Multi-Tasking Takes Its Toll

My friend, Jen, a single working mom, took a week off to take care of household chores. "I painted every room in the house, had the air conditioning fixed, installed a new hot water heater, paid my taxes and put up six sets of curtains. It took me one week to do what it takes a stay-at-home mom a year to get done."

There is no more efficient human being than a working mom. When you're trying to cram two parallel lives into one day, getting everything done as quickly as possible equals survival (and maybe an hour more of sleep).

I've cringed at hearing more than one working mom use the descriptor "just some fat, lazy stay-at-home mom." I've heard stay-at-home moms admit that their brains get fuzzy, that weekdays blur together, that there's a lack of urgency about getting the curtains up when you can always do it next week. Some women thrive on being able to focus on kids and home, with some volunteer work added in. But I've also seen the at-home life drag more than a few women into depression. At times, the prospect of how boring full-time motherhood might be terrifies me into speedwalking a little faster to my office.

Then, last summer, after eight intense years of working motherhood, a fluke job change resulted in a summer off with my kids. The first few weeks, I had to lie down each day to stave off a panic attack. But then, I noticed it was, um, kind of nice to not always multi-task like a Tasmanian Devil. My kids and my husband liked the new, more mellow version of me. I liked her, too. I stopped hyperventilating. I stopped yelling (as often). I have to admit: I became a better mom.

What I learned was that the efficiency of hard-charging working motherhood comes with a price tag -- stress that oozes out of working moms' pores. I can't kid myself: Innocent bystanders like children and husbands and friends really notice the difference between a stressed, hyper mom and a relaxed one. Sure would be nice to strike a real balance between the efficiency (and paychecks) of the working world and a bit more of the Zen of staying at home.

By Leslie Morgan Steiner |  March 23, 2006; 10:07 AM ET  | Category:  Conflicts
Previous: Sick Days | Next: Kids' Eye Views on Working Moms

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Please email us to report offensive comments.

Part of the reason I am a SAHM is because I feel I am more sane by doing it. Things in general aren't as rushed, mornings are far easier without having to get the whole crew up and out by a certain (usually fairly early) time. Vacations involve only coordinating my husband's work schedule, and he doesn't have to take time away from the office to bring the kids to their appointments.

I agree that my life can be tedious, and for sure some days I dream about returning to work and being able to go to the bathroom or have a cup of coffee and check email in peace. My sister, a working mom of twins, says that what I dream about is actually my work life BEFORE children. But this is just a phase in my life, and I'll be returning to work in a few years when my youngest is in school full time. I look forward to another career, hopefully as rewarding as mine was before I left to be at home.

Posted by: MomNC | March 23, 2006 10:15 AM

Just because you're a working mom (or dad) doesn't mean you will inevitably be constantly stressed-out and yelling. And just because you're a stay-at-home parent doesn't mean you'll be calm, relaxed and Zen.

Posted by: SandraD | March 23, 2006 10:41 AM

"My sister, a working mom of twins, says that what I dream about is actually my work life BEFORE children."
MomNC, your sister is one wise woman!

I loved it when my husband was between jobs and staying home. He handled all the repairs and errands. He cooked from scratch, made home-made tortillas, did some cleaning, rode his bike a lot and was just generally a much more relaxed person than he usually is. He wouldn't be so relaxed staying home now, with a 3-year old to handle!

I think staying home with littles has got to be hard (I'd go nuts). My green-eyed monster doesn't kick in until the kids go off to school and you are still staying home. Get out there into the workforce and suffer like the rest of us!

Posted by: Shannon | March 23, 2006 10:48 AM

Brava, SandraD. Exactly right. 99% of all crimes are committed within 24 hours of the criminal eating. Does eating cause crime? Of course not. Ms. Steiner draws an unsupported conclusion based solely on her own experience. It's unreasonable to assume that will hold up across the board.

Posted by: Jayne | March 23, 2006 10:48 AM

"There is no more efficient human being than a working mom" ???? I'd be surprised if this doesn't garner more than a few angry comments. I'm a single mom, working outside the home, and even I'm somewhat offended--I'd probably more offended if I didn't think certain comments were made in order to shock/generate discussion.

Frankly, I'm in awe of SAHMs that can coordinate activities, entertain, discipline, clean, drive, name it. There are days when it's all I can do to get up, get my son ready, and get to work. I'm no more efficient that the next mom, SAHM or otherwise. Comments like this do nothing to foster understanding or solidarity among SAHMs and "working" moms. (really, don't we ALL work?!)

Posted by: akilah | March 23, 2006 10:51 AM

Oh for god's sake. Whether you agree or not that "There is no more efficient human being than a working mom", why does it have to be "offensive?"
The purpose of this blog is to generate discussion.
So discuss. On the merits. God knows there is plenty to discuss.
The "offensive" label is thrown around WAY too much on this board. Just b/c you disagree or may fit the discription of what someone is saying does not mean it is offensive.

Posted by: JS | March 23, 2006 10:58 AM

You've just described my life--I work insane hours during the school year and then have to go through a strange readjustment during the summer. I realized last summer when I was home with my 2 year old that I was really in-between 2 worlds. I didn't have the work friends to talk to every day, but I didn't have the network of stay-at-home moms to connect with, either. It took a few weeks before another teacher friend of mine with a son the same age started calling and we set up our own little summer play group.

For the record, I think much of the arguments between the SAHM moms and the working moms are silly. Do what you need to do and do it well. I've seen SAHMs who mess up their kids AND some who raise great kids. I've seen the same with working moms. Just get your act together either way and respect each other's choices.

Posted by: teacher | March 23, 2006 11:08 AM

I apologize for the bad grammar of my earlier posting. I just wrote quickly on my quick break. I promise I wouldn't write/talk that badly in front of your kids! :)

Posted by: teacher again | March 23, 2006 11:10 AM

Multi Tasking is yet another symptom of the "Quantity over Quality" corrupt corporate culture in which we live. Very sad.

I'm glad you were cognizant of the fact that your life was less stressed & your company apparently more enjoyable to those around you when you had less on your plate.

I'll always be a "Quality over Quantity" person.

Posted by: Registered Voter | March 23, 2006 11:15 AM

I am a better mom now that I'm not working and I'm not bored. I would expect that a real writer would jump at the chance to have less direction and more independence. Because my kids are in school that's what I have, more independence. How I choose to use that is up to me, not a supervisor, editor or partner.

In the meantime, I savor the time with my kids more because I'm not always trying to do two or three things at once. I enjoy relaxing with my little one while she reads to me. I take the time to listen to my older one play his music, really listen. I actually take a book and ipod to soccer practice and catch up on my reading while keeping up on the details of how my kid is really doing.

I'm around when my teenager gets home and am aware of where he is and who he is with. The two boys down the street with working parents were selling drugs out of their house while their parents were at work and the parents were the last to find out.

