I don’t regret being a working parent, but I definitely wish we had a more evolved work culture that embraced the fluidity of work and life. I love what I do, and I’ve worked hard to cultivate my professional life, but I hate feeling like I’m missing my kids’ lives and I really hate when people remind me of that. Because that whole "fluidity of work and life" thing has yet to engrain itself in our culture, there are things people say to working moms that they don't say to SAH moms, and it's just the worst to be on the receiving end of endless judgement and shame and those pesky raised eyebrows.
Granted, it is (thankfully) more common now, than, say, in my mom’s generation, for a woman to be asked, “What do you do for work?” I’m guilty of using that default conversation setting when getting to know someone, as I just kind of assume that everyone works. That might not be the best assumption to make but, then again, it's kind of awesome that the collective "we" isn't excluding women from that assumption just because their women and especially just because they are (or happen to be) mothers. Add the fact that there are more stay-at-home dads than ever before and, well, you can't help but optimistically assume society is creeping towards a place that will finally match working moms’ career ambitions with the domestic support we need to find the same success as our working dad counterparts.
Then again, if you're a working mom, you're bound to here these 9 frustrating and ridiculous things a time or two, so don't be surprised if that short-lived optimism goes out the proverbial window in a matter of seconds.
"You Must Be Exhausted"
Actually, I am mostly relaxed at work. After all, I'm seated for most of the day, I am not trying to vacuum up wayward Cheerios before they get crushed into the carpet, and nobody expels any bodily fluid on my shirt (well, except on the occasional, pretty awful subway ride). I am tired, sure, every mother is pretty freakin' tired.
"Do You Miss Being Home With The Baby?"
You mean do I miss those first sleep-deprived three months of navigating life with a newborn, while riding the churning tide of post-partum hormonal swings? Honestly, yeah a little bit. But I also like working so, sometimes, I don't miss being home with my baby. It comes and goes, like almost every other emotion we experience as human beings.
"Do You Think You’ll Want To Work Part-Time?"
I’m sure stay-at-home moms hear this too, but as a working parent, I resent listening to someone say this as if we all have total flexibility over our schedules. Yes, I (personally) want to cut back my hours, but it would mean a cut in pay, and it would also slow down my career momentum. I’ve already seen people who didn’t take 12 weeks of maternity leave (twice) jettison past me on their career paths. And while my home state of New York is starting to make significant progress with paid leave and flex time, it won’t change the fact that if I work part-time, we’d have to make sacrifices I just don’t want to make right now. I’m not materialistic, but I do like being able to send my kid to her beloved dance class.
And then, of course, there are plenty of women who simply don't want to cut back on the number of hours they work because they enjoy working full-time jobs. So, you know, lets just stop assuming that part-time is an option women either have, or wish they had.
"Can You Come To Career Day?"
Why not ask a stay-at-home mom this? She may not be working outside the home at the moment, but she probably has a huge amount of experience that nobody ever asks her about. As for me and career day? How about holding it at a time when I don’t have to miss work to attend? Oh, the irony!
"You Probably Don’t Have Any Free Time, Huh?"
It’s true, I probably don’t have as much time to join a book club or the PTA or some other social extravaganza, because I have to be hardcore about my priorities. But I do have time to go on one school trip per year, per kid, and blow off work on the morning of their annual dance festival. In a way, I do have time for everything, it's just usually everything that's important to me.
And honestly, don't assume that because I'm a working mother I am incapable of finding time, either. Give me options before writing me off, due to a busy schedule.
"So, Are You The Parent?"
My parents watch our kids on Thursdays, which is when my daughter has ballet class. I took a day off from work for parent-teacher conferences one day, so I was happy to be able to bring her to dance class later that afternoon and take a peek at her lesson. The receptionist, who had no idea who I was, chided me for crowding my face into the observational window until I introduced myself as the mom. She still looked skeptical.
"Must Be Nice To Afford Help"
I resent the idea that just because I work out of the home, I throw money at my problems and don't have to deal with the parenting struggles that stay-at-home moms deal with. My family is on a budget, just like anyone else, and I deal with parenting problems on the regular, just like anyone else.
"You Just Can't Relate To Those Full-Time Parents"
First of all, just because I go to work doesn't mean I'm a "part-time" parent. Honestly, what does that even mean? It's not like I stop being my kids' mom once I walk into an office. So, you know, hush.
Secondly, it's more like I can’t relate to is the desire to be a stay-at-home parent. I honestly know I’m not cut out for that gig. I rely on teachers and caregivers and other kids’ parents and cling to the notion that it’s the “quality” and not “quantity,” of time I spend with my kids that matters. However, cramming a whole day’s amount of parenting into the tiny windows of time I have with them during the week is (arguably) just as stressful as spending all day, every day, with my kids.
So, in that way, I think I relate really well to stay-at-home moms, who definitely aren’t immune to parenting stress. We are all worried about how our choices affect our kids. We also all know what’s best for our families, and that there is no one-size-fits-all option. My daughter describes the vision of her grown-up life; she has a family and a career (and high heels), and she’s happy. I guess me being a working mom is working for her.