Monday, February 4, 2008

Stay-At-Home Vs. Working Mom: Can't We All Just Get Along?

In OKLAHOMA, Rodgers and Hammerstein famously wrote a song about how "The Farmer And the Cowman Should Be Friends." I think the same's true of moms who work, and moms who stay at home (who, let's face, work too ... but aren't paid).

I'll often meet a stay-at-home, full-time mom at preschool pick-up or drop-off, or at the moms' club support meetings, etc. We talk a few minutes, maybe start to bond a little over our kids' refusal to let go of our legs when we leave school ... and it comes out: I work, she's a full-time mom. Suddenly it's as if somebody punched a hole in the tire of this potential friendship, and it just went flat.

We both know it'd be hard to plan a playdate or get together for coffee. I'm not free when she's free... and probably vice versa.

Last year I wanted to help out on a charity committee that aids needy moms. Turned out all the committee meetings were on Tuesday mornings at 1o ... right when I have my mandatory weekly staff meeting. All the other moms could make the meeting, so there was no point in asking them to hold it, say, in the evening, when I could ask daddy to put the kids to bed himself.

The thing is, I've seen a kind of obliviousness on both sides: each of us forgets the other has a very different schedule and sometimes different sets of needs. Working moms, for instance, struggle to find substitute caregivers when school is closed but it's not a legal holiday and we can't get the day off. We miss work when we have to take our sick kids to the doctor, then have to make it up at night or on the weekend. I can't speak for the stay-at-homes, but I do know a few. They often get overloaded running the whole household since dad assumes they have the time -- even when they don't because their kids are a handful. They're often watching more than one kid at once, and have the bags under their eyes to show it. Sometimes they feel like they don't have an adult identity: they walk into a party on a rare night out, someone asks what they do, they say they're a full-time mom, and the asker's eyes glaze over. Some of them miss their professional lives even if they're generally happy with their choice. Meanwhile, some of us working moms wish we had more time with our kids, even though we don't want to stop working. (Maybe that's why a popular book about modern motherhood's called THE BITCH IN THE HOUSE. We're all kinda grumpy because it's hard for either type of mom to be totally satisfied.)

Point is, we have more in common than not, even if sometimes our problems are a little different.
A mom's a mom.

I hope some working moms who read this will reach out to stay-at-homes, and vice versa, in a non-judgmental, supportive way. Sometimes we're the kind of moms we are because we don't have a choice; sometimes we have a choice, and we're doing what we think is best for our families. I think it's worth going the extra mile and talking to someone on the other side of the great mom divide.

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