Life is what you make of it. And if you have to resort to telling SAH moms that their lives are boring then it means that you haven't the depth and imaginiation to know what to do with your life without someone else telling you every second.

Posted by: pta mom | March 23, 2006 11:21 AM

Staying at home, taking care of a kid or 2 or 3. Now that's the easy life. You become your own boss, you can waste your time any way you see fit, it's like a never-ending vacation. However, I have found that people who have the easy life somehow manufacture there own problems. For instance: They make excuses for being lazy and label themselves as "suffering" from clinical depression. What a crock!

Posted by: father of 4 | March 23, 2006 11:33 AM

Father of 4, I hope for the sake of your children that your post wasn't serious!

Posted by: DLM | March 23, 2006 11:46 AM

The teacher is right , to each his / her own . Do what makes you happy and do it well . By the way , my garage full of guys on a weekend isn't nearly as nasty as some of the postings between the women on this blog. Why so bitter ?

Posted by: dad | March 23, 2006 11:47 AM

I have just discovered this blog and have followed with interest the back and forth comments about working moms and SAHM. I am a working mom with 2 youg children, I multi-task a lot. Evenings at our house are very busy and if I don't keep everybody regimented, things don't get done and we all go to bed late. I have a demanding but very interesting job where I get to help a lot of people and though I dream about having more time with my kids and more me-time, I don't think I would be happy giving up the job. I also like the idea of my daughter seeing her mom in a position of responsibility with a meaningful job. My ideal would be: working part-time and that is what my husband and I are hoping to get too once he is well established in his new job. I would be intrested in reading what part time working moms would have to say. Is it really the best of both worlds? How well does it work?

Posted by: CN | March 23, 2006 12:00 PM

With each new post, this blog seems more and more designed to pick fights rather than discuss solutions. The opening line of the post is sure to raise hackles, and when viewed in light of all the other posts the past week, it seems clear that Leslie has a vested interest in their being such a thing as "Mommy Wars" (perhaps to sell books?). And she appears to have taken sides to boot.

If people spent a lot less time worrying about what other people think of them, we'd all be a lot better off. As for this blog, I really don't see the point.

Posted by: DC Lawyer | March 23, 2006 12:03 PM

Maybe some of this depends on the age of one's kids. I'm a whole lot more Zen as a working mom than I was as a stay-at-home mom of a newborn and a toddler. Talk about chaos and multitasking! Their needs are different, but relentless.

Leslie, did your friend Jen have the kids to watch when she took the week off? I imagine a stay-at-home mom could get a lot done, too, if she didn't have kids to take care of. There are just some things that can't be done when you have small children around-- can you imagine painting every room in the house while watching a toddler? Impossible.

I think these tradeoffs are at the heart of your question of "on balance." It's not just for parents, either. Should we choose the higher-paying job with less flexibility, as Robyn's neighbor did? Should one part of a couple (with or without kids) pick a lower-stress job to cover for a spouse with a high-stress job? Should one seek a lower-paying job to be near family? Should one drop out of the rat race and live lives of "voluntary simplicity" living on next to nothing? I've seen it done.

Posted by: Ms L | March 23, 2006 12:08 PM

For CN:

While not a part-time working mom myself, I am married to one. She went from full-time to part-time since our first child, who is now 13 years old, was born. She has worked various hours over the last 13 years, at times working full-time 3 days a week to at current, leaving for work after the last child is sent off to school and getting home before the first one comes home from school. While I'm sure she prefers this arrangement to being a full-time working mom or a SAHM, it's not a dream world either. While I try and help out a lot around the house, she still feels sometimes like she is letting things slip at work and at home. But overall, I think the situation has been very positive; I only wish more people had the opportunity for such a flexible arrangement.

Posted by: MacAttac | March 23, 2006 12:12 PM

To CN, who asked about working part-time:

We decided before our daughter was born that we would strive not to have both parents working full-time at once, because we are just more relaxed, type B people---perhaps the only ones in this city. The 2-full-time-jobs lifestyle works wonderfully for many parents, but it is just not one that would suit us. (We seem to be surrounded by wonderful parents who have made the full range of work/child-rearing choices, and we respect and value each of them.)

I've worked part-time and my husband full-time since our daughter was a year old; before that my husband stayed home with her, and I worked full-time. The new schedule has worked quite well for all of us. I can walk her to and from preschool, and then I work from my home office (20-30 hours/week). My daughter and I have lots of together time, and I keep my resume intact---no one would know I've only worked p/t unless they asked. Also, as a family, we need my half of a second salary to make ends meet and keep a small financial cushion. On the other hand, my career is somewhat stalled; though I'm a seasoned professional in my field, there are no raises or promotions for part-timers, in most cases, and no sick or vacation time. I'm also dependent on my husband for health insurance, which is expensive. For now, these are tradeoffs we are all content to make. We will have a second daughter soon, and are eager to see if we can continue to maintain a nice balance in our lives.

Posted by: Miranda | March 23, 2006 12:18 PM

cn: I spent most of my working-mom time doing part-time work. With all the extra time keeping up on documentation and emerging technologies, I always found myself putting in more hours than I was paid for. Each time I tried full-time, it just didn't work. I was the one constantly late to meetings and I was quite sensitive to that.

My happy solution was part-time work. With just one kid and a husband with a daddy-track job, it was an ideal world for us all. The problem is that it just doesn't pay. That includes long-term benefits as well as short-term income.

When a second kid came along at the same time my husband took on a more demanding, high travel, job, it just wasn't in my family's best interest for me to continue.

I looked at my time as an investment. If all I was looking at was short-term, it was nice to have to money. If I looked at in the long term, my time was more valuable to my family by my investing it directly in them.

Again, life is what you make of it. I liked working. I like being at home. I may have been more interesting at cocktail parties when I was working but I'm definitely a better mother now.

Posted by: pta mom | March 23, 2006 12:34 PM

The DC area has a high population density of well educated {college] professional women. The workplace environment is very competitive and naturally grooms and rewards aggressive behavior. I've also noticed that most women are more comfortable with the group or "pack" decision. In other words, before they make any major change in their lives they will first discuss it with their friends, family, and neighbors. If the pack feels good about their choice, then alls good. If the pack feels bad about their choice, then the conflict begins. For those who complain about the bitterness and anger on this blog, please try to understand that there are a lot of aggressive women on here trying to seek comfort through conflict resolution. So if you can't stand the heat, go away without posting a complaint. We will like you better for it.

situation you don't like even worse.

Posted by: father of 4 | March 23, 2006 1:02 PM

I agree with DC lawyer--this blog is deliberately inflammatory. The choice of anecdotes and words is meant to generate heat rather than light. Some excellent observations emerge from posters, but it feels designed to polarize.

I've been home full-time, at work part-time, and at work full-time since I had my kids--oldest 18. The experience, I found, is different depending on what age your children are. Kids need their parents in different ways when they're older. You're in a position to learn alot more about their universe and how they're feeling if you're able to be there when they come through the door from school rather than on the phone. Older kids can reveal more when you're together in a less pressurized atmosphere. Raising kids and working or staying home is not only about logistics.

