Motherhood: It’s Not a Competition

I was listening to a podcast this morning, a conversation between two bloggers I happen to admire and respect, and all of a sudden I was blindsided by this remark: “Going to work is like taking a vacation.” I don’t think I could have felt more shocked had this blogger smacked me across the face, so wounded did I feel at that comment. The blogger was talking about the challenges of being a mom and staying at home with the kids all day, and I believe her comment was directed towards the men who “get” to go to work and have adult conversations and go to the bathroom unattended by their children and eat meals that are still warm. Given all that, she said, working is like a vacation compared to the constant demands of children all day long. To be fair, I don’t think this blogger meant anything harmful by the comment, and it was not even a main part of the conversation. Perhaps I am being overly sensitive, and perhaps had I heard this comment on another day, I would have laughed about it. 

I get what she said, I really do. I know that being a stay at home mom is HARD. I have many friends who are SAHMs (in fact the majority of my friends are SAHMs), and I have seen their weary faces after a day of kids who didn’t nap. It’s hard, and I have so much admiration for SAHMs.

Here’s what wounded me about the comment this blogger made: it implied that somehow being a working mom isn’t hard. That I “get” to go to work every day and forget about my kid and have a carefree, blissful existence until 5:00 p.m. rolls around. That I don’t have to deal with cleaning up messes all day long and chasing after a toddler and fighting nap time and trying to cajole a stubborn toddler into eating a vegetable or two. That I have the easy life.

And it’s true: I don’t have to chase around my toddler all day long. Instead, I “get” to drop her off at daycare, where she’ll spend the majority of her day away from me. She’ll live 40+ hours of her week outside of my presence, and that is hard. Even though Charlotte is over 2 years old, some days I can barely breathe for how much I miss her. In exchange for this, I “get” to go to work and deal with stress and deadlines and demanding clients and errands and piles of paper, day after day. I “get” to let someone else have fun with my kid, get hugs from my kid, watch my kid learn and grow and develop.  Then when I get done with my “vacation,” my day in some ways just begins. I pick up my daughter, I take her home and try to find something she won’t immediately reject as dinner, I bathe her, wrestle her into her pajamas with my sweet husband’s help, and convince her that bedtime is not the end of the world. Then there is dinner to make, a house to straighten, a floor that ALWAYS needs to be cleaned, etc. Just like that mom that stays home all day with her kids and tries to come up with yet another craft to make on a rainy day, I too am tired at the end of the day.  I too just want a break. 

Being a working mom is not my first choice, but it is what has to be right now, and I am thankful that I have a job that helps me contribute to our family. But even if working outside the home were my first choice, that doesn’t mean that I would be exempt from struggling as a mother. The truth is, NO mom has the easy life. Whether a mom works outside of the home or works in the home, being a mom is one of the hardest jobs in the world (and so, for that matter, is being a dad). Can we all just agree on that and stop with the judgments, stop with the assumption that the “other side” (whomever that may include) has it easier? Can we remember, to borrow from High School Musical (which I promise never to do again), that we’re all in this together? 

Let’s go out for some ice cream, share a hug, and laugh until we can’t breathe. That is just the kind of vacation I need.

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12 thoughts on “Motherhood: It’s Not a Competition

  1. Agreed sweet friend! I've admired your hard work since Charlotte was born. I know ( well I guess assume bc I don't know) that its hard. Your love for your child is no less than mine for my girls. You are a great mommy and have a very happy girl!

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  2. I can tell how much you love Charlotte and what a great mom you are! I agree – both stay-at-home moms and working moms have it hard. I was probably guilty of making comments like that to Tyson when he first went back to work in those early days. I think both sides tend to want to justify their choices – whether it's the working mom who talks about how she “does all the work of a stay-at-home mom on top of working full-time” or the stay-at-home mom who talks about working full-time being a “vacation” (what the crap?!). It's so funny how men don't have this problem at all. I've tried to explain the mommy wars to Tyson a couple of times and he's always very confused by it. He doesn't understand why a stay-at-home mom would feel inferior to a working mom or why a working mom would feel inferior to a stay-at-home mom. I appreciate his perspective because the whole thing really DOESN'T make sense. I think about other aspects of the mommy wars – breastfeeding, cloth-diapering, circumcising, etc. There are so many choices and so many camps that feel so strongly that one way is right and the other is wrong. I know there are some women that feel so passionately about some of these things and, for them, it's not based in insecurity, but I feel like, for the most part, making someone else feel bad about their choice is just a way to feel superior. You're such a thoughtful writer with a beautiful heart for God and others. Charlotte can do nothing but benefit from what a kind, intelligent woman and mother you are, Erin!

