Thursday, October 2, 2008

What Is She (Really) Thinking?

On The Flipside Guest Blogger: Texas Mama over at Who Put Me In Charge Of These People.

Texas Mama wrote this great post on September 21, 2008, on her blog and agreed to repost it here On The Flipside. Please read this wonderful post on this very interesting topic and then go over and visit Texas Mama and say hello. Thanks, Texas Mama!

What Is She (Really) Thinking?

Hmm.... just when you're thinking "I have NOTHING to blog about today. I wonder what I'll have to dig up just to keep my readers from yawning." something hits a nerve and POOF! A blog post is born.

We all have one of these friends... you know, the one who really loves you but deep down disagrees with you on some crucial point of your belief system. Maybe it's politics; maybe it's the decision to use dried herbs instead of fresh. Who knows. But you both know to NEVER go there, else the friendship may suffer irreparable damage.

So, I have this friend. Let's call her Pig. Now, please understand, I do not think she is a pig. She, actually, gave herself this nickname because she really likes pigs and used to collect pig things: stuffed animals, figurines, pictures, tee shirts, whatever. I have known Pig since our first days of college when we shared a freshman English class. She was the ying to my yang. She helped me to take life less seriously; I taught her how to compose herself in moments when laughter was not appropriate. Yes, me. I was there for her after her first marriage fell apart. She was there for me when I got married, as one of my bridesmaids. Her son and my daughter are born just weeks apart. She is my daughter's godmother.

So, you get it? We're close. And we have stayed close all these years.

She's also a heavy Democrat. I am a Republican. We both laugh because we both say how our votes are a wash. She lives in Kansas (always goes Republican) and I used to live in IL (always went Democrat). Sometimes I like to get her going by making some comment about liberals, or how we listen to Rush Limbaugh, or I simply mention the name "George W. Bush". She loves to debate politics and I think it infuriates her that I refuse to bend, even a little, towards the middle. Not that she's bending either, but she likes to believe that she can change someone's mind with her powers of persuasion.

Now, I was talking to Pig today and we were discussing a mutual friend from college whose children were grown now and in elementary school. She wondered why the friend had not gone back to work? I explained, well, I believe the friend - let's call her Amy (because that's my most favorite girl name and still, why have I not named any of my girls that name???) - that Amy enjoyed staying home and taking care of the house things, being active in her kids' school, volunteering, etc. Plus, Amy's husband made enough money that she didn't need to work. They weren't rich, but his salary was enough to support the family. Pig went on to say that it just didn't make sense. Why wouldn't a woman want to go back to work? What was the point in staying home?

She continued, while I listened in silence, that SHE took her son to and from school every day. That SHE took days off work when her son had field trips so that she could attend. That SHE took time off work when there was a holiday party at school with which she was helping, and not only did she attend but she baked (not bought) cookies. And, she said, I *do* like my job, but I am busy! I take my son to sports practices. I take him to games. I help him with homework.

I tried to explain, "well, maybe Amy likes staying home with her family. Maybe even if she could go back to work, she would choose not to. I can understand this dilemma if they were suffering financially, but they aren't - so what's the big deal?" And I mentioned, "maybe Amy doesn't understand why in the world you choose to work when your husband could easily support your family on his income alone."

Pig then continued, and I think this may have been the source of her frustration, how she was so SICK of bumping into one particular stay-at-home mom in her subdivision who complains that she's SO TIRED.

Pig says, "What in the hell is she so tired from? She doesn't even see her kids all day because they are at school!! The kids even ride the bus so she doesn't have to drive them either. How lazy is that? I mean, what else does she have to do?"

I was pretty much stunned.

Pig: "Hello? Are you there?"

Me: "Yes, I'm here. I'm just listening."

Pig: "Oh, I'm not talking about you. I mean, you still have a small child at home. And you have 4 kids! I mean, this lady in my subdivision only has 2. And hers are at school all day."

**crickets chirping**

Me: "Okay, well, I don't know what her situation is. So, how was your son's birthday party?" (me, trying to redirect the conversation away from me putting my foot in my mouth)

Now, before you go and start in with "That Pig is a total rag. Drop her like a hot potato!" I must beg you to please restrain yourself. She is a VERY close friend. Just because I don't see the world the same way she does, doesn't mean I don't love her. We have very different views on parenting, which probably is directly related to our difference of opinions on the working/staying home thing.