Posted by: Joanne | March 23, 2006 1:04 PM

Bitter? I can tell you why I think women can get so bitter.

We do work for which we are not recognized or appreciated by the world at large. Domestic work is what makes the world go 'round, and if a woman excels at it, it is taken for granted. If a man does it, he's lionized.

That can bring on some bitterness.

Posted by: Rebecca | March 23, 2006 1:13 PM

Another reason why some women get bitter is because they're married to men like father of 4, who think they know it all, and who wouldn't last a week as a SAH Dad. Never ending vacation, what a crock.

Posted by: Anonymous | March 23, 2006 1:26 PM

I don't mean bitter in general , I get that , I mean bitter at each other. Each side has this this sort of smug superiority thing going on . Alan Alda's blurb about " conflict resolution " notwithstanding , there is no getting around this issue. I checked this blog at 1st out of interest , which now changed to fascination with the holier than thou attitude of some , not all , just some of the posters on this blog , mainly the women , regarding the validity of someone else's choice . It really seems as if they are trying to convince themselves of their own position by degrading someone else's.

Posted by: dad | March 23, 2006 1:27 PM

If women did their domestic work more cheerfully, men would appreciate it more.

Posted by: Father of 4 | March 23, 2006 1:30 PM

I feel sorry for many of the husbands who have to deal with some of the women on this board. I also feel sorry for many of the children. As for the poster who mentioned everyone in this town needing approbation from the pack -you are right on. The low self-esteem and inability to think independently around here is amazing.

Posted by: Anonymous | March 23, 2006 1:31 PM

It's been nice to see more well-reasoned than inflammatory statements today. I would urge people not to respond to the deliberately inflammatory statements. Just like the little kid on the playground calling someone a doo-doo-head, they WANT a reaction. If we reward negative behavior then we should expect to see it.

I hope we can try to continue an insightful conversation and ignore the flamers.

Posted by: Ms L | March 23, 2006 1:41 PM

What's up with father of 4 ? I'm so happy i don't have to change any ( well, not many) diapers or keep up with laundry , or balance the checkbook , or pay bills , or manage a 3 yr. old & a 1 year old all day long , that i could care less if she calls me Hannibal Lecter while she does it . In return I get my butt to work everyday and I DON'T COMPLAIN ABOUT THE WAY SHE DOES ANYTHING. ( except if she messes with the garage , the garage is mine , I gotta have 1 room my way , just one )

Posted by: dad | March 23, 2006 1:41 PM

I left my job 5 months ago when my first baby was born, and we were moving to another state. I'd love to go back to my job part-time once we get settled into a new house, but it's like pulling teeth with my very well-known employer. why do so many companies take an all or nothing attitude when it comes to offering flexibility? While I have loved being home with our daughter I feel that working part-time would give me the best of both worlds.

Posted by: newmom | March 23, 2006 1:50 PM

Stress is relative. SAHM's complain that they are so busy and underappreciated for doing things that non-SAHM's would tell you are no big deal, easy - albeit tedious, etc. Working mom's will tell you there is nothing like the stress of handling co-workers, bosses, deadlines, etc. while SAHM's will tell you that is a piece of cake compared to a toddler and a screaming infant.

What I will tell you is that I don't want to have 100% responsibility for either child-rearing/homemaking or financial security. Therefore, my spouse and I share the responsibility for both. You can make it work and it doesn't have to be such a huge struggle. You do have to find the right jobs though. They are out there. The key is education. If you didn't get one, your choices are going to be limited. That is what you should be teaching your children.

Finally, SAHM's - you have to admit that if you don't get the laundry done one day you are not going to get fired and your family will still have food on the table. At least consider the stress on your working spouse knowing that if he messes up and gets fired, your family's financial security is immediately at risk. That is a huge burden that I cannot in good conscience ask my husband to take on alone. I sure wouldn't want it. It would be the height of hypocrisy to then turn around and say he should do it for me.

Posted by: lc | March 23, 2006 2:07 PM

I work full time and my husband is a writer/stay at home dad. He is responsible for most of the home related tasks including scheduling the kid's activities. The thing I envy most about his situation is the flexibility he has during the day. When my work day is over I come home to my second job. I multi task all day and as a consequence need time to let go of my "work vibe" so that I'm able to chill out with the kids. In my work mode I'm very efficient. I'm also hypervigilant and at times too bossy. When I have limited time I have to squeeze everything in. I don't know how I would feel if I was a stay at home mom. I do know that I would need time to create a social network and learn to structure my time in different ways. I'm pretty sure that with more time on my hands I would feel less stress.

I'm very fortunate. My income allows my husband to pursue his creative talents and for my kids to have a parent at home. Society doesn't seem to really support stay at home dads the way it does stay at home moms. Perhaps that is fodder for another blog...

By the way, I defy anyone who takes a look at what my husband does to take care of my 3 children's needs on any given day to call him "lazy". That kind of remark could only have been made by someone who really doesn't have a clue or by someone who just wants to pick a fight!

Posted by: mk | March 23, 2006 2:08 PM

I've been an SAHM and a WOHM. I did find it could be lonely, as much as I loved the time with my children.

newmom's post took me back. There are companies that still don't get it(part-time workers bring value), and there are companies that are willing to pay part-time wages, but truly set full-time expectations.

If anyone is missing the sound of adult voices in her life as she stays at home, I did find that volunteering once every other week gave me something to look forward to, especially after the twins learned to walk.

From my reading, it seems to me that there are still a few folks trying to stir up hostility here, but far less than last week. Takes a while to bore those trying to be divisive by not giving them what they want. I agree with Ms L, it's not required that one acknowledge, or respond to, every post in the blog.


Posted by: Nana | March 23, 2006 2:16 PM

For instance: They make excuses for being lazy and label themselves as "suffering" from clinical depression. What a crock!

Posted by: father of 4 | March 23, 2006 11:33 AM

How funny. That is exactly what I thought of a colleague I spent years working with!

Posted by: pta mom | March 23, 2006 2:18 PM

To CN and anyone else who is interested.
A few years ago I read a study on motherhood that compared stay at home moms, workforce moms, and moms who worked part time. The study asked which set of moms was happiest with their situation, looking at factors such as income, time, stress, career satisfaction, time with children -- that type of thing. Not surprisingly, the moms who worked part time were the happiest because they had outlets for their professional ambitions as well as time for their children. The stay at home moms came in second -- it seems they loved caring for their families but could use some outside contact with the world. The fulltime working moms came in last, as the most unhappy, because they were just too busy and had too much stuff to do to be really able to enjoy life.

Posted by: cg | March 23, 2006 2:41 PM

DC Lawyer and Joanne- you are right. This blog is deliberately inflammatory. Good luck to all of you working in the home, outside the home and both. I am glad there is diversity in the world and that we are not all the same. I'd rather value our differences than fight about them. If I fight for anything it will be for opportunities and choice. There is so little these days. Signing off this sad blog.

