Last week I wrote a post about some of the benefits that children of working mothers enjoy. Or, rather, the benefits that my children have experienced as a result of my choice to work outside the home.
I was inspired to write that post after watching my four year old daughter attempt to make scrambled eggs in the microwave by herself. As I was wiping the egg yolk off my kitchen floor, I couldn’t help but marvel at the idea that she had even tried to complete such a task on her own. My hope in writing that post was to encourage other working mothers to notice the things their children have picked up as a result of growing up in a home with a working mom.
SKL, a frequent and always thought provoking commenter here, questioned whether or not discussions like this are still necessary. Her original comment was:
“With all the empirical data and experience out there, an objective and honest person really can’t categorically say a working mom is “bad” for kids. I could see this being a vigorous discussion 30 years ago, but now? Why do we still need to ask this question?
The real question should not be “should we work,” but “how should we go about it.”….”
She went on to explain her thought process further in the comments of that post, and I encourage you to read them.
The original sentiment of her question is one I have been going over and over again in my head.
Why do we keeping talking about whether working outside the home is OK? Or good? Or bad?
Are we doing a disservice to ourselves by continuing to defend our choice to work?
While the idea of a working mother is no longer novel or new for our society, I believe that it is still something that has the potential to be difficult for individual women. Yes, we have far more role models of working women to look at than our mothers and grandmothers did. But in the end, the discussion instantly becomes brand new when you’re talking about your choice and your family and your little tiny baby that you are deciding to leave in the care of others.
And, I contend, it is still a difficult choice to make for a lot of women.
As women, we get a lot of mixed messages from the world around us. Turn on the TV and you’ll see everything from the stay at home mom who manages a household with ease to an overworked mother who misses every soccer game because of responsibilities at the office.
I think it’s interesting to compare that to the images we see of fathers. You’ll see the majority of fathers portrayed as working men, with a few exceptions of stay at home dads trying to fit in with the stay at home mom crowds.
I should be grateful that I have so many options as a woman. In fact, I am grateful that there are so many roads open to me. But trying to determine which option is “best” can also be overwhelming. There are a lot of conflicting messages that, realistically, I have to sort through on a daily basis.
“I do understand the value of an article such as this to provide validation to women who haven’t yet reached the point of losing their defensiveness. It’s just that I’d rather it wasn’t couched in doubt.”
I wish that I woke up each morning filled with confidence that I’m making the right decisions for myself and my children.
I wish that I didn’t feel the twinges of guilt when I hear about other mothers taking their children to the park on a Monday afternoon.
I wish that I wasn’t worried about how my children will reflect on their childhoods and my parenting skills when they’re older.
I wish, sometimes, that the choices were made for me so that I didn’t have to wonder if I was making the wrong ones.
But until that day comes, if it does, the next best thing I can do is be honest about my fears and try to encourage mothers with similar fears that we’re going to be OK. I can be willing to admit that I have doubts, in the hope that another mother wrestling with those same doubts will find solace in that shared experience. I can share the insights that help validate my decisions so that I have something to fall back on when the mornings come where My God, I need some validation.
It may not be the best option, but it’s the best I have to offer.
And as a mother, I can tell you - that has to be good enough.