Now, all day long, I can't stop thinking about this. Is that what Pig thinks about me? What if I had chosen not to go back to work, would she secretly be clucking her tongue at me? Or making snide comments, set up as just playful jabs but really based in truth? I almost feel like, "Thank God I have a baby at home to justify my Stay-At-Home-Mom status."

That continued the spiral... what do I do all day? Could I be doing what I do, and still go out and have a job? Why not? Many women do it and make it work. Many women do it and are really good at it! And, it's true: I don't see my kids a majority of the day (with the exception of the baby). So, should I be doing something more meaningful? Like homeschooling? (Oh, please don't make me do that. I may have to take a full-time job just to avoid it.) Or volunteering at a not-for-profit agency? Or getting a job that I can do from home? Suddenly, my days of clipping coupons, driving around town to get the best deals from various stores on our needed supplies, folding loads of laundry, picking up toys, and ironing Texan Papa's shirts seems very... insignificant. Like I'm wasting time. Like I'm unproductive.

I am so screwed. I take these little scenarios and hold onto them for dear life. My brain exists only to tumble around the different paths my life could take or should have taken. What if I'd done this instead? Would I be richer? Smarter? Someplace different? Would I have more kids? Less kids? Any kids at all?

Now, I know that every time I meet a working mom, I will be afraid that she's thinking the same thing that Pig thinks. I bet I will (subconsciously) mention that I have a baby at home, and she's only about 1 year old - just to make sure it's understood that I *DO* have someone to keep me busy all day. I will probably never act like I'm busy, but rather offer to relieve any burden she may have because, you know, I have so much extra time on my hands.

The funny thing is, I am not being funny. I DO have lots of extra time on my hands. I DO realize that my job is pretty easy. Because of those things, I purposely avoid asking my husband to do any household chores. I try to support him by allowing him to bring home the bacon without any added stress. I'm not saying that I walk around behind him, picking up his socks and wiping his nose. I just mean, I don't tell him that he has to cook dinner once a week, or that he has to fold laundry, or put away toys, etc. (For the record, he does occasionally do those things without being asked, just to be helpful.) And, in turn, he has never asked me to go out and get a job to help with the income. I have had small jobs here and there, but nothing more than what could cover a couple weeks of groceries. But my point is, I do realize that I have a great life. I enjoy staying home. I enjoy being a domestic goddess. I love teaching and one day hope to return to it. But in the mean time, should I apologize for my husband's and my belief that - for us - it's important to have a parent at home while the children are young? Should I feel guilty that I can - and do - go to yoga class, do bible study, write thank-you notes, and take bike rides while other moms are out there earning the Almighty Dollar? No, scratch that. I don't want to know if I should feel guilty. I want to know how I should justify it to my friends, to myself, to society?

Originally posted by at 9/21/08 12:01

Please offer your honest opinion on this subject of working moms vs stay-at-home moms, but please follow the comment rules and be nice to Texas Mama, to me and to all those that comment. Also, please go over to my sidebar and participate in the 2 polls on this topic.

Poll results: Do You Feel Like Working Moms Look Down On SAHM? 12 people participated in poll. 3 (25%) said Yes. 1 (8%) said No. 8 (66%) said Some Do. (0) said Most do.

Poll results: Should SAHM Have To Justify Their Choice To Stay Home? 9 people participated. 8 (88%) said No. (0) said Yes. 1 (11%) said In Some Cases.


Brenda said...

I had to work for most of the years that I was raising my children and I missed so much! If it's possible to stay at home with them and that's what a woman wants to do, I think it's wonderful. Besides, I don't know how mothers can even afford to work outside their homes these days with the cost of childcare, gas, and other work related expenses.

bermudabluez said...

I was a single mom from the time my daughter was four. I worked full time at an extremely demanding job which was very high stress. It was a balancing act - very, very difficult and I always felt guilty about something. My daughter started daycare at the age of eight weeks. It was expensive then too, but I had no other choice. But, I always felt that I was being judged by the others I worked with. And the stay at home moms judged me as well. Stuck. Between a rock and a hard place. It was tough!

