Two Views of the Village

I had lunch last month with Robyn, a stay-at-home friend who intentionally bought a modest house so that neither she nor her husband would feel she had to work for financial reasons. They drive economy cars with high mileage for the same reason. Sacrifices my friend is at peace making.

A few days before our lunch, when the schools were closed due to a snowstorm, my friend was out on her street with the neighborhood moms and kids. A new neighbor -- a working mom forced to stay home because of the snow day -- asked if my friend might be willing to watch her children on future snow days so that the mom could go to work.

What a nice "it-takes-a-village" opportunity, I thought.

Robyn thought otherwise.

"She has one of the biggest houses on the block. There are two Mercedes SUVs parked inside their garage. I did not give up working to take care of her kids so that she can afford a cathedral ceiling and two nice cars. I told her no."

That sure silenced my rosy thoughts. And made me think twice about my own house and whether I could ever ask her for a favor again.

Is Robyn right? What would you do?

By Leslie Morgan Steiner |  March 15, 2006; 7:20 AM ET
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This sounds more like rudeness on the working mom's part than anything else. It doesn't sound like they were even friends, or had any kind of relationship. Did the working mom offer any kind of trade of her own time, like offering to watch the kids on a weekend evening in exchange?

I live in a real village-- a cohousing neighborhood-- where neighbors do things for each other all the time, including childcare. It certainly makes it easier to be a parent. But there is always some reciprocity -- the effort is not just a one-way street.

Posted by: Ms L | March 15, 2006 8:32 AM

Tough one... I guess it depends on what the working mom was expecting - free babysitting? Gee, thanks for thinking of me!

If she offered to pay me or agreed when I proposed whatever payment I thought was fair, I wouldn't have a big problem with it. I don't think I would feel the need to "punish" her for her choices.

Also, I'd want to encourage the kind of neighborhood relationship where we can do favors for eachother... maybe I don't need her to watch my kids on a snow day, but maybe there is something else she can offer if I ever needed it.

Posted by: WAHM-to-be | March 15, 2006 8:37 AM

I'm a working mom, and I wouldn't think of asking for free services from another mom in the neighborhood. I once talked to another working mom about taking turns caring for kids on snow days. That's more fair--to offer an exchange of services. Mostly, my husband and I just take turns staying home when we have to.

Posted by: Anonymous | March 15, 2006 8:42 AM

As this comment was mine, I feel, after reading it, that there is a more delicate aspect to my feelings regarding this woman's request. I do feel that I am part of the "village" in that I am one of those moms that takes on the school and community projects that require way too much time for full-time working moms (I have worked part-time from home for the majority of my years "at home"). I am more than willing to providde support to the village that way as there are many moms who need to work. In our community, however, we see many moms who put themselves in the position of having to work (by buying extravagant houses, cars etc., or choosing jobs that do not allow them ANY flexibility in terms of meeting their children's needs in situations like a snow day. Perhaps if she had offered us a reciprocal babysit when she was available (maybe an an evening out) I would've been much more receptive to her request.

Posted by: Robyn | March 15, 2006 8:42 AM

I think that her response was totally justified and Leslie's surprise at the comment is at the heart of the "mommy wars" conendrum. The working mom had the expectation that the SAHM had all of the extra energy in the world because she "wasn't doing anything". It takes a village works great when you're the village elder being waited on, not so great when you're the one stuck carrying the water back for everyone.

Posted by: PTjobFTMom | March 15, 2006 9:04 AM

Wow, sounds like office mom crossed a line there. Seems to me that there's a big difference between "I'm in a bind here today, can you possibly help me out, and then let me know what I can do for you" and "could you watch my kids for free whenever school's closed, since, you know, you're at home all the time and don't have anything else to do anyway?" Of course, I wasn't there, so it's hard to know what was said or what was meant. But it sounds like she was proposing a long-term arrangement without offering anything in return -- and just presuming that the SAHM would be happy to help. I'm not surprised the SAHM took offense, because it implies that your time is more valuable, and that SAHM doesn't have anything as important going on in her life as you do in yours. That may well not be what was intended, but from the way it was described, that's how it sounds to me.

If it's a one-time bind, I think it's fine to ask -- but even there, I'd be very clear that I was asking a favor, and would offer something in return (like offering to watch her kids on Saturday to give her a break). I think it's also fine to propose a longer-term plan, but if you're going to do that, you need to be even more clear that you are offering something back in return.

On the other hand, why does this have anything to do with the size of someone's house or the type of car they drive? There's a little bit of holier-than-thou in SAHM's response, as well (with a touch of "you made your bed, now lie in it"). Seems to me that the real problem with office mom's request is that it was selfish and presumptuous. That has nothing to do with the fact that she chose to work outside the home and thus can afford more "stuff."

Posted by: Laura | March 15, 2006 9:23 AM

What struck me the most was the comments by the stay at home mom. Even though she says that she has made peace with her decisions regarding the house and cars, I'm not so sure. There seems to be some resentment on her part that the working mom has the things she has chosen to forego so that they can live on one income.

I commend them for their decision, and I think the DC area would be a better place if more families made the same decision to have one of the parents stay home with the kids. The big driving force in the area for two-income households is the cost of real estate. This has been artificially inflated over many years of dual-income households buying bigger and more expensive houses. If more families had stuck with a single income over the years, the housing market could not have developed into one where a townhouse costs a half a million dollars or more. There would not have been any buyers for those homes, so prices would not have grown as fast as they did - internet boom or not.

Posted by: Anonymous | March 15, 2006 9:37 AM

I'm very happy that office mom got what she deserved -- a "no, thanks" from the at home mom. I'm completely FED UP with the attitude of office moms who expect the rest of the world -- especially OTHER WOMEN -- to help them out in exchange for nothing. I have no children, and that seems to be a "signal" for women in my office to expect me to be willing to stay late and do their work so they can go home. Guess what? I have my own life, and my own after-work activities, and I enjoy doing them. Nothing comes for free in this world, and if you won't help me out, don't expect me to help you out.

Posted by: Washington, DC | March 15, 2006 9:49 AM

As a former full-time working mom, I can understand the working mom's asking for a favor [especially if she's new to the neighborhood and hasn't found a reliable caregiver for her kids]. She might be pretty desperate.

But having said that, as the stay-at-home mom, I would have said 'I'll be happy to watch them TODAY... but I can't guarantee I'll be available other days. I do have a couple of people I can recommend, however, for you call."

Posted by: drindl | March 15, 2006 9:49 AM

I have always worked outside the home and have been a single mother for most of my kids' school years (they are now in college). I would never have had the nerve to ask such a thing of a neighbor. I guess I always felt somewhat scrutinized anyhow and wanted to avoid that sort of response. In a big pinch, if I had to leave for work early for example, I did ask one neighbor if they could stay at her house for maybe 30 minutes before school and if she could take them along with her kids, but that is it - and I thanked her effusively (and sincerely!) for that favor.

But... while I understand to some extent the feelings of the stay-at-home mother, and don't blame her for refusing, I think she is making a lot of assumptions when she talks about cathedral ceilings etc. She should get the chip off her shoulder. You never know what others are really dealing with in their lives.

I just wish people could get over being so judgemental...

Posted by: Catherine | March 15, 2006 9:55 AM

It sounds like the women didn't know each other very well, and it certainly would be presumptuous to think that you could get free child care without offering anything in return. But maybe the working mom did expect to reciprocate, and just didn't phrase it well and gave up when she got her head bitten off.

I also think there's a difference between asking for a favor in a jam and expecting ongoing help. When I was pregnant with my second child, I thought I was going into premature labor when my husband was out of town (turned out to be a false alarm). I wound up knocking on the door of a neighbor (a SAHM) who I had met a few times, bursting into tears on her doorstep, and leaving my son with her while I went to the doctor. I'm sure glad that she wasn't judging my cars at the time.

Posted by: Elizabeth | March 15, 2006 9:55 AM

The working mother in this case, seems to be working for the luxuries, which to her, may be necessities. That's her business and should not be of concern to her neighbor. "Stay at home" mom has made her own lifestyle choices.

Helping a neighbor once, in an emergency situation such as a snow day, is simply being kind. However, working mothers must be prepared with reliable, "on call" back up. That's their responsibility.

Agreeing to babysit once, is simply being a "good neighbor." If the request is made a second time the "stay at home" mom has the option of either agreeing to babysit or declining. If she agrees, then she has the right to charge for her baby sitting services. Both neighbors should decide if this arrangement could be mutually beneficial and proceed accordingly. If this neighbor is interested in earning some extra money, her fee, number of times per week/month she is willing to provide this service, etc., should be agreed upon in advance.

Who knows, an arrangement such as this might be ideal for each mother. Stability and convenience for the mom that goes to business, and some extra cash for the mom that works at home. It might be worth evaluating for a semester.


Posted by: unitmom | March 15, 2006 10:00 AM

if she can afford all those high-ticket brand name items, office mom can certainly afford the price of child care on a snow day.

imposing on stay-at-home-mom was laughably inappropriate.

Posted by: spaceneedl | March 15, 2006 10:03 AM

Working mom blew it, big time.

She should have offered SAHM a business arrangement--in short, money. SAHM's feeling that she's a kind of dumpster for others' unwanted domestic chores is completely understandable and appropriate.

Working mom losses don't stop with one snow day, though. Now she's messed up the possibility that she could have SAHM as a valuable resource (or a friend) for the foreseeable future UNLESS she goes over there and knocks on the door with a "mea culpa" pronto. She might say, "It's been bothering me that when we talked the other day, I'm afraid you might have gotten the impression that I hoped you would do free child care. That's not what I meant. I know I'm going to need help for one reason or another while the kids are young, and I'd much rather they be with you than any alternative place. So I'm offering XX dollars per day, which is what commercial day care costs--I checked. Whaddaya say?"

Posted by: Paula K | March 15, 2006 10:26 AM

"If more families had stuck with a single income over the years, the housing market could not have developed into one where a townhouse costs a half a million dollars or more. There would not have been any buyers for those homes, so prices would not have grown as fast as they did - internet boom or not."

As my father-in-law likes to say, "If dogs had square butts, they'd $*%# bricks." Another version of the old saw about wishes, beggars and horses. Even if every family in the DC area switched, tomorrow, to a one-income situation, housing would not suddenly become more affordable.

Let's blame working moms for the price of real estate--they don't take enough flack already. Why not crime ("If more moms were home watching their kids...") and childhood obesity, too ("If more moms were home to cook nutritious meals for their kids...").

Posted by: Tammy | March 15, 2006 10:29 AM

To take offence at what others have because someone opts to work is self-righteous at best. To assume that because someone is a SAHM that person is always available with little notice is presumptious. Perhaps on the NEXT snow day, both mom's sit back together over coffee and make the best of a day. I see little sense in killing yourselves over natures gentle reminder to humans that there are more important things in life like families. Once level heads prevail and mututal understandings of each other's limitations are made, only then will good villages be built.