Posted by: Gayle | March 23, 2006 2:48 PM

I work and my husband stays home with the children. We worked it out that way because of our temperaments -- I'm more type A, and because I make more money. It's been great. I appreciate all that my husband does at home. He is a spectacular father, he shops, he cooks, he cleans, he takes classes when the kids are in school, and he's a happy man. I am happy because I don't feel guilty about working. I make a good salary which means we have everything except the big luxuries, but hey, I would not trade in my Protege for a Mercedes if it meant I got less time with my family. My husband will go back to work eventually, but for now, trading places has worked for us and our kids.

Posted by: Working mom | March 23, 2006 2:58 PM

To CN about working part time:

For me and my family it really is the best of both worlds. It's great for my boss as well. My boss saw a huge difference in my attitude from the days when I was racing out the office door to make it to daycare on time every night, to when I started working part time at home after my second child was born. When I worked full time, I felt unreasonably guilty and angry about not being with my child. Now that I am working part time, I am happy to be doing my work and eager to make significant contributions to our company. There are many days that I know I accomplish more than when I was in the office full time. I make only half of what I used to and receive no benefits (except for generous leave), but it is well worth the time I get to spend with my family.

I feel very blessed to be working for people who see the value of having happy employees, and also for having found excellent part-time childcare--both of these are rare.

About the blog, some of the comments and anecdotes are clearly meant to generate discussion, which can be helpful if it helps us to see how other families are making things work. But from my experience, the so-called Mommy Wars only exist in the media (and media-generated blogs). In real life, it seems that the vast majority of people understand that everyone loves their own children more than anything else in the world, and are just trying to do their best for them.

Posted by: Bristow Mom | March 23, 2006 3:02 PM

I started my life as a parent as a full-time student w/2 step-children. You can not imagine the intricate web of caretakers involved with child-care that we had--but our children always had an adult around at any time who was caring for them, 100%. They benefitted from being around many different, caring adults.

My husband & I then became "academically" employed, I with summers off. I packed summer with activities, and both the kids and I enjoyed this, but were also happy when September rolled around to retreat to our regulated, predictable routines. I relished my "adult" work time.

This was followed by 5 years of my becoming a SAHM with 3 kids under 5 and a teenager (Dad was a working long hours but always available; we all knew the value of his work for the family!). Whew! I don't think I ever worked harder. My challenging, individualist teenager would come home and pin me to the wall for 1-2 hours talking about her day....I rarely said a word, but it was obvious she needed to talk....lots of late nights sitting up for the teenager, then early mornings with the little ones.... The kids all had differing needs, BUT they were far more accepting of each other's disparate needs than I was! There's no such thing as a lazy SAHM, the kids won't let it happen.

I re-entered the workforce on the family farm, which presents it's own issues. Forget important meetings/presentations or illnesses, if you don't show up to get certain things done, nature doesn't wait (your food supply is more tenuous than you think)! A cooperative attitude (also between employer and employee) is immediately recognized and valued on the farm.

What I learned is that if you as a parent show that you care and are trying to do your best to take care of them, kids are understanding, flexible and adjustable. It's good for them to learn they are an important part of what's going on, and that there are bigger things than them or you (that your work contributes to society). Don't be fooled; your kids know everything that is going on; they have the same capacity for empathy and understanding that you do. I try to remember their valuable ablility to be flexible myself whenever my life gets crazy.

Working part-time in and of itself won't make things easier because for that time you are working you will have the same issues (and you're much more expendable as a part-time employee). Cultivate human relationships in yur workplace, rather than career-furthering ones, and it won't matter as much how many hours you're working.

Posted by: farmer | March 23, 2006 3:13 PM

The thing you have to remember, though there won't be as much heated discussion if everyone does, is that everyone has a different experience doing similar things.

For example, my mother loved her job and found no real stress in juggling being a mom and working. But that doesn't cover everyone or anyone at all! People have different expectations, levels of tolerance and understanding, and coping mechanisms. If we could all just agree that disagreeing is our only common decision, maybe we could come to a more civil understanding.

There are stereotypes for anything. You'll be hard pressed to find someone in a crowd who doesn't view SAHMs as lazy or living in the lap of luxury. You'll be hard to find someone in a crowd who doesn't view working moms as stressed, busy, and less attentive to her children.

Stereotypes exist because at one point, these things may have been true. And they are true for certain people, but not for everyone. So you cannot make generalized statements because you're going to exclude someone or offend someone. You simply cannot. The wars in these posts start because someone makes a sweeping generalization and, naturally, no one fits it so they protest.

Want to fix these so-called 'mommy wars'? Learn to accept that everyone is different and there isn't one right way to do anything. Learn to accept that not all husbands are lazy (think about gay men with children--are you set to assume that both of those men are lazy and don't want to do the work?), that not all mothers are fighting an inner war with themselves about what is right, and that not all working moms are too stressed, and SAHMs are too relaxed.

Variety. Differences. Learn them, live them, love them, accept them.

Posted by: Anonymous | March 23, 2006 4:13 PM

There is a difference between a SAHM of non-school aged children and those of school aged children? The demands of each are different. I personally don't think that having kids in school until 3 or 4 in the afternoon is extremely challenging. Of course, you can make up ways to occupy your time and then say how "busy" you are but that's a personal decision. Everyone tries to justify their lives by making themselves appear busy.

If you aren't really that busy, enjoy yourself...isn't that what we are all striving for? Let someone else do the work...isn't that why we seek promotions?

Some of the SAHM's of school-aged children that I know get the kid's off to school in the morning and take care of "mommy" time during the day. Then, when the kids get home, they give them a snack and either send them off to their activities or let them play video games until dinner. Don't forget, daytime television is highly rated.
I have no problem with that. But don't tell me that your kids are better off because of it.

Until there is any proof that the working status of the mother has an impact on a child's future, we all need to accept our choices and move forward.


Posted by: Clay | March 23, 2006 4:55 PM

I would never lay claim to being so efficient, as a working mother... I just dropped certain things off my schedule, especially as a single working mom. Mostly socializing, keeping a really clean house, that sort of thing. I had fun with my kids, did what I had to for work, and that was about the end of it. My own mother, a SAHM of 8 (!) was really efficient. Not me.

The only times I had off work was after each of my 2 kids was born, probably not the best times to be "zen". I found those times really trying, exhausting, isolating, frustrating. I felt like it took all my time but not all my mind/capability etc. Didn't really like it. But it might have been different had I done it for a longer time and when the kids were older.

There certainly were times when I would have liked to be part-time, just never had that option... sounds like that would have been great.

I don't see these discussions as "deliberately" contentious, just a good opening for discussion. Maybe those who see them as "picking fights" are not used to or don't like women debating things, or disagreeing with each other? I know that goes against the "good girl" conditioning a lot of us have had. It's best not to take things so personally!

