Thanks to an artful comment by LawyerMamma in her most recent post (http://lawyermama.blogspot.com/2007/03/its-end-of-world-as-we-know-it.html) I have finally discovered a great label for my my position in the ever raging "Mommy Wars"- Mommy Purgatory.
Like LawyerMamma, I feel strongly that the "Mommy Wars" are a big waste of time. Why on earth should we spend what little time and energy we have left as parents tearing down the parenting choices of others? What works for one person, doesn't necessarily work for another. Just because a person is passionate about their career, doesn't mean their not equally, or most likely more, passionate about their children. After all, why shouldn't a woman be allowed to have personal and professional achievements as well? And, on the other side of the coin, being a stay-at-home mom doesn't mean you're lazy or worthless, or given up on life. Often these women have chosen a more difficult role, as staying home can be isolating, thankless and incredibly exhausting.
Frankly, as long as your children are healthy, happy and well-loved, you're doing a a great job as a parent, whether you choose to have a career, or stay at home. We face so many challenges as parents, that it only seems natural that we stand together to support each other when we can. However, because we spend so much time wrestling with our parenting decisions inside ourselves, perhaps it's just as natural to lash out at each other in defence of decisions that are sometimes painful and hard fought in our own hearts.
Here in Mommy Purgatory, there are different battles. When a career isn't a conscious choice, but rather necessity, things become murkier, a little more complex.
In one of my recent articles for Associated Content, I tried to highlight the challenges of mothers who had to work in order to keep their families afloat financially. While I received a lot of positive feedback, there was one comment that really surprised me:
"Great article. I disagree however that most moms go back to work out of a financial "need". I think that what people think is a "need" is often actually a "want". People often dont understand how to make sacrifice. There are plenty of ways dual income homes can cut corners so that one parent doesnt have to go back to work. I just think many people arent creative enough to think of ways to do that. That's why I love all these SAHMs on ebay who found ways to stay at home and bring in an income. I know not everyone woman has that option (my mom was a single mom) but I do think that when SAHMs get upset about working moms, it isnt the ones who truly need to work but the ones who say they "need" to work. Regardless, at the end of the day, its nobody's business. However, women need to be honest about the REAL reason they go back to work. Some just cant stand to be with their children all day. "
These comments really bothered me. I felt personally attacked, as I consider myself to be a mother who "has" to work, not "wants" to work. My household budget already has so many corners cut that it's round. Not to mention the fact that I am technically the "bread winner" of the family- without my income we wouldn't even be able to pay my most basic expenses. Perhaps, as this helpful commenter indicated, I am selfish to think of food as a "need" or frivolous not to cut luxuries like heat out of my life.
However, there is a lurking, vicious 1950's housewife that dwells deep down inside my darker regions, those firmly suppressed regions that sometimes whisper to me that skirts might be fun, and that maybe a little pink would really brighten up my life. This housewife agrees with the commenter. She tells me that with a little sacrifice, I too could spend my days at home, providing a stable and loving environment for my children. While they were at school, I could work on new and exciting recipes, further my craft obsession and actually keep up with the laundry. Even she, however, doubts that we could support our household selling things on eBay. Sorry oh helpful commenter, even 50's Mom doesn't think we're that resourceful.
I gag 50's mom firmly with my well forged core of feminism, education and self-reliance. I tell her that I did not work my ass off (she frowns as I use the word ass) for four years just to stay home and sacrifice my identity on the alter of motherhood.
Deny it as I may, 50's Mom is part of my identity. I genuinely enjoy making home cooked meals, having fresh laundry, and creating new craft projects for my bright and imaginative munchkins. There are many days when, at my desk, I yearn to be home to greet my children as they get off the bus.
Perhaps it would be easier to reconcile these internal battles if I was working at a job I enjoyed. Due to financial need (yes need helful commenter, not want) I'm currently working outside of my desired career field. Because of this, I have a job, not a career. Maybe, on that eventual day (yes, it will happen) when I finally have a true career, and not just a job to pay the bills, 50's Mom will be easier to quiet. I will still let her out on weekends however, for good behavior. What can I say, she bakes a hell of a pie.