I know I shouldn’t be this sensitive. I know I should ignore the Mommy Wars nonsense because as I’ve already written, when it comes to the SAHMs vs. working moms debate nobody has it better. Even so, I have to admit to feeling kind of down when I see the words ‘full-time mother’ used to describe the moms who have the luxury and the privilege of staying home with their kids.
(No, I don’t mean luxury like a Cartier watch – I’m talking about the luxury and the privilege of even having a choice.)
I know it shouldn’t bother me. Most of the time the people using full-time moms interchangeably with SAHMs don’t mean it as a dig at working moms. It’s definitely a more positive way of looking at the SAHM experience. I mean, really, who are these moms staying home, anyway? The SAHMs I know go lots of places! But still, whenever I see those words, I can’t help imagining the person saying looking at me and at my life and mentally categorizing me as a part-time mother.
So let me get this out of the way, right here and right now – working mothers are not in any way, shape or form part-time mothers.
Can you believe that I even have to spell that out? But I really felt I had to say something after reading this. Lydia Lovric and her ilk apparently see the world as an entirely black and white place where you’re either giving up everything else you have loved doing to take care of your children full-time or you’re an “absent mother” (her words, not mine) working only to put unnecessarily fancy sneakers on your children’s feet. As far as I can tell from her post, she can see no in between.
I’m also going to assume, though, that hers is the minority view. And I’m going to use this space to remind myself that most people know that working mothers are full-time mothers, just like working fathers are full-time fathers (except for Lovric’s, who I can only assume will always be an absent father in her eyes).
Working parents are full-time parents because earning money is something moms and dads can do to care for their families. In some cases, that might mean a dad or a mom does all the professional work while their co-parent does all of the work at home. In some cases it means both parents doing professional work and splitting the home care and childcare. There are probably at least twenty ways two parents can care for home and family, and about a hundred more ways a single mom or dad can do it all solo.
Earning money can be as much a part of feeding our children as cooking. It’s as much a part of dressing our children as shopping and mending. Working is just another step in the process of caring for a family, and for the vast majority of parents in the United States, it is an absolutely necessary part of parenting for both moms and dads.
As much as I dislike the fact that I have to work because my income is part of what keeps this family safe and fed, I’m also grateful that I can work. That I have work when so many don’t. My income is not putting the unnecessarily fancy sneakers Lovric mentions on our feet but rather making our situation the tiniest bit more comfortable while also ensuring that we can meet obligations like the mortgage and pay for things like groceries.
Is being a working parent fun? It’s a question that comes up because people like Lovric are quick to call working moms selfish. Now, I can’t speak to anyone’s experience but my own, though I will say that having to spend time away from my kids to interact with adults who I might not choose to have in my life given the option isn’t what I’d call fun. A career is not a calm oasis of kid-free conversation and martini lunches on the company credit card. Working is one of the stressful but unavoidable elements of being a responsible mom.
My job may be tough and yes, it may mean more hours in the day where I am not directly interacting with my children, but it keeps those children warm in winter and pays for some of the basics and just a few enriching, but in no way luxurious, extras.
My husband and I have run the numbers more than once because he’d be perfectly open to my choosing the SAHM path, but the money just isn’t there. So instead of making water beads and sensory boxes, I produce content for brands so I can bring home my share of the bacon. Where parenting is concerned, I think making sure your kids aren’t homeless ranks pretty high up there! So don’t even suggest that one way of being a mom is more correct or more motherly or more important than the other.
Unless, of course, you’re also ready to say that working dads – i.e., almost every dad on the entire planet – aren’t full-time dads or full-time parents to their children. Until I find someone with the guts to say as much, which I seriously doubt will ever happen, I’m going to ask that people stop saying or even implying that working moms aren’t full-time moms.