Before I got pregnant, I had no idea how many identities I would take on after giving birth, aside from simply “Mom.” I mean, surely isn’t that enough?
Apparently no. When you become a mom, you get labeled according to your feeding methods, your sleep strategies, your disciplinary actions and basically everything else you can possibly think of to do with child-rearing. Every freaking move you make during motherhood, further adds to your “motherhood identity.” We’re not just Moms we’re “certain types” of Moms.
I am a “Working Mom.” The amount of things people say to me that make me want to rip my (already thinning) hair out, propelled me to my keyboard today. To be honest, most of these comments have been made to me by stay-at-home moms(SAHM – yet another identity). I’m sure you don’t mean to be deliberately offensive, ignorant or cruel, so hopefully this list will be helpful in deciding what not to say to your working mom friends.
1. “I don’t know how you’ve decided to go back to work! I’ve made the choice to stay at home with my babies; we’ll never get this time back.”
For one thing, it wasn’t a choice, okay. For many of us, living off one income isn’t an option. For me, staying at home never even entered by mind as an option, as it was just never going to happen. Secondly, thanks for rubbing salt into the wound: I mean, you’re really not telling me anything I don’t know, unless you’re seriously saying that I think I will one day have access to some sort of time travelling device? (That would be pretty cool though, huh).
Conversely, for many of us returning to work is a choice. Some of us love our jobs; they form a huge part of our identities outside of Mom. Also, some of our skills are really needed in the world. You need us to be at work. Next time you ask for a female pediatrician, gynecologist or child psychologist, ask yourself where you would be if we all “decided” to stay home with our kids.
2. “You have no idea how tough it is to be a SAHM – at work you get your own lunch breaks, social life, can pee in peace, and my day is so full up running errands, preparing meals, doing laundry and attending appointments that you wouldn’t believe how busy it is.”
Okay, for one thing – I have actually spent entire days with my kids before, you know. Weekends, holidays, sick days: I do know what it’s like to be around them all day. Secondly, guess what? When I’m at work, I don’t really get breaks either! You know those appointments you were talking about, the shopping and the planning? We still have to do them, we just squish them into places like lunch breaks, and yes, due to the beauty of online shopping and appointment booking, sometimes into those pee breaks you covet so much. Plus, most of the day is taken up with, you know, doing my job.
After work, I still need to shop, attend appointments (if I can get them outside of work hours and don’t need to take leave) and when I finally get home, that’s when I can begin to prepare meals and do household chores. I set up a kid-friendly activity (or Blippi on TV) and begin making dinner. If there’s time, that’s also when the next day’s lunches are made, otherwise it’s the next (very early) morning.
When everyone is in bed, that’s when time can be found for laundry, which can then be folded and put away the next morning before work – or left in a pile for another day, more likely. Cleaning the bathroom, vacuuming, mopping, general household maintenance? Yep, that all needs to be fit in somewhere too. Breaks? Pffft.
3. “Yes, but there is much more mess to clean up when your children are at home than when they are at day care all day.”
Well, I am up for a good few hours with my son before we head off to work and day care. As I’m sure you are aware of, that is plenty of time to make a mess. Or two, or three. If — and that’s a big if — I get time to clean those messes before work, then I can guarantee that there will be more messes after we get home, right in the middle of cooking dinner, preparing lunches, cleaning and doing laundry.
Similarly, our kids still eat the same amount of food whether they are inside or outside the home, you know. I know; logical right? We just cook the meals, and do the washing up of their lunchboxes, utensils and our cooking paraphernalia after we get home.
4. “I feel bad for you, missing out on so much with your kids.”
Well, this one is nicely intentioned, however misguided and condescending. Thank you for caring enough to feel bad for me. I know you aren’t trying to be deliberately cruel, but no-one likes to be pitied – most of us don’t need to be – and saying you feel bad for us basically feels like you telling us we’ve made the wrong life decisions.
Look, I do know it’s not a competition. Life for me is busy, but probably way less so than other people. Way more so than other people. I don’t want to get into a war with anyone. I really wish people would stop with some of the myths about working moms and how “easy” our days are. I wish they were. They’re not. That’s all.