An End to the Mommy Wars


 

For the past 2 years, since I started working, I have been trying to write something about the mommy wars.  I wanted to call it “the mommy wars within” because I figured  having spent so many years on one side of the battle before moving to the other side I must be feeling conflicted on this topic.  I certainly have a lot of random things to say about the two sides but honestly have not been able to come up with any real conflict to express or point to make.

Finally, the other day I sent a ramble email to a friend about an article I had read on the topic in More magazine asking her what she thought.  She also has been a SAHM for years and is now pursuing a career in counseling.  Her comment was to basically say she had never experienced it and so didn’t ever really think about it.  And in that moment I knew why I couldn’t write the article, I had never really experienced the mommy wars in my life.  Had read about, heard of and seen it played out in movies and tv shows but not personally.

Yes, over the years I have met SAHM’s who can be a bit judgemental toward the working mom and their children.  And I have heard plenty of subtle comments questioning my ambition and intellegence as a homemaker.  But for the most part I ignore them because I am not insecure.  I was not bored or dumb when I was at home and I am still present and engaged with my family as a working mom.

I have always had a few working mom friends, I guess I just saw them as other moms.  They worked but their hearts were in their families.  All my working mom friends are great moms who are totally committed to their families. Our schedules may have been vastly different but at the core we are the same.  Staying home with my children was right for me, working was right for them.  My big conflict was wishing they were more available for me to spend more time with.

I think when I started working I felt a little more conflict.  I wanted to be home and was afraid of becoming the sterotype of the working mom.  Not a fear of what I had seen or experienced but of what is perpetuated in legend.  My struggle in transitioning to working mom was ultimately about learning to manage my schedule and define my priorities, once that happened the conflict began to drop.  It has been hard to transition, hard to let go of things I once found important but now that they are gone I don’t miss them because they were never real priorities.  And the couple things I do miss I will eventually be able to add back into my life.  Those things will look different but will return.

So I am wondering where this whole Mommy Wars myth came from.  Or maybe more importantly, why do we contiue to perpetuate it?  Reading the survey in More magazine my conclusion is that the women who feel most insecure about their choices are the ones who tend to experience it the most.

I think we fear there is a “right” choice here. That working mom’s are better or SAHM’s are better.  The truth is they are just different, not unlike how all our children are different.  There are dozens of parenting techniques, all have value on some level but you have to find the one that is right for your child.  Same with working, lots of ways to work or not work but, what is right for you and your family?

Bottom line, we are all mommys doing the best we can to raise our children to be the best they can be.  And parenting is HARD, so we need to be supporting and encouraging each other every step of the way rather than worrying about who is the better parent or who is the most fulfilled woman.

As I said in a previous post, you can’t have it all.  There is no super woman married to a super man with perfect super children.  We have to make choices and we have to believe that for us, for our family and for who God made us to be we are on the right path.

So I hereby declare the mommy wars to be over.  May peace rein for many generations.

For further reading check out this great article here about why it is time to stop fighting the mommy wars.

My Husband’s Transition


 

Over the past 2 years since I returned to work I have done a lot of transitioning, my life is very different than it was 2 years ago.  And while there are days I still want to fight this life I now lead, for the most part I have settled into the routine of being a working mom and homemaker.  I admit I spent most of the past couple years thinking about myself but as I begin to break free from that and think of others I realize something I did not fully appreciate before.

While I was busy with my own transition my husband was having one of his own. Not just in returning to school but also with taking more responsibility in our home and with our children.  My first year back to work, on top of returning to school and working, he also was responsible for getting our daughter on and off the bus every day and making dinner almost every night.  Tucked within those tasks are: homework monitoring, permission slip management, lunch making, hair fixing, outfit coordinating (OK he didn’t do that last one, Isabelle has her own sense of style).  WOW!  And he did a great job without ever complaining.

Sometimes in our overwhelmed states we forget we aren’t the only person going through this transition from homemaker to working mom.  How can we support our husbands in their transition?

Be Appreciative:

Remember how much you appreciated being acknowledged and thanked for your hard work?  Your husband feels the same way.

Be Supportive:

This one can be a little hard.  I have to admit as much as I loved seeing my husband help out around the house, especially those first few months when I was totally wiped out after work, I was also feeling territorial.  He would take initiative in doing the laundry and I would think, “that’s my job!”   Maybe your husband doesn’t do things your way.  Complaining and criticism are not what is needed during the transition period, support and encouragement are.

