Yesterday, I wrote a post about the stupid questions people often ask mothers. It was meant to be funny and reassuring to mothers in general. Whether we work outside the home or not, motherhood is one of (or THE) most challenging/paradigm shifting experience many of us will ever face. Being responsible for the guidance another person is a profound responsibility.
Though most responses overwhelmingly positive, I received an immediate criticism. I debated approving it because the writer obviously didn’t read my post in the spirit in which it was written. From her comment, she appears to be a working mom who feels judged for working outside the home. I realized she was feeling something that so many working moms feel and I wanted to give her a chance to air her feelings too. Here’s what she said,
“First of all, I’m sorry you are asked ridiculous questions. Secondly, please don’t categorize all mothers who work outside of the home into the “see our children one hour a night and have killer wardrobes.” Many of us go without the extras, make our children a priority, but have to work. I am sorry you feel judged but please don’t cast judgement on others. Thanks.” – Crystal
Oh Crystal – Let me be clear. I started this blog to ENCOURAGE mamas in their parenting journey. Judging a mom for her choice to work (whether financially or otherwise necessitated), is not my thing. I always, always want to offer support, helpful information and a little humor in this parenting journey.
So, I’m not passing judgment on your position as a working mom. I’m not qualified to speak to what your choice should be in this area because I have not walked in your shoes! When I talked about a killer wardrobe and one hour a night with my kids, I was speaking of the job I formerly held and how it would have affected my parenting experience. My staying home is my choice and one I know not all moms have the freedom to make.
We moms have strongly opinions about what is BEST for our families. It’s easy to speak derisively about another person’s situation when we haven’t lived where they are. We all have unique financial, emotional, spiritual, relationship situations and there is no “one size fits all” solution.
Yet we like the “us vs. them” mentality. It makes us feel good to know we picked the “winning” side. If I’m with the “us” group, I feel accepted and justified in whatever I’m doing that the “us” crowd supports. A conversation I overheard at the park last week between two women illustrates this perfectly.
My eavesdropping was unintentional. I was 20 feet away but these two moms were so loud, I could hear them over the sounds of kids shouting and playing. They were speaking about another mother.
Mom 1: “Her husband took a day off to help her with the kids. And she spent the day ‘blogging’.” (Ha! Was this convo about me?)
Mom 2: “That is NOT how I’d spend my day if my husband came home to help.”
Mom 1, heavy sarcasm: “Me either. Well, I guess that is why their relationship works. He doesn’t seem to mind.” (disbelieving shrug)
Both moms shook their heads in disgust then continued to talk about this other women for at least 10 more minutes, detailing her obviously misguided (to them) choices.
As I moved on to another part of the park with DGirl and Giant Baby, I pondered their conversation.
Parenting is such a minefield. We want to make the best choices for our children. So we research obsessively, talk with friends and become experts on our kids. We band together with those who agree with us. When faced with a mom who doesn’t subscribe to the parenting philosophy we’ve developed with such care, research and passion, we act like park moms and take out the competition.
This picture does not exemplify the practice of kindness that most of us strive to teach our children. Knowing as we do how much it hurts to be critiqued for our life choices, especially those that touch such a profoundly personal area, why do we do it to other moms who are struggling to do the same?
My personal belief is that being confronted with someone who doesn’t agree with our parenting decisions challenges our deeply held beliefs about parenting and brings us face to face with our own insecurities as parents.
That fear – “Am I doing it right?” bubbles up in the quiet of the night, when the kids are sleeping and we’re assessing how the day went. In my own personal daily recap to Rob, I frequently find myself lacking.
But rather than face that fear or deal with it in a healthy way, it’s easier to avoid or blast that mama whose choices don’t match ours.
Friends – we need to stop being our own worst enemies! We women are pros at cutting each other to shreds. Instead of using our unique power of feminine nurturing to heal and strengthen each other, we slash at and eat our sister mamas. We act like those park moms and we quote social, religious and scientific data points to justify our cannibalism.
There are pros and cons to all the choices we make as parents. No matter what we choose, there’s a tradeoff somewhere. My staying home is our family’s choice but the tradeoff is that we have a slim financial margin and I don’t get a break from my kids very often. Both of those things create stress that have the potential to affect my relationship with Rob and with our kids. It also means we don’t do things that we can’t afford.
But, Robert and I are committed to each other and we work through those moments of stress. It’s a tradeoff we’re willing to make for now. The tradeoffs are different and just as real for parents who work outside the home.
As someone so wisely reminded me this morning, big parenting decisions like these are ones you make with the information you have at the moment and the situation you’re currently experiencing. When those inputs change – your decision may evolve as well.
Each family has to make the decision that is best for their family.
So my message today is -
Moms, dads, concerned family members… As long as we’re talking about attentive, non-abusive parents, we have the same goal here. We love our kids, we are doing the best we can with the information we have to love them, put food on the table and teach them what they need to know about life.
Instead of tearing each other apart, why not circle the wagons and support each other?
What would happen if instead of criticizing those whose opinions don’t align with ours, we chose to learn from them?
This week, I’m paying close attention to my words and actions. Am I encouraging other mamas in their journey to make wise choices about their families or am I at the park, gossiping about how I do it better?
I’d love to hear your thoughts about this. Please share your comments below so other moms can benefit from your experience.
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