Monday, January 27, 2014

Ending the Mommy Wars

I've been reading quite a bit lately on a subject that seems to light a fire of fury under most women's britches.  Fewer things ignite a woman's defensiveness faster or more fiercely than this- the Mommy Wars- the snarky, depreciating criticims that mothers throw at each other for either being a stay-at-home or working mom. After a blog post I wrote that drew both criticism and positive feedback, I wondered why my words had made so many people, particularly women, so defensive.  Afterall, I had meant only to write my own story.  That's all any of us can truthfully do.  It's when we try to write other people's stories for them that we find ourselves trudging in a muck of hypocrisy and judgment.

As I sat at my computer the other day reading several heated blog posts and articles about moms and their worth, or lack of it, when they stay at home to raise children- or on the flip side, when they leave the home to join the work force, I quickly lost track of the time and realized that I had spent far too much time reading articles that in the grand scheme of things don't make a difference in my decision to stay at home or my views on motherhood.  After noticing the time, to feel more productive, I answered some emails I had been needing to get to, followed by doing some online banking, and then finally checking Facebook.  ...But then there were those handful of pictures I needed to edit since my client was waiting for a preview.  Before I knew it, 3 hours of my life had been sucked into the cyber world vortex.  In the meantime I had completely tuned out my children and I realized that for all I knew, one of them might have toilet papered the house or walked half way to Boise and I wouldn't know it.

I'd like to say this was an isolated event but unfortunately I can't.  The realization came several months ago when I realized that I had something of an addiction to the internet.  I had began to impulsively find reasons to get online to check the weather, the news, blogs, my bank account, Facebook- anything that would provide a window of escape to what sometimes feels like a house arrest sentence with a houseful of crazy little mini-me's as inmates.  The addition of a smart phone to my life only served as an enabler to my habit.

After making the horrifying self-realization, I began working on weaning myself by putting strict guidelines on my computer time.  Before getting online, I make a mental to-do list of things I want to accomplish online along with an allotted timeframe to do it.  I uninstalled several time-sucking apps from my phone and was determined to regain control of my mind and time.  My 3 hour stint the other day had been a lapse in my self-imposed recovery process and I felt ashamed of myself.

For the most part I'm a stay-at-home mom, with the exception of the once a week that I go into work at my nursing job.

Or am I?

By all intent, I proudly and unapologetically claim that I am a stay-at-home mom and the primary nurterer of my children, but do I spend my time working as hard on the homefront as my husband does when he goes to the office each day?  He has chosen his full-time career and I have chosen mine- this beautiful, wonderful, frustrating life of a stay-at-home mom.  How I love these little munchkins that God has entrusted me with.

And while this life of domestic self-employment has been my wonderful lot in life, I realize there are so many amazing mothers who walk down different paths of motherhood.  Sometimes they choose their path and other times their paths are chosen for them by the circumstances of life.  Regardless of their intent, I believe some of God's most amazing mothers bring home a paycheck.

A dear friend of mine, who is an incredible mother, confided in me that she feels like she is a better mother when she is working outside the home.  God's mission in life for her lies not only with her own children, but also outside the home doing the work of healing the scarred hearts and minds of troubled children as she uses the gifts God gave her to do so.

And then there are the working mothers who weep every day before going to work at the thought of leaving their sweet babies to be cared for by another.  I was one of those during the first few years of our marriage when my oldest was a baby.  All the tears in the world couldn't change the fact that if we wanted to have food on the table while my husband finished his Master's degree, then the sacrifice had to be made and I needed to work full time.

And then we've all met those stay-at-home mothers, those blessed mothers who's every thought and action is dedicated to the rearing of their children and the edification of their home.  Their house might be far from immaculate and their figures rounded and soft, but to me they are radiant.  I find that these angelic women rarely have perfectly behaved children, because God knew they could handle much, much more.  I yearn to be more like them.

Perhaps the reason there is such a backlash towards stay-at-home moms is that we've all met the mothers who view their stay-at-home lot in life with bitterness and resentment, feeling it has robbed them of a fuller life.  Others use their time at home to read all the latest novels, to spend day after day out with girlfriends, or to keep the cyber world updated on the color of their ear wax.  Or as it is in my case, the mothers who spend far too much time perusing the web.  The children are neglected all under the not-so-attentive eye of their SAHM.  And suddenly all noble intentions and titles go sailing out the window.  I believe that a mother working outside the home is far better than an absent mother inside the home.

But the spectrum of what a mother looks like, either inside or outside the home, is broad. Not all mothers fit the mold of altruism or the mold of self-interest.  But regardless of where my fellow mothers lay on the spectrum, it shouldn't matter to me.  At least not as far as they're concerned.   It very much matters where I am though.   I've learned that motherhood is inherently a sanctifying furnace of sorts.  It magnifies every flaw and purges every notion of "I've got it all together" out of us.

It's this paradox that I think makes the debate null and impossible to judge on either side. One thing that cannot be contested or disputed is that regardless of whether we work inside the home or somewhere in the corporate world, we share the sacred name of "Mother," which for me has been unequivocally the greatest joy in life.  How we bear that badge of honor differs from woman to woman, but in the end, we are all united under the same common bond.  Let's just leave it at that as we try to put aside our differences and encourage eachother in what we all agree is one of the most difficult but rewarding things we will ever do in life.