Motherhood is tricky, especially when mommy warfare is going on all around us.
When my oldest was about four-years-old (in 2003), I was at one of hubby’s work functions. I was talking with a group of women that I had met at the party and I did not know any of them. You know how it goes when people run out of things to say during an initial discussion, the conversation often goes to the most universal and kinda tricky question, “So what do you do?”
One of the women asked me this loaded questions. I say loaded because the mommy wars commenced in a split second.
Me: “I’m an educator. I teach English to Spanish speaking adults.”
Other woman: “I was fortunate to be a full-time mother, so I didn’t have to leave my kids to work.”
Me: “What does full-time mother mean? I wasn’t aware we could apply for part-time mothering status.” (said with a lot of attitude)
Question asking woman: “Oh, I just think she means as a full-time mother, she can take care of her kids more.”
Me: “This has been fun. Excuse me as I go and find my neglected child.”
Yes, during that long ago exchange I was mad and yes, I felt judged. Why?
Because I was hearing both women say I wasn’t doing enough as a mother. I wasn’t as dedicated because I had a job outside of the home, a job that meant my young daughter would have to be in childcare. I was also hearing that I was not as committed because I wasn’t with my daughter all the time. How dare I?
The thing is, as I reflected then and think about it right now, that judging and judgment was all on me. Who cares what that woman was saying about being a full-time mother or otherwise? She could define motherhood as she wanted and I could do the same.
After that day in 2003, I decided I was no longer engaging in mommy wars. It was not productive and it was unnecessary. I was waving my white flag and looking at motherhood, happily and confidently, from my own lens.
Fast forward to 2011
I was at a birthday party for a four-year-old and I was talking with two other moms.
Mom 1: “Do you both work outside the home?
Me: “Yes, I’m at the university.”
Mom 2: “Yes, I work for the local school district.”
Me: “Why do you ask?”
Mom 1: “Neither of you are wearing stretchy clothes. Wow, I’m a full-time mom and that’s about all I can manage. I’m a loser.”
Me: “I don’t see how that’s true if you are being the mom you want to be.”
Mom 1: “Really? That’s the most supportive thing I’ve heard from a put-together-mom.”
I spent a bit of time thinking about that exchange and wondered why mothers are so hard on themselves and others about the look and feel of motherhood. All children are different, so why wouldn’t mothering be different?
I asked hubby once if he felt badly about working and having our children in childcare and he looked at me like I had two heads. His response, “Why would I feel badly about working? That’s what grown-ups do.”
That man is a genius. Joyce Brewer is also a genius. During her webisode on mommy guilt, Joyce and the other moms get real and honest about fulltime motherhood – or whatever label moms choose to use. All moms struggle with finding the right motherhood fit, and I think that’s the conversation more of us need to be having with each other.
With my mother-in-law living with us, helping with childcare, and supporting hubby and me in having more work/life balance, I’ve gotten a variety of responses. Here are five of the most interesting ones:
- How indulgent to have all that help.
- Wow, I could use the extra help, but what would people say?
- If your mother-in-law is there, then what do you do?
- I couldn’t let my mother-in-law run my family like that.
- It must be nice to get all that time off from parenting.
My only response to all of that is – it’s my life and I make my own rules.
I love hearing how other families make it all work and I think it’s a gift to find out something that can translate to my multigenerational family’s needs – without judging.
I’m not interested in who is mothering the best because we all have moments of brilliance and nightmarish episodes of complete lunacy. This is real parenting and motherhood without GPS, roadmaps, or a manual. I rely on other mothers (full-time, part-time, crazy-time, happy-time, etc.) for support, a friendly ear, a shoulder to cry on, “I’ve been there” nods, and moms-night-out.
As far as my mother-in-law being a full-time or part-time grandmother…I’ll let her speak her own truth.
I see my mothering partnership with my mother-in-law as the Wonder Twins of multigenerational living and parenting. We are full-time magic makers.