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August 05, 2008

Work-At-Home, Working, and Stay-at-Home MOMs

Keyboardandpen Before being a work-at-home mom, I was a working mom for a few years. After that, I was a stay-at-home mom for a few years as well. Of the three situations, working at home has worked best for my family. When my children are older, I could do either or all three. For right now, I love being at home but working (for pay) too.

I have friends and family who hold all different theories, including that all mothers should stay home, NO mothers should stay home, and working at home really just means staying at home! No kidding. How do I know they hold these theories? Their questions and comments.

I will never forget one comment by a close friend. We were talking about sending our children to a certain camp. At the time, my oldest child was four and the younger was one year old. I said, "I can send my oldest...but I want to have three. I probably couldn't send all three each summer."

Her response: "Well, why don't you get a job?"

Well, I did have a job. It's the same job I have now. I make much more than I made working full-time in an office. But I do my job at home. This friend didn't want to be mean, but like many people, she didn't quite get it. It's a "real" job. I just don't have to commute to do it. Plus, this friend feels that mothers are most fully contributing if they work to earn money--not the most common view these days, but I have known several people who held this view. Her family is very happy, so clearly working out of the home is fine for them. But for me, working outside of the home was not the answer.

Then when my one year-old started climbing up high places within three seconds of me leaving the room to grab a stapler, or taking 10 seconds (heaven forbid!) to think how to phrase a sentence just so...not to mention his fascination with my keyboard and turning my computer on and off as I tried to write dozens of pages a week to meet deadlines. Basically, I became unable to meet my deadlines. I needed help. So I got a part-time nanny.

Oh boy. Part-time nanny for a mom who stays at home? Are you kidding? What's wrong with her? Can't she manage to watch her own child when she's at home?  My stay-at-home mom friends were supportive. They felt that by getting a nanny I was doing something wrong--I am at home, therefore I should be with my children! (They feel mothers generally should stay at home with their children. Therefore they do so). That view bothered me though, as my children still were (and are) my priority, but I like working too. I make sacrifices to balance my work time with family time--for example, I talk on the phone very infrequently, never watch television, and sometimes just let the house go (thought it REALLY bothers me) so that I can spend a lot of time with my children. And it results in a lot of family time. We talk in depth. We understand each other. We love being together.

Most of my friends have had sore spots on some of their mothering decisions--some career-related decisions, but also decisions on co-sleeping, breastfeeding, doing or not  doing preschool, homeschooling, and so on. Like I did, they tended to stick with their own decisions. And all of my close friends have healthy, happy children. I guess if there is a point to this post, it would be that maybe we should give each other a break sometimes. I'm as guilty as anyone else about saying "That's so strange! Why would she want to...?" But if I think more deeply about it, I suspect most mothers are doing exactly what I did--they are making the decision they feel is best for their family. Plus, they know (much better than I do) their own circumstances, needs, abilities, and children. I'm going to try really hard to remember this the next time I am tempted to question or judge another mother's career decision--or any other important decision for that matter! Wish me luck.

This is an original post to Los Angeles Moms Blog.

Eva shares funny child stories and quotes at Words of a Child, and contributes to Husband Clothes, a blog about marriage humor.

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