Undercover Working Mom

Many years ago, a childless friend and I were discussing another friend’s kids.  As childless people are prone to delusions about the realities of parenthood, she said that this friend’s kids were unruly because they didn’t get enough attention from their working mom.  No mention of dad.   My response was a very lame “Really?”  My mom worked and she is great but I didn’t have a strong opinion on the subject at the time; parenthood seemed so far away.  I had no idea that the so-called “Mommy Wars” was a-brewing!

Another time, my husband’s colleague said that his wife had quit her job to stay home and that this was best for all kids.  We were still pre-kids but I’m proud to say that my husband responded by saying that you can’t generalize working mothers.  He had a working mom and also knew I planned to keep working  once we had kids.

Now that I’m a working mom, I think back to those two conversations and have a stronger reaction.  I still believe the “Mommy Wars” (working vs. stay-at-home moms) are more hype than reality.  People just have time or energy to judge others that often.   At the same time, I was curious to find out if working moms are really judged or pitied by those who stay home.

Recently, I took some vacation time to attend a Toddler/Parenting class with my younger one.  He’s shy and needs the social interaction.  It was a weekday morning so I only needed to take a partial work day off.  I enjoyed having that extra bonding time and shortened work week!

A part of me had this crazy idea: I could pretend to be a Stay-at-home mom and find out what other SAH-moms really think of working mothers.  Are you ready to find out…..?

Drumroll please….

Can you handle the truth?

Find out next Wednesday….

This isn't me, just a random picture of a working mom with baby!

This isn’t me, just a random picture of a working mom with baby!

No, seriously. I didn’t pretend to be a SAH-mom and I didn’t try to set up attacks by denigrating working moms first to get a reaction.   There were at least 2 other women who were planning to return to work after some years off.  All the other people I spoke with were either full-time stay-at-home moms or grandparents.  Note: I live in a middle-class neighborhood so there weren’t any nannies at the class.

Some observations:

A few of the moms were a bit incredulous that I, a working mom, had taken my vacation time to do this toddler play class.  This probably took me out of the line of fire IF any of them were prone to attacks on working moms.

I was sort of the stereotypical working mom when it came to scrapbooking. It’s not that I don’t cherish memories of my kid(s) but I am not crafty or creative.  I  shamelessly copied other’s mom’s scrapbooking ideas.

I did spend a little more time playing or watching my kid than some other moms. However,  I wanted him to play with other kids so I made sure not to hover too much.  I didn’t judge the other moms at all for using this time for adult conversation. After all they’re home with their kids all day so they didn’t really need this extra time.

I panicked when it was my turn to bring snacks…

My kid was a bit unruly and grabbed food off other kids’ plates.  I wonder if his behavior reflected badly on me.  If it did, I was oblivious to any mean stares.

The good news is that I had an easy time talking with these women.  Many were very nice, smart and interesting.  I didn’t really feel a division at all.

I plan to sign up for more classes in the fall!

By the way, I would love to read a real undercover piece from a journalist who pretends to be a SAH-mom (and vice versa).  Would socio-economic levels make a difference? Would they find out the “Mommy Wars” is merely hype. Or would they discover a big divide?

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10 responses to “Undercover Working Mom

  1. “No mention of dad.” No dads or grandfathers at your Toddler Class either, I take it? Why am I not surprised?

    See, therein lies the real issue. Is this vaunted “Mommy Wars” business really all about women having an equal “choice” when men are never asked/ expected/ pressured/ discriminated against to make it the same choices? But I digress.

    Like you, I’ve been an “Undercover Working Mom” in some situations. Really the only smack-talking by SAHMs to which I’ve personally been witness IRL was fairly benign. Obviously fallacious stuff like “Why would Amy work when her husband makes more than enough to support the family?” (fallacy: as if the only benefits to work are pecuniary) and “I’d rather not work a full-time job then come home and have to work a second shift” (fallacy: as if it is prudent to remain financially dependent on a husband who refuses to be an equal partner and with whom a wife absolutely cannot negotiate). But no name calling, and no personal attacks.

    I’ll have to generalize a lot here to answer your question: do these “wars” even exist? My answer is no, it’s actually not The SAHMs vs. The Working Moms, or vice versa, at all. Nope. In my experience, it’s not a “war” per se, but the residue of the occasional patriarchal one-off comment meant to bring all successful working women down. Specifically it’s The Working Moms who Wish They Could SAH vs. The Happy Working Moms who Get the Help They Need With Childcare.

