Monday, October 14, 2013

In Defense of Working Mothers

There's a popular blogpost on SAHM's being posted and reposted on facebook. (Many of you have probably seen this post...I'm not going to link to it here because I don't want to attack someone, just disagree and throw a little support towards working mommies)  The author's intentions were good: to defend his wife, a stay at home mom.  But in the process of defending his wife, he was condescending and hurtful to working moms....and thats not even mentioning the many hurtful comments posted by his readers claiming working moms had it easier, didn't spend quality time with their children and could stay at home if they made the right financial choices, etc. I must admit, I'm not even a working mother, but the tone of the article and comments rubbed me the wrong way, and it obviously rubbed others the wrong way because many many people commented in disagreement and in defense of working moms. Although I saw many SAHM's posting this article and claiming it defended the hard work of motherhood, not a single working mom posted the article because the article didn't exactly throw any support or appreciation their way.

 Maybe it's because I am on the outside looking in, but  I don't understand why an article supporting SAHM's has to be condescending towards working moms or imply that SAHM's have it harder....why can't we just be supportive of motherhood in general? (and yes I realize that this is a problem that goes both ways...) Is this not a tough enough world on women already without us turning on each other?  It's tough to be at home with kids all day.  It's tough to work at an office 8-10 hours and then come home to kids who need you.  And, goodness, for those who work and long to be home, it's tough to wish you were somewhere else.  It's tough to be a good mom, period. SO WHY IN THE WORLD WOULDN'T WE ENCOURAGE EACH OTHER IN THIS DIFFICULT TASK OF MOTHERHOOD??

Full disclosure: I had a SAHM and it was wonderful.  She was plenty busy with 4 kids, running a home, volunteering with the Jr League (not just volunteering, leading projects) and at church, etc. I have nothing but utmost respect for SAHM's - it's hard work, often thankless and sometimes probably drives one crazy due to little adult contact daily.  I might one day be a SAHM (I haven't decided...I don't yet have kids so I don't yet know what is best for my children) although if I continue to live in expensive DC, then my chances of staying at home decrease.  My sister has spent most of her motherhood days working. I ALSO have the utmost respect for her.  Her days often included a full day at "work" followed by cooking, mothering and house duties. It is also hard work. I think that this was ignored in the previously mentioned blogpost and I want to add a few points in defense of working mothers.

(1) Many women have to work.  Large numbers of women have to work part time or full time for a portion or all of their children's lives.  Many women work only while their husband is in school or working his way up the corporate ladder.  Many women work because they are single moms.  Many women work because in this economy, one income is not enough.  Some strong SAHM advocates claim that if these families chose to live a cheaper lifestyle then the mother could stay home, but that claim is simply not always true. If the husband's income is quite limited, it might take 2 incomes to pay rent, buy groceries, etc.  These women may long to be home and being judged for not being home is like salt on the wounds.

(2) Many women feel called to work.  There are women who are gifted nurses, teachers, lawyers, musicians, etc.  Many feel that they are called by God to work and parent in the same way that other mothers feel called to stay at home and parent.  If this truly is what the Lord calls these women too, why would we scold them?  Many women believe that working outside the home teaches their children the value of hard work, discipline, passion, etc. Each family has to do what's best for their family which may include a wife staying at home with kids, working part time, working full time, working from home.  We should be grateful that women have so many options on how to support their families at home or at an office!

(3) Being a mother is a 24-7 job.  Those defending SAHM's often claim that a these mothers' jobs are never done. While working moms have an office job that they can leave at 5 or 6, the implication is that mothers who stay at home never get a break.  The unending commitment of motherhood is true of all mothers, not only SAHM's. A working mother must finish up office work and come home to do parenting work and housekeeping work in the same way a SAHM's at home work never ends.  Being a lawyer, nurse, doctor, etc may end after 8 hours, but motherhood does not.

(4) Therefore, being a father should ALSO be a 24-7 job.  Parenting is all day, every day - and it shouldn't just belong to one spouse.  A husband may be the financial provider while the wife is home with the kids all day, but his job as daddy never ends.  Likewise, a working mother should not be the only parent coming home from her desk job to take care of the kids.  I always find it funny when men refer to their job as ______ (insert lawyer, doctor, trash man, whatever) and their wife's job as a mother.  He may very well have a career, but his job title  should include "daddy" as well. Both parties are parents and both are obligated to parenting long after working hours are over.  

(5) Being a working mom is what you make it.  Are there some people that fit the stereotypes? OF COURSE.  Are there some working mothers who value career over kids? definitely. Just like there are some SAHM's who don't do much but go to lunch, get their nails done and play tennis. However, these stereotypes don't fit every single person in a category - or even most people in a category, so we should be careful to assume that working mothers don't have their kids best interest at heart.

(6) Not every comment from a working mom is an insult.  When a working mother says, "It must be nice to stay at home with your kids", she may not be implying something negative, but may literally mean that must be nice.  Many women want to stay home, but can't. Many women feel called to work, but sometimes struggle with that decision. While working mothers should certainly be kind in what they say, not every comment, even comments that are ill-worded or ill-received, is meant to be cruel. Not every comment is an attack, some comments are just comments.

(7) SAHM's aren't the only women being attacked. Many SAHM's have felt insulted by society, including other mothers - specifically working mothers.  No doubt that is wrong, but working mothers are also often times insulted too and what's sad is many of these attacks come from those within the church making broad generalizations of women who supposedly career climb and value work over children, who don't know their role in the family, who fail to be good mothers because they also have outside jobs, etc.  Harsh words go both ways, sadly.

I wrote this post in a fierce desire to defend working mothers, but as I wrap things up, I realize that I actually want to defend all mothers.  Being a mother is hard.  Being a good mother is even harder.  Society isn't always supportive and encouraging of families and parents and its a very hard world to raise children in these days. So, why are we choosing sides or attacking each other? Why aren't women supporting each other and just trying to be the best mothers they can in the circumstances presented?  Why are we so black and white - believing that either staying at home or going to the office is the only right answer? Surely families are complex and different with various circumstances and what's right for one family might not be right for another family.  Maybe we, as women, can quit attacking and start encouraging.

I am excited to one day have babies but I am also scared of motherhood -- for all the normal reasons (childbirth!), but also, partially because these "Mommy Wars" seem to divide and split women up. Mothers- even working mothers - are trying their best to do their best. It's VERY HARD to be a mother - so why would women make it any harder on each other???

1 comment:

  1. Katy, what a great post! Yes, encouragement all around is what we need! Loving your blog:-)