Be a Listener:

You may find conversations at your house to be a little different.  Listen to your husband as he shares the satisfaction he discovered in a freshly vacuumed rug.  As you later tell him what happened at the weekly staff meeting you just might discover a new appreciation for each others lives.

How are you helping your husband through the transition?

Is there such thing as home/work balance?

Many years ago I sold Mary Kay Cosmetics.  One of the founding prnciples of the company is “Faith first, family second, career third.”  Conceptually right on the mark of how I believe we should all approach our lives.  But practically we are all in a constant struggle to figure out what that looks like on a day to day basis.

When I was a homemaker and “career” was this sort of vague thing that I did on the side it was easy to prioritize my faith and family first and live in perfect balance.  But now that I am working it tends to get the largest portion of my day.  I don’t feel balanced at all.  If we were going solely on how I spend my time you would conclude that I, along with most working women, consider career the most important thing in my ife.

There are many books and articles written on the topic of work/family balance.  Most of them seem to be about streamlining the home/family life so that we can get on with our work.  That doesn’t sound like balance to me that just sounds like necessary efficiency during this time crunched phase of life.

But if the goal is not balance then what is it?  If family is the most important thing but we are working half the day how is that reflected?  I believe it is reflected in our attitudes.

If you believe that you and your children, marriage, home, relationships can thrive while you are working, they will believe it and they will thrive.  Learning to do it all in a way that doesn’t cause lots of stress will take time to develop but the first step toward figuring it all out is having the right attitude.  As Chuck Swindoll puts it,

“The longer I live, the more I realize the impact of attitude on life. Attitude, to me, is more important than facts. It is more important than the past, than education, than money, than circumstances, than failures, than successes, than what other people think or say or do. It is more important than appearance, giftedness or skill. It will make or break a company . . . a church . . . a home. The remarkable thing is we have a choice every day regarding the attitude we will embrace for that day. We cannot change our past . . . we cannot change the fact that people will act in a certain way. We cannot change the inevitable. The only thing we can do is play on the one string we have, and that is our attitude . . . I am convinced that life is 10% what happens to me and 90% how I react to it. And so it is with you . . . we are in charge of our attitudes.”

What kind of attitude are you going to have today?

Home Help

Things I am learning: My children don’t do much around my house.

I have always struggled with delegating chores to my children. While on the one hand I know I do a lot around the house, on the other hand I don’t really know what they should do. They don’t seem to know how to do things as well as I do and it just seems faster and easier to do it all myself while they just sit around watching TV or playing with friends.

Recently I read that, “Chores are not something we do TO our children but someting we do FOR our children.” Facinating. Profound.

Often, getting kids to help around the house does feel like we are punishing them. And frankly, it feels like we are punishing ourselves. But the reality is that teaching them the skills and discipline required to care for a home is a gift. It is a foundation on which to build. Plus, all our children will at some point, God willing, move out of our house. And I for one would like to feel confident on that day they can take care of themselves and the new space they call home.

Now that I am working it is more important than ever that I get a little help around the house. When I was at home I had the time to just take care of everything myself and sort of hoped my kids were paying attention. Now that I am working it is very clear what I am getting done and what I am not getting done.

You know those old jokes where the husband comes home and the house is a disaster, kids running wild and his wife calming laying on the couch reading a book. He asks what happened, “well you asked me what I do all day so I thought today I would show you by not doing any of it.” Going back to work is sort of like that joke playing out in real life! Suddenly nothing is getting done and you realize how much you were doing. Which is why it is so important to enlist your families help.

Teaching your kids to do chores and getting them to do them regularly can be yet another job, another thing to do in an already overwhelming new schedule. But taking some time to train your children to do a few chores will be worth the effort in the long run. Here are a few suggestions to get you started:

Start small.

Don’t dump a whole list of chores on your kids. You are all transitioning, decide on a couple things that are most important and let the rest go for now. If your kids haven’t been doing any chores to this point you will all be frustrated if you suddenly announce that they now have to make their bed, empty the dishwasher, sweep the kitchen floor and wipe out the bathroom sink daily plus sort and wash their own laundry. One or two things is a good place to start. Make whatever you add managable both for them and for you. Remember, whatever you ask them to do will require you to teach, follow-up and supervise.

Make it age appropriate.

There are many lists online to help you determine this. A great place to go is the working mom site.

Stay Focused.