Toni said...

I am a SAHM too and I had an eerily similar conversation with a VERY good, old friend who, ironically, doesn't have any children. Ahem. I am embarrassed that I can still shop and eat lunch out with friends and not work. I feel your pain, let's be honest. I try not to feel bad but I do because I am blessed with a husband who wants me to stay home (& attend college classes) with our children, who are 8 and almost 2. I think WOHM and SAHM are at odds because both are envious of the other to a degree. I wish we could all just accept the choices the others make but it doesn't work that way. I do the same things you do when talking to others "oh, I have a son at home who is only 20 months!" No advice here but lots of understanding!

common mom said...

You don't need to justify it to ANYONE. What works for one may not work for another. I am a working mother . . . and Hubby is a pilot, so not home a lot. I do lots of running around with the kids, taking them to practices and this and that. Like your friend, I am there to watch them get on the bus, and am home when they get off of it. I love my job and the people I work with. It works for me. It works for my family.

With that said, I SOOOOO envy those who stay at home with their children, even when their children are at school. I would love to do it. And my friends that stay at home while their kids are away at school? They are so friggin' busy! It seems that when you "have all day to do nothing" your days are suddenly filled with all the things that running a household requires you to do.

Don't discount what you do. Being a SAHM is not an easy job, even if you do go to Yoga and on bike rides with your friends. I call that a healthy balance - literally. It's all in what you make time to do. It's true for working parents and stay at home parents. I would have given my left arm for my mother to be home for me after school - it just wasn't possible. Your children are lucky lucky lucky, and so are you. We need more parents at home parenting. Sometimes you just need to let people say what they say and then move on.

Courtney said...

You don't have to justify yourself to anybody. You and your spouse made a decision, one that you both thought was best for your family. Stand by it and don't justify it or feel guilty!

laurwilk said...

I'm not a mom (not even close), but I am one of eight children who lived with a working mother in a family that could have very comfortably lived on my father's salary.

As kids, we often teased my mom for not staying home. We thought that she should be doing some of the things that she hired others to do. We had a milk man, errand runner, full time cleaning lady (who did all the laundry) and we thought that my MOM should do those things.

Funny how my opinion has changed now that I am older.

My belief is that first and foremost, you should be HAPPY that you have the choice between staying home and working. All mothers should make the choice that makes them most content in their life.

Everyone really just needs to stop judging. It should not matter if you brought homemade rice krispie treats or store bought.

All kids really care about is that their mother is happy. Because if Mama ain't happy, ain't nobody happy!

dani said...

if you can keep from it... don't read between the lines of what people say... you will worry yourself to death (i've been there).
if you are content with your status, that is all that matters. just like your political and religious views are uniquely yours, so are your choices. treat them the same.
for, for every pig (who thinks women should not be idle) there is in your life, there is also an amy (who obviously thinks contrary to pig).
know, you cannot please anyone but yourself.
ps by the way i have been on both sides of the fence and have resigned myself to just live life as it comes:)

Andrea said...

I would LOVE to be a stay-at-home mom, even once both of my girls are at school full time. However, our financial sitution will not allow that (at least as things stand right now).

But I think that if you can afford to do it -- and if it interests you -- staying at home even once the kids are in school is an honourable thing to do.

Sure, it might be an 'easier' job -- at least easier than when the kids weren't in school yet -- but who cares? You are still doing an important job, and are NO LESS of a woman for not taking a job outside of the home.

Now, if there were financial struggles in the family and you could help out by getting a job, then so be it. But in "Pig's" situation for example...not all places of employment would allow for days off for any field trips or parent-volunteer days, etc. She has a good thing going, but should nto expect that everybody else would be able to swing a deal like that.

Bottom line: do what YOU feel is right for YOUR family -- and who cares what other people think. If you and your hubby are on the same page and feel good about your choice, then stick with it with CONFIDENCE.

bluedaisy said...

