But, Aren’t We All Moms? Revisiting the Stay-at-Home/Working Mom Conversation

WM SAHMSo, this is my first official post for WMAG! I am excited to be a part of such a useful, supportive, community. Creative writing has always been an interest of mine, but for one reason or another, I held back. No more. I would like to think I am the kind of gal who goes after what she wants; I graduated high school, immediately went on to complete my undergraduate degree, got married, earned a graduate degree in school psychology, had a beautiful, baby girl, and began working full-time. Since my day job only affords me the opportunity to write stuffy psychological reports, I began looking for a creative outlet. Pair my desire to write, with my newfound passion for my daughter, and there you go! By writing for WMAG, I hope to channel some of my creative energy, share my thoughts and opinions about parenthood (and life) with anyone who will read them, and (hopefully) learn some things in the process.

Now, on to my first post: the stay-at-home/working mom “debate.” First, is it even a debate anymore (as to which is “better”)? A recent study published by the Academy of Social Sciences in the U.K. shows that kids’ literacy, math skills, and behavior is not affected whether or not their mother works or stays home during the first years of their lives. Bam, science! No one ever argues about science, right? (Please say you picked up on my sarcasm there).  After reading the results of the study, I almost dismissed the entire debate; however, a few days later, while browsing for a “mom group” on meetup.com, I came to find that several groups were exclusively for stay-at-home and/or part-time working moms. I couldn’t, and still can’t, understand the divide. Aren’t we all mothers? Don’t we all prepare meals for our children, play with our children, kiss our children’s boo-boos, and attempt to instill in them morals and values? Instead of focusing on our overwhelming similarities, some still dwell on the few differences we have. I can only think of a few reasons for this. One, feeling like part of a (perceived) homogenous group makes us feel good, or two, separating ourselves from others we believe to be different makes us feel better about the way we do things. I have a difficult time accepting the alternative, that people believe their way (of parenting) is the “right” way for everyone.

Now, here’s where I’m going to go all “Kumbaya” on you. Raising a child is hard, like, “What on earth am I supposed to be doing..? I’ve never been so tired. Who would ever do this more than once?” hard. Given the difficulty of the task, why can’t we just support each other? It’s hard enough without the scrutiny. I have close friends who are stay-at-home moms; they are fabulous ladies who are doing what is right for their families. I also have working mama friends; again, they work because it is right for their families. I will freely admit that I feel guilty some days, for having to work late, for not being able to prepare a home-cooked meal, or for not being able to take my daughter, P, to story time at the library. But, when the waves of guilt begin to crash down, I remind myself why I do what I do- because my family relies on my income to stay afloat, because I want P to grow up knowing her mama pursued her passions, and because it makes me feel good to contribute in a meaningful way outside of my home and family.

Many have argued that women “can’t have it all,” and I agree. There’s always going to be something: guilt about too many hours at the office, regret that you haven’t pursued a passion outside the home, or anxiety that you’re somehow screwing this “parenting thing” up altogether. So, let’s all just sit back, take a breath (try to make it a guilt-free one), and think about this:

Don’t fool yourself that you are going to have it all. You are not. Psychologically, having it all is not even a valid concept. The marvelous thing about human beings is that we are perpetually reaching for the stars. The more we have, the more we want. And for this reason, we never have it all.  – Dr. Joyce Brothers

14 thoughts on “But, Aren’t We All Moms? Revisiting the Stay-at-Home/Working Mom Conversation

  1. Great post and we couldn’t agree more!! Come visit us on proudworkingmom.com!

  2. Stephanie Tsales says:

    Welcome to WMAG Kristi. Great first piece! Right after I had my daughter a good friend recommended a mommy group in my area. I went to their website and it very clearly stated it was for non-working moms. I cried over that…pretty hard. I wasn’t crying because I couldn’t be involved. I was crying because I was in the depths of post-baby hormones and because I was a terrified and overwhelmed brand new mom and because I was desperately looking for a group of women who could understand what I was going through and possibly help – which is why I was seeking a mommy group in the first place. I went looking for encouragement and all I found was rejection.

    Our hope is that our children develop a diverse group of friends who are welcoming to everyone. But they rely on us to set the example.

  3. Thanks, Stephanie! It’s unfortunate that new mothers, any mothers, really, feel rejected by other mothers. I’m hopeful that maybe one day it won’t happen.

  4. Sandy Smith says:

    When my daughter was less than a year I joined a working moms playgroup. I joined because 1. it was the only playgroup held on Saturdays instead of 10am on a work day and 2. I felt these women would understand what I was going through between work, home, new motherhood, etc. I didn’t feel stay at home moms could understand the constant juggle of career and home and that I could love my career and a child at the same time. I was sick of hearing from stay at home moms “how can you work and be a new mom, I could never do that”. I never heard statement like that from my working mom friends.

    1. Sandy, you raise a great point. I think it can be difficult for a SAHM to relate, at least regarding the balancing act of work, family, household responsibilities, etc., to working moms. I also strongly believe that no matter where you work (inside or outside the home), we can learn from each other, and should support one another.

  5. Thanks Kristi for the interesting read. I’ve learned to look at motherhood the same as beauty. Halle Berry is beautiful. You can look absolutely nothing like Halle and still be beautiful. Similarly, two moms can be totally different and still both be great moms.

    1. Thanks for taking the time to read and comment, Nicole! I think your analogy is spot-on. It just frustrates me so much that we separate ourselves based on this one, little difference. We (moms) are way more alike than we think.

  6. This is a great post! Even though I’m not a working mom (yet), I believe working moms should stop looking down on SAHMs and vice versa.

    I interviewed entrepreneur, author and poet Barbara S. Talley and she was telling me how her former full-time job didn’t give her flexibility to be a mom, so she became an entrepreneur so she can create her own work-life balance.

    You can read more about it here: http://workingkind.com/2013/08/lessons-from-a-recovering-superwoman/

  7. Great article! All moms are “working” moms. Motherhood is one of the single hardest jobs on the planet. It is true that we need to support one another. Each one of us comes from different backgrounds, with different experiences. The beautiful thing is that we all have the ability to choose what is best for us and our family. Each circumstance is unique, and all should be celebrated.

  8. Kristi Blust says:

    Michelle and Leslie, thank you for caring enough to read, and comment! I completely agree, Leslie, I wish we all could just support one another.

  9. Julie Darbrow says:

    While your posts have brought tears to this “older” mother (yet still one) of remembering “those” days of guilt, work, babies, toddlers, balancing (everything) I have hope for all of you “young” mothers that you will one day look back and wonder where all the chaos went, the little child tugging on your clothes went, the “need” to do for everyone ALL the time went, and you smile at your life decisions for you and your family and can calmly say you are proud of your children and whom they’ve become and yourself for staying true to your beliefs! Kudos to you all and keep on keepin on; that’s what life is all about 🙂

  10. Julie, thank you so much for taking the time to read my posts- I know how busy you are! I am trying my best to enjoy these early years with P, as mama after mama has told me how quickly the time goes. You were always like my second mama growing up. 😉

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