Last week (or maybe it was still this week) I stumbled upon a shared link about the whole, rather tiresome, working mom vs stay at home mom debate. I don’t subscribe to the site it was posted on because I don’t enjoy most of their content and the comments even less so.
The article was posted by a friend of mine who strongly objected to the article. At the same time as a little Facebook discussion was going on a twitter one was too where the editor got involved, he suggested my friend write her own opinion piece in response to which she declined. I considered offering to write one but for all the reasons above I decided not to. Also the whole debate is tired. It is monotonous and similar to the breastfeeding vs bottle/caesar vs natural debates – they tend to go around and around in circles.
That said, though, I have had this post in my head since the debate so I am going to do a little myth buster here and share what the stay-at-home moms I know do.
One of the things mentioned in the article was how sahm’s make working moms angry because they are around for their kids 24/7 while the working moms can’t do that. I am not even sure if the author of the article is a parent or even has any clue what parents actually do outside of the collection of quotes she received for the article. I am a stay at home and I missed every single one of Cameron’s cricket matches last term – EVERY SINGLE ONE! Last year I missed most of his galas. Kiara arrived at her dance concert last year without the required make-up or clothes for after the show – I never had time to read the letter properly.
Jack has gone to school in his pajamas before and both bigger kids have, on the odd occasion had to wear the same school shirt twice. Cameron has actually gone to school with his slippers on before. When they step out the car in the morning I say a small prayer that no one will notice the missing button, mis-matched socks and I promise myself to get to the mending,washing , school shop that day to sort it all out.
I am not going to launch into an account of all the times I have messed up, forgotten things or sent my kids to school looking considerably less than perfectly turned out.
The point is that just because I stay at home does not mean I have my shit together. In all honesty, the reality of staying at home full time is very different to the idea I had in my head. It is a lot harder than I ever thought it would be.
I know you are probably thinking “how hard can it be to have to take and fetch kids from school and clean the house” – I thought the same thing as I was about to jump into it. When I was a working mom I had a host of people around me helping me out, sharing the responsibility. I had a phenomenal after care who ensure that the kids were fetched and taken to their extra-muruals, they did home work with the kids, they fed them. I had domestic twice a week and because we got home late each afternoon the house remained fairly tidy. So yes maybe I missed a few matches, stopped at Spar many a morning to grab cake for Cake and Candy en route to work but the kids were sorted out by someone else. There was a time I actually didn’t even really know the times the kids finished – the after care took care of all of that for me.
Now all of this falls on me. With one child it wouldn’t be that hard, possibly then I could be a smug mom, but with two older kids with different extra-muruals on different days at different times and 3 school going kids each with different start and different end times the planning and organising really does my head in some days. I can’t be in more than one place at a time which is why one child generally has to understand why I can’t make the match or the gala. I very literally turn in to moms taxi from 13h00 every single afternoon until, on the worst day 18h00. Trust me, working moms when I say this, by 16h00 the sahm is wishing she was you! My evenings then turn into the same as those of a working mom – dinner must be cooked, homework checked and done, projects researched and the house tidied.
The article kept on highlighting this great divide between the two moms and I honestly have never felt this. In fact in my circle it is the opposite to how it was described. Working moms and stay at home moms work together to make life easier for us both. My friend Debby, who works full time, helps me out so much with Cameron and when she needs it I fetch her kids if she has a late meeting but she definitely picks up the slack a lot more for me at the moment. One of the working cricket moms and I work out fetching and carrying the boys to club cricket, I drop, they fetch or vice versa depending on who is available and when. If I have missed events there are other moms or teachers who full me in on how the kids have done or even send me pictures. No one looks down on anyone, we don’t judge or compete – we really are too busy trying to keep things together and running smoothly to have time for that.
The biggest misconception I think, is that moms who stay at home parent their children better. This is total and utter rubbish. Staying at home with my child all day does not, by default, make me a better parent than anyone. It is a naive statement to make. Parenting is not about whether or not you work nor is it about whether or not you attend every single sports event your child is in. If you are going to pass commentary on parenting then this is probably the very first thing you need to understand and know!
We need more content that builds bridges across these great divides and stops making women feel like they constantly need to justify the choices they make.