Posted by: Catherine | March 23, 2006 5:35 PM

" "I painted every room in the house, had the air conditioning fixed, installed a new hot water heater, paid my taxes and put up six sets of curtains. It took me one week to do what it takes a stay-at-home mom a year to get done.""

Do you throw statements like this is just to get a reaction? Seriously. Last time I checked in, it was some sort of inflammatory statement made by a SAHM, and now this grenade from the working moms. I'll give you credit for using ammo from both sides, but I am definitely doubting your motivation. And your motivation towards bringing an end to "The Mommy Wars." Looks to me more like you're playing both sides against the middle. Trying to create more of a media market perhaps?

Posted by: Ms Sisyphus | March 23, 2006 5:53 PM

Ms. Sisyphus,
Looks like she got you. And yes, last time I checked, The Washington Post is a forprofit business and so is her book. Just read and enjoy the postings. The real conversations should take place in your home without the need to judge others or justify your decisions to "the pack".


Posted by: Clay | March 23, 2006 6:05 PM

I did the professional part time thing (thanks to a small company whose owner has four kids) and found that the workload didn't decrease just because I was working fewer hours. (I had started there FT after being home three years.)

I was able to leave to pick up the kids from school, and could come in late if my DH was out of town for business. He does the kids' AM shift; I did PM because he had long, unpredictable hours. Not paying for after-school care made it financially feasible for me to work PT.

However, I wasn't able to leave the stress and workload expectations behind. I now realize much of that was my fault for not speaking up (too bad cancer is what it took me to get assertive! :*)) I brought home work and did it, I went in on the occasional weekend to catch up during tax season, but mostly I worried about the work I brought home with good intentions that sat undone.

The reality is, though, that for many small businesses, it's not financially possible to pay for two PT folks to job share (duplication of benefits, etc.). My role was too specialized to farm out to someone else one or two days a week (or so my boss and I both fervently believed).

Just a cautionary sure to establish limits (and stick to them) in negotiating PT. With 24/7 accessibility via phone, email, PDA, etc., it's important to remember to set boundaries!!

Posted by: Parent of two | March 23, 2006 7:49 PM

I'm an attorney, and though I don't have children yet, my husband and I are trying to start a family. When we have a child, I plan to stay at home. I fully understand that some families need dual incomes to make ends meet, and I don't believe that staying home gives a mom any guarantee that her children will necessarily be happier or better off than those of moms who work outside the home. There are great and lousy stay-at-home moms, and great and lousy moms who work outside the home.

That said, I question whether the multitasking that working moms are forced to do-- simply in order to get it all done-- is somewhat harmful to both mom and child(ren). I think it's hard for many people to be fully engaged in either multitasked task. I'd prefer not to be in a state of perpetual overdrive, and my husband and I are blessed in that I can choose to stay home. Can some of the working moms speak to how they "unplug" from the rigors of multitasking so that they can really focus on time with their chlidren?

Also, where does the marital relationship fit in among the multitasking? We hear so much about balancing career and children, but it's essential to nurture our marriages, too. Working moms, where does that fit in for you?

Best of luck to all the moms!

Posted by: Lawyer and Future Mom | March 24, 2006 10:01 AM

Another perspective on multitasking -- it keeps our minds sharp and our lifes interesting. And stress relating from multi-tasking is a result of our personalities and attitudes. The whole point of multi-tasking is to set clear priorities and to let other things go. If you are control freak whether you stay home or work does not make much of difference. But if you have realistic goals and do not strive to perfection in everything that you do, then achieving "zen" maybe possible for parents. A side note: a lot of posts keep talking about parttime work and flexibility issues in the work place both from employers, co-workers, and parents perspective. Can we see some constructive discussion about this topic rather than inflamatory generalizations?

Posted by: not a supermom | March 24, 2006 10:44 AM

"not a supermom" said, "The whole point of multi-tasking is to set clear priorities and to let other things go." Not to be picky, but I thought the whole point of multitasking was to accomplish more than one task at the same time, thereby getting more done in less time. It seems to me that it's possible to "set clear priorities and let other things go" without having to accomplish multiple tasks at one-- and that doing so allows you to focus fully on each of the things that are important enough to be "clear priorities."

Posted by: Lawyer and Future Mom | March 24, 2006 10:54 AM

(This is long. Apologies)

Wow. I don't understand why people post comments slamming this blog. If you don't like it, why are you posting? Why are you reading? To quote my mother (and everyone else's), "If you can't say anything nice, don't say anything at all." Please, leave this blog to the people who DO find it interesting and DO enjoy reading it.

Now that that's off my chest... I'm a working mother. I work 2 jobs, in fact. I miss my son, and I would like to have more time with him. I envy my husband for having the entire weekend with him. My son turns automatically to Daddy for comfort, even if I'm holding him (or trying to); he asks for Daddy if I get it up in the morning. It hurts more than I could ever describe. I'd love to give up my second job, but I can’t right now. However, even if finances weren't an issue, I would remain a working mom. I just don't have the stamina to stay at home. It's not a matter of being bored, or feeling unchallenged (it is VERY challenging, I am the first to admit that after he's home sick for a day). I don't have the temperament; many people (women AND men) don't. Also, I have severe depression - NOT a load of crock, by the way. And unfortunately, this condition affects my ability to parent my son. I am in intensive therapy and on several medications, and I am certainly improving but I still have a long way to go. For now, working is not only in my best interests, it's in my son's as well.

On the other hand, my best friend is a SAHM. She constantly says how my life is so busy, and so exciting, and how she must seem so boring in comparison. That’s far from the truth! I love listening to her talk about her son’s day in school, or how she got her younger son to draw with crayons. She’s wonderful with her children, and I learn a lot from her; her relation of her experiences has shaped my own parenting style. I always call her if I have a question (e.g., what’s a good way to start potty training? how can I encourage him to pick up his toys? etc.). I envy her, and yet she envies me as well. Funny how that works.

I don’t think of the opposing viewpoints in this blog as the “Mommy Wars”, so much as a synthesis; in Merriam Webster, “a dialectic combination of thesis and antithesis into a higher stage of truth”. By each of us examining the other’s view, we come to understand and therefore integrate each other’s experiences into our collective consciousness.

Posted by: Beth | March 24, 2006 11:14 AM

To Lawyer and Future Mom: you are correct. What I meant to say that when you do more than one thing at a time you are not going to do these tasks equally well -- I think it's just impossible -- so the one task that is your priority at the moment you would do better than others. If you are sitting at your son's soccer practice and working on a presentation on your laptop... or answering emails.

Posted by: not a supermom | March 24, 2006 11:56 AM

A lot of working moms are overscheduled and overstressed, but then so are a lot of SAHMs as well. I attribute this to the current attitude that your child must be doing all these extra activities like music, sports, etc. and must study alot to prepare for her future. The result is families that are over scheduled and stressed out.