Posted by: Peter | March 15, 2006 10:33 AM

See, the reaction of the SAHM mom does seem ridiculous and petty to me. Yes, the working mom can afford child care, but you can't just scare up someone to watch your kids on short notice like a snow day. It makes sense to make a proactive arrangement--for example, by asking someone in the neighborhood who will also be home with their kids on snow days--if they can do this. The working mom should offer to pay, or trade to watch the kids on Saturdays, or whatever--and for all we know she was planning to offer. As a working mom, I would certainly do that--I would not expect someone to just watch my kids for free! But to just flat-out say no because you want to punish another mom for making different choices...I agree with Leslie, it seems like the kind of thing that adds to resentment between SAHMs and working moms.

Posted by: Arlington | March 15, 2006 10:37 AM

I agree with Catherine's comments. The SAHM has some resentment about the neighbor's luxuries. Helping a neighbor out once in a while benefits all neighbors. Maybe the SAHM will need a favor down the road. Good to build a relationship w/the neighbors, despite what they have or have-not. I do think it is over the top for the working mom to ask that the SAHM watch her child on ALL snow days. Rediculous. She should work out an arrangement with her job or pay someone to watch her kids. I work full time and look forward to the extra days I get to stay home with the kids if there is snow. I have a laptop, cell, treo to do work from home when I can. Working moms have to push hard to get bosses to understand that they have child obligations and that just because we do--doesn't mean we can't get the work done.

Posted by: 21704mom | March 15, 2006 10:38 AM

Normally, I don't think that SAHMs should criticize working moms' richer lifestyle. However, by asking the SAHM to work for free (presumably), the working mom is essentially asking the SAHM to subsidize her more expensive lifestyle. I think that in this case she may have a right to complain.

Posted by: Ms L | March 15, 2006 10:52 AM

Unfortunately, some of us working moms need to be working, not for the "things" we can buy but because without the second income we wouldn't even be able to afford housing or a car. I would hope this SAHM can see the difference between the two. I know I always appreciate the SAHM's who have helped us over the years but they have always been few and far between. Funny thing...it's always been another working mom who has adjusted a schedule to help out. Makes you wonder who really has the better value system.

Posted by: Carol | March 15, 2006 11:15 AM

I also agree with Catherine's comments - it does sound like the SAHM has some resentment issues with the working mom's lifestyle choices. It is very tiring to put up with the holier then thou attitudes of most SAHMs torwards moms who work. That being said, I would never dream of imposing on a neighbor that I obviously did not know that well.

By the same token, the working mom didn't ask for help in the best way. She should have offered to trade sitting services or just asked for a referral if she was new to the neighborhood. Or done what my husband and I do, and take turns staying home when needed.

Posted by: Elisa | March 15, 2006 11:15 AM

Are you all kidding? Who cares if the working mom asked for help? As a former single mother with no child support in sight, I was constantly asking for help with my kids in similar circumstances, and I was also asked for help, in exchange -- by working married moms, single moms, etc. I always had the right to say no, as did the people I asked. What's all the drama about? Say yes or say no and get on with your life!

Posted by: California Mom | March 15, 2006 11:19 AM

"The big driving force in the area for two-income households is the cost of real estate."

Interesting assumption. Could be true, but I would work regardless of housing costs. I know many other parents would make the same choice. I think for some people, housing costs become an excuse so that they don't have to even get into the argument about quitting work once they have kids. Don't want to quit, don't want to fight about it, so "can't afford to quit."

FWIW, I'd never again feel comfortable asking this friend for any kind of favor, since she seems to be of the mindset that looks for reasons to take offense. Not worth the potential grief.

Posted by: Shannon | March 15, 2006 11:35 AM

As a pediatrician with a wife who is an OB/GYN I can testify to the panic that ensues on any day on which our daycare might be closed -- snow days do not stop patients from needing medical care, yet one of us has to find alternative arrangements to care for the kids. In our case it is entirely dependent on which of us has a less imposing schedule that day.
And yes we have a nice house, but we both work not because we need material things but we feel that it's our obligation to use our training (which society invested heavily in) to help others. Plus it's a heck of a satisfying job.
In addition, if one of us skips work on any given day, that imposes not only on our colleagues, who must then work harder, but our patients, who may have their visits canceled or delayed. For us, therefore, it doesn't seem unreasonable to have contingency plans in place should disaster befall. Naturally we would offer proper payment or exchange of babysitting, but it does seem like the SAHM is presupposing a great deal about the working mom, and imposing her own beliefs about what's the correct lifestyle choice for others.

Posted by: Ed | March 15, 2006 11:44 AM

Another thought. We know nothing about Robyn's or working mom's kids. Do they get along? Are of similar ages? Require special food or other care? Does either party fully understand what it means to watch the kids for a day? It's one thing on a non-snow day for two parents to discuss swapping childcare services while the kids play together, it's another to make such a request with no history, and so flippantly (as it sounds from the initial post).

It just sounds like the whole thing could have been handled differently, and I hope they both get the opportunity to try again in more favorable circumstances.

Posted by: NotYetAMom | March 15, 2006 11:56 AM

This just proves one more time that the term "war" is the correct one. This is a great example of the animosity and resentment between the mother who works inside the home (I hate the term SAHM) and the mother who works outside. While I think that the question was presumptious and inappropriate why couldn't Robyn just say that she is too busy looking after her own kids without taking on this other women's children? And the comments about two income couples driving up real estate costs in Washington DC? What's that, socialism? Bringing everybody to the lowest common denominator? What if the one income couple still makes enough money to afford a more expensive house than a couple next door? We working mothers fully realize how busy are mothers who work at home. In fact, you are busier than us. What I resent more as a working mother who also wants to be able to go to a teacher parent conference, take my child to an afternoon activity, or go to a doctor's appointment is the rigidity of most workplaces and the resentment of colleagues who don't have children, especially women. We working moms don't just take off and leave somebody else to pick up the slack. I did not enter the workplace with children and married, so as the youngest single person in the office I used to work very long hours when I was in my 20s. I did not like it but I figured that I need to establish my career so when I will need flexibility later I will be in professional position that allowed it. Something along the arrangement that Ms. Steiner has negotiated for herself.

Posted by: Anonymous | March 15, 2006 12:28 PM

Where's Mr. Working Mom in all this? Parenting is a shared responsibility. He should be the first one sharing it, but he's not even in the picture.
It is obvious from the story that these working parents have made conscious choices not entirely driven by economic necessity. A part of that decision making has to be planning for parenting. Seems to me Mr. & Mrs. WM should be having the "trade off snow days" discussion before trying to rope in the neighbors.

Posted by: Old Dad | March 15, 2006 12:29 PM

I'm actually more astonished that Leslie thought that Robyn, the SAHM, should have eagerly looked upon this request to take care of additional children on all future snow days as an example of "it takes a village."

I thought Leslie's other examples of how SAHM contribute to the village - for instance, how SAHMs make PTAs and schools and afterschool activities better for everyone by contributing their labor and intellectual energy - were a lot better, more accurate, and less inflammatory.

For example, if a neighborhood mom asked Leslie to write something for her a few times during the winter, without pay or any other reciprocation, Leslie probably wouldn't say, "It takes a village to be a writer - I should help out by volunteering my labor. Plus, I write anyway during the day, so it's really no bother." And she might even think snide thoughts about the woman who requested the favor without thinking.

The problem in this situation might lie in the telling of the anecdote. But based on the facts that Leslie gives us, it wouldn't matter if the working mom drove a Mercedes or a Neon, she'd still be way in the wrong to ask her neighbor to take on a new job, without pay or return.

I think the Mercedes SUV is a red herring. I'd wager that's just Robyn's way of expressing frustration about someone who asked her to do something quite unreasonable. And Leslie probably didn't help matters, since she didn't see anything unreasonable about the request.

Posted by: Jane | March 15, 2006 12:33 PM

The working mom is delusional. She needs to have a backup plan for sick days, snow days, etc. Whether that is paid care, Aunt Susie or simply just taking leave from work, it is really something that should already be worked out. It is absolutely not something to be asked of a new neighbor.

Oh, and by the way, stay at home mom has her hands full with her own kids on a snow day and the mess they'll make!

Posted by: bkshane | March 15, 2006 12:38 PM

Wow, what a tempest! First, there appears to be a LOT of stereotyping going on by both sides. It's like asking, "What do men look for in a woman?" Ask a dozen men, get a dozen different answers. Having been socially inept on various occasions, I can imagine how this 'working mom' is now cringing and mentally kicking herself for her poor handling of this. I am in a 'big house' hood. You NEVER KNOW the financial situation of other people. We afford our large home by the dint of sacrifice, luck and aggressive saving. What 'war'? We are all carrying burdens, some are just more obvious than others.

Posted by: Been there | March 15, 2006 1:06 PM

I think your friend was being a b****. The woman was clearly asking her for a rare favor. It's not as if the DC area really has that many snow days. And for your friend to refuse on the grounds that the other woman has nicer possessions than she does smacks of self-rightousness. She seems to have the attitude that because she is thrifty and doesn't buy extravagant things that she is better than those who do succomb to a more materialistic lifestyle. Regardless of her personal beliefs regarding consumerism, she needs to recognize the fact that we all live in this world together and we all owe it to each other to help out. Has she ever heard the fable of the lion and the mouse? It disgusts me that people have such "live and let die" attitudes these days. If she truly didn't have the time or was uncomfortable helping the woman out without some sort of reciprocity or payment, she should have clearly expressed that fact. Instead she chose to take the low-road. These sorts of stories cause me to lose faith in the human race.

Posted by: Anonymous | March 15, 2006 1:20 PM

18 years ago my wife was pregnant with twins. She went back to work on the night shift. I came home, she left. I asked her if she would like to stay home with the children. No second thoughts there. We raised our children and afforded what we NEEDED. Never once did we ask for help to watch the children. On a few occasions we were asked to watch other children on weekends and some weekdays. The other parents always reciprocated by taking our girls out for a day at Chucky Cheese or a day of play at their house. Had Robyn said yes to the request from her neighbor, she might have gotten the same response we always recieved when we watched others children. I think she was a little too quick with her decision. No response...it would only be a one time babysit.

Posted by: gary | March 15, 2006 1:28 PM

Not married or with child, but I am a guy who is getting a teaching certification in secondary science and has made the choice to work with children for a lot less money. But I do want to weigh in a point.

I think this gets to a deeper issue in our society, which I think is the author's intent. The choice between what is wanted in terms of material luxuries like a much larger house and two luxury cars or making the choice to live with adaquate materials needed and being able to fully support and be fully responsible for a child or children.

Yes, there is the argument that no one should tell anyone how anyone else should live, that is the American way and it is what it is.

However, the choices we make do reflect on how you view what is most important and how you are viewed by others. I feel (opinion here) that there is the Stay at Home/Working Mom and Husband who have decided that their child is more important than material wealth at this time. And, the "wealthy" Working Mom and Husband who have decided to divert some of their attention from their child and family towards maintaining a higher level of material wealth. I do not want to discount all of those out there who have children and have to both work to pay bills, eat and live modestly or the single parent household in which I was raised. I was raised by my father who was a high school teacher.

All I'm saying is that it is really worth asking ourselves what is more important. Personally I think the child, but that is my personal value on life. I do believe there is truth in the old adage "you sleep in the bed you make", old sayings are cultural reminders that have been passed down from gemeration to generation.

Thank you for giving us this lesson to ponder.

