diapers, budgets & paint

stay-at-home mommy by day
program manager by night
children's painter somewhere in between


mommy wars

although i rarely go into the office anymore, i made a special trip recently for a work / life balance brown bag session. many of the topics have been pretty so-so but this one was great: leslie morgan steiner gave a terrific presentation of her book, mommy wars, and led a general discussion about the whole mommy conundrum (to work or not to work, and why can't we all just get along?). rachel recently mentioned this book on her blog so i was intrigued to hear the editor talk, and she was the first to admit that some of the essays in the book frustrated her to no end. nevertheless, she wanted to include as many perspectives as possible, from stay-at-homes to working moms and all the hybrids in between, so we can all gain a better perspective on why there is no right answer - it's more of an answer that fits you right now. and sometimes it's good to be reminded that whatever you do right now doesn't necessarily have to be your role 5 years from now, or heck, 5 months from now.

during the talk, leslie pointed out a few things to keep in mind...
  • whenever you're doubting yourself or having a rough day, ask yourself, "would you want to be your child?" chances are, your kids are clean, safe, dressed, fed, and surrounded by more stuff than they could shake a stick at. we're our own worst critics but we're also doing a pretty decent job at this whole parenthood thing - let's not forget that.

  • leslie has talked with many, many little ones over the years and it turns out that they don't really care whether we go to work or not! imagine that - they care more about what's for lunch or when they're going to hit the playground than us?! however, there are two key things that kids DO care about: 1) whether mommy is happy and 2) whether their family is stable. kids pick up on a lot around them (body language, interactions, etc.) and when momma's happy, everyone's happy. and a happy, stable family gives little kids the predictability and comfort that they need to become happy, self-assured big kids. so whether you choose to get dressed up with a briefcase each morning, or roll around on the floor while watching the wonder pets intro for the 27th time, do it with a smile and let your kids know that you're happy and proud to be where you are.

  • as we have all seen, women have this knee-jerk way of segregating ourselves into sahm versus working mom camps. we may say we're cool with your choice at first, but inevitably someone will make some underhanded comment like "oh, i could never leave my child at daycare" or "you must get soooo bored at home" and all bets are off. the decision to stay at home or continue working is such a big one nowadays, as it directly impacts how we see ourselves, our place in society's hierarchy, what we can afford, how we live and so on. in many cases, we continue to want to justify our decision to ourselves; hearing why women have made the opposite decision can either reinforce or chip away at our resolve. this can be especially hard when you're comparing lives against a female that you have looked up to and respect (like a close former coworker or boss) who's now taken the opposite path. and whenever you make that snide comment about her paycheck, or lack thereof, you're reflecting your own insecurities and desires. let's all take a break and look inward for a moment to reassess whether WE are truly happy with our decision - not whether we're keeping up with the joneses.
another contributor to the book, the washington post's carolyn hax, wrote "i am old enough now to have known enough people making enough bizarre arrangements work (and making textbook arrangements fail) to persuade me that anyone who thinks she can judge what's best for other people's kids is either arrogant, psychic or high." whether you work split shifts with your spouse so that someone can be home with the kid(s), OR work the typical 9-5 schedule with the support of a trusted daycare provider, OR you're a stay at home mom, OR you've found another flexible schedule that works, give yourself a giant pat on the back. we, as moms, hardly ever say "wow, you're a great mom - i love the way you..." yet we compliment each other on new dresses and hairstyles with ease. let's get serious and cut the cocktail party banter / crap - what we need is support! working moms rely on sahms to help volunteer at schools, to be their back-ups when running late from work and to provide childcare continuity in their own neighborhoods. sahms should applaud working moms as they contribute to the community / economy and show girls that they can have great professional careers when they grow up too. see, we CAN be friends!

towards the end of the presentation, leslie challenged us to compliment at least one mom a day for a week. she insisted that it would be hard to do but i have to disagree. i've been lucky enough to find a great network of supportive moms, both in my local mommy group and here online, that support, encourage and accept me. these ladies have been wonderful resources to me, a first-timer, and i respect them and their parenting styles / discussions immensely! so to tracy, leah, stephanie, beth, daniela, sarah, carol, rachel, (super)nina, lien, mama nabi, halfmama, angela, snick and so many others (hi becky!), i thank you for your many words of wisdom, your pick-me-ups when i need it, and for making me think - you gals rock!