Growing up my parents were enthusiastic about chores, charts and rewarding our good and helpful behavior. For about 2 weeks. Then we got bored, they got bored and the whole plan went out the window. My siblings and I laugh today about the number of charts and allowance schedules we had growing up, but also know we all struggle in the same way with our kids. Changing that habit has been about realizing that if we get off track for a day or two, or week or month, we can just re-focus and keep going. The key isn’t the chart or the plan, it is the consistency. And I have found this to be easiest when we keep the plan simple and build on it.

Praise and Reward.

There are so many opinions on allowances and rewards that I am not even going to begin to weigh in on how to go about doing so. What I will say is that kids love to be praised and appreciated. Just as I never wanted to be taken for granted when I was a homemaker, I don’t want my kids to feel they aren’t appreciated for their contribution to keeping our home running smoothly and our families success.

What is your best tip for establishing a chore schedule?

Newborn Encouragement

The transition from homemaker to working mom is hard. And while that may be true, it may not be encouraging if you are going through it. But just because it is hard doesn’t mean it isn’t good.

Remember when your baby was born? Doesn’t mater if you are thinking of your 1st baby or your 5th baby. For the first year of that childs life you were off your game. It was hard but, it was good. I have sat with so many new moms over the years who have lamented how they couldn’t clean their house, didn’t get anywhere on time, hadn’t lost the baby weight, etc, etc. And I have continually looked over at their 3, 6 or even 9 month old baby, many of whom still don’t sleep through the night, and reminded them, “it takes a year”. We do our best to adjust to the change during that year, we loose a few pounds, we make adjustments to our schedule, our other kids begin to accept the new baby. But just when you figure out that you can make dinner if you put baby in a sling, she learns to sit up and wants to see what you doing and you are scrambling to figure it out all over again.

Working is the same. It is hard but, it is good. And it takes a year to adjust. Just when you think you have figured out a routine the Christmas shopping season will arrive followed by Christmas and your kids home from school for 2 weeks. Whatever you were doing probably won’t work during that season. Birthdays, flu season, spring break, Summer vacation, each new thing needs to be navigated during this first year of working.

But it is good. We may not find ourselves loving working quite like we love our newborn babies. I never did find myself just staring at my desk thinking how beautiful and wonderful and worth the effort it was to be able to sit there 40 hours a week. But I knew my working was a good thing. I knew I was accomplishing a goal. I never tired of payday. And on 4th of July, Labor Day, Thanksgiving, etc. I was continually amazed that I was actually getting paid not to work on those days.

Plus it was encouraging to see my family begin to adjust and pitch in to help. To see my daughter so confidently let me leave in the mornings. My husband pitch in for dinner each night. And to wake up one day realizing I had found my groove with laundry and a more relaxed cleaning schedule. Not to mention learning my job, feeling successful and appreciated in the work I was doing outside the home.

Wherever you are in the transition from homemaker to working mom know that it may be hard but it is good. You are doing great! Keep up the good work.

Having it All

Can I have it all? I have read a few articles recently of women questioning whether we can have it all. Can I really work full time, pursue a career and be a great wife and mother? As a woman who has spent almost all her adult years raising her children and is now working full time, it is definately a question on my mind. I certainly believed in what I was doing at home all those years. I think it had lots of value, I do not regret any financial sacrifices we had to make so I could be home during those years. But now I am working and my daughter is only in 2nd grade. So I am very much a working mom about to raise my daughter amidst meetings and work schedules partnering with grandparents, aunts, babysitters, schools and day camps. She will not get the time with me she wants or sometimes even needs.

I am going to be honest. Don’t be shocked. You can’t have it all. Nobody can have it all. We all make choices and whether you work or stay home you make sacrifices. It is all about embracing our choices. And I realize we don’t always have a choice about whether we work or not. I wouldn’t necessarily choose to work at this juncture in my life, at least not in the capacity I am working right now. But I can choose how it will play out, and what my attitude will be.

So what I am asking myself is, “what do I want and what can I have right now?” How far can I take a career without ignoring my family too much? How involved can I be in my child’s life without it affecting my work performance? What is important to me right now and what can wait for another season of my life? Once I answer these questions I can start planning and making goals.

And I LOVE to plan and make goals!

Routinely connecting with your kids

After being with my children all day for years going back to work was a shock to all of us. How do you continue to connect with your children in meaningful ways when you have so many things taking up time?

