Mommy Throwdown: Stay at Home v. Working Moms
By UrbanEarthworm on April 14, 2011
I can’t frigging STAND Stay-at-Home-Moms (SAHMs). Sometimes. Bear with me before flying off the handle.
On Monday morning - after spending all day Sunday cuddling and playing, listening to Punky read and soaking up peaceful moments with Flintstone napping soundly, curled up next to me - dropping Flintstone off with the SAHM who cares for him while I’m at work and MacGyver’s in school, I feel waves of intense emotion. Mostly guilt and sadness. A good bit of hatred for my job and frustration that it can’t be more flexible.
Inevitably, the same thought flits through my mind, “Man, I wish I was a SAHM.”
And while that is really, really not true, it does expose the sore reality of it. I don’t hate SAHMs (well, some I do, but we’ll get to that later); I envy them.
I envy the time. I envy not having to make a choice between doing the dishes and going to sleep. I envy being around for nap times. I envy endless hours of playtime. And, most of all, I envy the lack of guilt.
Of course, logically, I recognize that most of the things I envy about SAHMs aren’t real. Being a SAHM isn’t really like my relaxing, family-infused Saturdays. There’s constant kid-induced chaos, cleaning, and a degree of isolation from the “adult world,” if so many of your blogs are to be believed.
And, for me at least, there would be a lack of purpose. Don’t get me wrong. Raising Punky and Flintstone and any future babies that might appear is the most important thing I will ever do. But I would feel like a failure if it was the only think I did. I need to work. I need to feel like I’m helping people and having an effect on the world. I need to go out, and produce, and push forward. I would just rather do it with the baby on my back.
And that is where the reverse envy comes in. Because there are a whole hell of a lot of SAHMs out there who HATE working moms (work outside the home, WOHM or WMs). I know this because I’ve met them. They’re the catty, overly made-up women who spend half their day in yoga class then blow me off at Punky’s school gatherings because I’m not “involved” enough in the school. Meaning I won’t attend a 4 hour PTO meeting about effing fund raiser prizes. Yeah, those women hate working moms.
Because they, too are jealous. Jealous of life outside the home. Jealous of a more widely recognized “contribution” to society (which, by the way, is bullocks, but it’s still the way people see it). Jealous of adult socialization that doesn’t center around play dates and bake sales.
There is an episode of Cashmere Mafia in which a high powered exec WM finds herself in a “battle” of sorts with a stereotypical SAHM (the kind that needs to “prove” herself by underhandedly demeaning the WM’s relationship with her children). One of the WM’s friends points out that the reason it is so easy for WMs and SAHMs to hate each other is because there is so much for each to be jealous of in the other.
Which is, obviously, the crux of the issue. Because women in the US are under constant pressure to do it all and have it all. The ideal woman is massively successful in work and at home. She has a successful career, but also a spotless house. Her job never seems to interfere with her time with her kids and husband (or wife – I’m pretty sure even lesbians get the supermom pressure these days; and maybe gay men? I’m not so sure. Sorry hetero men, there is no way you will convince me that you feel these same pressures. You just don’t, and you may not even be able to understand them). She somehow manages to chair the school fundraising drive and chaperone all the field trips, the same week she’s getting promoted or winning a capital case.
It’s all the pressures and drives behind The Modern Failure. (Go there and add your view). We’ve arrived at a day and age where, as women, if you don’t feel like you’re failing, you’re not trying hard enough. And the SAHM/WM tension is just one facet of that.
Now, before anyone goes and gets the idea that I would ever dislike someone just on the basis of whether or not they work, let me make one thing clear: I don’t actually care if you’re a SAHM, a WM, a part-time working mom, a work at home mom – real, full time 40 hour at home work or part time whenever at home work, a stay at home dad, a single person, or a frigging snow leopard. If you’re nice, not an ass to me, my kids, or my loved ones, and don’t behave in morally reprehensible ways, I’ll probably like you. But if you’re an ass, or you annoy me, you’re out.
And there are definitely some SAHMs that annoy the hell out of me. The ones who act as though their decision to stay home is some sort of amazing sacrifice on their parts. Or who act as though staying home automatically means they are better mothers. And don’t even let me start on those who actually espouse that it is wrong for a mother to work. Man, oh man. I’ve encountered a couple of those, and it was not pretty. I freaking love women who want to get down on me for being a Marine. Like volunteering to fight for the country my children live in makes me a horrible parent because it’s a demanding job. So sorry I’m not willing to suck the life out of my husband while prancing around in overpriced polo shirts and running over small animals with a massive, gas-guzzling Hummer. Yellow, of course.