We opted not to go the GT route even though she is eligible. The choice between 2-3 hours of homework or 30 minutes was a no-brainer. Elementary school children don't need to be spending that much time studying. Especially when most of its review and makework. As for afterschool activities, my child can chose one activity a season. She choses and then I volunteer for that activity. Right now it's Girl Scouts (which means lots of Saturday field trips). It's not worth it to rush home, grab her and head off somewhere almost every night. As a result, she gets a lot of more time with my husband and I and our household is fairly stress-free. She never complains that she's not getting to do enough. In fact, her biggest complaint is that none of her friends are available to play because they are booked up.

Posted by: Working_Mom | March 24, 2006 12:45 PM

Many of the posters have talked about P/T positions and/or at home position. I am currently a Fed but would LOVE to go P/T and/or work at home. What are some of the professions that are flexible like this? I'd be willing to be retrained. The very male Defense Department isn't really a hotbed for flexibility...

Posted by: Curious | March 24, 2006 1:06 PM

Are you kidding me? That is crap. Why is it that working mothers always find a way to pat themselves on the back for working? Sounds like this time it is for being more organized and efficient than SAHMs. The only real difference in a working mother's day and a SAHM's day is what the actual work is. Job skills needed to run an efficent team - whether it be family or corporate - are the same. All can relate to: trying to get a million *important* things done in a 12 hour day, getting good reviews from your team/boss, and the struggle of finding that perfect balance between work and play - i.e. time for yourself, with friends, husband. The terms multi-tasking and self-sacrifice apply to both ways of life. THE IDEA THAT SAHMS ARE WELL RESTED, ENJOY LEISURE ACTIVITIES DAILY AND FIND TIME FOR THEMSELVES IS BULL ****!

Posted by: D | March 24, 2006 1:19 PM

I have enjoyed reading most of the entries but I have to report I am a bit surprised at how far we still have to go. Women -- from many of the entries I feel we appear to be insecure and weak. I attended a very known Womens college and have to say,they failed to mention any of this real life stuff. It is real and we need to support each other. It should not matter what the person next door does, doesn't do - how many tasks we accomplish in a day or how many hours we spend volunteering or working. What should matter is how well adjusted our kids are - how confident they are becoming and how loved they feel. Your resume means nothing to them except making them feel 2nd if they know you prefer work over them. Afterall, didn't we all have kids because we want to foster and grow great kids not to pat ourselves on the back?? Let's get our priorities in order and use our time to rear a strong, confident, well adjusted next generation.

Posted by: Balanced | March 24, 2006 1:22 PM

And how many SAHMs do you really know that find time to volunteer? What a misconception!

Posted by: D | March 24, 2006 1:25 PM

Sounds as though the woman LMS describes is a real Martha Stewart-type. In my experience, how neat one's house is, how many meals are home-cooked, how good a cook a person is, etc., etc., is uncorrelated with whether he/she works outside the home.
Similarly, in the painful process of forcing almost twenty nursery school parents to RSVP thoughtfully to an invitation so that I could give a final count to the puppet theatre, there were four laggards (one did apologize almost a week prior by saying their family's plans were up in the air as they might go out of town). There were working parents with full-time nannies in the mix, there were SAHMs with trust fund-types, and there were absent-minded part-time employed outside home people among the four who failed to respond promptly.
As Bruce Springsteen once said during one of his rare interviews, there are rude people on every block and there are nice ones on the same block. Plus ca change, plus ca devient la meme.

I hope we teach our children better manners than my generation seems to have acquired so they RSVP to invitations.

Posted by: suzyswim | March 24, 2006 1:46 PM

For Curious-

I have been able to work part time and from home for the past 6 years. I work for a consulting firm. I have found that (believe it or not) that can be one of the most flexible industries in terms of work schedule. But that relies on several factors : 1- the clients - clients in industries that employ many women (financial services, hospitality, pharmaceutical, consumer products) are more open to not having face time with you 5 days a week; 2 - Your direct manager/partner - My managing director is in her 50s married with no children. However she is a huge advocate of keeping talented women doing good work regardless of their situation. So she has always been supportive of my schedule as long as I continue to deliver; 3 - Financial flexiblity -- you will take a pay cut, work in an industry that perhaps doesn't pay as much, and you won't move up the ranks as quickly, especially if you work from home. It is the usual sacrifice for sake of balance. The jobs are out there, though. It is a matter of getting away from the "company man" industries or employers and seeking out more "balance-friendly" ones.

Posted by: WAHM in Financial Services | March 24, 2006 2:07 PM

Lawyer and Future Mom: Our son goes to bed around 8pm. From the time we get home till his bedtime, is his time with us - we have dinner, and we play together till bedtime. From 8pm till our bedtime (11pm - midnight) is the time that my husband and I spend together. Sometimes we veg out in front of the TV, sometimes we work on some cleaning/organizing project, sometimes we just do stuff on our computers, but we're typically together. This is also true on the weekends when our son naps. Heck, sometimes we take a nap while he's napping. On one particularly nice day recently, we did some much needed yardwork together, and had some really good conversation time. I guess my point is that you take the time where you can get it, and when you set aside time to devote to your kid or your spouse, make sure you're there 100%. Don't say you're going to spend time with them and then go off and do something else.

To Working_Mom: I was in GT from 3rd grade on. If your daughter is eligible and passed all the necessary tests, why keep her from the accelerated classes? I'm confused by your rationale. I agree on the activities thing - mine was band, and then band/jazz band/chorus in high school - but I just don't understand why a parent would choose to keep their child in the mainstream classes when they qualify to be in the accelerated classes. Now I was in the GT Center program through Fairfax County, so it wasn't just a periodic enrichment - it was all GT all the time. Did she qualify for the part-time GT classes, or the GT center? As an alum of the GT Center program, I felt like I really benefitted from the accelerated classes.

Posted by: Outer Fairfax | March 24, 2006 2:21 PM

Some observations after reading all of this:

1. Not many employers or men have posted here.

a. Being a small-business employer myself, I would suggest that people not be passive-aggressive but voice their needs with supervisors and employers (don't whine, beg or yell!). If it's a big corporate employer, they've probably dealt with your situation before and may have more options than you realize. If it's a small business, they are probably open to listening to your needs, and are likely to understand your concerns. You might be surprised! Don't assume your ass is on the line--assume there are good-hearted people here who naturally want the best for everyone. Behave like you believe this to be so.

b. Men probably haven't posted in droves because the topic isn't one they're drawn to or aware of...interesting....a good dinner-time conversation starter might be "I read this blog today and it resonated with me because..."

2. How wonderful everyone here cares so much! We all care about the health and well-being of our children. We all care about our contribution to society. We all care about our families, whatever form they take.

Posted by: farmer | March 24, 2006 3:37 PM

An earlier poster cited a study that reported that working moms were more stressed out than SAHM's and part-timers. I would have to agree. One thing I've noticed about myself is... the pressure! It is this anxious pressure to make every minute I have with my child count and be quality time. It feels too goal-oriented and sometimes not so relaxing. I wish I could relax.