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btw, for those of you that don't know, i'm still working a 16-hour/week part-time schedule in addition to being a full-time sahm to emmy. while attending the "mommy wars" brown bag, i got the following remarks:
"wow, can you DO any work in 16 hours?"
"they LET you work 16 hours?"
"don't you CARE about your promotability?"
thanks, fellow mommies, it's good to see you too. and the best interactions actually came from other part-time moms who didn't understand why i don't have free time. while they may only work 20 hours or so, they all use full-time daycare! or have nannies! or live-in family! thanks but no thanks - i actually like spending my days with emmy. sheesh!

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leslie morgan steiner also has a daily blog, "on balance", on the washingtonpost.com site - check it out for some interesting work / life discussions.

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9 Responses to “mommy wars”

  1. # Blogger Rachel

    Wow, I'm so glad you went. I'm jealous! Thanks for sharing all of those insights.

    FWIW I think most of the criticism comes from the desire to defend our own choices, and sadly some people feel the need to attack those who have made different choices. I think it's true that kids don't really care, as long as they have quality childcare. But that's a major sticking point for me, because it's hard to find quality childcare on a teacher's salary.

    I also wish that the burden of this discussion didn't fall soley on mothers, but also on the government, corporations, and even our own husbands! It really does take a village, so why all the focus on individual women and our choices?  

  2. # Blogger Rebecca

    Wow, that was a motivational post!

    It is sad what moms say to one another. My co-worker and good friend has pretty much severed ties with one of her oldest and dearest friends after a recent visit that turned into a weekend of snide comments back and forth and how each one was choosing to raise their children. And the biggest factor really came down to the working versus staying at home.

    So, you’ll continue to be my bestest friend as I head back to the office full time this fall, right?  

  3. # Blogger kim

    Gosh, Becky, of course I'll still be your bestest friend evah! After all, I harbor secret desires to quit my job, move into your house and take care of Emmy and V together! We'd have tea parties every day... and you could occasionally bring home pretty dresses and flowers to me. Who needs those silly husbands of ours?!  

  4. # Anonymous Lori

    I really liked the Carolyn Hax essay (and there were a few that drove me crazy, too). It sounds like a terrific talk!

    That's so weird about Ryoko! It *is* a small world. So small that we really should do the Super H thing one of these days! :)  

  5. # Blogger Rebecca

    You can have the purple room, V and Em can share a room, and the bonus room will make a great playroom!!! Just let me know when to boot the hubby out. If I kick him out with the computer, it will probably be weeks before he even notices.  

  6. # Blogger bokumbop

    Amen! Right before I found out I was getting the axe from work, I got together with a co-worker who was also a mom, and worked 3 days a week, spending the other two with her then 2-year-old. She went through the full-time thing, went back after her maternity leave was exhausted. She ultimately decided that she wasn't being a good mom, or a good employee, and a wife? Ha - her husband wasn't even on the list. She had to make a change, but without jeapordizing their finances. So they figured out what they needed, and she looked for part-time work accordingly. It's worked out beautifully ever since.

    One thing she told me, that keeps ringing in my ears is that from now on - the only thing that will stay consistent is that you're a parent. You have to be ready and flexible for (and expect) change at all times. Like you said, everything is so temporary in this life. Before we know it, our babies will be going to kindergarten! High school! My god, college?? J and I remind each other all the time - nothing has to be a certain way - if it doesn't work, we'll make change. We just don't know what we're capable of until we just do it.

    Kim, I agree, you and all these moms are inspirations to me!  

  7. # Blogger honglien123

    Kim, thanks for including me on your list of moms. You're doing a fabulous job with Em, don't let the critics bother you. I catch a lot of slack for working so much, for working from home, for going to school and working while my kids are home for not spending every free moment I have with my kids, for spending too much of my free time with my kids. People are capable of so much criticism no matter what you do. I totally agree that we should learn to compliment more. So long as we and our children are loved and happy, then we're doing ok. Carol and her hubby definitely have it right in that if those things aren't there, some changes should be made.

    You're so lucky to have attended that meeting. Thank you for sharing what you learned with us. This was a great post.  

  8. # Blogger Melissa

    I agree with all the others who said so - this is a great post!
    Lately I've become very interested in this topic, for personal reasons:

    I'm lucky that I live on campus and only teach 18 hours a week so I spend lots of time with Hayden ... but it's a bit tough sometimes because 1) I'm in Korea, land of the SAHM=MORE LOVE and 2) my husband stays with H while I'm working but that in itself brings in a lot of of ridicule and derision.

    Hmmm, I should post about all this sometime ...

    Anyhoo, as usual - great post! I enjoy your blog~  

  9. # Blogger Left Coast Sister

    I found your blog through a blog friend of a blog friend... my sister and I are constantly discussing the motherhood quandry... thanks for this post!  

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