Posted by: Different Perspective | March 15, 2006 1:57 PM

Hmmm ... I'm a SAHM and I'd be happy to help another mom out by watching her kids on a snow day. Especially since often kids are more easy to entertain when their friends are over. I'd probably expect a nice Thank You in return - maybe some flowers or a bottle of wine - but I'd be mortified if someone offered to pay me. If the requests became frequent, or it seemed like I was being taken advantage of, I'd say no more. But, I can' believe the SAHM was affronted by even being asked.

I *like* to find opportunities to hep others. Unfortunately, the prevailing attitude of many is that we must each go it alone, not that we are all in this together.

Posted by: Virginia ... | March 15, 2006 2:10 PM

This whole conversation is bizarre to me. I had no idea we had taken the privitization of childrearing this far. Mom and dad are now 100 percent responsible for their child's well being? Is it that much of an imposition to help each other out? Do adults and children not benefit from the connections these sorts of favors can foster?

It's enough to make me want to pack up and move back to the small Southern town I grew up in. Even now, all the kids run around and visit all the other kids' houses, which I guess probably wouldn't be allowed these days, since we were so lightly supervised. We called it "playing" and it sure seemed to make our parents' lives easier, allowing the SAHPs to easily run errands, the WOHPs to work late when needed, and so on.

As for the implication that WOHMs are somehow exploiting SAHMs all the time ... keep in mind that it's taxes on working people's wages that keep the streets paved, the police at the ready, and the schools running. We're all dependent on each other to various degrees. It's definitely not that simple.

Posted by: Mary Ellen | March 15, 2006 2:23 PM

If working mom offered to pay or provide some other sort of favor, I think SAHM's response revealed a pretty nasty 'tude, which barely covered her jealousy over the working mom's lifestyle.

I for one am sick of the "I made sacrifices to stay home" arguments from SAHM. Not all of us who work do so for the designer shoes and the McMansions. For me, I work because it is who I am. I need to work in order to feel fulfilled and keep my sanity.

Posted by: Kelly | March 15, 2006 2:42 PM

"However, the choices we make do reflect on how you view what is most important and how you are viewed by others. I feel (opinion here) that there is the Stay at Home/Working Mom and Husband who have decided that their child is more important than material wealth at this time. And, the "wealthy" Working Mom and Husband who have decided to divert some of their attention from their child and family towards maintaining a higher level of material wealth."

Again making the assumption that it is possessions versus children. Many of us have kids and work and would never consider quitting, whether we can afford it or not. Our kids are happy and healthy, too. It's not an either-or proposition.

[Virginia, I want to be your friend! You too, Mary-Ellen. Too too sane and kind, both of you.]

Posted by: Shannon | March 15, 2006 2:44 PM

Oh, BOY! What ado about nothing! For gosh sake, it was a SNOW DAY! If I remember my D.C. correctly (I've lived in Houston for 16 years) when it snows, emergency conditions immediately exist - why all of this talk about quid pro quo? Perhaps the parents don't get along - and yes SAHM might have her hands full; I would have said yes just for one time, because of the crisis. (And, yes, even as a male, I've watched houses full of kids from my old neighborhood when my wife was at work - My wife watched 5 to 7 kids in the neighborhood for a while, and when she was ill, or working, I was called in to substitute)

Maybe the culture is different here, then in D.C. Our block had probably a dozen kids of close age, and there was always one mom that was staying home, and typically watched the older kids after school, or the younger ones all day. Yes, she was paid for it, but in an emergency, I never heard of anyone saying no.

Ridiculous, you all are just over thinking it - watch the kid for crying out loud - what's the big deal? Do it out of the goodness of your heart.

Posted by: John In Houston | March 15, 2006 2:48 PM

Borrowing a cup of sugar is a favor. Asking someone to take over your parenting responsibilities is not.

Posted by: Howard | March 15, 2006 3:06 PM

Most of the commenters seem right on target: a mutually beneficial arrangement that would have been good for both FAMILIES and the COMMUNITY (notice that everyone seems to be talking about the moms and to have forgotten that there are dads, kids, an employer and school systems involved here) could have been worked out if "office mom" had better social skills and "stay-at-home" mom wasn't so judgemental.

However, there's an additional aspect to this unrelated to "mommy wars": Nobody in the DC area knows how to deal with snow! They don't know how to plow the streets and they cancel school at the first sight of a flurry!

Here in New England, we don't wait until the morning of the snow day to figure out child care--we always know there's a blizzard out there somewhere. . .

Regional wars: more fun than Mommy Wars any day of the week.

Nan

Posted by: Anonymous | March 15, 2006 3:08 PM

As stated by Mary,

"As for the implication that WOHMs are somehow exploiting SAHMs all the time ... keep in mind that it's taxes on working people's wages that keep the streets paved, the police at the ready, and the schools running. We're all dependent on each other to various degrees. It's definitely not that simple."

You are right in that there is more to this story than is given. In order for us to make a fair judgement, we need to know more. Has Robyn looked after the children of others in the neighborhood? How much has the "wealthy" family contributed to the neighborhood? Did the "wealthy" mom just forget to be reasonably grateful and be willing to help out in return? What relationships have been developed in the neighborhood, who takes part, who doesn't take part?

I believe that we all need take part in raising families and maintaining a close-knit community. I was fortunate to have grown up in a small town where nearly all of my father's family lived on the same block, even my Greatgrandmother and the parent's of all my friends lived nearby and watched out for all of us. It was a challenge to do neferious things and get away with it, but that made it all more fun as a kid. Safer too. For most of my pre high school life, wealth never seemed to be an issue in the community relationship, but no one had luxury cars and huge houses either. Although the eighties did bring about a breakdown in the community with an infux of folks who were much more materialistic and not community oriented. That is why I decided not to stay.

I do like the fact that many families here in Boulder have recently chosen to ressurect the idea of cooperative community neighborhoods. Most are parents who are in their 30's (like myself) who had similiar childhood experiences to mine and are not happy with the materialistic nature our society has adopted in the last few decades. I hope the same is happening elsewhere.

Posted by: Different Perspective | March 15, 2006 3:15 PM

I sort of wonder what message SAHM is sending to her kids by refusing to help out someone in need. Sure she may have sacrificed a more luxurious lifestyle for their sakes, but it doesn't appear that she's instilling in them a sense of neighborliness or charity. Furthermore, her actions may have precluded a potential friendship between her children and the children of the working-mom. But she probably doesn't want her kids playing with any Mercedes-driving, cathedral-ceiling-owning children anyways. Everyone knows they're nothing but trouble.

Posted by: Oh, won't somebody please think of the children! | March 15, 2006 3:19 PM

Why do people assume that mothers and fathers who work do it for themselves and material possessions? We do it for our children too. To provide them with better opportunities (yes, a big nice house in a nice neighborhood with better schools), a college fund, after school enrichment activities, vacations, tutoring, all these things THAT COST MONEY. In an expensive metropolitan region like Washington, where even the classes provided the county and the YMCA are not that cheap and many children activities, including pre-school, require payment, the second income, be it mother's or father's is vital.

Posted by: reality check in washington dc | March 15, 2006 3:20 PM


Does Robyn have her mother close by? If so, it must be nice to have her around to help out (or grandpa!!). No one would bat an eye if the working mom had asked her mother to help her out in this situation. However, this being Washington, its very rare to have family close by. So you don't have that social safety net to help out in a pinch. This is why Robyn should have helped out--sooner or later, we're all going to be in a situation where you need an extra hand, SAHM, WIHM, WOHM, what have you. How sad that Robyn doesn't have a more helpful attitude, because that working mom would probably have gladly returned the favor when its Robyn's turn.

Posted by: Joanne | March 15, 2006 3:24 PM

Posted by Shannon,

"Again making the assumption that it is possessions versus children. Many of us have kids and work and would never consider quitting, whether we can afford it or not. Our kids are happy and healthy, too. It's not an either-or proposition."

I'm sorry if you thought I posted an either/or situation. If what you do works for you, great. I was a latchkey kid and I don't blame my father for what he had to do. I am looking at the values we decide upon and how they may be refelected by others.

I have to admit I am an idealist and that is why I would rather contribute by teaching other peoples' children than raise children of my own at this point in my life. I don't feel that I have the resources to allow for a parent to stay at home and that is the only way I'd want to raise a child. Or have a tight community, which I am starting to notice is coming back in certain parts of our society.

I do, for the sake of the "wealthy" parents child, think Robyn should have looked after the child, but I do respect her decision not to as well. Who knows, maybe the "wealthy" parents needed a lesson in responsibility and it was Robyn who happened to be there to fascilitate that lesson. Maybe not, we don't have a very complete picture in this article.

Posted by: Different Perspective | March 15, 2006 3:40 PM

Thank you, Different Perspective! I think you hit the nail on the head that this is about community, or the lack thereof. Does anyone remember the neighborhood babysitting co-ops of a generation ago? It was a godsend to my mother as a working parent, and would have worked perfectly in a situation like this. It also creates a situation where people really know their neighbors, which can be an incredible boon, not only for the parents but for the kids.

Studies show that one of the keys to happiness is the number of community connections we have. I wish that rather than sniping at each other we could work to create a stronger community-- in one way or another. All parents could use the support that would bring.

Posted by: Ms L | March 15, 2006 4:08 PM

This is not hard.

The stay-at-home mom should have said no (as she did) -- just because she wants to stay home with her child doesn't mean she wants to stay home with everybody's children -- or should have said yes, and offered to watch the child at whatever hourly rate she felt appropriate.


Posted by: Mmurray | March 15, 2006 4:09 PM

It seems like a lot of people are making the assumption that all SAHMs are "sacrificing" something for the goodness of the children, and working mothers are just working because they are too materialistic and greedy to be willing to "think about the children" and stay at home. I would like to point out that this is a HUGE assumption.

Maybe it's the profession I'm in (law), and maybe Houston is different than Washington, but what I see from my male colleagues are SAHMs who require their husbands to commute 3-4 hours every day to work so that the moms can have huge McMansions in some far out neighborhood and drive fancy SUVs -- essentially maintain lifetsyles that they would never be able to afford if they lived closer in. When I ask the men why they don't move in, most of them reply that their wives want the big house and lifestyle. Commuting in from a suburb in Houston effectively removes these men from being an active part in their children's lives. How can it be better for children to remove one-half of the parenting equation so that the other half can be with them all day? I really don't think that is fair for dads.

(I also know a lawyer whose wife is a SAHM, and they just hired their second nanny. One nanny watches the kids during the week, and the new one is for the weekends - is she making a "sacrifice for the kids" by staying at home?)

I know this may be an isolated segment of the responding population, but I think the SAHM v. working mother debate is comprised of several different issues, and I think there are too many generalizations going on. From what I see at work, it's the SAHMs who seem to be the ones that "want it all," and it seems to be the dads that are making the sacrifices (although the corollary issue is maybe dads want to make the "sacrifice" - maybe they want an excuse to not be active in the kids' lives and working far away provides that). Who knows. All of these situations are so layered -- I'm just tired of the over-generalizations.

