Last weekend I was watching my favorite Sunday morning political news program and I was listening to a politician talking about his view on working mothers. This caught my attention because I am interested in how the Washington elite view this diverse group of people, many of whom I can relate. He professed working mothers minimize the accomplishments of stay-at-home mothers (SAHM) because working mothers believe success is made in the workplace, not in the home.
At first I was completely offended by his assertion. Working mother’s know how hard it is to be a mom, working in the home or not, and celebrate the successes of first teeth, first step, first words, first potty use with the rest of the moms of the world. At the same time, aren’t SAHM working mothers? My three month maternity leave was hard work! This politician’s comment uncovered what I have been struggling with for probably two years now. Why is some guy on the TV telling me and SAHMs how we feel toward each other? When I thought about it a little more, he wasn’t on the right track, but he was in the right neighborhood.
I have not read Mommy Wars by Leslie Morgan Steiner, but I believe it would capture much of what I feel, as well as those of my SAHM friends experience. There is a silent battle between mothers of all types based on the choices they make regarding how they raise their children. The amount of pressure we put on ourselves, because we buy-in to this silent criticism, can be daunting. It can start from the first book you pick up and read about your pregnancy. Have we not been in the conversation that went something like “Well, I really liked this book because it was more conversational and less clinical,” all with the undertone that you should read and love that same book. Does it really matter when you look back on it? Absolutely not! If you are reading a book about your pregnancy, you are taking steps to make sure you are educating yourself on prenatal issues. Now don’t get me wrong, I know there is a LOT of crazy information out there as well and you need to be getting information from trusted sources. My point is does it matter if you reading Dr. Sears book or the Mayo Clinic guide?
How about breastfeeding ladies? Welcome to the minefield. I chose to breastfeed both of my boys. It is free, I get to bond with my boys, it is nutritionally just what they need, and in the middle of the night I do not have to make bottles. All understandable reasons right? My best friend in the world chose to bottlefeed because she wanted the freedom that came with bottle, plus she confided she didn’t feel comfortable with the idea of it. Would you believe that we are still just as close? Surprise, we are and love each other regardless. Dealing with the judgement of the public is not as easy. With Mason I had back surgery 3 weeks into his life and the pain medicine I was put on lead me to have to feed him formula for that long. Talk about guilt from websites and books about how breast was best. The looks from some women out in public who saw me feeding him with a bottle were almost as if I was poisoning my son. I just wanted to say “Look lady, can’t you see I am in sweat pants, my hair is a mess, oh and this wheelchair is probably not a give away that I am not your typical postpartum mother!” I would go home and cry out in pain from my back and in shame that I wasn’t giving Mason the best. After I had surgery I would be nursing Mason out in public, completely covered, and ladies would ask me if I could go to the restroom and do that! Are you kidding me? I was so upset when one woman said that to me, I asked her “Do you eat in the bathroom?” She wasn’t too happy with that response. If I was bottle feeding I was in the wrong with every wanna-be Earth Mother and when I was bottle feeding I was disturbing every ninny out there. It was a difficult place to be in during that part of my life.
This leads me to the choice of staying at home or going to work. With Mason I did not have a typical maternity leave, I was cheated. Thanks L4 - L5 disc, you bastard! Either way, I loved every minute with Mason. He quickly became my sunshine and each moment I fell in love even more. With Owen, my maternity leave was so smooth, for a few seconds I thought about going back to work early. Temporary insanity. I cried when I dropped them off for the first time with our sitter. She is the best by the way. It was harder dropping them both off together because I knew we would never have that same kind of time together again. My SAHM friends knew it was hard for me and I was envious of their time at home with their kids. I could also see a yearning from some of those friends for a little more adult interaction during the day. We never brought up our choices and which choice is the right choice because we know it goes both ways.
I do not base my life’s success on my what I do for work, but I sure as hell want my kids to see me as a success in a world where I made the choice to be a working mother. I am not going to waste my time in a job that I hate just so I may feel good about my performance outside the home. I want to show my boys the example of how Momma works hard and is great at what she does all while loving them so deeply. I truly enjoy my job, but I love my kids. Are there days when I wish I could take my boys to story time instead of sitting in a meeting about another meeting? Sure! Guess what I do? I’ll take some time off during the day or come home early just to squeeze in those special events together. I wallow in the joy of my weekends and I do grumble on Sunday evenings when I am getting bottles together, but the feeling of hearing Mason yell “MY MOMMA!” and Owen’s cheeky grin when I pick them up in the afternoons makes it all worth it.
Whether we read the right book, breastfeed, or work outside the home our kids love us. The old saying “it takes a village” is not far off. We as mothers need to give each other a break and really internalize the reality each mother, pregnancy, and child will be different. Embrace each other with understanding and without competitiveness; there will be plenty of time for that when our kids are trying out for sports, applying for colleges, and getting jobs. Back to basics, we can learn so much from one another’s successes and failures.