My feministic ideals being what they are, I never envisioned myself as being a stay-at-home mom. I wanted to work. I thought women who stayed at home were sacrificing themselves, and I didn’t see the need to do so. I would not give up career for children. Boy did I have a lot to learn.
Two kids later, and I now realize that motherhood means making sacrifices and compromises, many of which are uncomfortable and inconvenient.
In my career as a mother, I have done it both ways. I stayed at home with my older daughter for the first year, and I envied the working moms. Later, circumstances pushed me into a full-time job that I hated, and I envied the stay-at-home moms.
Now, I am caught between worlds. With the birth of a premature daughter, I did not have much choice but to stay at home. Sending a baby on an apnea monitor to day care was absolutely out of the question. And, as we learned from our 10-week stay in the hospital, germs are not particularly friendly to the gestationally challenged.
So it was that circumstance slapped my pre-conceived notions of the stay-at-home mom right out of my head.
When it came time to bring baby home, I had already adjusted my teaching schedule so that I was only on campus one night a week. Thus, I did not have to sacrifice too much on that front. Yet, we were struggling financially, and I needed to find some other way to contribute to the household income. Thus began my career as a work-from-home mom.
Being somewhere between the two worlds seems a reasonable compromise, but it does not come without its own particular challenges. Dealing with diapers and deadlines sometimes makes me dizzy.
Here are some of the pros for working from home:
- I set my own hours.
- I don’t have to pay for child care.
- I can work in my pajamas.
- I have a title other than “mommy”.
Here are the cons:
- I have to work around the unpredictable schedules of two children.
- I can rarely do my work uninterrupted.
- Most of the time I don’t get a shower until late afternoon.
- I can’t just be one thing or the other.
From time to time, the debate between the workers and the at-homers flares up. Some new piece of research will “prove” that moms who work outside the home are a threat to society at the same time that another study will show that kids who stay home with mommy lack social skills.
I don’t like this debate. It ridiculously assumes that there is a right way to be a mom. As I have learned, moms at both ends of the spectrum face equally difficult challenges, and both deserve respect.
Reason #2 I don’t like the debate it that is gets nasty. I don’t know why we, as mothers, feel the need to attack some other woman’s parenting skills. As long as abuse and neglect are not present, we really have no right to judge. (And even in those cases, I would say leave it to the authorities.)
The biggest problem I see with this debate, however, is that it leaves moms like me completely out of the picture. We are a growing force, and we deserve recognition just as much as any other mom. (After all, we are screwing with our kids’ heads in our own unique way.)
So is it the best or worst of both worlds? It’s probably a little of both, and I can hardly wait to see what the research will say about me.