Posted by: BfromHou | March 15, 2006 4:26 PM

I agree with BfromHou--there are a lot of economic issues tied up here and it is more complex than just who works and who stays home. What if the mother in the big house with the two Mercedes SUVs was the SAHM and the one with the old cars and smaller house had to work? Or what if they had exactly the same houses and total incomes, but one family had one working parent and one family had two? Would people still feel like working mom was totally imposing, and that the SAHM had no reason to help out?

By the way, for whoever posted it--asking someone to watch your kids on a snow day is not "asking them to take over your parenting responsibilities." Did you never play over at someone's house? Sheesh.

Posted by: Arlington | March 15, 2006 5:00 PM

The DC area sounds pretty hostile. I'm SAHM and I don't mind one bit helping a working mom. Even if I assumed she works for "materialistic" reasons. I do believe it takes a village to raise a child. Robyn hostility towards working mom has more implication than the obvious. As a people, we're creating the world we're raising our kids in. If you're hostile to other people for what ever reason, they will likely relate to you in kind. You therefore create a hostile world for your children to grow in.

I'm planning to move to the DC area, everything I've read so far about the area is intimidating. I have to come for a week before I move to look for a house, my neighbor is going to keep my two kids for a week so I can do this. I have more "means" than she does, but we don't focus on that. We focus on creating a community where our kids feel safe and supported and where the parents what ever their choices brings different things to the fold.

After I move to the DC area my new neighbors will definitely be able to rely on me for what ever reasons. I wouldn't expect anything more than a gift certificate to the spa or wine or flowers. I wouldn't want money because if money was a factor I would work. Just showing appreciation would be enough. Knowing you have people you can rely on in time of needs really makes life pleasant. I suspect that Robyn would feel even more insulted if working mom offered her payment. It appears that she just don't like working mom choices so she's punishing her. I don't know if a place like DC and me are a good fit.

Posted by: hm | March 15, 2006 5:22 PM

Even though I work, I can understand the SAHM's response. Every morning I visit with the SAHMs in the neighborhood as I wait to put my child on the bus. I have a personal relationship with the majority of the them and many times our children have played together and spent the night together. But I am still very careful about taking advantage of that friendship. I know that when I am in a bind that they will be there to help out. But I don't assume that just because they are home, they can pick up the pieces every time my day falls apart because of snow or my child is sick, etc. I choose my lifestyle and they choose theirs. And my choices should not impact them.

Those women are my lifeline. They are my emergency contacts for school and camp. They are more than willing to help when my husband or I are on travel for business and our morning routine gets disrupted. But its because they know that its not going to be habitual. I only call on them for real emergencies.

Posted by: Working_Mom | March 15, 2006 5:44 PM

When I first read Leslie's blog about Robyn and her new neighbor, my first reaction toward the new neighbor was, well did she offer anything in terms of compensation? Not necessarily money but time (e.g., look after her kids so Robyn and her husband can go out) or other services. THAT would have been a village approach. Just asking for a favor without offering anything in return is a self-centered approach.

Of course, we have no idea if the new neighbor did offer some sort of exchange or not. Maybe Robyn is feeling resentment about the big house and two MBs so any offer was ignored or did not register.

In any case, it is Robyn's right to say no if she did not want to look after the neighbor's children. But she should probably not have been so judgmental about the working mom's situation. Maybe it's HER salary that gives the family the wherewithal to buy the big house and MBs and HIS salary is the smaller one. Like, she's the corporate lawyer and he's the high school gym teacher.

Posted by: Jeanne | March 15, 2006 5:59 PM

I’ve been on both sides of this street. Stayed at home when older daughter was young, then went back to work full time, then dropped to part time in a job where I could cover my own child care when I had younger daughter. Later I worked four hours a day while she was in elementary school.

There is something in all this that strikes me as odd. I would never dream of asking someone whom I barely knew to watch my child. I make no assumptions regarding the character or competence of anyone. Leave my child with a person I had not thoroughly checked out beforehand? Never happen. It would have been much better for the WOHM to have made prior arrangements with a licensed child care provider or center and also to have made clear to her colleagues and those to whom she reports that there MIGHT be a RARE occasion when she would have to be absent in order to deal with an emergency relating to her children. Used sparingly and only for emergencies, it is hard to believe this would have a negative impact on her career.

In small towns and tightly knit communities where families have the opportunity to get to know their neighbors over time, often by working as well as living in proximity, and through worshipping together or getting involved in community projects, they have a chance to get a sense of what each person is about.

SAHM was well within her rights to refuse, IMHO. One never knows all of someone else’s circumstances. Those who are beating up on her for not being supportive of her neighbor have not really considered that there may have been other reasons for her refusal other than her observation that the neighbor’s lifestyle seemed to tilt more toward materialism than caring for her children. It may well be that SAHM has health issues or that her children may present particular challenges which would leave her unable to devote time and energy to other children. Then there is the issue of liability. If she accepted payment and something were to happen to the neighbor’s child while he/she were in her care, the result could be truly ugly. One might be willing to undertake this risk on behalf of a close friend or family member, but to do so for someone one does not know well is probably foolish. SAHM may well have made this calculation, and given that there is obviously a huge difference in income, decided it was not worth the risk or the grief, because retaining the services of a lawyer to defend against a possible suit could be prohibitively expensive.

Two things are clear. A close reading of Leslie’s post reveals that WOHM was not asking for an immediate favor. She asked about child care on future snow days. Second, Robyn admits to having some negative thoughts but did not voice them. She simply said no. To address the first fact, snow days are erratic occurrences. No one can make future, open-ended commitments regarding unexpected occurrences. So on a future snow day, Robyn may well have to make arrangements for her own children if she had a commitment she could not reschedule or may simply have decided to do something special with her own children if given the gift of an unexpected day with them. Simply because schools close for snow does not mean that the various museums, monuments and other cultural attractions in the DC area are also closed. My point is that “future snow days” represents an open-ended commitment. I would be very uncomfortable about making such a commitment, regardless of what other issues may be involved, because I could not possibly know that future circumstances would actually permit me to keep it.

The other thing is that Robyn has correctly observed that the neighbor has not made a priority of making proper arrangements for her children. We are not talking about a true, unforeseeable emergency. BTW, children know when they are being palmed off in a way that is most convenient for their parents rather than taking their best interests into account. They may hate SAHM’s kids and would rather go to a day care center than stay with them and their mother. Whether SAHM has previously tended other children in the neighborhood is irrelevant. WOHM saw a convenient solution to her dilemma and did not appear to consider anyone’s needs than her own. Her lifestyle certainly would seem to indicate that she could afford a professional solution to her problem. Not to seek that professional solution is to not realize that it always takes foresight, planning, and, YES, sacrifice to meet one’s children’s needs. This is something that cannot be done haphazardly or on an impromptu basis.

As for Leslie and Robyn, the fact that they are relatively close FRIENDS makes the trading of favors a completely different situation from that described in the post. Since they are friends and not new neighbors who hardly know each other, Robyn would not likely feel that Leslie was taking advantage of her.

Posted by: Seen Both Sides | March 15, 2006 9:24 PM

HM, when you move to the DC area, I hope you move to my neighborhood! You sound too good to be true! :-)

Posted by: APL | March 15, 2006 10:30 PM

I hope everyone sees that Robyn did reply and that the women had not offered anything in return.

Posted by: Anonymous | March 16, 2006 2:30 AM

Different Perspective, I'm curious-- what are the cooperative community neighborhoods that are happening in Boulder?

Thanks!

Posted by: Ms L | March 16, 2006 8:25 AM

Personally, as a professor who often works at home, I love having my daughters' friends come over to my house -- it's my childcare! While my daughter plays with a friend at home, I grade papers!

I do think that our generation of parents is much more involved in playing with our own children than our parents ever were and I'm not entirely sure that it is a good thing.

Certainly, on a snow day in the 60s and 70s, my mother would dress me and my siblings in our snowsuits and send us out to play with each other and with neighboring children.

I also think that there are few if any child care centers that are open for true emergencies, like blizzards.

I also think that if people feel they are being imposed up, the easy answer is "no."

I also think that it is important not to judge other people. I have known many mothers who work in order to help their elderly parents, to get health insurance, and to pay for special care for children with disabilities.

Posted by: ES | March 16, 2006 9:52 AM

I have to say this is my first blogging experience and it is very interesting and really gives lots of views, especially considering the different "readings" of the original encounter. Just to clarify a bit, it is not a case of jealousy as our houses are fairly similar, but the neighbor came up to me and another SAHM on the street to ask, yes, the open-ended question implying future snow days. SHe also specifically complained about the inflexibility of her job (a pharmacist) but that the pay was best at this particular large chain store since the mortgage was higher than they expected it would be due to all the upgrades that they ended up putting in their new home. I had never spoken to her before. As I mentioned in an earlier comment, I have worked part-time throughout many of my years at home and have no family in this area, or anywhere else for that matter, to help me out in an emergency situation. I too rely on friends and as a matter of fact I have my own personal policy to help any of my friends when asked as I have the "you never know when you'll need the favor returned" attitude. I am also one of those people who volunteers regularly and will always lend a hand, but this situation obviously hit a sore spot for me. Being from NY, the snow in VA may close schools, but it doesn't necessarily keep me and my 3 kids home. Plus, if you've every been home on a snow day with 3 small kids, you know it's a day of in & out, constant dressing, undressing and drying wet clothes, no picnic.
In my original neighborhood here in NoVa we had a fabulous babysitting co-op which worked on coupons so that no one was ever taken advantage of. In fact, at our monthly meetings, women who had too many coupons in their possession were tenderly ridiculed to "get a life". We had a list of homes with kids ages, dr. phone #'s, allergies, pets, emerg. contacts, etc, so that you not only had a list of people to try in an emergency, but could match up with families who had kids of similar ages. People who work outside the home and are in need of such support need to take the time to make sure these things are in place before they make committments that could effect their children. That is a parental responsibility which puts your child first.

Posted by: Robyn | March 16, 2006 9:59 AM

ES, I think you hit the nail on the head with your comment about how much more involved parents are these days with their children. A recent NYT study, using U.S. Census data, showed that the average *working* mother spent more time with her kids than SAHMs did in 1975. In otherwords, ladies, we are doing this to ourselves and each other.

And I know the usual reason given for all this micromanagement of kid's lives is that it's so much more dangerous now. Well, actually, it's not. Violent crime is down on all fronts, especially compared with that oh-so-blissful period in American history, the 1950s. Maybe if we cut our kids a little slack, we might find a little for ourselves.

(FTR, I'm not a mom yet, but I'm planning to be in the next few years. I plan to keep working, for financial reasons and for my sanity. I do worry about the culture of this town for raising a family, though, and wonder if I really shouldn't just move away. There seems to be little trust here among neighbors and even supposed friends.)

Posted by: Mary Ellen | March 16, 2006 10:02 AM

HM--

This area is what you make of it. Where I live we have keys to each others houses, pick up each others kids from school (I don't have kids, but have picked other peoples up, and watched them in a pinch, sometimes they help me in return, letting the mutt out, lending me a tool, and more importantly the expertise with the tool etc.) I think in many neighborhoods people are afraid of getting to know one another, fear of rejection, etc. Looking at another perspective, we also help the elderly in our neighborhood and don't ask for money from them. Someday I will be old, or I'll get hurt, or be too pregnant or too sick to do something, and someone will help me.

