Working Moms vs. Stay at Home Moms: The Great Divide
Doesn’t it seem like there are two groups of moms, working moms versus stay at home moms? Yes there are subgroups within the two, volunteer moms, yoga moms and power suit moms etc… but have you noticed that they seem to group themselves together? It reminds me of the cliques from high school. Back then, we had the mean girls versus the jocks or the band girls versus the drama club, but have we evolved into adult versions of the high school cliques we used to belong to?
Being a working mom
I have always been a working mom. During college, I would fantasize about the business suits I would wear to meetings. I would imagine myself in a shiny red sport scar after I got my first paycheck. Of course, it doesn’t work like that but naivete gave me motivation to keep up my GPA. After college and then marriage, I still plugged along, thinking this is what I always wanted and nothing would make me feel differently. That is, until I had my son. The love that you feel when you have a child is indescribable. No one can prepare you for the rush of emotions that comes with the title, “mom.” All of a sudden, everything that was so important before my son, Jack, seemed secondary.
I guess that is when I really noticed the difference; when I became a mom. Of course, I had friends that stayed home with their children but as time went on, it seemed we were doing different things. They had new stay-at- home mom friends who met in the park on Wednesday mornings while I was sitting in a windowless conference room. They had happy hours together, starting at 5pm and although I was often invited, I was in the middle of my rush hour commute home rationalizing whether I could order pizza one more time that week. The divide seemed to become clearer in my head and I found myself starting to gravitate towards other working moms…and asking for more vacation time (but that is another story.)
Making a move
We moved across country the summer before my son started first grade. New house, new school and new friends for my family and I. My husband wasn’t worried about making friends, he said that it would happen naturally. As far as myself and Jack were concerned, I wasn’t sure who was more nervous. I kept thinking, what if all of the other moms stay home? What will I have in common with them? Will I secretly resent their facebook posts of their smiling children at the beach day after day come summertime? I was consumed with worrying about friendships, that is until I met my new neighbors.
Luckily for us when we moved, there were two families with children around the same age as Jack nearby. Right away, I became friends with the moms. These moms were both stay-at- home moms, but all of a sudden, the divide didn’t seem so great. These moms had careers pre-children and although they were able to stay home with their kids, they had struggles just like I did. We talked about the balance of being a mom and how hard it is to get a few seconds to yourself. How sometimes, you stay in the shower extra long because it is the only time you’re alone during the day. We talked about how our kids always need be entertained and wondered where the games of tag and hide and seek disappeared to? They confided that they sometimes wish they could go to work, put on lipstick and a pencil skirt versus the yoga pants that make up their wardrobe. We talked about their past careers and how eventually they wanted to go back to them, as well as the fear of re-entering the workplace. Would someone hire them after their parental hiatus? Would things have evolved so much that they would feel out of place? Would they have to be the low man on the totem pole because they decided to stay at home and raise their family? All of these were valid concerns.
Seeing things differently
All of a sudden I took a step back and realized that stay-at-home moms have struggles too. The image that I had of parenting utopia was false. The truth of the matter is, we all struggle as moms. It is the hardest, most rewarding and amazing job that you will ever have. We may put on a brave face, but we can all identify with the struggles of being a mom. We all want our children to be happy and fulfilled, to be surrounded by healthy friendships and do well in school. We all attempt to have a vegetable at each meal and when we fall short, beat ourselves up internally. We all struggle with mom guilt. It comes in different forms. Whether we crave a night out with our girlfriends, but when we get there, all we do is talk about our children, or when we decide to take a weekend away with our husband and we frantically call to check in on our kids three times a day. It is there; mom guilt rears its ugly head to all moms, working or not. What I wish for all of us, is that we can somehow find a way to forgive ourselves and realize that we are all doing the best that we can.