I just read your blog for the first time (linked via The Jason Show) and I hope to help you feel better about this SAHM thing. I think the topic is getting to you because you and Pig are such close friends and no one wants to feel judged by a friend. My 2 cents: If we could afford to not have a 2nd income, I would stay home, take care of all the house stuff and love EVERY minute of it. I have a degree, I love the job I do (part-time at this point to avoid daycare expense) but I would HAPPILY stay home. I would do my best not to care about the judgements of others. At the same time, I would try to refrain from judging others. I don't see this situation as a "one answer fits all" deal. At the end of the day, whatever works for you and your family is the right decision. If you and your husband are on the same page, that's ALL that matters. You ARE doing something valuable with your life and you don't need to justify yourself. PS-I did work full time for a while when we had one child (we now have 2) and I actually think I am MORE tired being home- ironic, no? Sorry about the lengthy comment.

Dawn said...

Interesting topic...I'm a stay at home mom and felt myself getting very defensive when I read your friend's remarks. It's already been said many times in the comments here, but my opinion is that there's no need to justify your choice to anyone else.

E said...

This will likely be unpopular. I believe that some choices preclude other choices. The choice to be a parent is the biggest choice anyone can ever make and it eliminates lots of others. Children deserve to be raised at home with loving parents. "We want two cars, or we want to own or own home, or we have loans to pay off, or or or "doesn't work for me. Those are choices that you abdicate when you have babies. (Some women, widows for example have no choice. I understand. But the vast majority of us have lots of choices. And we make them for ourselves instead of our kids)
Wait til they are in school and then fine, go be a lawyer or a butcher or a cowboy. But when our children are little and at home they deserve full time parenting by a mommy or a daddy who loves them. Love being a birthright in my opinion which no care care worker will ever give.... Parenting kids after work and on weekends is not parenting. You have to be there.
My husband rode the bus to work so I could stay home. We didn't eat out or go to movies. We made our own fun at home. I am the big earner around here so when they were three and no longer nursing I went back to work and my husband worked from home. Eventually I made enough that I could work from home too. I was able to hire folks to manage the businesses and I managed them mostly from home. That was luck. But the earlier bits were all choices we made. Texas Mom you are making a happy home and affecting the world through your children more than any lawyer ever will.
Would anyone think it was okay for husbands to have a part time wife on M W and F for sex because his wife has to work those days? No? Then why is it okay for our kids to have part time mommies for cuddles and hugs?
And as texas mom knows or will as her kids get older the big talks always happen by accident when you are putting the milk away or driving them to soccer. You have to be there for it to happen. And that is what you are doing with your time. You are raising your family and thank God for it. Your kids will be self confident well bonded contributing members of our culture. I can't wait to run into them somewhere....

Betsy said...

I work now, and I am going to school. I need to work to help out my husband a little at this point. As much as I would love being able to stay home full time with my babies it just isn't possible at this point. I am VERY supportive of SAHM mom's. YOu all do something I would love to do, but fear I would never be able to handle. I totally know the guilty feelings of not being at home with my kids, I once had a co worker who asked why I worked and didn't stay home with my babies.

Ellyn said...

No you should absolutely not feel guilty. I have had these same feeling for a while now. You put it in words I never could.

I love that I get to stay home with my kids. I feel so blessed that we can afford this. I know that we probably miss out on some of the finer things in life but it is OK because for us this is the way we want it.

I congratulate you in your decision to stay home with your kids. They are only this age once. You have the rest of your life to earn a living but only one shot at your kids.

Jacey said...

I guess that as close friends, it probably didn't even occur to her that she might offend you in saying those things. We often view one person as something, but if someone close to us is in a similar situation, we don't view them the same way.
I'd personally say, that maybe she's sick of working? Maybe she's made enough, and she's a little bit bitter about how this other woman gets to be a stay at home mom, whereas she's going off to work everyday.
Or maybe she just doesn't see it the way you see it :)
As far as I've seen, most everyone has feelings about what everyone else is doing - if they're a stay at home mom, they don't understand why other people aren't, or they wish they could work too. And if they're a working mom, they don't understand why other people aren't too, or they're jealous of the stay at home moms. The grass is always greener on the otherside of the fence :)
It's probably best for you to just agree to disagree on this point, and move on.

