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.

Paul Ryan, Julia Roberts, Oprah and Me

Did you know that Paul Ryan is the same age as me? Someone my age is running for Vice President of the United States. Someone my age could be a breath away from the White House. That means that I could potentialy be a breath away from the white house! Or I could if I had made totally different choices with my life.

Some days I look at a fact like that and I wonder if I have made the right choices with my life. Have I settled for mediocrity when I could have pursued the big dreams? When I graduated from high school I thought about pursuing a degree in political science. Who knows where I would be today if I had followed that path rather than dropping out of school to get married and raise a family.

Julia Roberts is a few years older than me but I remember realizing when I had my son at 23 that she was a huge movie star at my age making millions. I wondered aloud to my husband what I had done wrong. Since I have no theatrical aspirations whatsoever and never would have pursued that career, he just gave me the “you are crazy” look and moved on. He doesn’t get caught up in comparing himself to others the way I do. He didn’t think I had done anything wrong, just made different choices.

I have a wonderful friend who was recently commenting on the fact that Oprah claimed her 40’s were her best decade ever. This friend in her mid 40’s said she keeps waiting for this best decade ever experience to which Oprah refers. I concur with her, this decade is feeling like quite a bit of hard work to me. But as we talked I realized Oprah doesn’t have kids. We are in the midst of it all in our 40’s, raising kids, building careers, husbands, homes, friends. It is not all about us, this decade feels like it is about everyone but us. We need women like Oprah who don’t have families and can put all their energy into making a difference in the world, but we really need women like me and my friend Jackie who are busy raising the next generation and making a huge difference on a small scale.

This past week I had someone ask me a question that clearly implied he thought I was further along career wise than I actually am. I tried to stand tall enough to answer the question but the reality is I am just not there yet. I spent the next couple days feeling like a failure. But I realized I am just getting started. I am exactly where I should be based on my starting date and my skill set. I will keep moving forward and questions like that help motivate me to keep moving forward.

I could never regret my years at home. They may have put me 20 years behind on my career track but they put me 20 years ahead in my family track. I love my family and cherish the years I gave fully to them. Now they are supporting me as I pursue a new career, a career outside my home.

I am not a young fresh face in the corporate world, I am the old woman filled with experience and wisdom. I might not be a 42 vice presidential candidate or a million dollar pretty woman in my early 20s and this might not feel like the best decade ever, but it is far from too late for me to accomplish anything and make a difference in my family, my career, my community and my world.

What Really Refreshes?

I have noticed that now that I work I have a lot less “me” time. Which is funny because I am away from my kids all day long pursuing a career which the womens movement has been saying for years is something I can do for “me”. So now I finally am doing something for me and I no longer have any time for me. I believe this is the definition of irony.

I love to take time for myself but working all day and playing catch up with my family and home in the evenings doesn’t really give me many opportunities. Or so I thought…I started examining how I spend my time and what I really needed to accomplish in each task and realized I am doing a few things that don’t accomplish the purpose they were intended.

What I want from my “me time” is to be refreshed. I give at work, I give to my children and my husband and my friends and my church. I love to do those things but I get overwhelmed when that is all I am doing. I need to be refreshed.

What I noticed as I started examining my schedule is that some of the things I do to refresh myself aren’t actually refreshing. I will occasionally give myself permission to spend the evening watching tv. Usually because I am exhausted and overwhelmed and just want to hide from it all for an evening. However, I have never felt better after an evening of TV and still desperately long for some time for myself. I tried to define my commute time as “me time” but discovered that driving through traffic immediately after a long day is not relaxing and calling a friend to tell them about my long day is also not refreshing. Helpful occasionally, but not refreshing.

So what does refresh me? Do I need an entire day at a spa or a weekend getaway? I have started thinking about what really refreshes, energizes and inspires me.

A walk around the block.
A vigorous work out.
Reading a good book.
Laughing with a friend.
Sipping tea.
Sitting and listening to the water lap the shore at the beach.
Swinging in a hamock on a warm summer day.
My time with God.
Time to just sit and dream.

And it turns out that many of the things on my list don’t require an entire weekend or even an entire evening but even just an hour can refresh my spirit and have me ready to take on the rest of my life.

I am just getting started with my list. What refreshes you?

Staying Healthy for Me

For years my weight has fluxuated 5 pounds. Up 5 or down 5. I am mostly stuck in the middle. At least I was for most of the past 10 years. Then I went back to work. Right before I went back to work I was doing particularly well, feeling healthy and was down the 5 pounds. Then I started to work. It was hard to figure out dinner every night so we ate out a lot during the first few months. And then there were meetings with goodies. Even if I wasn’t in the meeting there were always leftovers sitting out tempting me. Or a sales rep would come by and leave me a bag of candy. And don’t even get me started on the Christmas gift season! Needless to say I did not keep that 5 pounds off for long and started adding to it at a rate that I found a bit alarming.

I will admit that while I did learn to walk by the snack table and control my candy munching before the weight gain got out of control, it wasn’t a big priority in that first year. Still, I have been healthy and active for many years and so I did a few things to keep from totally falling apart.

I made my lunches. I love salads. Love them. But that is another post on another blog. Whether you love salads or sandwiches or leftovers for lunch, anything you bring will be a better choice than going out to eat or skipping lunch only to binge at dinner.

I kept active at work. During slow times in my day I might stand up and do squats. I was trying to rehab an IT band injury and brought a foam roller to work to roll out my knee during my breaks. Take the stairs, go for a walk around the building during lunch, or try a few of the desk exercises foundhere. Or if you are really motivated and have a little room here is a place to learn a Cross Fit style work out at the office. Even if you aren’t interested, that one is just entertaining.