During that first year one of the ways I continued to connect with my 7 year old daughter was through a couple simple routines. Every morning I would go in her room a few minutes before I left and snuggle in bed with her. Some mornings it was literally 2 minutes, some mornings I might get 5 or more minutes but I always went in, relaxed my body (a sometimes forced act) and let her know she was important to me. The comfort of the routine seemed to make the mornings go better after I left and made it easier for me to get out of the house. We also established “girls night”. My husband and son were both gone on Wednesday nights and so I set a couple hours every wednesday night for her. We might swim at the YMCA, play a game or watch a movie. She loved it. This year my schedule is different and while I am not sure I will be snuggling with her in the morning I will be home when she gets off the bus and plan to drop everything for those precious after school minutes to just look at her and listen to her stories of the day.

We also have routines for the whole family. Friday night is Pizza night. We always attend church together on Sunday mornings. And we all go to support each other in performances and athletic endeavors.

Take some time to think about where you can connect with your kids. Knowing you are still available to them every day in some small way will give you both peace as you make this transition.

Keeping Your Marriage a Priority

Marriage is hard.

If you married your soul mate and your life is smooth sailing, marriage is hard.  But toss in a big transition, such as you going from being home and able to devote your time to taking care of your family and home to working til 6pm while the house does not clean itself or cook dinner for you, and you have a challenge.  So now your husband, who also works all day, has to start making dinner once in a while and put his own socks in the laundry to get them clean.  On top of that he also has to help get the kids ready and out the door for school or daycare and use his lunch hour to pick up supplies for a school project.

Yes, he is totally supportive of you going back to work and he knew it would be challenging, and he is willing to make changes.  Hurray!

Marriage is still hard.

Or maybe he thought it was going to be fun to take on a few more responsibilities but he actually anticipated you would still do most of the work.

Marriage is Hard.

The thing is you are exhausted trying to transition to this new life, new routine, new system, new everything!  And while there are still plenty of hours in the evening when you get home from work all you really want to do is pass out.  You are on overload.  And that overload, while it does get better each week, really last a good 6 months.

You can imagine how well your marriage will be going if you shut down for the next 6 months.

My husband and I have had a regular date night for years.  Every Thursday night we would go split a dessert at Perkins and drink coffee and tea til late at night.  We spend lots of time on our dates doing things you are not supposed to do, we talk household finances, I bring spreadsheets and budget updates, we talk business, we talk about our kids, problem solve parenting.  These are things in our life we need to talk about in order for it to go smoothly.  And date night is the time we have to catch up with these things.  But to keep it fresh we also talk about dreams, plan trips, discuss politics and religion, share thoughts and feelings, we listen to each other.

That first Thursday night after I started working is still so clear to me.  I was tired, no I was exhausted, I could barely keep my eyes open through dinner and then as we are getting ready to leave my daughter is crying and hanging on me and begging me not to leave.  I have barely seen her in 4 days and I really just want to stay on the couch cuddled up with her for the night.  I was about to tell my husband I needed to stay.  I knew he would understand.  And he would have.  But then I wondered, what message is this sending to him?  He needs me too.  My daughter might not understand the way my husband does why I am not home and available for her but his needs and desires for time and attention from me are still there.   I knew I could cuddle with my daughter for a few minutes in the morning or all the next evening but this was my night with my husband.  It always had been and if we were going to make it through this transition together date night would be more important than ever.

As the year progressed that turned out to be so true.  Our lives were running not toward each other but parallel.  Without those weekly date nights to update each other on what was happening it would have been easy for us to quickly begin leading separate lives.  Lives in which we had experiences and relationships the other knew nothing about.  We had always managed to have plenty to talk about before I went to work but now there was even more.  New people to talk about, new experiences to share, new problems to solve, new ideas to discuss.

So that first week we went out anyway.  I told him about the new people I met and what I was learning.  About an hour into the date I was struggling to keep my eyes open.  I didn’t say anything but he knew and took me home.  Each week I lasted a little longer until I was finally able to stay awake til we ran out of conversation.

Someday both my kids will be gone to college, someday I will retire and once again be at home, and through it all my husband will always be there.  My kids are important.  I spent all those years at home because of how important I believe it is to be present and involved in my children’s lives but in the end it will just be me and John and if I don’t put as much effort into him as I do into my children I will be rocking on that front porch alone.

So I encourage you to find a few minutes each week to connect with your husband.  Tell him your stories from the week, listen to his and go through this transition together.