All of these situations and all of these roles were hard.
But they were definitely not the same.
They were very, very different.
Being a full-time SAHM is a much different experience from being a work-outside-the-home mom. Just like being a working mom six months ago was very different than being a working mom now.
None of this is easy. It’s all hard. But it seems that whenever a parent explains the realities of their situation, folks who are living a different day-to-day life jump down their throat. If a working mom writes about the unique challenges of managing emails and conferences calls with children screaming at each other in the next room, someone will shame her for sharing her story. If a parent who works outside the home talks about the endless guilt they feel, someone will remind her that “she knew what she was getting into.”
It is damn near impossible for women utter a single word about their particular situation without someone criticizing them.
Shame on you for pitting moms against each other!
How dare you instigate mommy wars!
Being a stay-at-home parent is hard too, dammit!
First of all, deep breath. Yes, being a SAHM is hard. It is damn hard. There is no such thing as “just” as stay-at-home mom. SAHMs work their assess off. Yet, for some reason, whenever working moms talk about how hard it is to juggle parenting and work obligations, folks get their shackles up. They accuse you of instigating “mommy wars” (the phrase alone is problematic AF, but that’s an issue for another day). SAHMs tell you that they are also working. They tell you their job is hard too.
Of course, SAHMs are working. They are wiping butts and hearing “mommy-mommy-mommy-mommy” ten bajillion times a day. They are managing a family schedule that feels like it should have a circus tune as its soundtrack. They get zero minutes to themselves. Coffee is always lukewarm, never hot. And there is never, ever a moment of peace.
I know, because I’ve been there.
I also know that working moms feel like they are failing all the damn time. Like we’re disappointing our kids and disappointing our bosses. Like we’re never gonna catch up on anything. We feel like there are ten million tabs open in our head, none of which ever closes.
I know, because I’ve been there.
As moms, we’re damned if we do and damned if we don’t. If we share the struggles we face as working moms, we’re criticized. If we talk about how much we love our jobs, we’re labeled as ambitious and selfish. If we say we’re lucky to be able to stay home with our kids full-time, people snidely chide, must be nice. If we complain about the never-ending “momming” that comes along with being a full-time at-home parent, we’re chastised for being ungrateful.
We just can’t win. I mean, it’s almost like people don’t care what is said as much as the fact that it is a woman saying it. Okay, it’s exactly like that.
Folks, this isn’t a competition. There is no “I have it harder” martyr award that’s passed out. Hard is hard. Period. And if we can’t share our struggles with each other in the hopes of garnering a little understanding and camaraderie, what the fuck do we have?
This is a chance for us to share our struggles, practice a little empathy, and learn from each other. I worked full-time from home, worked part-time from home, and been a full-time SAHM. The only situation I haven’t had has been a working mom whose job required me to work outside the home. I do not know what those struggles are like. When someone talks about the challenges of a long commute and getting their kids to daycare at the crack of dawn, they aren’t saying their job is harder than mine. Just different.
Just like when I talk about the struggles of working from home with kids are 24/7 and the careful balancing act of video-conference calls with your tween screaming at the Xbox in the next room and constantly being interrupted for snacks or because of a spotty WiFi connection, I’m not saying my situation is harder than a working mom whose kids are in daycare.
The reality is being a working mom is different than being an at-home mom. It just is. Not better, not worse. Different.
Look, parenthood is hard. End of story. And if we can’t share our struggles so we can better support each other, we’re all doomed.