Dear Working Mom,
Thank you for reaching out. I, like you, have grown tired of the constant debate over which of us works harder, which of us has sacrificed the most, and which of us loves our kids more (really?).
I agree with you: In order to close this media-perpetuated rift between us, we need to understand each other better. Your letter helped me gain some perspective about your life, so I’d like to return the favor. Here are five things I want you to know about me, the SAHM:
1. I have never assumed that you look down on me for staying at home. I’m sure there are some working moms who do, just like I’m sure there are some SAHMs who believe they’re superior to you. There are judgmental twatermelons out there, and there’s nothing we can do about that. But just because this is one of the many “Mommy Wars” currently being fought doesn’t meant that I’ve been drafted. I don’t believe that being a SAHM makes me your enemy by default. I, like you, would much rather be allies.
And those moms who prefer to keep fighting these senseless battles? Let them. There will always be ignorant, pugnacious, bitter adults in the world – parents or not. I say we join forces in ignoring them.
2. I don’t know how you do it. Seriously, how the hell do you do it? I find myself overwhelmed by motherhood on an almost-daily basis. At times, I’m so stressed out by the random chores I have to get done that I find my tears mingling with the dingy dishwater in the kitchen sink. Sometimes, when my kids are screaming for the playground, a movie, or (sometimes, hearbreakingly) anyone who isn’t me, I want to pluck the dirty plates from the sink and shatter them against my frazzled head. I can’t imagine finding time to cook, clean, shower, and bond with my kids ON TOP of working away from home all day. You are amazing.
3. It’s not as easy for me to make other mommy friends as you might think. Really, it’s not. I’m actually rather introverted by nature, and when I see other SAHMs at the playground, introductory small talk can be a challenge. I often find myself struggling to find a way to start conversation. There is no, “So what do you do?” The answer is pretty much, “Well, basically the same thing you do: change diapers, run errands, take care of the house, and try to keep the kids from killing one another.”
You probably aren’t automatically friends with every one of your coworkers just because you have a job in common; well, I’m not friends with every other SAHM I meet. You and I both know it’s not that easy. If I don’t approach you at the playground, it’s not because I’m judging you. It’s probably because I’m nervous and worried that I won’t have anything interesting to say. So, if you see me and want to chat, please feel free to approach me. “Your kids are cute!” is always a winning segue to conversation. I, in turn, will try to be more proactive in seeking out a relationship with you.
4. I realize how blessed I am to be a SAHM, but that doesn’t mean it doesn’t wear me down like any other job. Like you, I considered my options and chose the career I felt was best for me and my family. But, also like you, that doesn’t mean I find every day fulfilling or enjoyable. You work on a deadline; I work on a toddler schedule. You prepare for meetings; I prepare for potty training. You’ve got a demanding boss; well … so do I (two, actually).
Sometimes I wish I could step away, just for a little while, and remember what it’s like to be treated as an adult, tasked with something besides dirty diapers and Hot Wheels cleanup. Sometimes I wish I could have a few minutes completely alone – as in, not within a 50-foot radius of my kids – to recharge. I know you miss your kids when you’re at work, just like I sometimes miss my solitude and “adult life” when I’m with my kids.
5. I am grateful for you. Yes, you read that right. Without you, my job as a SAHM would be infinitely more difficult and far less enjoyable. You are the doctor I bring my kids to when they’re sick, the photographer who preserves the memories of their childhood, the teacher who helps them when they’re struggling, the bus driver who saves me gas money, the service woman who allows me to feel safe in my own home. I acknowledge and admire your sacrifice, and I am thankful for it.
So, Working Mom, let’s not worry about labels, or uniforms, or what anyone says about us. Because none of that matters.
I know you love your children with your whole heart, just like I love mine.
And that puts us on the same team.