Pardon that rant. Odds are good that if you’re reading this, it is NOT about you. Don’t anyone go blowing up at me.
Well, you can if you want. But you shouldn’t.
I often find that these sorts of SAHMs, the self-righteous ones who think for whatever reason that they are better than WMs (and everyone else for that matter), are also the ones that don’t actually spend that much time nurturing their children. They cart them around to 65 different lessons and practices. They go to every single minor damn thing that goes on at the school. They keep the house spotless. But they don’t play. They’re authoritarian or indulgent parents per the 4 parenting styles of recognized by Baumrind and Maccoby & Martin (LOTS of scholarly articles on this). Their kids are often spoiled, coddled brats or unruly hellions. Their role as “supermommy” is all act and no substance. Those ones, I can’t stand. They also tend to spend an unbelievable amount of time at the gym, hair and nail salons, and on inordinately long lunch and coffee dates with their friends. I once posted a rant about how I just CAN’T STAND some military wives. These are often the same women.
In our house, quality time is just that, it is devoted, real quality time. And it’s something we actively pay attention to carving out because we are so busy. I think in *some* families with SAHMs there is a risk that not as much attention will be paid to setting aside special quality time because all the time is quality time. Of course that is not true of all SAHM families.
I had wanted to post the scene from Cashmere Mafia where they discuss this, but I couldn’t find it anywhere. So, instead, I found a very impressive article delving into this issue in New York Magazine. If this is something you’re interested, I highly recommend the article.
It goes into many of the reasons that SAHMs and WMs often don’t get along. It mentions the fact that sometimes WMs find it very difficult to break into conversation with SAHMs. This really rang true for me. If a conversations starts out like this “Hi, I’m X, Y’s mom” “Oh, hi, I’m B’s mom, A.” smalltalksmalltalk “So, what do you do?” “I’m a SAHM, what about you?” “I’m a lawyer.” . . . That is often the end of the conversation. Seriously, sometimes (I repeat sometimes) these women just glass over the second they find out I work. Some don’t, and I like them. But the conversations can be hard. And SAHMs, even if it’s unintentional, can get very clique-y. After all, they spend a lot of time together on playdates and doing school things and whatnot. So being the WM who is excited to get some time off to go to the school carnival can make you feel like kind of an outcast when every other woman there is talking about how they made the dunk tank themselves at home. Out of paper mâché. It’s even worse being a female Marine Officer in a military town because the vast majority of Punky’s friends’ moms that I meet are either SAHMs, or enlisted spouses, or both.
THEN there is the implication – which really surprised me the first couple times I encountered it – that WMs have less satisfying sex lives. Seriously. People think this. And I get it. I mean, I do 95% of what many SAHMs do outside of the 50 or so hours I spend at work every week. I definitely spend a lot of time beat down exhausted and feeling like there aren’t enough hours in the day. And, ultimately, something’s got to give. Usually it’s an unpleasant combination of housework and sleep that gets sacrificed to the gods of time. But it’s not sex. As if there isn’t enough innuendo on this blog, I will come right out and say that MacGyver and I are extremely happy in that area. And SAHMs don’t have the added fun of lunch time and office quickies. I could go on about this, but I don’t think I need to. I think it should suffice to say that the idea that SAHMs have more sex – unless it’s because they’re having affairs – is dumb.
ANYWAY . . . I should’ve written an outline for this post. I think it’s gotten away from me a little.
The long and short of it is this: some days I’m really jealous of moms who get to stay home with their babies all day. But ultimately, I couldn’t do it. Sadly, I still feel the pressure, the guilt, the competition, and the envy every day. I still fantasize about having a home office or working in a firm that would allow me to bring the baby to work as I saw fit.
In the meantime, I am going to have faith that I am doing the best that I can; that my kids are happy and healthy; my marriage is strong and sound; and my work is satisfying. And I will give credit to any woman who works hard for her family, whether it’s in the home or out.
And what would a post on Cheap Wine and Cookies be without a disclaimer?
No SAHMs were harmed in the writing of this blog – as far as I know. No SAHMs should be upset reading this blog. I suspect it might come off as offensive to some, and the best I can do right now is to assure you that that is NOT what I intend. Unless you’re the self-righteous yellow hummer driver, you really, really shouldn’t be offended. If anything, you should be flattered, because as some point almost every day, I envy you. Obviously, this post is written from my own point of view and with my own biases, but it is NOT meant to be offensive to most SAHMs. I know how tough running a house with kids is.
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