I was on the phone with a good friend of mine the other day when she stopped me cold with a comment about working moms. She said, “I never wanted to put my kids in daycare. I could never do that to my children.” It took me aback because 1) I’m a working mom and 2) I’ve never thought that having my son in daycare was a form of torture for him, or that it made me less of a parent somehow. As usual, I got flustered and said something like, “Er, well, it hasn’t been that bad…”
I’ll tell you the truth, though—putting our child in daycare when he was 12 weeks old was one of the hardest things I’ve ever personally had to do. But a funny thing happened as the months went by. I realized that having my son in a childcare program wasn’t the worst thing imaginable after all. It’s actually helped me to be a better, less neurotic parent (notice that I just said “less”), and our son is extremely social, will jump into nearly any situation with abandon, and has learned a whole slew of cool things from being exposed to a lot of teachers and kids with different backgrounds than our own.
By the way, I am by no means limiting this to stay-at-home moms who disparage career moms. I’ve had working moms say things that were just as horrible, like, “How could anyone stay at home? Aren’t they completely bored?” Sometimes people have even implied that women who stay at home to raise their kids are less intelligent somehow, as if raising a child brings down a woman’s IQ. Please! Since I’m a writer and work from home part-time now, I’ve kind of straddled the fence of stay-at-home vs. working moms in recent years. I will tell you that for me, raising a child has required every brain cell I’ve got pinging around in my dusty old noggin, and has often times been much harder than going into a nice, orderly office where people don’t spit up on you or throw tantrums. (Well, not usually, anyway.)
So what’s with all the judgment we heap on each other? The whole thing is starting to feel a little too much like the Sharks and the Jets from Westside Story. My theory: I think that mothers (and fathers, too) can sometimes feel like no matter what we do, it’s not enough somehow, or not the right thing. I’ve had stay-at-home mom friends wistfully tell me about dreams they’ve given up for good, and I’ve had working mom friends get emotional over time they missed out on with their kids. Sometimes I feel like we just don’t give ourselves—and each other— enough of a break. Instead of lifting each other up, I’ve realized that when we judge, all we’re succeeding in doing is tearing each other down.
They even have a term for this—it’s called “The Mommy Wars.” But hey, war among moms is not the answer. We all know this is a really hard job, “The toughest job you’ll ever love,” as the old slogan goes. We’ve got to help and support each other through parenting, not rip each other to shreds. The truth is, we’re all doing the best we can and we love our kids to pieces. Shouldn’t that be enough?
I think we need to come up with a slogan that shuts down the judgment. Something like, “This is what works for my family, and I’m sure you’ll agree that everybody has to figure that out for themselves.”
What I also want to say is, “Remember, we’re all in this together.”
I’d love to hear your ideas on this one. We can start a judgment-free movement, right here and now.
About Elisabeth Wilkins
Elisabeth Wilkins was the editor of Empowering Parents and the mother of an 10-year-old son. Her work has appeared in national and international publications, including Mothering, Motherhood (Singapore), Hausfrau, The Bad Mother Chronicles, and The Japan Times. Elisabeth holds a Masters in Fine Arts in Creative Writing from the University of Southern Maine.