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Both Sides of the Fence

This is to the ladies, the mom’s, the women out there with children whether you gave birth to them or not.  This is to the working mom and this is to the SAHM.  This is for all of you.

I can’t stress this enough these days.  Being a mom is, or really a parent for that matter, is hard.  I can’t stress enough how much it is by far the most challenging job I’ve ever had in my life.  I get it.  I get working and being a mom and I get being at home and being a mom.  I have been both.  I have been where both of you are.  I have experienced the judgement from both sides.  I have experienced the guilt from both sides.  I just. Simply. Get. It.  But what I never have understood is the judgement from one side to the other.  I have never understood the “competition.”  Motherhood is not a competition, motherhood is not a race to be won, motherhood is a personal journey.  There is a blog post I read just the other night that clearly lays out, from both perspectives, how our children are equally taken care of no matter the route and I just can’t thank this person enough for expanding on this view and organizing it in a way that is helpful for both.  If you wish to check it out, here’s the link:   1000% Enough

For The Working Mom

Having to go back to work after maternity leave is over is almost like you’re grieving.  I mean, really, it is.  You’re already feeling as though no one else can care for your child like you do, and you have to have this blind faith that who ever you choose for day care is going to care for your child in a manner that is similar to your own.  I have four children and with each one I had my own sense of separation anxiety and I would bawl my eyes out until I absolutely had to walk through that door and return to work (this sense would still creep up on me with each of their milestones as well).  It’s not only mom guilt you experience for leaving your child, it’s equally FOMO (fear of missing out).  “What if I miss them rolling over for the first time?”  “What if I miss this or that and all of their firsts?”  “What if they’re crying for no reason all day long because of their own separation anxiety?”  “What if a kid steps on my baby or hurts my baby?”  I’m not even going to list all of the thoughts that ran through my head during these times.  All I can say is I not only worried but felt an insurmountable amount of guilt for leaving them.

And it’s not just that.  We have to juggle balance in our lives as if it’s second nature to us (believe me, I pretended well but really felt like a failure no matter what I did).  This last job I had, I know I’ve said it before in other posts but I’ll say it again.  I absolutely loved that I was only at work for half the day.  I loved that I was equally at home and equally with my children.  I loved how understanding they were for the fact that I could have potentially missed an entire week of work because a virus just might play out the way it could and we’d all be sick that week.  I loved that I could see my children at the school.  I loved that I didn’t have as much day care to pay for as other mom’s.  I loved that I could still get housework done or dinner prepped in a timely manner.  But I also had other jobs in the past that I was not so lucky to experience this.

It’s one thing to have a steady career, with a set schedule, and most everything could go as expected except for your child’s tantrum about how their jeans aren’t comfortable (yes, my 10 year old and my 5 year old do this – damn you leggings for being too comfortable!) for 30 minutes that morning and pushes your time to leave to the last second.  But it’s another to work random shifts, especially on the weekends when there is no day care open and you have to travel farther than you do during the week because you have to take them to family that live quite a bit a ways away.  And you don’t get steady shifts either because as it is in America, first come first serve, and being the last one in for employment meant you had to work the odd shifts.  I mean, just imagine for a second that your husband works shift work (nights and days, always transitioning, some weekends or most weekends at times), and you are working odd shifts yourself, let’s say 2 pm to 10 pm.  And let’s just say it’s the weekend.  Your village of people who help you take care of your children while you’re working are 30 minutes to an hour away.  You’re getting everything you can done in the house that needs to be done all the while making sure the kids are ready, things are packed, you’re fueled enough to get there, and that you’re going to be on time for work while transporting your children that far away.  And let’s just say that you have to go pick them up after your shift is over and you don’t get off until 10 pm but really it’s going to be 11 pm because you have to count a drawer and do reports for deposits and shortages.  You leave and drive all the way to your destination to pick up your children who are already sleeping, you get them in the car, you drive home with all of their stuff required for that day, you get home around 1:30 am, you put them all to bed, you get yourself showered or at least in pajamas, you have a baby that needs you to pump milk so you’re pumping for a good twenty minutes and you need to do this at 3 am and 4 am and 5 am, but you can’t pump any more after this because you have to get everyone up and ready to head back to that same destination because you work an 8 am to 4 pm shift now.  I mean, it’s hard work and no, I’ve never had to do that.  Thankfully, between the two sets of girls (my older two and younger two) there’s at least a 5 year difference in age so the pumping part I never had to do while working shifts like that, but I’m trying to imagine what it would have been like had I had to do that.  I did work those kinds of shifts though, and I had to drive my children out of town to receive care for my children from other family members on the weekends.  It’s a lot to have to do this.  I did, however, tend a bar late at night two to three times a week when I had my third so to some degree have experienced the pumping sessions in the middle of the night and the school schedule at the same time for the kids.  And when I did work those odd shifts at the truck stop I was also going to school so I know what it’s like to have to juggle homework on top of everything else in the house with kids.  And through all of that, I can’t tell you enough how exhausting it really is.  And you feel guilty that you had to make your children go through all of that with you.  It’s hard on them too and you’re not really spending time with them because you’re exhausted and have all this other stuff to do in the house or in the garden or at least in the yard.  You’re children don’t really get the best of you at times like these.  Neither does your spouse.  Where is the time for date night?  Where is the time for your friends and other family members?