You may have to take a leadership role to get people to know each other, maybe create a neighborhood email list, etc, but in the end the whole community will be wealthier with those helpful things in place. Its hard when you live in such a transient place.

Life is what you make of it. At the end of the day you're never going to feel guilty that you helped someone else instead of yourself, the reverse is rarely true.

-l.

Posted by: ljb | March 16, 2006 10:23 AM

I must admit I didn't read all of every post, but this remark made me laugh:

"It's not as if the DC area really has that many snow days."

Clearly, not someone who's been here through the times when Montgomery County closes schools for a full week because of a blizzard, or because there's been a vague hint of snow in the forecast!

Posted by: h3 | March 16, 2006 10:47 AM

Mary Ellen has a really good point. I don't have children myself but I have some close friends who do and it really bothers me how little freedom they give their kids - and how little freedom they say they will give their kids when they are really of an age to have it. I hope that the mothers of small children in question will relax a little as the kids get older. It seems like that would be a natural thing to happen. But in an upscale neighborhood, to forbid your children to walk up the street alone to visit a neighbor child just seems really extreme. And it really does limit the moms because for god's sake, they have to PLAN it every time their child plays with another child! When I was small we didn't have play dates. I just hollered, "Mooooom! I'm going over to Kevin and Karen's house!" and I went. That sure was a lot less work for my mother.

This really worries me because of how much I was limited later in life and how much it affected me in a negative way. I was younger than my class and missed taking driver's ed the first time around so I did n't get a driver's license until spring of my senior year of high school. Before that I was never allowed to go anywhere on my own. Not even up to the gas station a quarter mile from my house. My parents had a good reason for this; I lived in a suburban neighborhood that had only one road to access the rest of the world: a very narrow and hilly road with no sidewalk, dangerous for bikers or pedestrians.

The effect of this was that, especially during the summer, I was stuck in my house and bored out of my mind. And the other, worse effect was that I remained dependent on my parents for EVERYTHING for far longer than I should have. As a direct result of that it took me a lot longer to grow up and be able to handle my own life. I don't think that is what any of us want for our children, but seeing the smotheringly overprotective and paranoid child-rearing trends today, I really worry that it's going to be a lot worse for this next generation.

Posted by: human | March 16, 2006 11:35 AM

WHAT does the office mom's house and cars have to do with anything? Why should she sacrifice having a beautiful home, and a nice care - just because the SAHM decided that these things weren't important to HER?

What if the cars were gifts from their parents? What if the house was left to them by an uncle? What if the office mom was a doctor, and CAN earn that kind of money - and hey, is also saving lives (would the SAHM be so judgemental if the office mom was with Doctors Without Borders?)! What if the HUSBAND is the one that is bringing home all that money, and the office mom works (and works hard) to have a little bit of financial independence, because THAT is important to her?

Also - what if the office mom did have the INTENTION of recipocating - but just didn't get that far, before the SAHM told her no? Sometimes, when I ask a favor from a friend or neighbor to watch my kids - I don't mention that I'll watch their kids on Saturday (hey, my mind can be on other things) --- but I'll definitely say something when I pick my kids up - or will bring a present/treat for their kids as a thank you.

Mostly --- the SAHM, instead of coming off as sympathetic and really believes in "it takes a village" - just comes off as judgemental. She doesn't know what the office mom's situation is, but she shrugs it off that the mom made bad decisions and have wrong priorities - JUST because they have a big house with nice cars (hey, I have a Lexus - but I bought it used, and it probably cost less then SAHM's fuel efficient cars)...!

And NO, I can't take time off on snow-days, because *I* am a lawyer. And YES I work hard - and I work hard, because *I* plan on having MY kids go to college without shouldering a huge load of debt upon graduation. I happen to be lucky in that my MIL lives with us, and helps out all the time. And the huge house that we live in --- used to belong to my MIL. So wow, look at that, I have a luxury vehical, and a huge 5 bedroom house - and it's not because I'm living beyond my means.

Thank you for being so judgemental SAHM. Thanks for making it harder for women who are trying to keep their families together and happy and safe - in a working world that isn't always mom-friendly.

Posted by: working mom | March 16, 2006 11:48 AM

Robyn expressed that she had never spoken to her new neighbor prior to their exchange regarding snow days. If Robyn had made the neighborly gesture of welcoming the new mom to the neighborhood when she had moved in, she would have had the opportunity of meeting her under more positive circumstances. I really mourn the loss of an open-society in which people LOOKED for reasons to help others, rather than making up excuses as to why they shouldn't.

Posted by: Anonymous | March 16, 2006 12:07 PM

h3, I realized the error in my thinking directly after submitting that post. I lived in DC for 2 years, and I forgot the govt's obnoxious habit of completely shutting down at the first suggestion of snow. That being said, committing to helping out on the occassional snow day isn't the same as a once-a-week commitment. This was what I was trying to emphasize.

Posted by: Anonymous | March 16, 2006 12:13 PM

Boy what a lot of judgements! Sounds like the SAHM has not peacefully accepted her sacrifices. Nor has the working mom worked out the best in childcare arrangements. I can tell you that working mom or not, I drive an older car, shop at Target and IKEA, and never buy full price if I can get it for sale. I pay dearly for childcare. As a result of our income bracket, we actually after taxes have not that much more than the one-income families in our neighborhood. Several of the SAHM moms in my neighborhood complain about money but never shop on sale. So SES should not drive willingness to help. Being a physician, I am frequently called on in my neighborhood for free medical advice. I help where I can, refer when needed, etc. I have yet to ask one of the SAHM's for a return favor in kind.

Posted by: sunniday | March 16, 2006 2:24 PM

SAHM needs to accept her choices and stop judging other's decisions. She is jealous of the "material goods" that the working mother has and she feels that she can only become "equal" if her children turn out better. However, there is no evidence to support that children are better off in either situation. If there was, then there would be no debate. So, it is left to each person's beliefs and judgements on whether to stay at home or work.

How do you think SAHM will feel when working mother's children get better grades?

Posted by: Hack | March 16, 2006 3:23 PM

She is right. I only kids I will watch is family members and life long friends. And I have a short list of people that I will let watch my kids.

If her neighbor with the two benz's and the big house was a sister, cousin or life long friend her she would probably of said yes!!

Posted by: Leezo | March 16, 2006 3:27 PM

I think Robyn's second posting really cleared things up. I'm a mom who works full-time outside the home, but ended up picking a job with flexibility. I come in early and leave early. Of course my husband and I take turns taking days off when our son is sick or snow day. But if I met a mom who approached me with can you help, my job is inflexisble but the pay is higher, I'd be peeved too. This woman, obviously had no tact. By the way, I also get annoyed at women (thanksful I work in a great environment), who think that working mothers are just slackers, who leave early. "I have a life too," is what one poster wrote. Umm, I'm not leaving to go party, I'm leaving to go pick my son up from daycare before the 6pm deadline, and go home, put dinner on the table, and spend maybe an hour or so with him before bedtime.

Posted by: N. | March 16, 2006 3:43 PM

N. why are you assuming that the single girl has nothing more important to do than go to a party? A little patronizing don't you think?

Posted by: Anonymous | March 16, 2006 3:52 PM

I am a man. It's interesting to me that you are all criticizing, judging, and blaming each other for the situation. The society that we live in has created a tough problem for women to deal with...so why are you making it harder on yourselves by wasting time justifying your own decisions (children thrive and fail in both environments).

SAHMs and working moms are both important. If you would just support and understand each other, you might realize that you have a lot in common.

Posted by: LC | March 16, 2006 3:53 PM

Does sound like the problem was with the approach and the fact that she didn't know the neighbor. I'm trying to figure out how to cut back my schedule so I can meet the bus next year. I really want to have a safety net in case I get stuck (on the metro, in a meeting, whatever) but am very nervous about asking the SAHMs in my neighborhood. We all get along, but it's such a sensitive subject. To me it would be - let's reciprocate and help each other. I'd like to be able to call you in an emergency - but would be happy to return the favor as needed... I'm cultivating relationships - Perhaps if working mom had been more - shall I say - strategic - in her question (rather than desparate...) the SAHM might have responded better. E.g. let's have coffee and talk about how we can help each other out from time to time.

Posted by: Maria | March 16, 2006 4:04 PM

Maybe she could have asked her husband to alternate staying at home...Oops, but then again, you women are all blaming each other for the situation and justifying your own decisions so there is no time to come up with a "real" solution.

Posted by: Hack | March 16, 2006 4:13 PM

To N., who wrote "Umm, I'm not leaving to go party, I'm leaving to go pick my son up from daycare before the 6pm deadline, and go home, put dinner on the table, and spend maybe an hour or so with him before bedtime."

I am one of those single, childless women who complains about uneven distribution of office work.

My complaint is *not* that you and other working moms are slackers. I *know* you are not!

My complaint is that you saying "I have to leave to get to day care by 6 p.m." is considered a legitimate reason to go and leave others with unfinished work, while me saying "I have to leave to get to spinning class by 6 p.m." or to walk my dogs while it's still light out or to go to Spanish class is something that everyone assumes should easily be sacrificed for the good of the order.

I acknowledge the burdens borne by the working moms in my office, but the fact that they have reproduced doesn't make them inherently more worthy than I am. Your time is no more valuable than mine just because you're using it to deal with a child, and I should not *consistently* be asked to sacrifice my free time so your life will be easier.

Posted by: Tallulah | March 16, 2006 4:25 PM

I do have another idea for emergency childcare for snow days -- hire a teenager. Teens are available when schools close for snow & they are often interested in the money.

As for meeting the bus, I had an arrangement with a SAHM where if one of us was not at home, the kids would go to the other's house & wait there until we got home. It worked out well & was reciprocal --- since a stay at home mom can be late coming back from an errand or a doctor's appointment.

You also may want to think about hiring teen-agers!

Posted by: ES | March 16, 2006 4:28 PM

There's too much analysis here. All relationships need to develop before one person asks the other for a favor. Walking up to someone for the first time and asking them for an open-ended obligation to watch your kids is pushing things too quickly.

Posted by: Too much | March 16, 2006 5:24 PM

HELLO, EVERYONE! Robyn has replied twice--why don't some of you browse the comments and look!

Posted by: Anonymous | March 16, 2006 5:29 PM

Tallulah --- BRAVO!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Very well said! I know that childcare is very important...but guess what? So is me going to grad school! It may not be important to YOU --- but your child isn't that important to me either!

So working moms - yes, you have it tough - but remember when you were childless, and remember the resentment you felt when work got dumped on you, because a mother had to run off to a PTA meeting - or pick up a kid from childcare (you might need to pick up Jr. from daycare by 6...but I have to get to class by 6 - AND I'm shelling out 20K a year to do it!) - and try to be more considerate.

Posted by: childless and happy about it! | March 16, 2006 5:51 PM

I agree with you, too much. This is about rudeness. Here are some other introductions that I would put on an equal level of rudeness:

"Hi! Nice to meet you. Oh, you're a lawyer? I'm so glad, I've been looking for someone who will do free work for me when I get into one of my occasional spats with the law."

"Hi! Nice to meet you. Great, you're a doctor! I've been looking for someone to manage my chronic disease for free since I don't have health insurance. Yeah, I was offered a similar job without health insurance but this one pays better."

