The term “Mommy Wars” brings to mind mothers with boxing gloves on, duking it out over who is the better mom concerning the choice they made to either work or stay at home. Or, as one mother put it, the funny picture of all these moms lining up for war with pots and pans and dusters and broom as weapons.
If that is a bit extreme, at the very least the term indicates a verbal argument that exists between which choice is healthier for children and which mom is a more committed mother: the working mother or the stay at home mother. While the debate rages, there are very real women who are living out these choices on a daily basis.
I had the privilege to hear from some of those women this past week and get some of their feedback on the issue. Several of the moms who responded to my email interview stated that they left their jobs to stay at home.
When asked if they felt a sense of loss after leaving the career world, the majority of them stated that they did not feel as if they had lost something precious to them, but instead felt that they were finally going to live out what they always knew they were meant to live out. “In fact”, one mom added, “I felt as if I had finally found the identity I had been searching for all my life.”
Sheila, however, mother to a one year old (and one on the way) shares: “I did [feel a sense of loss]. At first I really struggled with my decision. I felt that when I was teaching I was able to affect 20 children and their parents for good. Now being home, I wasn’t really affecting anyone but my family.
God really changed my heart to see that affecting my family was very very important! When I am here for my children they grow up feeling loved and protected. Most importantly, I am able to discipline and teach them in the ways of the Lord and share Christ with them on a daily basis!
I read an article by John Piper who called the SAHM, ‘God’s free agent’. I loved that term! I totally needed a shift in my thinking to not see myself as just a SAHM, but as God’s free agent – able to serve at church, in my community, and most importantly love my family with the love of Christ.
Thankfully that little mind/heart shift has helped me realize and remember my purpose – not to make a difference as the world would define making a difference,
but serving God wholeheartedly in my role.”
When asked what the benefits were to being a stay-at-home mom, the most common answer was the ability to be there for all the important milestones in their child’s life. This fact is the one that seemed to mean the most to all of the stay-at-home mothers. Other advantages also mentioned included being the child’s whole world, having a huge impact on the direction your child’s life will take, and actually getting a chance to sleep during naps.
Staying at home with your child also carries its own set of cares and burdens, however, as the interviews revealed. Every mother interviewed shared that they struggle with a sense of total isolation and the desire for meaningful, adult interaction at least once a week. They also shared that they struggle sometimes with worry because of the impact the decision to move to one income has had on their family.
“If we have to sell our second car and live on hot dogs, then it’s worth it for our child’s life”, April shared. Another mom, Grace, shared a similar type of sentiment, but added, “It’s very difficult at times, especially in the summer months. We do a lot of praying… “
When asked how these families have made it work financially, all agreed; it came down to sacrifices, and most of the time, big sacrifices. These families have made decisions to sell second cars, quit taking vacations away from home, and are no longer able to treat themselves to Starbucks coffees or see movies in the theatre.
The lifestyle they have chosen includes the time-consuming work of bargain shopping for the best deals on food and clothes, moving to cloth diapers, and driving as little as possible.
One mom stated, “I would encourage you to not say off the bat that you have to work outside the home. Instead, I would encourage you to evaluate your situation and see what can be cut out of your lives. Sometimes, it’s a matter of cutting out the extras like manicures and new purses, to make staying at home with your children work for you.”
All of the stay-at-home moms had this advice: “Do whatever you can to seek out adult interaction. Find a playgroup in our area, get involved with a local church, or stay in regular touch with a girl friend or two.
Whatever you do, don’t remain in isolation with your children day after
One of the women that I interviewed is a full-time working mom whose income is the family’s main source of financial means. She shared honestly the emotions she struggles with over being a mom and a career woman: “Being a working mom is hard, especially full time.
Some days I get really angry and question God why I have to leave my son every day. But then, I realize that it’s providing him with everything he needs and this is the best way I can take care of him at this time in our lives.
I go through every emotion possible – anger, sadness, understanding, acceptance, bitterness …you name it and I’m feeling it, about what I’m doing.” This same mother went on to say that balancing her job, her husband, and her son is a constant struggle and she fears that her husband ends up getting the short end of the juggling act.