    Honestly, the most personally offensive, Mommy Wars-tastic line I’ve ever encountered as a Working Mother who employs a nanny was online, at the hands of another Working Mother blogger. This particularly jealous and unfulfilled blogger informed me that certain women she works with (who are just like me) who hire nannies and work long hours (like I do) should have never had our children in the first place – “what’s the point?” True story. The kicker is this person had actually emailed me personally for some free career advice right before essentially calling my kind Terrible Neglectful Mothers, and then refused to apologize to me. Ugh. No wonder this person has trouble with work relationships! lol!

    I chalk this occasional Working Mom on Working Mom hating up to the phenomena of “Tripping the Prom Queen” per Susan Shapiro Barash’s excellent book by the same title.

    • Ok, I cannot stand the IRONY. I apologize, oilandgarlic, but this post is so ironically calculated to cause drama: http://houseofpeanut.blogspot.com/2013/05/no-more-drama-30-day-challenge.html

      I just can’t help it. Why, if you were trying to avoid drama, would you go there?

      And, in case anybody is wondering, what houseofpeanut originally said on Laura Vanderkam’s blog (or maybe it was wandering scientist, but I think it was LV) was that women with night nannies shouldn’t have had children in the first place. Apparently she still stands by that. That’s why she and I no longer comment on each other’s blogs, I think, despite me never having had a night nanny, I don’t think that people in glass houses should throw stones (and everyone is in a glass house). (I had to click on the drama post though when I saw the title in Femomhist’s blogroll. We all have our crosses to bear.)

      Ok, hush, I guess I forgive you for being judgmental about people’s choices of wedding presents, even though you’re still wrong on the etiquette question. But I do have to say that this comment here reminded me of your forgotten New Year’s resolution. (Are you like, between work projects or something? Idle hands make for internet drama.)

      OMG, it’s just like being on a mother’s forum again. *SIGH*

      Btw: We at grumpy rumblings are against saying nasty things about people who have childcare, even night-time childcare. We’re against judging people based on the gifts they give. We’re mostly against stirring up unnecessary drama, but we also can’t help ourselves from pointing out irony. And now we’re done with pumping (or rather, I’m done with pumping… #2 doesn’t pump), and we’ll do our best to stay out of future firestorms. We have a post about when we leave snarky comments on blogs coming up in about a month, and I guess this qualifies as one!

  2. Oh, I should add that there were a few dads and grandfathers actually! In general they were not at every class, but many dads did join in alone or with the mom at times…many hispanic and asian men, I might add.

  3. I see/saw them online all the time. I hear it from people IRL without children (and it turns out that sometimes they change their minds after children or after getting married or getting a girlfriend who disagrees with their beliefs).

    But no, I’ve never heard an actual SAHM denigrate WOHM IRL, or vice versa. Not when there’s the color of poop, local daycares, local baby-friendly or take-out restaurants, baby food, etc. etc. to discuss. (For some reason these topics are fascinating when you have a kid under 2.) I have heard parents of both stripes IRL denigrate parents who let their kids run wild and create havoc, and negative sotto comments about parents who spank or otherwise beat their children (yes, I live in a red state). But that’s about it.

  4. Oh, also WOHM complaining that they work and feel so guilty about that because the children. For some reason that irritates the crud out of me.

    • Yeah, that annoys me too. Maybe we working moms dump guilt on ourselves, or say that just because we’re so used to seeing the words guilt and mom together.

  5. N&M…I am totally confused about the drama post. I went to read House of Peanut’s post. Is she talking about you (or me?)

    • She’s talking about Hush. Hush’s comment here was the last straw. You’re the nice blog owner that she doesn’t want to bother.

      Or I could be totally misinterpreting that, or she could be totally misinterpreting who Hush was talking about (since Hush doesn’t name any names either). It could be some other controversial statement that she still stands by, and not the people with night nurses shouldn’t have children thing. This could just be some bizarre coincidence of postings.

      That’s the thing about drama-causing posts! They point vague fingers! Regular readers can feel included in the drama because they know what’s going on. Irregular readers can wonder and try to find out. Hits for all! Attention, excitement etc. Advertising dollars…

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