Friday, January 05, 2007

In Which Betsy Reluctantly Enters the Mommy Wars

So, last week I was hanging out with the Wondercub at playgroup, having a rare and delightful Friday off of work. One mom was talking to another, and I wasn’t really paying attention until I heard her raise her voice slightly to give a sort of disclaimer.

She said that everybody does things differently for their families, and that’s fine. That maybe, for example, cosleeping is okay for you, but I don’t want to do it. And that for her, not staying home with your kids was totally not okay. Not that she was judging.

Except that she absolutely was.

She went on to say that it seems totally unreasonable to her to leave her kids in daycare when they’re too young to express themselves. After all, a baby can’t tell you if someone is hurting her, so by putting your child in daycare, you are potentially putting an innocent in harm’s way. Why would you work when you’ve got these precious children at home? To her, that’s unimaginable… not that there was anything wrong with that for other people.

I realized that her “I’m not judging” disclaimer was directed at me, since at the time, I was the only woman in the room who works outside the home. I was there to have a good time, so I ignored it, but inside, I was seething.

I worked very hard to find a supportive, loving, and nurturing environment for Jack to go to every day. And don’t just hand Jack off and race off in the morning. I’m a presence there. I spend a few minutes chatting with the directors and his teachers. I know all of the teachers in his classroom, as well as most of the kids. I play with Jack at school for a few minutes before I leave. Steve does the same thing in the evening. And we drop by unexpectedly, just to spy on him through the windows. If anything untoward were happening, I would know.

I also think there are tremendous advantages to having Jack in daycare. Although he doesn’t have an siblings, he has a host of other kids to play with and to be forced to share toys with. One of his teachers speaks Spanish to him all day, so he can say several words in a foreign language. Even more importantly, I think it’s wonderful that Jack knows that there are more than two people (Mommy and Daddy) who can take care of him. He’s a lot more independent as a result.

And why do I work when I have this precious child? I don’t have a high powered career, nor do I make piles and piles of money. I do love my job and find it fulfilling, but that’s not the primary reason I get up early and drive to work every day. It’s so that I can afford little luxuries like a house, diapers, and groceries. It must be lovely to have the choice to stay home with your kids, but it’s unfair to assume that everyone has that same choice. It would be great if all children had a parent who could devote themselves to their full-time care, but if only people who could afford that had kids, that would leave out a lot of very good parents.

I’m sure the other mom didn’t mean to be as critical of my choices, but she was. I hate the concept of “The Mommy Wars.” Parenting is a tough job, and working moms and stay at home moms have more alike than they’re different. As women, we need to support our sisters, not tear down their choices to rationalize our own.


heidi said...

You posted this right when I needed some working-mom solidarity. Errrgh the mommy-wars. It's awful. I have plenty of my own guilt without anyone adding to it. I'm sorry you had to hear that negative BS. I linked to this entry, just so you know:)

heidi said...

Ok, I linked you to the wrong entry. Try this one? Jeez.