Posted by: zomamma | March 24, 2006 4:35 PM

Leslie, I have a question for you!

Do you get any e-mails about these issues? Any feedback that isn't in the form of a blog comment? Would it even be worthwhile to attempt to contact you at

Posted by: Feedback Question! | March 24, 2006 5:10 PM

"Having it all" is just a nice way of saying "Having to do it all"

Posted by: mother'otwins | March 25, 2006 4:39 PM

This is purely anecdotal, but I find that women of my generation are choosing to stay home because they watched their mothers struggle with trying to do it all. In our childhood, we felt the loneliness of coming home to an empty home(we were called latchkey kids). We watched our parents dissolve their marriages because their dual income lives left little time for their marriages. And today, we hear the remorse they express over having missed events as we were growing up...

My husband and I made the choice early in our marriage that I would stay at home with our children once they arrived. In the meanwhile, I worked for a good nine years as a professional. It defined who I was then. It was a facet of my life that made me feel very fulfilled. I was extremely successful in my job. Now that we have our two children, I have moved onto another facet of my life without any regrets about leaving my profession. I feel very fulfilled in this new job of raising our children. As they get older I do see myself adding other responsibilities to my life whether I take on a part-time job or work from home. But it will be on my terms.

All SAHM are not the same. Some are like myself...we had great careers, now we are raising our children, and we are happy/satisfied. Some on the other hand are very resentful, whether it is because their career goals were interrupted by the birth of a child or they never even got a profession off the ground. I find that it is these resentful SAHM who are not so nice to working mothers. Case in point, in my own small neighborhood. My family had just moved into our new home and a neighbor informed me about the other women in our community. She talked about all the other SAHM. And then she mentioned neighbor X who also had children and "oh, she works." I was completely taken aback by this "description" because it set neighbor X apart from the other mothers. She was seen as a pariah in the neighborhood. I was horrified that they felt this way about a working mother.

We are all mothers, we all are experiencing the ups and downs of raising our children...What is the point of judging each others personal choices related to staying home or going to work? We try to do the best that we can in nurturing our children. That is our common goal! Let's support each other in this endeavor.

Posted by: respectful of choices | March 25, 2006 9:41 PM

Thanks ever so for the advice Clay. But you're right; I think from now on I'll stick to reading blogs, books, and newspapers I enjoy. You know, the thoughtful, intelligent kind.

Posted by: Ms Sisyphus | March 26, 2006 8:16 PM

Lawyer & Future Mom, I have been both SAH and WOH, and quite honestly I found SAH far more stressful. We are all happier as a family now that I am back to work.

For me - and I can only speak for myself - I thrive intellectually in a multitasking environment. I *like* living my life with different facets that intersect. One of the reasons I found SAH so incredibly stressful was that I lost that variety of experience.

I hear people talk all the time about how it's impossible to do anything well if you have to multitask, but that is not the case for me. In fact, I think I am a better parent now that I am working. I'm calmer, more centered, more able to simply be in the moment when I am with my child.

Furthermore, my husband and I noticed that when I was SAH, it was harder for us to understand each other's experiences. With both of us working, we are both supporting the family financially and emotionally, and we understand each other's experiences more fully. We share equally in the childcare. My husband doesn't have the sole responsibility for earning, which can be very stressful, and I don't have sole responsibility for childraising, which is also stressful. Our marriage is stronger now that I am working, not the other way.

Posted by: Catherine | March 27, 2006 1:32 AM

I meant to add that my experience has taught me that it's nearly impossible to characterize other people's experiences easily, nor is it easy to predict how you'll feel when the time comes. My best friend is a SAHM, and she loves it. She finds multitasking incredibly stressful and it makes her unhappy. She loves being at home, running a household, etc. She's really good at it, and she is sharp as a tack, so no loss of intellectual power there, either.

We've been friends for nearly twenty years, and yet our experiences are almost completely opposite. But we're still best friends, and we stick up for each other to judgemental people.

Posted by: Catherine | March 27, 2006 1:42 AM

"My friend, Jen, a single working mom, took a week off to take care of household chores. "I painted every room in the house, had the air conditioning fixed, installed a new hot water heater, paid my taxes and put up six sets of curtains. It took me one week to do what it takes a stay-at-home mom a year to get done." There is no more efficient human being than a working mom."

Hmm, this story conveniently does not mention the age and number of her children! Surely they are older kids, or they were away most/all of the day at school or daycare. To imply that if a SAHM, say with three kids under 5, could get more done if she "became efficient" is incredibly unfair. Kids do need attention.

Posted by: Lynne | March 27, 2006 11:06 AM

I've been a SAHM, and I've been a working mom. You really don't see the impact of your choices until years (30) later when your son demands (non negotiable) his wife be a SAHM!

I believe women today sacrafice their children for houses, cars, etc. because society expects it of them.

If we could see clearly how our choices will affect our children's lives down the road, I believe most of us would make different choices!

Posted by: R | March 27, 2006 4:19 PM

R, funny, it was very important to my husband that I be willing and able to WOH because of his childhood experience. He grew up with a mom who did both SAH and WOH, and she was a lot happier when she was WOH and as a result he was a lot happier. He felt smothered when she was home all day. Their relationship improved tremendously when she started working.

They are very close to this day. She's a great MIL, very supportive. He has the kind of relationship with her that I hope I have with my own mother someday.

Posted by: Frances | March 27, 2006 4:58 PM

The last two commments just goes to show that people are different. I will never understand people's needs to define others according to their own experiences. Live and let live folks. Everyone does their best, and just because some of us THINK we can do a better job than others does not mean that our decisions would work in other settings and other lives.

Posted by: Anonymous | March 27, 2006 5:55 PM

More poo-flinging

Posted by: Anonymous | March 28, 2006 11:56 AM

My wife is a stay at home mom and those chores wouldn't have taken her a year. Matbe not a week, because as a stay at home mom she actually has children at home most of the time. In other words, the luxury of a week off to take care of household chores doesn't exist for the stay at home mom in my family.

Posted by: todd | March 28, 2006 1:01 PM

Seems to me the hardest "multi tasking" a "SAHM" engages in is unfolding the stroller-cum-SUV that they wheel little Sienna, Morgan, or Austin in around Target, Kohl's or Starbucks in. Sometimes the "multi tasking" may accelerate to balancing her "busy" schedule of Pilates classes with little Aubrey's play dates or perhaps yapping on her cell phone while trying to get Kaitlin into the MUST nursery school (3 hours a day).

If SAHMs (or Working Moms for that matter) spent a little less time attempting to create a 24/7 activity rich environment for their children and just focused on being a parent, all your drama would disappear.


Posted by: Anonomizer | March 28, 2006 3:58 PM

I am sick and tired of the debate ONLY about "working Moms" while men seem unscathed by this debate (i.e., home life is compromised only because "MOM" is working, while it's okay for Dad to leave home for work.)