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  3. ok, i'm going to give you my opinion as a mom that works but is only working out of the house 3 days a week and is therefore somewhat in-between the whole SAHM lifestyle and working mom lifestyle….

    being a working mom IS harder. unless you love your job more than you love your child, then it is HARDER! you're torn between two worlds. i give everything to being a mom and wife–absolutely everything–then i Also have my job as a professor, my work as a writer. we're asked to give 100% and then some.

    not that SAHMs have it easy. from SAHMs that i know, i think that not having outside validation and recognition of their hard work is what is the hardest thing often (emotionally at least).

    anyway, there's no profit at all in comparing one life to another life–God planned your life to be as it is from the time you were in your mother's womb, even before then, and what he has planned for you is Absolutely PERFECT–being a working mom is no less fulfilling God's plan than being a SAHM.

    I hope this encourages you–i think these thoughts are a struggle every working mom faces.

    (this is Renee btw!)

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  4. I get to experience both since I'm a teacher and I just took 8 months off. Being a working mom is MUCH harder. When you go to work there is no break in your day until about 9:00 at night. At least SAHMs get naptime and yes I know they clean and stuff during that time but it really is much easier. Period. They need to stop whining about how hard it is.

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  5. Thanks for all the input and encouragement, ladies! I didn't really write this looking for some sort of validation that being a working mom is harder. I just want to drop the whole comparison altogether and support one another in all the struggles we have as women. Like Heather said, there is so much battling going on over every little choice that we women make, and I for one am tired of it. Instead of tearing each other down, we should be building each other up! And let's face it, we all have whine-worthy days at some point. 🙂

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  6. I love what you said about there being no profit in comparing one life to another. I am so guilty of doing this, and it never makes me feel better, and it doesn't honor the Lord and who He made me to be.

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  7. This post resonated with me, Erin.

    As a stay-at-home mom I have no idea what you go through everyday, going out of your home to work, leaving your baby girl behind for others to love on and play with her. I think I would cry everyday! So, go you! I know some days aren't easy dropping her off but I'm sure she feels loved by you.

    As a stay-at-home mom I feel like I have a very hard job. It's not just about cooking and cleaning all day and interacting I do with the girls. Emotionally, I am done at the end of the day. Some days are easier than others. I have 2, 15 months apart so it can get pretty fussy around here some days.

    I think instead of us saying working moms have a harder job or stay-at-home moms have the harder job, be supportive of whatever your friends and family choose. Right now I feel called to be at home with my kiddo's and I'm fortunate enough to be able to do that. I know it's a luxury and some can't do that. I could go get a job outside of our home, put the girls in daycare or in-home care but it's not a necessity at this time.

    I don't think we need to short change stay-at-home mom's and say that going out and working is the harder job. I've worked before so I know what a strain it is to go outside the home and work. But to say being a working mom is harder, that's hurtful to me as a stay-at-home mommy. I have a hard job. And working mom's have a hard job. We need to lift up one another and not fight about who has the harder job. As mothers, stay-at-home or working, we have the hardest job. Training up little minds, to love Jesus, to love others, to serve, to be kind, share, learn manners, etc., it's all hard. As mom's we never get a day of vacation, sick day or whatever. If you work, you stay home with your sick little one; if you're sick and stay at home, you still have to care for little ones. Let's build each other up as MOTHERS and not tear each other down because we work or don't work outside of the home. Being a mom is hard!

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  8. I completely agree, Ginny, and I am sorry if my post made it sound like I think working moms have it harder. My point was exactly what you said: that we ALL have it hard and that we need to support one another no matter what our “mom identity” is. That's what I tried to convey in my last paragraph, but maybe I didn't make it clear enough.

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  9. No, i understood you. I was speaking to anyone who read your post and comments.
    Like you said, we need to support one another. W are all women, trying to raise our kids, be married, have a life and hobbies. We need to build each other up, not break each other down. I pray one day we'll all wake up and know each life and situation is different and we need to love and support each other. And we'll offer words of encouragement.
    This was a great post and I've been seeing a lot about this very topic lately.

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