Trips don’t come at random either during these times.  It’s always planned and it requires a little extra work during the week before the trip happens and it requires a little extra work after the trip is over.  Again, missing out on your children and their activities.  It’s as if you’re just stuffing them in front of the tv, or sending them outside to play where you can’t participate, or allowing extra tablet time because you have to get this stuff done or it never gets done.  It’s times like these that make you merely survive instead of live.  But that’s America for you folks.  It’s praying to God that you can juggle it all, make ends meet, that your children can simply just figure out all this stuff that comes in their stages of life because you can’t adequately be there for them, that the people who help you rear your children can bare the burden of these tasks that you’d rather do yourself or at least align to most degrees with your values so that they can be reared the way you would have them be if you could do it yourself, where there is no adequate maternity or paternity leaves, where money makes it all go round, and we generally only get paid enough to make ends meet to survive rather than actually live.

There are judgements that come to working mothers.  They don’t spend enough time with their children.  They don’t really care about their children because they’re too busy building a career.  They give them what ever they want instead of actually rearing their children.  They care more about money rather than their children.  Their children are a**holes because they don’t have time to deal with their children’s behaviors.  They want their cake and eat it too.  It’s a catch 22, if however you look at it.  It’s not that we want to work, but that we have to work so our children can have what they need and sometimes want.  But if there’s ever anything I really appreciate that came from working and being a mom, is that I had a personal identity.  I wasn’t just mom.  I wasn’t just wife.  I wasn’t just worker or coworker.  I wasn’t just friend.  I was me.  I was able to find time to find me in there which is something that I know most SAHM long for.  It’s a sanity break to say the least.  And honestly, I commend people in the teaching profession because most of them deal with children all. day. long, just like a SAHM.

For the SAHMs

I am back in this profession to say the least.  It’s been a hard adjustment for me since I’ve been working for the last 8 to 9 years.  I simply don’t know what to do with myself right now.  I’m trying to structure my day because I have three older children who go to school (two full-time, one part-time).  My youngest stays at home with me all day, however.  At work, I had purpose.  I’m not saying there’s no purpose in being a SAHM.  There is definitely purpose there.  I just spent so long working I forgot what that purpose was.

So, when I was a SAHM years ago, I remember the joy it brought me.  I miss being crafty with a few children.  Now, with four, I’m like, “Uh yeah, there will be no slime making today because the youngest will eat it, the 5 year old will get it everywhere else, and you two never seem to put stuff away or manage to not get it on your clothes and therefore it winds up in my washer and dryer.”  Or, I’m like, nope, there will be glitter everywhere and it will take weeks before it is adequately swept up and not on everything in the house including the cats.  Now, don’t get me wrong, we do some crafty things or play games or watch movies or play outside together.  We have bonding time and it’s making me realize just how much I really missed that.  I get to find time to have one on one time with each of them.  I let them take turns in going to the store with me or to the gym with me.  I can consistently follow our typical rules of the house because I’m not too tired to “deal.”  I don’t have to worry about transportation to and from school.  I don’t have to worry about dinner being ready on time.  I don’t have to worry about bills getting in the mailbox on time.  I don’t have to worry about laundry getting done on time.  I don’t have to worry about being too tired to do things.  I don’t have to rush packing for outings or for travel.  It’s just kind of nice to be able to do things at leisure.  At what I’m most thankful for, my house can be clean a lot of the time.

