I have had just a glimpse of a different life, just a mere taste, and I think it’s time to end the age-old battle between working moms outside the home and those who work so hard at home. It’s a choice depending on life circumstances, and sometimes it’s not a choice, but a necessity for special circumstances. Suffice it to say, celebrate the choice, appreciate where you are in, and just stand still long enough to enjoy it. In this post, I refer to stay at home moms as “work at home moms” because honestly, I do not see what else you call it. These women and men, although I just use the female reference for simplicity of this post, labor at home for their families, and work very hard- cleaning, repairing/fixing things, errands, finances, chores, kids, sometimes homeschooling, volunteering at schools, churches, and hospitals. I refer to moms who work at an office, or outside the home (even if part-time) as moms who work outside the home, but let’s face it, these men and women are juggling all of the above plus the job(s) outside the home. It’s amazing what they can do and accomplish, often on little to no sleep.
I fall into the category of a mom who works outside the home and I can attest to a zombi-ish state on most days. However, over the past two weeks, due to circumstances outside my control, I have had the rare opportunity to get a glimpse of the work at home mom and wife’s life. Unlike maternity leave, though, there was not a newborn at home, both kids were in their respective schools, and the probability is high that I will be paid back for this lost time. During this time, I have come to both understand and respect work at home mommies so, so much more. The days just fill up, and there’s sometimes not enough time to do it all! And add to that, one, two, three, or more kids at home, school drop-offs and pick-ups (no aftercare), and perhaps even special needs children, and voila! These mothers (or fathers) don’t just work, they work their **** off! I don’t know how you do it all, but I completely am in awe. It is a non-stop day, and you wake up the next day and the next and you get to do it all over again.
Sure, working outside the home is no picnic either. The commute is awful, the work is often piled sky high, and my home looks like a tornado ripped through it all the time. But I get a little distraction or escape daily. I can shut my office door, get my work done, and I can sip my coffee whilst I read and reply to the countless e-mails in my inbox. I am interrupted by a knock on the door by colleagues with whom I can have pleasant adult conversations with, and then still return to my work undaunted. Sure, there are crazy emergencies, and deadlines, but I get to control them and I get to choose how I react to the stress. I can either let it overwhelm me and freak out, or just get it done. I use my lunches to either workout, run errands, or eat lunch peacefully at my desk whilst knocking some work out.
A work at home mommy with kids at home can’t often control what is going on around her and has to simply react. She has to structure play time, learning time, keep doctor’s appointments, pay bills, manage household finances, shop for groceries, run errands, and keep her sanity. The knock at her door is often while she is trying to escape to use the restroom or shower in peace. She often can’t return to what she was doing undaunted. As I can attest, she often eats her breakfast or lunch standing up while serving others, if she eats at all. I have literally had to take breakfast with me and eat it in the car while doing drop offs. Forget about running errands in peace if the kids are at home. Activities with kids are exhausting because you’re watching them, helping them, and not really distracted or engrossed in something fun (other than your smart phone). Granted, those are the moments working outside the home mom really misses, and often cries at work because she can’t be at the park with her daughter after 3 p.m. pick up. It’s a choice, and often a hard one. It’s sometimes not a choice if finances are at issue, or she’s a single mommy, but it doesn’t take away how hard it is for working outside the home mom.
Work at home mommy has a hard time breaking away for even a coffee break. The entire day is planned for her. If all her kids are in school, she has a chance to do something fun with friends, but her friends are all in the same boat, so scheduling is tough. Often, work at home mom finds herself living Groundhog’s Day– different week, same routine. Cleaning bathrooms and rooms 1-2 one day, kitchen and flooring on day 2, and basement on day 3 (or, some other order). Dishes are always part of the daily routine. The following week, this repeats in some form or fashion. Add in there menu planning, and cooking and shopping for the ingredients. She may have time to work out only if her kids are not there, and even then it is a luxury. Chores are still chores, and errands are errands, but work at home mommy has an advantage that work outside the home mommy does not have: She can always be present. She is there! When the school calls, she can run there. When something was forgotten at home by little Joey, she can run it to the school, or just be more present at the school and in her kids’ lives. She is there when they get on the bus, get off the bus, or for pick up and drop offs, and after school care is provided by the best care provider ever – her! This makes me jealous and a bit envious of work at home mom. Don’t get me wrong, work outside the home makes time for her kids too when she can, and she cherishes those moments too. She volunteers for field trips and classroom parties at the school when she can, and she always schedules doctor’s appointments too. It’s just that some weeks, work outside the home mom will be out of town, or she has to schedule around work commitments, so her schedule is more unreliable than work at home mom. And if work outside the home mom is as lucky as I have been with my employer and my supervisors, she has a lot of flexibility, but work outside the home mom feels guilty when she has commitments at work and has to miss something for her kiddo. Likewise, she feels bad or feels she is letting her colleagues and others down when she can’t be at a work because of something for her kiddo. It is literally a two-edged sword. Work outside the home mommy is always packing her bags and going on a guilt trip no matter what.
There are pros and cons to both lifestyle choices, but it is what it is, and it’s best to find silver linings in what you are present in now. Know that no matter what you choose, someone will be in awe of your choice even if you are not. There is still so much judgment about work at home mommies, and it’s just wrong. They don’t sit around and do nothing all day. They don’t have all this free time – in fact, the day just flies by before its time for pick-up and after school activities. They are running kids from music lessons, to gymnastics to swim and appointments. Their houses are not always the cleanest, and they don’t need to get lives- they have amazing lives, and they are living in the present. All of us can learn something from work at home mommies.
There is also so much judgment around work outside the home mommies, and this is wrong as well. These women are often working upwards of two jobs, commuting daily, and still balancing and juggling their jobs, parenting, household responsibilities, and all of the other things. They are trying to do it gracefully as possible, so cut them some slack. They are not neglecting their children, nor are their children growing up any less loved than yours. Often, they are loved even more because their parents cherish every second they get with them.
Whether you fit inside one description or another or a totally different one, doesn’t matter. You are a mom and with me, celebrate choice. I have seen the light and it took a forced furlough for me to understand what my life could be like if I made a different choice. If you feel you need to change things, try to imagine yours differently and you may appreciate how the other half lives. But, more importantly, hopefully, it will remind you that wherever you are, whatever choice you made, you are living an amazing life and doing the best you can do! You are where you are supposed to be! If you are not, don’t be afraid to change it. For now, celebrate the choice you made, celebrate the choice I made, and let’s be on the same side.