Tag Archives: sahm

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?

Acceptance

This post about motherhood got me thinking about my life and identity.   The author had always imagined that she would be a carefree laid-back type of mom, only to realize post-kids that she is more “Type-A” mom with need for structure and planning in her day.  At the end she asks:  Have you ever realized that something you always thought was true—or hoped was true—about yourself was all wrong?

When I was in college, I could definitely describe myself as laid-back and independent with a creative/rebellious spirit.  I scoffed at friends who dreamt of a more conventional life with kids and mortgages.  I must have read Hemingway or Scott Fitzgerald at some point because I also fantasized a lot about the ex-pat life in Paris.   Obviously life didn’t happen as expected.  I never moved abroad and ended up with a string of 9-to-5 jobs.  I married and had kids.  The only thing missing was the mortgage, due to high cost of homes in Los Angeles.  

Later in life, I started idealizing a simpler life at home with kids (for at least one year, possibly with a part-time job or at least a flexible schedule).  What I didn’t envision was working full-time and cobbling together childcare so soon after their births.   Because my ideal didn’t mesh with reality, I held onto some anger for a long time about my life and bad fortune. 

In many, many ways, my life did not live up to either my youthful ideal or to my later SAHM dream/ideal.  This caused an unhealthy amount of anger and frustration.  I’m trying to deal with this by moving on and accepting my life.  Which means….I need to value the independent/resourceful side of myself as much as my carefree side.  I need to value working and my ability to help to support my family.   I have to accept that the 40-year old me is not very free-spirited at all.  Who would have thought that I would end up driving a conservative car, dressing in a clean-cut preppy style, and reading Smartmoney over poetry*?  I’ve changed so much that there’s no way the younger me would want to hang out with the 4o-year old me, and that’s OK.  I also have to acknowledge that a tiny part of me is happy to work.  I do enjoy having adult conversations, an excuse to shower and dress up, and quiet/alone time (even if that alone time is only during work hours on a non-hectic work day or during my commute).   

Part of this acceptance also means that I have to accept my husband and family, quirks and all.  Sometimes I get mad at my husband because he has held onto his more carefree, or should I say disorganized, ways while I have learned to be uber-organized.  At the same time, I can’t blame him for that change.  Perhaps if he were super-organized, I could slack off a bit but it is what it is

I really want to move into the next phase of my life with less drama and more love.  It’s so easy for me to accept my kids and love them as they are. I wonder why it’s so hard to do the same for myself and other adults?!

So, I am asking the same question, “Have you ever realized that something you always thought was true—or hoped was true—about yourself was all wrong?”

* Note: Ok, I was never crazy about poetry even in my free-spirited days. It just seems an appropriate in that sentence to illustrate the complete opposite of Smartmoney magazine!

Time Envy

For someone who has only occasional envy issues with the mythical wealthy Jones family (i.e. keeping up with the Joneses), I do get jealous of family and friends more often than I like to admit.  I wish I could offer a solution (i.e. how to overcome envy in 10 easy steps) but I’m not quite there yet and not in any position to dispense advice.  I do know that long-term envy is not healthy for me or anyone, period.  No wonder it’s one of the seven deadly sins!  

My envy is very specific.  It’s rarely about money. Although I do want more money sometimes, I realize that most people that earn more also work at more stressful jobs than I do.  It’s hard to manage employees and answer to demanding higher-ups.  The trade-off is not worth it for me.   For me, envy rears its head when I think about people with more free time.   

Strangely, my envy is usually directed at my stay-at-home mom friends.  I  say “strangely” because I’m not under any illusion that staying at home is easy or relaxing.  No one I know well has a trust fund or are stay-at-home and childless, two groups which probably really deserve anyone’s envy.

So right now, my envy is directed at those who have quit the rat race, especially those with school age children.  While I know it’s still work and there’s a house to keep clean on top of everything else, these friends seem to have more time to work out, read books or just visit the zoo on an uncrowded day!  And if life is anything like those depicted on mom blogs, home life is 50% crazy (kid eats crayons or throws tantrums) but also 50% slower

I fully understand that a slower pace isn’t all fun and games.   A lot of that time is spent managing a household from laundry to doctor appointments to cooking 2-3 meals a day.  However,  I also get the sense that their time is less hectic overall (again, with the caveat that this is my perception once their kids or at least one kid is in school).  When you stay home, you’re the master of your own time.  You don’t often have deadline-oriented projects.  You’re not bombarded with requests and questions via emails and instant messages.   You have time to just move at your own pace.

It’s important to note that I’m not dismissing homelife as anything less, just because it’s not as busy as work life.  Obviously taking care of children is important. ( I also do not say ‘raising children’ because I believe both working and non-working parents raise their children.)  However, I think that our society has placed such importance on busy-ness that even stay-at-home spouses have to say that they’re as busy as everyone else.  I don’t know many SAHMs who would say that they have more time than those working, so my theory is based on reading blogs and personal observation.  When I’m off on weekdays, I run into calm-looking moms strolling through malls with their kids and friends.  They have downtime to smell the roses, so to speak.   I suppose that’s the benefit of not having to cram errands in between a commute and deadlines?

These feelings of envy are often followed by guilt. I know I shouldn’t feel this way and just be happy for others.  I also know that doing endless loads of laundry and household chores would make me very unhappy!

On a personal note, I’m dealing with my time envy in a few ways.  I think it was a suggestion from Tragic Sandwich but I’m trying to take at least one vacation day per month.  If I remember correctly, she uses it for organizing but I’m not that virtuous.  However, that one extra day allows me to stretch out my time and work at my own slower pace.  I’m able to get things off my to-do list and also find time for exercise and just playtime.

That’s not to say I’m not still enjoying parenthood overall.  I love watching my kids play (they’re quite close in age) and letting them discover their own games like peek-a-boo and “let’s-roll-over-on-each-other-and-laugh” plus the usual bickering and bopping each other on the head. 

Is my impression of staying home completely unrealistic or is there a grain of truth?  Do you envy those with more money or more time?