I don’t think anyone ever wins the mommy wars. The issue of whether a woman should continue to work after having children or become a stay-at-home mother (hereafter”SAHM”), has always been hotly debated and either position seems to carry with it a host of value judgments. Even before I was blessed with two wild and vivacious sons, I heard the shots being fired back and forth on television, radio, movies and books as women in my circle and in public life “debated,” (if one can call the sniping a debate) the right answers for how to optimally parent.
SAHM advocates are quick to point out the unbelievable selfishness of mothers who would place their small, defenseless, children in institutions to be raised by strangers, rather than sacrificing their ambitions for the good of the family. On the other side, working mothers routinely lambaste SAHM’s who chose to leave their burgeoning careers, saying they are throwing away years of advanced education and financial independence in order to play patty cake and coordinate carpools. “Why what if she and the husband divorce, then she’ll be sorry with her shortsighted choice! And forget going back into her chosen field, that door is closed!”
At a core level, the path a woman chooses is her own call. Sort of. It is also a choice likely made by doing some careful cost-benefit analysis while facing her own economic realities – the mommy wars often forget that actually few women even get to choose a side – their circumstances do.
As you can probably guess, I’m working outside the home now despite the very real pangs of guilt felt putting my (then) little babies in the care of other adults. However, my emotions aside, I logically understand that my children are better served learning the curriculum with their peers in a structured classroom environment, rather than staying home with me all day bouncing from one random activity to the next. I have witnessed my oldest in class, without him knowing, and he is much better behaved and far more focused than he is at home doing the same type of project with me.
With that said, I do not want to disparage the mothers who choose to stay at home. I take issue with those on either side who self-righteously place blame and condemnation on a woman who is simply doing what feels right for her and her family. How she defines that and lives with that day in and day out is her burden to bear, and an unkind, and (probably jealous) condemner is not going to change her mind about her current situation. Rather, it will only cause a greater divide between two sides that should be working together and excited that both options are in fact available. It seems strange that this topic is still relevant. I feel as if it has been talk-showed to death, however just today I was reminded through a friend’s indecision on social media and the responses that followed, that it still continues, and that women have not resigned themselves to living and letting live. Perhaps, it is because we are all dealing with our own form of guilt. There is no genuine winner.
The working moms feel like they are not being present enough during their children’s formative years, and the SAHM’s feel as though they have sacrificed everything and will be left a hollow vessel with nothing to offer once everyone is old enough to take care of themselves. The truth is that when we place our value in people and things outside of ourselves, we will never be happy. That holds true for careers and/or children. Happiness, as we all know, is an inside job. So make the choice that is right for you, and feel confident in that decision. After all, we are the ones that have to live with it, no one else.