(Before I hear the rantings about how some people don't have health insurance, I know. It's an analogy-- this woman is choosing to give up a benefit (flexibility) for greater pay. I equated that to another benefit, health insurance)

Posted by: Ms L | March 17, 2006 7:14 AM

I've been fulltime at home with children and fulltime at work, and part time.

For those of you who think the working mom would return the favor, my experience was...didn't happen. I found myself time after time doing the "favor" and when there was clearly a chance to reciprocate--Nothing! It became quite clear to me that they considered me a person with nothing better to do and therefore, no kind of response was needed. Not all working moms are this way--I carpooled with a working mom to ballet class and often filled in as needed for her there--and at the end of the season she gave me a Starbucks card. She didn't have to, but she did--She is, by the way, a HR manager, so she recognizes the value of relationships and not just "get it done at any cost."

I've met the "favor" women in the workplace as well. It's not a pretty sight. And once or twice, I've run across them in the SAHM world.

Here's the tip-off to them: They never do any "favors" unasked for, or in a "Hey, I see that you are in a bind/have this going at home/snowed under" this week, and I'll do xx or take care of yy for you. If you do the favor, there isn't any recognition of it being a favor--a gift or thing of grace to help someone else out. It's expected or demanded. (I include in this category of women the SAHM mother who complained that the casserole I made for her when she had a baby was "too bland.")

At 45, I have learned to cut such people out of my life as much as possible. There are far too many other people who need or deserve my help, and can't reciprocate. Those are the people getting my time and energy.

Working just makes it easier for this kind of person to justify their selfishness. It's not the job, it's the person.

Posted by: Been All of That | March 17, 2006 9:27 AM

The two Mercedes SUVs and the oversized house with cathedral ceilings are anything but red herrings. They are indicators of the "values" that the working mom practices.

Let's cut to the chase. The Mercedes couple enriches themselves on the backs of our soldiers in Iraq. Our soldiers are dying in Iraq to procure far more than our fair share of oil, all to fuel her oversized consumption of gasoline and electricity. Now she seeks to further enrich herself on the back of a neighbor who practices simple living, so she can hoard her vacation and sick days for something "worthwhile".

Typical Republican Party "family values". No wonder the Washington Post writer sympathized with Ms. Mercedes and questioned Robyn's decision. Birds of a feather stick together.

Posted by: Joe Jones | March 17, 2006 9:51 AM

Hey, Joe, take a peek at Robyn's second post: she herself says that they live in similar houses, so I guess the difference is just in the neighbor's upgrades and cars. Some difference, yes, but it's not as though Robyn has chosen to live in a pint-sized house with solar panels on the roof, while her neighbor revels in 6,000 square feet of luxury.

But thanks for disproving Hack's theory that it's just us women who are so busy judging and criticizing each other.

Posted by: Laura | March 17, 2006 10:30 AM

This comment is directed at the two girls who don't have children on this board.

For one thing a lot of working moms come to work earlier than there non-mom counter parts, don't take lunch breaks, and usually take work home with them. They have also spent long hours at the office building their careers long before you were ever on the payroll.

Besides, I could turn the complaints you have about working moms around on both of you. No one told you to go to grad school; you should have done that before you entered the work force. And, no one told you to get a dog either. Neither one of these issues are other people’s problems.

Besides, some day it maybe be one of you who have to rush off to take care of another human being. Probably not a child because from your posts neither one of you should seem to have the pateince for or empathy for children. However, it might be your husband, partner, mother or even a friend. Do you want people to say bad things like, “they shouldn’t have got cancer, mental illness, etc” Or say something really rude like, “just because your mother chose to procreate doesn’t make this my problem.”

Give people a break. Maybe you should blame the company for making people work so many hours.

Posted by: Scarry | March 17, 2006 10:46 AM

*appluads* Nicely said, Scarry.

Posted by: Anonymous | March 17, 2006 10:51 AM

I am a working mom with a stay at home husband, and my perception has been that too often, two-income parents do impose their children on us because they are too busy or over-scheduled to attend to their own children. My son has a friend whose parents both have demanding jobs. Their little boy is constantly with us, and we allow it because our son likes his friend and because we feel for this little boy who is left with babysitters and friends 12 hours a day and some of every weekend. We are not compensated for the time this child spends with us because they are characterized as "play dates" by the parents. We let it slip for the sake of their child, but yes, we do think that they are selfish people who put their own needs ahead of others, and of their own child as well. Sad.

Posted by: Lydia | March 17, 2006 11:01 AM

In reply to Scarry:

"They have also spent long hours at the office building their careers long before you were ever on the payroll."

In fact, I am older by at least 10 years than both the people I am thinking of, and I was at the office building *my* career long before they were ever on the payroll.

"Probably not a child because from your posts neither one of you should seem to have the pateince for or empathy for children."

In fact, I would love to have children, but I am medically unable. It is a problem that has caused me years of grief and that I am still struggling to accept. (Why do you think I got the dogs?!)

Please don't make assumptions about my age or situation. I am not a GIRL, and I do not universally hate all women who have children. I very much wish I were one of them.

Having said that ... in a collegial office environment, I expect there to be give-and-take in every direction. I would never expect my personal needs to take first priority EVERY time, any more than I expect others' to.

My point is that *none* of our choices are inherently more important that other people's choices, and we should all take turns picking up each others' slack when necessary. Unfortunately, I have found that not to be the case.

Posted by: Tallulah | March 17, 2006 11:22 AM

Oh Laura, you typical Republican. You cherry-pick one small quotation to make your case. However, you ignore that the couple stretched far beyond their means to put in all sorts of upgrades they can't afford. They also bought two Mercedes SUVs on the backs of our soldiers. Sounds so much like Republicans, spending far beyond our means while sticking the little people to pay the bill with their blood or their dollars.

Posted by: Joe Jones | March 17, 2006 12:38 PM

Wow....lots of negativity going around!

As the stay at home mom,I'd help with the thought that if there's was a reciprocal situation, working mom might be the first person to go to.

It might also be embarassing for working mom to "offer" $$, as she might feel it would be insulting.

Rather than "broker" a deal up front....see what kind of neighbors the family turns out to be. If it's a chronic situation....where it becomes one-sided, than make a judgement based on their behavior, not based on the perception of $$ one family has where the other doesn't.

Sounds like stay at home mom is resentful and suspicious without merit...yet.

Posted by: Robin | March 17, 2006 2:06 PM

I work full-time outside the home, and would never ask one of my SAHM freinds/neighbors to watch my children. Either my husband or I would take the day off and spend it with our children. Snow days don't happen very often. Missing one day of work isn't that big of a deal.

Posted by: Mary | March 17, 2006 2:19 PM

When my ex and I divorced, I was getting out of the military and I had planned to go to school and arrange my class hours so that the time I had with my daughter would be my time with her. I made very little money doing this and my ex threatened to take me to court saying that I couldn't provide for her - I bowed before the intimidation and went ahead and got a job as a contractor making as much as I did before so that she would not be "taken" from me.
So now, I live in a nice house, have a nice car, but have an hour and half commute from where I live so that my daughter can say in the same school and have stability in her life with having access to both parents with as little disruption in her life as possible.
So am I an uncaring mother? No - Do I hate leaving her every day? Yes. Is it good for her that she is in daycare for 11 hours a day the weeks that I have her? No. But I've weighed the differences ... and to me, being part of her life, even for a few hours a day, is better than not getting to see her at all.
I never know if the "threat" of having her taken from me will rise again, so I keep this job, keep the stinking commute, and have her in a good school district.
Do I wish the situation was different? Yes. I continually look for new jobs closer, even with a paycut, but can not find them.
What do you propose I do? I feel I've chosen the lesser of evils, but I still need help - and not judgement.

Posted by: And another situation ... | March 17, 2006 2:22 PM

Why not assume that all kinds of moms and dads need some back up childcare at some point and instead of offending by asking neighbors you don't know well, why not get to know your neighbors better and form a babysitting coop? In this case it doesn't sound like it would help but in another case it could give one mom a few precious hours to get pressing office work done and the other mom a nice late evening out for a movie or dinner?

Posted by: constructive idea | March 17, 2006 2:49 PM

I'm a little skeptical of the idea that if the working mom had just offered money in exchange for childcare, her neighbor would have been thrilled and there would have been no hard feelings. Not all moms who stay home are looking to earn a little extra spending money by picking up odd jobs here and there, especially if their employer would be their working mom neighbor. Many have plenty of money to buy the things that they want and need, and if they don't they still have too much pride to work for a neighbor. I work outside the home now, and I would never consider asking a stay at home mom who does not appear to already provide daycare services in her home to watch my children for money. Nor would I ask her to clean my house for money or shovel my sidewalks for money.


Posted by: Renee | March 17, 2006 3:06 PM

"I for one am sick of the "I made sacrifices to stay home" arguments from SAHM. Not all of us who work do so for the designer shoes and the McMansions. For me, I work because it is who I am. I need to work in order to feel fulfilled and keep my sanity."

Are you saying that it's morally superior to put your kids in day care and count on others to raise them so you can be feel fulfilled, and aren't doing it for the money?

My wife has stayed at home for years, and we both volunteer at things that our kids are involved in - scouts, sports, school. What irks us about the working moms is that not only do they just dump their kids at activiities (or get someone to bring them), they can't do simple things like fill out paperwork and get it back on time, participate when we need help, and they expect special treatment because they "are so busy".

Yes, you sense resentment. It's resentment born of many years experience. Working moms expect the stay at home moms to do all of the enrichment activities for their kids, since they're not doing anything anyway.

Working moms can argue that you are different, but our experience proves that you are probably not.

Posted by: resentful | March 17, 2006 3:10 PM

Robin was absolutely right! The neighbor woman couldn't even stay home & be a parent on a snow day...? It would be funny if it weren't so believeable.

Posted by: Registered Voter | March 17, 2006 3:38 PM

And Another Situation...: I feel your pain! Not all working mothers *choose* to work, we're forced to - especially those of us who are single. I'm in a situation just like yours, but I have a lawyer. I hope you do too. You might be surprised to find out what your rights are. Don't let your child's father threaten to take her away from you. You are not a bad mother for working.

Posted by: zomama | March 17, 2006 3:56 PM

Oh for crying outloud. First of all, very few people took the time to read Robyn's comments when she wrote in on this board. She explains many of things you all are surmising about (whether money was offered, how does she know that it wasn't just for the day, etc, etc).

Secondly, Robyn--and I hazard to say most of us who sympathize with her point of view--wasn't saying she would never help out ANY working mom. She decided not to help this one out because of what she observed to be traits that made her not feel like she would be helping so much as enabling.

No. Not every mom works to splurge beyond their means on material things. No. Not every mom works because she even has to--maybe they work because they want to. But every mom that works makes a decision about responsibilities and priorities every day. From Robyn's description of this particular instance, I think she reacted in an understandably human way--the first time you meet me, you complain about how much all the luxuries you have CHOSEN to buy cost you, then ask if I wouldn't mind taking your kids for future days.

