I feel like I should wrap this series* up in sparkly paper and curly ribbons, but honestly, I don’t know how (and I’ve always been more of a Dollar Store gift bag wrapper anyway). The SAHM/WOHM debate is so complicated. And so glaringly simple.
The simple of it: We all work hard. We all make choices that we believe are best for our family. We all struggle. We all triumph. We all are doing are best, trying to make it work, and hoping that (we, and) our kids are okay at the end of it all.
The complicated of it: Each mother’s choice to stay at home, work from home or manage some combination of the two is uniquely intricate and arduous. Even for those of us who don’t have a choice, we agonize over whether we’re doing the right thing for ourselves and our families. When a path that is best for us in some ways is also more challenging for us in others, it becomes impossible to make the “right choice.” We are constantly wondering if there might be some other, better, way to make it work. The reality is, there probably isn’t.
Despite the simple, and complicated, nature of this dialogue, I think it’s an important one to have. When we talk about the challenges and benefits of working from home, or staying at home, validate each other’s experiences and open each other’s eyes to new and different possibilities. A SAHM who is fearful about rejoining the workforce might realize there are ways to manage the difficulties of working outside the home, and the mom who wants to be with her kids might discover new ways to make it financially (and emotionally) feasible. The mom who finds staying at home a grueling, even onerous, experience might feel better knowing that moms who aren’t at home feel just as frustrated with their kids (and life) at the end of a long, exhausting day. And the mom who fears she’s failing both at work and at home might feel a little better about herself knowing moms at home worry they’re messing things up as well.
Parenting is hard work. I have struggled a lot with the maternal ambivalence** that seems to define my own experience. It’s not that I don’t love my kids–I absolutely adore them–it’s the mundane, repetitive tasks required to raise them that send me oscillating wildly between elation and disdain. I cherish the moments of laughter and silliness when wrasslin’ with my daughter and revere the quiet, tender snuggles shared with my son, but I loathe all things related to feeding them and cringe before, during and after every transition. I spend so many parenting minutes looking forward to that glorious moment when I can finally be alone, and then fill the alone minutes thinking about my children, gazing wistfully at their pictures.
Sharing our experiences as stay-at-home and work-from-home moms, expressing how our maternal ambivalence might color those experiences, these are vital endeavors. We need to be having these conversations. We need to be speaking our own unique truths.
Because no matter how unique each of our experiences is, every single one is relevant and every single one is an important addition. The more stories we hear, the more we are able to understand and normalize our own experience, while hopefully putting it in perspective.
So thank you for participating in this little discussion. I know I learned a lot, my complicated feelings were normalized and I gained perspectives I didn’t realize I lacked. I am more accepting of my own “choices,” while maintaining the utmost respect for women who make very different choices for themselves. If anything, this conversation has reminded me that there is no ideal answer, there is no “easier” or “harder,” there is just shifting shades of every color imaginable, coming together in the brilliant and muddled cacophony we call motherhood. I hope others have similarly benefitted from this conversation, and that you’ll continue it with other parents you know.
What do you want to add to the this discussion? Do you think this is an important conversation to have?