Adrian said...

I'm a 3rd generation working Mom, but because we live in Utah, I'm probably one of two women on my block that work and I would say that only 3 or 4 of the women I know work at a full-time job or run a business.

I don't think I particularly look down on SAHM's as much as I am a bit jealous of them. I have worked practically every day since I was 14 years old and sometimes I get a little worn down. I wish could clip coupons, and sit by the pool with my kids, and do all the fun things I see the SAHM's do.

But that's not the deal I signed on for. I have been the primary breadwinner in my family since I was 26 years old and I now make double what my husband makes. Without my income, my family would be in a world of hurt. I'm proud of it, but it's a big responsibility sometimes. I think if someone else is lucky enough or smart enough to get a better deal than I did, then good for you.

Rosemary Bogdan said...

You should not feel guilty And you don't need to explain anything. All my kids are in school and I'm still a stay-at-home mom and I DO believe that allows me to be more involved in my kids' lives than I could be if I were working outside the home. And I still bet real tired and I believe I work hard. Raising kids regardless of their ages takes a LOT of time.
Nice post. I just decided a long time ago to do what I believe is best for my family and let people think what they will.

smileymamaT said...

Wow, that was an excellent post. I've been in both places- stayed at home with the baby and toddler while the oldest was at school, and also worked full time evenings while the hubby worked full time days- never saw each other (or much of the kids once they all started school) and I was getting about 4 hours of sleep each night between work and going back to college- I would have much, much preferred to be home and not at work.
Now they are all ages 10 and older, and I work days while they are in school mostly - but if I had my way and we could afford it, I'd be ECSTATIC to stay at home and take care of the house during the day (sure beats the 10 pm laundry I do now)... if only we could afford it. If you can stay home and love to be home, by all means, do it!

Jason said...

When my son was a baby, I took some time off work and stayed home with him. It was EXHAUSTING. I felt so relieved to be going back to work so I could REST.

However, to stay at home or work is totally a personal, individual choice and nobody should judge anybody for doing it, one way or the other.

Anonymous said...

I'm still home and have been ever since we started our family. The oldest is 17, the youngest is 9, so my 4 boys are in school all day. I *am* tired, and I can't imagine trying to juggle a paid career on top of it all. But I know people who do. I think some are cut out for it, and some of us aren't. I'm blessed in being married to a man who agrees with me on our lifestyle, where we keep a family of 6 on one income (and blessed that his job allows us to do this).
I had a friend tell me, years ago, that once the kids hit middle school age and beyond, they need a parent at home after school more than ever!
I never had a SAHM, and although I now understand that my own mother would have been unhappy doing so, I felt a little sad at the time. It has always been my desire to be a SAHM.
Single parents have my undying respect!

Smiling Shelly said...

I doesn’t sound to me like she was thinking at all. She was being judgmental and insensitive to your feelings on the subject. It sounds like, about half way through the conversation, she realized that you might possibly take what she was saying personal and tried to make up for it by assuring you that she didn’t mean you. We all know that people tend to stereotype and put others into ‘groups’: SAHM, Working Mother, Black, White, Jock, Skater, etc. So it’s hard not to wonder what people say when we aren’t around after hearing their ‘true’ feelings on the subject.

I think you should have told her what you thought about what she was saying. You two have been friends for a long time and she should be able to handle your opposition and also see your point of view. No mother should ever have to justify why she chose to stay at home with her children or to go back into the workforce. It is a personal decision, one that can only be right for the person involved.

We all have this idea of how things would be so much different and easier on the other side; but, until we walk in that persons shoes, we can never know what their life is ‘really’ like. Therefore, we should all learn to embrace our similarities and respect our differences and not be so quick to judge.

Bex said...

Being a SAHM is a privilege. Even if it means your family makes sacrifices, like having one car instead of two, a house in the 90's instead of 180's. Don't let yourself doubt what you are doing because of an offhand remark made by a friend - or anyone. You are awesome.

This is a late post, but hopefully by now you have hashed things out with your friend. Otherwise this could brood for a long time and get really ugly. But you don't need me to tell you that.