Those of us who have made decisions not to splurge aren't JEALOUS of those of you that have--we just didn't cut back on our spending in order to help support yours. For people that need help, who can't afford childcare services, for those that have to work to survive, or even for those who don't but contribute to the neighborhood, or even for those who live luxurious lifestyles but understand that they are not victims because they have to work to pay off their overextended mortgage and/or two gas-guzzling but prestige-getting SUVs, I am happy to help out. I choose not to for others. And I make this decision on what I observe from interactions with the person. I can't figure out how this is unreasonable.

Am I being judgemental? You bet. And all those people who condemn Robyn for being judgemental are being...hey, how 'bout that!...judgemental. It is the nature of the human condition.

Finally, the individual who complained that it was Robyn's fault for not going over to meet the woman prior to this encounter...seriously. Why does that responsibility lie on her shoulders? Either one of them could have introduced themselves at some point. They didn't. It's irrelevent.

Posted by: DC Moved to Iowa | March 17, 2006 5:21 PM

I think the crux of the issue here is not that the SAHM was saying no, I won't help you to a working mom in the midst of an emergency. If that is what had happened then yeah, her refusal might seem a bit rude. The crux is that the working mom was asking her for future childcare without any compensation of any sort even a sort of quid pro quo of taking an evening with SAHM's kids to let SAHM and her hubby go out. The material stuff is a red herring and probably SAHM's way of venting frustration at a request that seems to demean her time and value. The neighbor knows she works, the neighbor knows her kids are going to have a snow day or two, there are temp nanny services (I used to be one) that can be used or you can make an arrangement with people in the neighborhood, but it should never been assumed and never be one-sided.

Posted by: FormerNannynowMom | March 17, 2006 5:39 PM

First I'm sorry that you are unable to have children, but with that being said, you were very negative in your first post about working mothers. Just becasue you have a personal problem doesn't give you the right to take it out on other people.

I shouldn't have made the assumption that you were younger becaue I also work with older women at my office who sometimes get upset that I have to leave to get my kid. Like I said before most working moms that I know come in earlier, work through lunch, and take work home with them.

I have a great boss who also has children, something I would look for if I was someone who had or wanted children in the future. I also don't care when I leave the office. I get my work done in the eight hours I am there and I'm not staying past that because other people have issues.

I thought you had dogs because of this qoute.

"My complaint is that you saying "I have to leave to get to day care by 6 p.m." is considered a legitimate reason to go and leave others with unfinished work, while me saying "I have to leave to get to spinning class by 6 p.m." or to walk my dogs while it's still light out or to go to Spanish class is something that everyone assumes should easily be sacrificed for the good of the order."

Posted by: Scarry | March 17, 2006 6:17 PM

Robyn is right.

Parents are ALWAYS primarily responsible for the care of their minor children.

Parents CHOSE to have children.
Parents CHOSE to live in this neighborhood, instead of a more affordable one.
Parents CHOSE to work outside the home.
Parents CHOSE to have a high powered job.

Parents are adults who are responsible fo their CHOICES.

Imagine the image this gives to the child that a job/home/etc. is more important than they child is.

Could a parent get off from work if there were a medical emergency, auto accident, etc.?

Posted by: Cherry Hill, NJ | March 17, 2006 9:24 PM

I'm a SAHM who also works PT from home.
Here's a dirty little secret about us SAHMs: Once the kids are no longer toddlers, we really have to plan and work hard at finding activities to keep them engaged and entertained. That's a job in itself. When my kids are coming up on a long break from school, you can believe I have been planning our agenda (even if it's a loose one) to avoid boredom and bickering (them, not me).

For me, taking on 2 more kids is no small feat. I applaud the folks who can just add another kid or 2 or 3 and chalk it up to a great day with playmates for the kids. What I am familiar with, however, is the repetitive work of feeding kids (preparing breakfast, lunch, snacks, and cleaning up), referreeing fights and arguments, finding things for them to do that actually entertain them all, managing the different personalities, etc., all while keeping them accident-free. Then, there's the pleasure of restoring order to the trashed home.

Another little discussed secret here of the average SAHM -- we actually DO stuff during the day. We do home stuff (clean, cook, shop for food), and we also make plans for the activities we need to complete. Some of us care for our children and our elderly parents. We volunteer at schools and churches. We pay bills, take our cars in for repairs, haul ourselves and our kids to doctor appts, balance checkbooks and so on.

Just as it wouldn't always be convenient for a WM to pick up her children and the neighbor's kids from daycare and bring them all home for dinner and help with homework, sometimes SAHMs already have their hands full with their own responsibilities.

Posted by: Chausti | March 17, 2006 9:43 PM

I work part-time at home and share child care with my spouse.

Robyn -- thanks for responding on a blog where people are judging you harshly, maybe to make themselves feel better about their own choices.

Although luckily most people agree that this mother was out of bounds.

I think that parents who only work outside the home forget how tiring kids can be. If you had 3 kids, you'd be tired and would need a break. It's much more tiring than working, especially outside of the home (which I have done as a parent as well). So the WOHM should have said after getting to know the SAHM very well -- maybe the next time there's a snow day and I can't find any other child care arrangements, you could watch my kids and then we could watch your kids one weekend evening or day?

I also think the Mercedes SUVs are not red herrings, but helpful to Robyn to understand a couple she doesn't know well. It does tell her they aren't without means, and missing a day at work to take care of their kids probably won't kill them -- they probably don't work at in a low-end job and they clearly have disposable income.

I don't think there is a "mommy war". I think there are a lot of stressed parents struggling with the best way to fit everything in.

Posted by: works_at_home | March 17, 2006 9:44 PM

The poster who wrote, "Unfortunately, some of us working moms need to be working, not for the "things" we can buy but because without the second income we wouldn't even be able to afford housing or a car" is missing the point -- anyone who owns two Mercedes SUVs is not in danger of being without housing. WM was presumptuous and thoughtless, and I -- a childless woman -- have had a taste of/am tired of such presumptuousness on the part of some WM (at one job, I stayed late *repeatedly* to meet last-minute deadlines because my project partner had two children and insisted that she could not deviate from her schedule). Given the particulars, I think that SAHM's reaction makes sense. (I do wonder, tho, how different their socioeconomic status could be, apart from the cars and some other luxuries [clothes, meals out], given that they live in the same neighborhood -- housing is the major expense for everyone.)

I think that industry is the real culprit here, pitting those of us who work (and may or may not have children) against those who don't: If corps. would provide flexible schedules, flexible workloads and onsite child care, mothers who want to keep one foor in the biz world could do so, and because their status would be clearly defined as part-time and our status would be clearly defined as "salaried, extra hours expected," those of us who routinely pick up the slack wouldn't resent doing so.

Posted by: Holly | March 17, 2006 10:34 PM

Hey, everyone -- read more carefully: "A new neighbor ... asked if my friend might be willing to watch her children on future snow days so that the mom could go to work." That's DAYS, plural. Working mother was not asking for a one-time favor because she was in a pinch. She was asking for a commitment from SAHM for an ongoing arrangement, and, assuming that SAHM omitted no details, working mother did not offer anything in return. Everyone who is criticizing SAHM for not helping out in a pinch is missing the point. It wasn't a pinch! And, subtract the gender, subtract the children, subtract the $$ element, and you'll see what's at issue: X, a selfish person, is making assumptions about Y's availablity and imposing on Y because doing so is convenient for X. X proposed a one-sided arrangement, and *nothing* about that fits it with the laudable "neighbors help each other out" mentality. Cut Robyn some slack.

Posted by: Becca | March 17, 2006 10:56 PM

It's very simple: If you have children, you have a responsibility to make sure there is always someone available to care for them. If your kids are in school and both parents work outside the home, how can you NOT know that you need a contingency plan B, and maybe even a plan C, for lots of emergencies, not just snow days? What will this new neighbor do when her kids get sick? On the days school is closed for teacher training? It's when THOSE plans fall through--the backup babysitter is sick, too; or even though you arranged to get the day off, a crucial client demands that you meet with him NOW--that you call on friends and neighbors. And if your friends and neighbors are anything like mine, and me too, they'll be happy to help out. I live in a very close community that always rallies wonderfully around anyone in need. But probably part of why most of us are so eager to help is because most of us also don't ask for help on a job that we can and should be doing ourselves.

Posted by: Anonymous | March 17, 2006 11:42 PM

I think your tag comment about being afraid to ask your friend for a favour was deliberately inflammatory, Leslie. Surely you uhderstand the difference between asking someone with whom you have a close relatiohsip and history to help you out of a bind, and asking someone who is essentially a total stranger to to inconvience herself for you.

Maybe Robyn just flat out didn't want to watch that woman's kids. Maybe she doesn't like them, or isn't interested in taking responsiblilty for othe people's children. Maybe she didn't want to be obligated that way and therefore expected to work her plans around this woman should the question come up.

I do think that the vieled "Well, if you'd made choices to put your children first like me then snow days wouldn't be an issue" censure is a problem. But the fact is, many people do simply assume that the SAHM can do it, since she's not really doing much with her day anyway. And it's offensive. It does take a village. A village where *everyone* is willing to contribute, and it doesn't sound like WM put anything into the pot.

Posted by: Ms Sisyphus | March 18, 2006 10:32 AM

"What struck me the most was the comments by the stay at home mom. Even though she says that she has made peace with her decisions regarding the house and cars, I'm not so sure. There seems to be some resentment on her part that the working mom has the things she has chosen to forego so that they can live on one income.

It's interesting to me that so many posters above see the working mother as "richer" than the SAHM. I have a feeling that the working mother is struggling with a huge debt load and possibly are living beyond their means. THIS, not the fact that she is "rich" and has these status symbols, would be frustrating to a person like Robyn who is trying to live within her means.

What I'm getting at is that there seems to be a culture of entitlement and the neighbor woman thought she had a right to ask Robyn to take care of her kids on snow days. I'd have been annoyed as hell, though I might have been able to answer "I'm sorry, I have too much to do with my own kids."

I don't have children because I am introverted and need a great deal of time to myself, thus I know better than to have kids who would need a maximum amount of my time, day in and day out. "Coffee with the girls" once a week would never keep me sane.

I have experienced a couple of situations where women needed help with their children and asked me if I could provide care on a regular basis. Not in an emergency, when I would have said yes, but because they needed someone to watch their kids and they couldn't find other options. What struck me was that these women had young children, knew that I am childfree and work out of my home, yet basically knew NOTHING about who I am or how I interact with children. I was not familiar with their child. It amazed me that they would put their child in my hands knowing so little about me or my fitness to provide hours of care for their child.

(On the other hand, I have offered to childsit for mothers and children that I DO know and feel that I would enjoy helping. I am not against helping working or overloaded moms, I'm just aghast at how poorly some women seem to plan for their own children's care.)

I feel like the neighbor did not even know Robyn and that was a big part of the problem. I have an aunt who, from the way she tells it, has pushed her daughter on the SAHMs in her neighborhood until she got a bad reputation from it. Some working moms just feel that SAHMs or childfree neighbor women have "nothing" to do all day and should be happy to do mom duty for the whole "village".

Posted by: DCview | March 18, 2006 6:16 PM

Wow - so many things to comment on.