As a SAHM we are constantly revolving our very selves around our children and often spouses.  We don’t get to adequately complete a task without being interrupted for the millionth time.  We can say to our kids we have to get this done, but truth is, all we have is time.  But we are doing this all. day. long.  Ok, so the toddler doesn’t want her milk at this very moment, let’s just dirty another sippy cup because we have time to wash all the extra dishes.  Ok, so she got boogers and dirt all over her outfit and now we have to go to the store and she isn’t going to go looking like that so let’s just put on another outfit because we have extra time to do that extra laundry.  Ok, so I’m going to let my 5 year old make a craft and use everything we have, except glitter, because I have extra time to help them help me clean up this mess before dinner is served while cooking dinner.  Ok, so this bill doesn’t seem right, there’s an extra charge on here that’s identical to the one previous to it, I have time to call and fix this double charge mistake.  Ok, so I have to get up at 5 am to be able to make it to the gym today, but after all this extra time I thought I had was interrupted by a tantrum or a lost shoe or those jeans that don’t feel or look good, for the socks that were never matched correctly, for the dinner I didn’t clean up last night because I wanted to watch a movie with my husband so I did the dishes before I hit the gym because I need those bowls we used last night for soup… yes, we have time, but to manage it with little children who need us in a moments notice, it’s difficult to find time to ourselves.  We are indeed taking a step back in time to when we were little and didn’t understand the big emotions coming out of us.  We are indeed taking a step back in time where we had already learned all this stuff so it’s kind of frustrating when it’s the umpteenth time I’ve corrected this behavior today. And again, we’re doing it, all. day. long.

Ok, so our spouse is home now, dinners on the table, we sit we eat, we clean up, and just by looking at him I can tell he had a hard day.  I will continue to deal with these obnoxious children who were obviously cooped up all day thanks to this glorious rain I know mother Earth needs.  I will round them up, get them bathed, get them clothed, help them with their homework, clean up dinner, let the husband sit in his favorite recliner and watch the news, read the same bed time stories we’ve been reading for the last 10 years, listen to our almost grown children complain about their friends doing this or their teacher doing that while folding all that laundry I did but couldn’t fold because my toddler decided it was a game to unfold them as I folded them.  Like seriously, SAHM deserve a lot of respect for not being able to finish tasks, simple tasks in a timely manner.

Yes, we also get to plan play dates.  Sounds awesome right?  We get to hang out with our friends while we simultaneously watch our children.  Want to know what happens during then?  Each of us in interrupted in trying to catch up on life.  Our children are trying to find specific toys, or our tots are fighting over a toy, or they are taking off with our coffee cups spilling coffee along the way on the new carpet.  We are potty training which means we aren’t really chatting, we are in separate rooms while we sing potty songs and read books for twenty minutes because we want to make sure there isn’t an accident but guess what?  There was an accident five minutes after we just went to the potty so now we are changing clothing.  And of course we can chat while all this is going on, we’re supposed super humans as far as multitasking goes.  However, if we all or both or however many of us there are that are attending, you can bet it will be loud and crazy and if you’re anything like me you are quiet because there’s no point in yelling over the chaos.  You, instead, sulk in the happiness that exists for that moment because no one is throwing an epic tantrum.

If you live an area like mine, you know, one in the middle of know where, in the boonies, in the sticks, where there aren’t any activities geared for a special “mom’s of children” groups, well, then you’re shit out of luck and you have to hope like hell someone is willing to talk to you while you’re at the park.  I’ve gained some pretty cool mom friends doing this, but of course they never really stuck.  But it was the thought that counts right?

But what I love most about being a SAHM aside from enjoying my littles and being able to go to their fieldtrips, and watch their concerts, is the fact that I have no real commitment to “work” per say and when my husband plans a vacay for us then I don’t have to worry about getting those dates off, we can just pack up and go.  You know what else I enjoy?  I have the ability to get lost in a book or my tv shows while the littles nap.  Or I can actually get the bills done, or actually fold clothes and put them away, or prep dinner, or nap myself, or like other mom’s who are getting an education, I can dedicate that time for homework (which I plan to do once my financial aid goes through).

To All the Moms

So you see folks?  There’s perks on either side of the spectrum.  While the working mom’s may not have the leisure of playdates, SAHM’s don’t have the leisure to get outside the home as often as you’d think she would do.  While working mother’s get to have an identity outside of the home, SAHM’s get to get dinner done on time.  While working mom’s have to take time off for kids who are sick, SAHM’s do that all of the time, no matter what the dilemma is.  Truth is, there is no one way to parent.  There certainly isn’t a “right way” to parent our children.  A lot of us are winging it as best we can for what fits our present lifestyle.  The working mom feels guilty for not being able to do as much with her children while the SAHM wishes she could get a break.  There’s guilt in both aspects.  There’s shame brought on to the stigma of both.  And I truly believe if we just shut our mouths to those judgements and opened our eyes, we’d see that we are all just trying to make it in this world.

5 thoughts on “Both Sides of the Fence

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