You may be the disciplined type that will make a schedule and stick to it each day. For me, I might take a yoga class once a month. Run 3 mornings one week and do nothing the next 2 weeks. I know I am not necessarily changing my life but I know I need to keep doing it. It is something I do for me. Something that makes me feel good, feel strong and capable. Clears my head and prepares me for whatever my day or evening holds.

When I first started working I would feel guilty about taking time away from my family to go take a weight lifting class after work. And really guilty for putting my daughter in the childcare yet again so I could do something for myself. But the truth was she loved the childcare at the YMCA I attended and I had more energy to give her and felt mentally stronger when I got in a few work outs each week. So slowly I learned to give myself permission and a little grace to spend an hour a few times a week doing something just for me.

Why not get up right now and do something? A quick walk around the block or around the building to get your heart pumping and shake a few of the days stressors off.

No Comparrison

Several years ago I was lamenting to a friend about how my girlfriends who worked full time seemed to be so much more disciplined than I was. I felt like I was just flopping from thing to thing while they were so purposeful in their lives. She reminded me that I was not a working mom and should not be comparing myself to them. I may not have been as disciplined but I had things they did not have as a stay at home mom.

Now that I am working I need to remind myself not to compare myself to my stay at home mom self. I am not able to do what I did when I was at home. I used to keep my house clean, I used to be available more for my kids, I used to think about healthy meals to make, I was on top of our shopping needs, I knew where everything was and I was a walking encyclopedia of our life. Then I started working and I don’t know anything, I am not available very often and I don’t even care that we are out of shampoo and nobody has made dinner. I am a different person. And that is hard because I liked who I was at home. But, as I slowly begin to embark on this new adventure I am finding myself admiring some things about this working mom side of me too. Mostly I am still getting to know this new working mom within me but there are a few things I like so far: I am learning to be more disciplined and I like that. I am meeting new people and being social and solving problems and learning new things every day and I like that. My family is working more as a team and I really like that.

What do you like about your new working mom self?

Working Community

My children are nearly 11 years apart. On purpose. As we began the process ofadoption after years of infertility, I talked to a friend who had walked our path a few years eariler adopting 2 little girls when her 2 boys were in jr high. I felt like the only person crazy enough to start over after so many years. She assured me that once I had a second child I would find people coming out of the woodwork with similar stories. And sure enough I meet people almost every day who have large age gaps in their family or have a much older or much younger sibling. Today an 11 year gap seems like a perfectly normal thing to me.

The same has been true as I have returned to work. When I was at home everyone I knew or had contact with was also a stay-at-home mom. At least that is what I thought. But once I went back to work I realized how many working moms I knew through my church, neighborhood or my daughters school. Some at a desk full time like me, some part time, some from home, many of whom spent a season at home as well. We all have different stories and schedules but we all have the same needs to juggle various commitments while still being the best mother, wife, homemaker they can be. I am definately not alone. And that gives me the courage to keep going.

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!

Burn Out

Once upon a time I was a homemaker.  While my life was busy, chaotic and full of things to do, I also had plenty of opportunities to refresh.  My life and time was largely my own.  I could always drop everything and ignore my family for a day while I dove into a good novel and then return to reality the next day.  I could take my kids to the pool and lay on the side with my favorite magazine.  I was doing it for the kids.  They love the pool so much.  I could meet a friend at the park for our kids to play, we would grab a Caribou on the way.  Again, for the kids. It is so good for them to play with other kids.  I never thought about how much time I had to nurture myself.  I always felt like I was squeezing in time to myself.  Sneaking away to Target alone after dinner.  Doing my nails after the kids were in bed.  My morning workouts.  I never thought about how much time I had to spend on myself.

And then I went back to work.

Everything I did during the day when I was home now had to be done in the evenings and weekends.  EVERYTHING.  You have no idea how much you accomplish during the day until you don’t do it.  I figured my house would be clean since nobody was home so that wouldn’t be too big a deal.  Yet somehow that didn’t turn out to be true at all.  Partly because my house didn’t end up being empty all day and partly because when we get home everything that would have happened and been dealt with throughout the day suddenly happens in one explostion as we walk through the door.

Forget evening manicures, that is when I am doing laundry, paying bills, grocery shopping, Target run, returning phone calls, cleaning, and frankly, passing out from exhaustion.  Weekends are a mad catch up combined with all the activities that you used to do during the day that you now have to schedule for evenigns and weekends.  Lessons for the kids, dentist appointments (my dentist has Saturday hours!  I would have thought that was weird before I got a job.  Now it is nothing short of miraculous.) Even spending time with family and friends, while you love doing it, can become yet another responsibility in your life.

I quickly realized how easy it is for a woman to put everyone and everything ahead of herself and in the midst of it all wake up one morning totally burned out and not knowing how it happened.

My nails, I think that is what kept my lack of “me” time in the front of my head.  I kept wondering when I would do my nails.  Before I worked I didn’t think I was particularly obsessed with doing my nails.  I just did it, once a week.  After I worked I kept waiting for that evening when I would just sit donw and grab my nail polish and do my nails.  It didn’t seem like a big deal, didn’t take that much time.  Yet, one day would fade into the next and still my nails were not done.  My nails grow, and eventually I would just have to cut them down to get them out of the way and keep moving because I didn’t have time to manage them.

Eventually you realize that this new schedule is probably not going to just drop a bunch of “me” time in your lap but instead you are going to need to intentionally carve it out.  And that is hard for us moms.  Hard to purposely let the laundry go one more day, when it may already be piling up, let the family eat dinner without you or ask your kids to spend even more time with a sitter than they do already, so that you can do something just for you.  But you can do it.  And you should do it.  And this is the section where we help you find that time and make the most of it.