For the working non-mothers who resent additional work because the mothers don't stay extra time due to family responsibilities: I completely understand the resentment because your time IS just as valuable as the mom's: however, the resentment is misdirected. Employers have come to ignore the 40-hour work week and therefore never hire enough staff to handle all the duties. The employers, not the mothers, are the ones who consider your time less valuable. In addition, the employers know that if the job interferes too much with the mothers' families, they will eventually lose many good employees because the families do come first, even if the mothers do not stay home full time. Also, there are too many women who accept the extra workload in order to make a name for themselves and advance in their careers. In the long run, this only perpetuates the employers trying to squeeze every last little bit from the employees who will stay. Please don't take your resentment out on the mothers because most of them really do feel guilty about co-workers stuck with the fallout.

As far as the choice to work or stay-at-home: No one really knows why people make the choices that they do. I worked for twelve years before marriage. Right before the wedding, my husband became very ill and was out of work for 6 months. All of our savings were completely wiped out. Within two years, we had our first child. At the time, my husbands job was not very secure and I carried the health insurance, so I had to continue working. My husband changed jobs several times over the next few years due to company closings and relocations. During this time, either his income or health benefits were inadequate for me to stay home. We were willing to make sacrifices and live in poorer neighborhoods, but not to the point of compromising the children's education or safety. He has only recently worked back up to the level of income where I could stay home. I would love to trade places with those mothers who are able to stay home, but now my children are teenagers and college looms, and I have almost 30 years in with a company with a pension that I would be foolish to lose at this point. So please don't judge moms who go to work - after all, most stay-at-home moms are only one or two financial set-backs from working themselves. Husbands get sick, lose jobs, leave, and die - and the wives are not always in a position to maintain their stay at home lifestyles when these things happen.

Snow days: I believe that the working mom would be completely wrong to expect free help for snow days. But, it is still not clear that that is what she wanted. I got the impression that her first question was if Robyn was willing. Maybe she was waiting for the answer to that before discussing the details. Robyn seems to think she wanted a freebie, and that is wrong, but I also think that Robyn was too judgmental. If her "no" answer was because she didn't want to, that's fine, but to say no because the neighbor has more material possessions doesn't seem right. I had a neighbor who had twins and decided not to return to work. I asked her if she would be available for after-school care and/or school closed days. (I can't remember which I asked). I thought she might be interested in a little extra income since she gave up her job. She very nicely said that she stopped working to be with her children and didn't want to commit to anything else at that time. I thanked her and asked her to let me know if things changed. There were no hard feelings or resentment on the part of either of us. Our neighborly relationship remained exactly the same. Sometimes a question is just a question, and an answer is just an answer, and there are no hidden meanings or agendas.

I have never felt that a stay at home mom has no obligations and should be available to do favors for others because they don't have a job outside of the home. I do believe that stay at home moms work very hard on the things they are involved with, but I have sighed in disbelief at the women who have said that it is harder to be a stay at home mom than a working mom. Volunteer activities CAN be refused whereas work activities cannot if you need to keep your job.

One more thing that I noticed: the office mom was a NEW neighbor. Maybe she had been looking for snow-day options and just had not found anything yet. If she is new to the job, she may not have the same flexibility as an employee who is familiar to the boss. I am surprised at the number of people who say that we should choose a job with more flexibility. That is much easier said than done. I also wonder how many of those people are teaching their children to only dream of jobs where there is a lot of flexibility. How often do you think that doctors, lawyers, nurses, policemen, and firemen can leave work at a moments notice. As mothers, we know that lack of child care on snow days is an emergency, but employers tend to think that only sickness and death are true emergencies.

Posted by: Maryland | March 18, 2006 9:06 PM

I work part time and am generally home during school hours.
I am the village that watches another woman's kids occasionally.
However, part of me thinks, oh no, there is no school on this day, will I have to watch so and so's kids? Would me and my kids prefer to have this day to ourselves, putting our own needs and wants above someone else?
I have worked full time in the past, and had many issues with child care. My husband and I have structured our lives so we don't require child care, and one of us can always be available to watch the kids.

Posted by: Kate | March 19, 2006 10:38 PM

I find it curious that only one person has commented on the fact that WM asked a *stranger* to watch her children. She didn't know Robyn! Robyn could be verbally or physically abusive, an alcoholic or have any number of lesser issues.
As an adult I would be unconfortable having to spend a day in a stranger's house, and I have the ability to leave. A child is powerless in this situation.
I am a SAHM and once had a working mother approach me about watching her very young son, full time. We were only acquaintences who happened to walk at the same time of the morning! I was stunned.
I left a well paid position as a systems analyst for a computer company in the late 1980's when my first child was born. Sixty hour work weeks were the norm. The company came first or you were not a *team* player. The only child care available in the area was in the parking garage basement where infants were in a white room with white cribs lined up against the walls. A horrible place for a child to be stuck 8-10 hours per day. My husband's parents were both deceased and my mother works full time, so I did not have family help as an option. So I quit. My colleagues were shocked that I would waste my time by staying home with a child when I had the opportunity to pay for child care and do something more important.
Do I regret it? Financially, a resounding yes. There is no doubt that I could be paying for my child's college education instead of struggling with debt. I could take my 6 yr old to Disney, as she longs to do, instead of spending my husband's vacation days at the local lake, which she does not. I would dearly love some new furniture. We live in a growing area overrun with SUV's and McMansions and my children cannot compete financially. For so many, it's all about the money. Did I make the right decision? Have I put my children at a disadvantage unnecessarily?
I have to agree with other's comments about the workplace. If I could work part time, for a profit, I would be very happy to do so. The problem is earning enough to cover the cost of competent care for my young child, the cost of work itself (extra taxes, gas, wardrobe, convenience food, etc.) and not ending up with $2.50 per hour.
My final comment is about community. I characterize myself as a SAHM, but I am the director of the local food pantry, which serves 85 families in our area. It is a part time job, just not well compensated, like so many of the jobs SAHMs do.

Posted by: sagmoore | March 20, 2006 11:07 AM

My wife and I are in a similar position as your friend, regarding our house choice, etc. And we have neighbors who do the very same thing that you describe. My favorite incident - a neighbor pleaded with us to watch their daughter, because he REALLY could not miss work - running short on paid vacation. So, my wife said OK. Two weeks later we observed said neighbor home from work during the day. Why? He was "taking a mental health day".

You wonder whether to laugh or cry, but you don't have to wonder about whether you say "no" the next time you're asked.

Posted by: JLB | March 20, 2006 4:06 PM

Robyn is totaly right to say "no" for whatever reasons. She has no obligation to take over the obligation of the parents. It is just this simple.

Posted by: A Husband and Father of 4 | March 22, 2006 2:13 PM

Here's the thing - if you work either because you want to, have a driving need to be in the workforce to use your skills or whatever, or because you want cathedral ceilings or Mercedes SUV's, fine. That's totally your choice. However, as a SAHM, I get NO help what so ever from society, the government (can we say child care tax credit) or anyone else in staying home with my kids. No one ever says, "how can we make it easier for families who want a parent home with the kids to do that?" Instead, we dole out gobs of my tax dollars to families who put kids in daycare - regardless of income, and have to listen endlessly to people pontificate over how to make the work-family balance easier on 2 income families. So, yes there is resentment, however isn't not directed towards individuals parents making their own choices. It's to the complete invisability of one income families and the assumption that we should just subsidize every 2 income family out there "for the sake of the village". The working mom was, as an earlier poster noted, essentially asking the SAHM to subsidize her lifestyle. She can have whatever lifestyle she wants, I really don't care. However, no one in any small, tiny way does anything to help subsidize the lifestyle of SAHP's. And even though most of us live with a lot less than 2 income families, we're not the ones out there whining about the lack of support we get. Once our society does anything to help me maintain the lifestyle we've chosen, I'll be much more comfortable helping to subsidize the 2 income family. Until then, 2 income families really ought to make peace with their own choices and not take it personally that 1 income families aren't jumping up and down begging to give even more so that they can maintain their own choices. It's not a matter of passing judgement on other people's choices - do whatever the heck you want! Just don't act like some poor victem who those of us who have made huge sacrifices for our own choices should be dying to bail out all the time.

Posted by: Rebecca T | March 27, 2006 11:12 AM

Mercedes SUV mom is so accustomed to dumping on people and getting away with it, she felt entitled to do it to someone who was willing to tell her that her fecal matter stinks too.

Good for stay at home mom.

Posted by: Ralph | March 27, 2006 1:00 PM

For ten years I was a SAHM and then I worked two part-time jobs that were closed on snow days so that I could be at home with my five kids (we're still paying off the debt for the choices made but I don't regret them). Our home was always open to our kids' friends and I don't regret that either. Our home was full of kids and commotion on snow days but we have wonderful memories.

Posted by: Cathy | March 27, 2006 5:13 PM

Most of us who are SAHM's are not secretly dreaming of a minimum wage job providing childcare for other people's children. I have a Ph.D. My neighbor down the street is a dentist. Yet the lady at the end of the cul de sac offered us both nine dollars an hour to watch her daughter after school.

If I wanted to work, I'd be working -- and I'd be earning more than nine dollars an hour.

That's the working mom's issue in the conundrum Leslie presents - assuming that any little monetary crumb she throws the SAHM's will be gratefully received.

We don't need her job offers. We don't need her money. After she offered me the childcare job, I offered the cul de sac mom ten dollars an hour to mow my lawn. Funny, she wasn't interested either.

"Well, I already have a job," she fumed. So do I, baby. So do I. It's called being a mother.

Posted by: Anonymous | April 18, 2006 7:31 AM

Years ago I was working mom with 2 kids. I always sought sahm in the neighborhood who wanted to watch kids for money. I assumed their spare time was as valuable as mine.I never requested any "extra" babysitting time outside of what we agreed to. However, I did not get the same respect of my spare time from the sahm.They frequently called me up to take their kids in the morning while I was getting ready for work or on the weekends since they knew that I was home trying to spend time with my kids and they afterall had been home with kids all week and needed a break.All of these women had a husband by the way.Of course I was expected to watch their kids for free since I had an "income."I got out of all of these arrangements asap and mu husband and I on our own worked out ways to watch the kids.The sahm not only lost an income, but also someone who would have gladly taken their kids in an "emergency." Thanks to caller id, I do not have to hear whether its an emergency or a convenience issue. I figure it's their loss.

Posted by: laura | April 30, 2006 7:42 AM

I am a young professional, only a year out of college. I am a Middle School teacher in the South. I was considering staying at home with my children one day, but hearing this conversation has given me second thoughts. It sounds like some of the mom's who stay at home are somewhat judgemental about the material goods of others. You can be a working mom and still be devoted to your children. It is not so cut and dried, as others have tried to make it our to be. I hope my kids see my working as the ultimate sacrifice for them- I love and care about you so much that I am going to pave the way for you financially ond socially so that when you are old enough, you too can reach your upmost potential, whatever that may be. Coming from a family where I am only the second to get a degree, I see this argument completley different. Everyone in out area sees working moms as something quite envious, especially in teaching. Summers off and paid with long breaks and snow days too! Not all working moms are out to "be better" than stay at home moms. How can we encourage our daughters to "be all that they can be", if we penalize them for utilizing their educations? Working mom's kids may see the stay at home family as something less than desirable. It is a catch 20.

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