I’m a stay-at-home mom by choice. Although it was not nearly the smooth transition that I had thought it would be, I am very aware of how fortunate I am. I know that not every mother is afforded this option.
However, I also know a lot of moms do have this choice. Many choose to work—and kick ass at it. Some of them are the best moms I know. But they have chosen to be working moms as I have chosen to stay at home.
I recently had an encounter with a mom—a working mom—at an event with my kids. I know this mom, and you might know her, too, as you can see her from a mile away with a 7.5 carat rock on her finger. You also probably know where she lives, as it is hard to miss her 6-bedroom house and Lexus parked out front. I am not trying to insult the wealthy here, as I know many hard working, well-off folks who don’t belittle me. This woman is not one of them.
While making small talk with Fancy Work Mom, I mentioned that I was the room mother for my son’s first grade class.
“Well, that must be nice. I hope you realize how lucky you are. I would love to do stuff like that, but I have to work.”
Um… I’m gonna raise my bullshit flag here. You see, sister, I don’t think you do. I think you choose to work because you enjoy a certain lifestyle. And kudos to you because it looks like a pretty sweet life. You also may choose to work because you worked your tail off before having kids and didn’t want to give it all up, especially since your husband wasn’t going to. Double kudos. Seriously. I’m a pretty open feminist—I think it sucks how women get the raw deal, having to choose between parenting and careers far more than men do. I applaud you for sticking with it.
But after hearing about your cruise in Bora Bora, I kind of think you don’t have to work. And while I really don’t care what your choice was, what I do care about is the way you spoke to me. Like I should what… pity you? Or agree with you? And say, “You are right. I am so lucky. This was a gift that fell into my lap and I truly don’t deserve it.”
Here’s the deal, Gucci Mom. I had a career, too. And I loved it. I admire your ability to maintain a career through parenthood. It didn’t work out that way for me, and yes, it was my choice. But that choice came with a price, just as your decision to work does.
I absolutely love being involved in my kids’ schools. I do the room-mom thing. I make treats for the teachers. I am there for pick-up every day, and I chaperone field trips. Would I also like an obnoxiously fat diamond ring? At the risk of admitting my shallowness, sure! I don’t know many women who wouldn’t. Would I like a swankier car? To be honest, I luuuuuv my mini-van—because three kids and all—but would I turn my nose up at heated seats and a sun roof? No, probably not. And do I miss working, using my degree, and feeling like I contribute financially? YES. Every day. But like you, I made a choice.
Neither of our choices is a poor one. As long as we are good moms, they are probably the best ones for our families. What is a poor choice is putting a guilt trip on a fellow mom and implying that she’s not grateful enough for the opportunities afforded to her. Please remember that although some stay-at-home moms do it simply because it is the better choice for their family’s situation, others do it because they truly cannot afford childcare. And there are moms who are home because they have a child with special needs who mandates their around-the-clock care.
I don’t know your story, high-heeled, business suit mom. You look like you have a very important job, and you certainly dress far better than I ever have. I admire your willingness to fight for your career. I think you are probably setting a positive example for your daughter of a woman who can be a mom and a _____ (your career field here).
But next time you see a stay-at-home mom volunteering in school, you could just say thank you. Because chances are she gave up her power suit to be there. And she probably already knows how lucky she is.