So, what about "Dads?"...Why are men escaping the blame game? NOBODY is debating whether it's good/bad for Dads to be working...NOBODY is questioning what affect it has on kids for MEN to be out of the home...Why aren't more peolpe speaking up about how MEN need to step up to the plate regarding house and parenting's NOT ALL MOM'S FAULT!!!

Posted by: Amy | March 29, 2006 3:07 PM


Okay I've been a working mom and a stay at home mom. As a working mom, I didn't feel efficient. I felt overwhelmed trying to balance family and work. My husband and I couldn't take a week off to just paint and do house chores. Between days off for our sick kid *we both took days, thank you, my husband believes that it's a team effort* we had about a week left to actually vacation. We chose to spend time with our daughter rather than 'be efficient.'

There is no more efficient creature than a working mom? If it makes you feel better to say so.

And for "Seems to me the hardest "multi tasking" a "SAHM" engages in is unfolding the stroller-cum-SUV that they wheel little Sienna, Morgan, or Austin in around Target, Kohl's or Starbucks in. Sometimes the "multi tasking" may accelerate to balancing her "busy" schedule of Pilates classes with little Aubrey's play dates or perhaps yapping on her cell phone while trying to get Kaitlin into the MUST nursery school (3 hours a day)."

Which mom are you talking about? None of the mom's I know have that life. OH don't get me wrong, it would be great. I'd love that! Strolling blissfully down the aisle's of target with my little bundle of well-behaved perfection.... ahhh, to dream. I'd love to do that, but my repsonsibility as a sahm means I can only do that about once every six months or so.

I just think this blog is full of women gone nuts (minus the moderate, can't we all just admit we are moms and are doing our best moms.)

I have friends who are working moms, from when I worked, and they don't harbor nearly the amount of hositilty, resentment or bitterness some of the working moms here do. Then again, they don't live in a deluded world where they think SAHMs live a charmed, easy, stress-fee, work-free life. They've seen my days. Some of them would like a chance to try it. Some of them are afraid of it. None of them question my ability to multi-task and often tell me they just don't see how I stay home all day, because get this, it actually IS WORK TOO.

And all my working mom's friends? Their working husbands help out. One is lucky, her husband is quitting his job to be a stay at home dad, so she can focus on her career! If you want to be bitter, be bitter at your husbands for not letting your career be the main career in the family! Ha. I like it. Blame the men, not the women who have nothing to do with your lives. Why be angry at stay at home moms? It's not like we have organized a conspiracy against working moms. If you work, and you're happy, GREAT! If you work, and you're not happy, don't take it out on us SAHM's.

Posted by: lahdeeda | March 30, 2006 12:57 PM

I've been both, working, SAHM, working from home.

I DO know that when I was a SAHM I felt really exploited by the working moms in my children's school. There are a certain percentage of women who pat themselves smugly on the back and go on about their ability to 'prioritize' and 'multitask' when in reality what they're doing is shirking their responsibilities to the community and palming a lot of THEIR responsibilities off on others.

I can think of a certain female doctor who called me up and DEMANDED that I find a girl scout troop for her daughter where they would understand that her busy schedule precluded her ever actually having to help. She also wrote a check to 'cover the costs' since her family didn't have time to sell Girl Scout cookies. I guess she got that idea from 'working mother' magazine. And I personally am insulted when working mom whips out a gift card for my child at her birthday since she's too busy and important to shop.

The funniest thing about the mommy wars in my neighborhood is that frequently the women who swan around saying ridiculous things like "I have to work. I have to use my mind. I'm far too EDUCATED to ever stay home" are actually less educated than the SAHM's. We had a foreign service secretary who used to lecture us about her important job -- until we clued her in that three of us were actually foreign service officers who quit to stay home with our kids. She'd actually worked for one of us! I love that story! Love it! Love it! Love it!

Posted by: 1MomsView | April 15, 2006 11:31 PM

I have an 18-month-old and a 4-month-old, and, having held full-time employment for over 20 years, can honestly state that my current SAHM status with two babies is the hardest work I have ever done. At the office, there are at least opportunities for idle conversation, coffee breaks, web-surfing -- now, at home, no such luck. But I try to keep my chin up; staying home with the kids is a choice I have made and I know that one day, my career will be waiting for me when I am ready to return...

Whether SAHM or WM, we are all really just trying to balance as best we can... right?!?

Posted by: NewMomOf2 | April 18, 2006 1:31 AM

I think that we should all stick together.
SAHMs and working Moms are all vital in raising families. I would love to stay home but I cannot at the present time. I cook dinner as often as possible but we also do takeout. We make time for important things. We got to school and sport events. My husband picks up my slack and it gets done!! My job is fast paced and stressful. I leave my job at the door and try not to bring any of the stress home. I think sahm and wm are all trying to get the right balance. Good luck to all of us!!

Posted by: 911/mom | June 21, 2006 5:28 AM

I am a bit blown away by these posts with such strong opinions on one side of the fence or the other.

In my humble opinion, the bottom line is that what's most important when you choose to have kids is that your kids' needs are met and that they are your priority and that your kids feel that. Seems to me the discussion has lost sight what the focus should be on - the kids and not ourselves. Not everyone has a choice based on life circumstances if they want to stay home with their kids or not. Some moms become single moms and have to be the breadwinner. Some moms grew up without moms at home and want to be at home for their kids if they can afford it. Some moms feel that they don't think they'd be as good a mom if they didn't work - if not for money, for their sanity. Some would give anything just to be a SAHM. We all have different needs and motivations.

The bottom line is that in any given situation the child feels loved from his head to the bottom of his toes...that he knows that his parent or guardian would do anything for him, that he has good educational opportunities, a roof over his head with good food, has someone that he feels safe with and he know values and cares for him and that as he gets older he can talk to for good advice when peer pressure kicks in. Whether or not you have these skills does not dictate where or when you work but the quantity and quality of interaction with your child and not how much money you have. Regardless, you can be a good mom or dad if you are a giving person no matter what walk of life you choose. Your child will know what's in your heart if you share your heart unselfishly and focus not only on yourself but the growth and development of your child without putting too much pressure on him/her to overachieve and plenty of time just to be a kid.

Growing up, as I recall what my friends wanted was a parent who felt they were important enough to spend time with no matter what front my friends put up about being an independent kid with a busy social life.

Your kids will love you whether you work or not and will value your choices if you value them yourself. They'll defend you to the hilt if another child questions your choice to stay at home or not. They just need to feel that they are important to you and well taken care of by someone who they know cares very much for them when you can't be there.

Just my thoughts if they are of interest. If not, please disregard. For the record, I'm the mom of a special needs child. I am only now working my own home-based business part-time so I can have a flexible schedule. While I used to be a corporate executive that worked 60-80 hour work weeks, many days the school sent her home early and I could not have held a "regular" job as I'd have been fired for the amount of time I would have needed to take off.

Posted by: Susan | July 7, 2006 12:53 AM

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