chips on our shoulders are ours alone to remove.