Other working moms agreed – the hardest part to keep up in the constant balancing of roles is the marital aspect of life. They are just “so tired” and it is all they can do to cook dinner and get some playtime in with their children before falling into bed at night.
Working moms all stated that the first week to month of leaving their children at the sitter’s so they could return to work were some of the worst weeks of their life. Deanna shared, “It was extremely difficult. I was constantly worried about her and thinking about her, wondering if she was being taken care of the way I would take care of her. I wondered if she was missing me.”
Rachel related: “I cried every day for three weeks because I was so upset with myself for leaving [my son] with someone else. I felt like I wasn’t being a good mother because I was taking him to someone else to mother him for me.” She advises other moms who have to leave their children for the first time, when returning to work, “Take it one day at a time. It’s going to be hard. It’s ok to call the place where your child is at every hour to check on them. Follow your instincts when it comes to childcare. Make every moment you have with your child count. Give them lots of hugs and kisses. Take a picture to work. It helps when you start to miss them. Carry tissues, you’ll need them the first week or two!”
Both moms wrote that it gets easier with time, but only if they focus on what they need to do and not on the fact they are leaving their child with someone else. “You just do what you need to do and believe God is going to take care of your child while you do it”, one mother confided.
I, myself, am a woman who left her career and chose to stay at home. However, I don’t fit in to either category of the moms that I interviewed.
I happen to work part-time in my home. This has its own series of pros and cons. When I left my career as a professional Counselor I did not feel an immediate sense of loss. I was too consumed with my newborn baby to be aware of any emptiness that giving up my career might result in.
However, when the day came for me to make the final decision about either returning to my private practice or permanently staying home, I felt both a measure of relief and sadness when I chose shutting down the practice and staying home.
Until the age of 31, my identity had been as a career woman, and to leave that behind for an indefinite period of time carried a sense of loss. At the same time, though, the new identity I had taken on as a mother was so large that any emptiness in my life was quickly replaced. Having once held to the mentality that if “families would just make the necessary sacrifices no mother should ever have to work outside the home”, I was soon faced with a different reality than my opinion held.
Because of life circumstances, not to mention the rising cost of gas prices and necessities, the corners we had cut still were not enough to make ends meet. We had done everything to make it work for us, from not using a dryer, to eating cheap meals, to eliminating date nights from our marriage.
Still, we were struggling. I was thrilled when a stay-at-home job opened up for me and remain extremely grateful for it. I am still there for my daughter twenty-four hours a day, seven days a week, and I don’t have to leave her at daycare or a babysitter’s. At the same time, I have to meet a work deadline every day amidst the daily home tasks of making meals, doing laundry, doctor’s appointments, answering the door, changing diapers, and dealing with a teething baby.
What could probably take me 2-3 hours, uninterrupted in an office someplace, stretches out over a period of 8 -10 hours every day. It also requires me getting up at 4:30 each morning in an attempt to get a head start on the tasks at hand before my husband and daughter wake up.
In looking at my own situation, as well as interviewing each of these women, I have come to the conclusion that each scenario carries its own difficulties and rewards. While financial security comes with two income families, the hurt over missing important events in a child’s life can never be replaced.
Being at home every day with your children is something no stay-at-home mom would ever want to trade in, and yet they carry, regularly, the cares and concerns of how to make ends meet as well as a constant feeling of isolation and being cut off from the world.
When I asked the women what they thought of the term Mommy Wars, each woman had the same type of thought. Mommy Wars shouldn’t even exist. We can all point fingers at each other and say, “well, if you would only do this… ” or “You should be doing this…” but the truth is that, at the end of the day, we each have to answer the question, “Am I doing the best I know to do for my family?”
If that answer is yes, whether you are working outside the home, living on one income, or trying to balance working a job in the home while playing with your child, then that is all you need to know.
Besides, given all we have to do as wives and mothers each day, who has time for a war fought with a broom and a duster?
Pic of the Day: First Newborn Shoot