Boy, do we women love to talk about how we’re different.
And it takes about 30 seconds for those conversations to jump from “different” to “better” and “worse” and “harder” and “easier”.
The most recent example I’ve seen of this phenomenon is between the work-at-home-moms and the work-outside-the-home-moms. Or the WAHMs vs WOHMs throwdown, as parental acronym experts call it.
For those of you who do not have to keep up with internet drama topical discussions on working mothers for the sake of a job, let me bring you up to speed.
Mother who works outside the home says working outside the home is different than working at home. Possibly even harder.
Mother who works at home says working inside the home is real work, too. Possibly even harder.
And mothers everywhere, once again, line up to take sides.
There. You’re caught up. Now, here’s my two cents.
Working outside of the home is, in fact, different from working at home.
That doesn’t mean that WAHMs aren’t working “real” jobs. Quite frankly, if you’re drawing a paycheck, you’re working a “real” job. And I have had dozens of bosses with very big offices who perfectly illustrate the fact that it’s not how “hard” you work that determines how “real” your paycheck is.
But, working outside of the home is different.
I’ve done both. I do both. Monday, Wednesday and Friday I work from my home. Of course, I ship my kids off to daycare and/or school to do it - but I am still working from the comfort of my own home. And on Tuesdays and Thursdays, I schlep my butt 45 minutes into an office to work outside of my home. I have also worked from my home with my children at home with me.
I tell you from experience that working outside of the home is different.
Working outside of the home, for me, means dealing with a commute and an office environment. It means structure and shared space and supervision. It means putting off all of my household responsibilities until 6pm at night. Those things are less of a concern - or nonexistant - on the days that I work from home.
Working from home, for me, means staring at laundry and emails and debating which to do first. It means being isolated from face to face adult interaction. It means having to explain that, “yes, I am working” and “no, I can’t just ‘take a break’ in the middle of the day” simply because I’m home.
Working at home, for me, with my children underfoot means trying not to lose my freaking mind.
All three of those scenarios are different.
Why do we, as women and as mothers, constantly feel the need to expand on our differences in an effort to justify who is doing it better? Why are we so threatened when one of us attempts to explain our own struggles? Why do we immediately feel the need to convince one another that our paths are harder or easier or better or worse than another path?
Different is neither better nor worse.
It is different.
Is that not a mantra we hammer into our children’s heads? Are we not constantly trying to teach the next generation to be more accepting of different? Lord, I hope so.
Perhaps we should spend just as much energy fostering that tolerance amongst each other. When we hear a mother say “this is hard!”, maybe we can learn to close our mouths and nod our heads and simply acknowledge that “yes, it is” - without insisting that it could be even harder.
And, perhaps, when we open up a discussion about the struggles of motherhood, we should make an effort to give a voice to those differences.
And, maybe, just maybe, when one of us says “you know what? I feel like no one else in the world has it as hard as I do right now. I feel like what I do is harder because I work outside the home/am a single mom/have a special needs child/breastfeed/am a stay at home mom” - we can ignore our own insecurities for a moment and remember the last time we felt exactly the same way for our very own reasons.
Maybe then we can hear the underlying message.
This crap is hard.
And sometimes the best thing we can do to make it easier for one another is nod our heads and say “yes, yes it is.”