Welcome

Until 2:30 every day, I'm a working mom. Then -- late, always late -- I tear down the office stairs or fly out the back door of the home office in my kitchen just in time to pick up my three kids from their two schools. Then my second shift starts: basketball practice, computer class and endless dispute settlement from behind the wheel of my trusty, trashed SUV/insane asylum.

Not working would kill me. But not being with my three kids "enough" (a definition that changes every week) would be another kind of death. So I devote myself to juggling work and kids, with a splash of husband thrown in.

This blog is devoted to illuminating the work/family debate through stories from moms about how we juggle work and kids, in whatever portions we've chosen (including none). So welcome, working moms, sort-of working moms and not-working-right-now moms.

This dialogue will be provocative -- in the best sense of the word. I know firsthand the startling honesty moms can muster because of my anthology Mommy Wars: Stay-at-Home and Career Moms Face Off On Their Choices, Their Lives, Their Families. The book came about because I was curious about stay-at-home moms. "Curious" was a polite way of saying I was irrationally, disturbingly jealous of them: How dare they be so happy doing nothing when I had to work or die?

Poring over other moms' dissections of their work/kid choices had a healing, restorative affect on me. I learned that at-home moms are doing far more than "nothing," and that they're just as busy as I am, taking care of their kids and homes and pitching in at school on critical volunteer projects that horrify me and other working parents because of the time commitment. My brain no longer automatically divides moms into at-home vs. working, you vs. me categories. I've become at peace with myself and all moms of the world!

Well, almost.

So we're going to get into it in this blog. The rules are: Tell the exhaustive truth, even if that includes judgment, criticism and asking and answering hard questions. We'll use this blog to achieve one primary goal -- to say what we think. However, we represent the fairer sex, so let's try to dole out kindness and respect. And full apologies when necessary. And I, at least, will try to protect my children's privacy by using their initials instead of full names. What you share is up to you.

Let's go.

By Stacey Garfinkle |  March 9, 2006; 11:00 AM ET
Previous: About Leslie Morgan Steiner | Next: Mommy's Office


Add On Balance to Your Site
Keep up with the latest installments of On Balance with an easy-to-use widget. It's simple to add to your Web site, and it will update every time there's a new entry to On Balance.
Get This Widget >>


Comments

Please email us to report offensive comments.



Finally the WaPo gets it right! This is the kind of blog we need. Mothers, who work by definition, feel like we have almost everything in abundance except sufficient opportunity to talk to, think with, support each other and make our experiences as mothers and working people heard out there.

Posted by: LOH | March 9, 2006 11:32 AM

I enjoyed the article but felt Ms Steiner oversimplified the working moms out there. On the one hand she lists those who choose to work to maintain their professional lives; on the other hand are minimum-wage earning moms who must work. What about those of us, college-educated moms who must work also? I have more than 30 credits beyond a masters degree in my field but must work as my husband does not earn enough for me to stay home (or I for him to stay home). More investigation into this group of mothers might be enlightening.
I have also noted the tension between at-home and working moms. I guess it is the inherent mom-guilt that makes us all feel as though we aren't doing enough, whatever it may be.

Posted by: AWB | March 9, 2006 11:38 AM

I guess Dads don't need balance, or wish they could figure out how to spend more time with their kids and still remain competitive with their peers in the cutthroat corporate world. And let's not forget the single and/or childless people, who would also like to achieve greater balance between work and their personal lives.

In my view, one of the primary reasons for the generally tepid reception of "work-life" programs is that they are targeted almost exclusively, like this blog, to working mothers. They would gain greater acceptance (and, not coincidentally, thereby benefit those mothers all the more) if they were targeted to EVERYONE. As it stands, they are pitched and viewed (again, like this blog) as being for "Moms only." That gives them at least the veneer of unfairness and exclusion, which fosters resentment. Working women face enough obstacles in the workplace already; they shouldn't go out of their way to create more. This blog, at least as it is being described, promotes that same kind of resentment.

Posted by: Brian | March 9, 2006 11:43 AM

ms. steiner, i'm going to assume that we semi-employed, stay-at-home dads can just apply the lessons of this blog to our own situations.

shirley the same dynamics are in play for us, eh?

p.s. 'poring' not 'pouring'

p.p.s. sounds like brian has resentment issues

Posted by: spaceneedl | March 9, 2006 12:01 PM

spaceneedl: Thanks for noting the typo. It's been fixed.

Posted by: washingtonpost.com | March 9, 2006 12:06 PM

I don't know about Brian, but I've found that people who are single or childless don't have children or husbands that they have to spend quality time with. I'm sure my husband would love to spend more time with our child and with his wife as well. As 2 working parents in a situation similar to AWB's, we do the best we can. However, as individuals, we need time for ourselves (what I call "me time") so that we may be sane enough to take care of our families. We all need support and to know that there are peoplw out there with similar situations that are making it work. That's why blogs like this one are geared towards a specific group. We can relate to each other.

Posted by: PB | March 9, 2006 12:07 PM

I'm pushing 60 this year and am childless by circumstances and by choice.

I think the phrase "working mothers" is amazingly shortsighted at the very least. I recall my mother, who stayed at home, working long into the night, ironing. At least she set up the ironing board in front of the television set, while the rest of us were comfortable on the sofa, a chair or the floor. Vacations were generally vacations for my father, my brother and me. Not for her, as it was her job to make sure we were clean, clothed and fed. Yet, her work -- tremendously hard work -- was invisible, and it remains so today for women everywhere. The so-called "stay at home moms" are not directly compensated, and their work caring for their families is not ever valued in the true economic sense, which, frankly, is viewed as the highest value one can attach to an activity.

Fathers who do not even think about these issues are fathers in sperm only. And more's the pity. When businesses truly value families, whether directly in their treatment of their employees or in conjunction with the products and services they sell, then maybe we'd see some change in attitudes.

If I did indeed have children, I would have gone after work outside the home regardless of economic need. I saw what my mother did, and how hard she worked, and how little value was placed on her life, and I said "Not for me!" And I have no regrets.

Posted by: sec | March 9, 2006 12:11 PM

I do resent when it is assumed that fathers aren't as interested/capable of being equally active, nurturing parents as mothers. Just as mothers should resent when it is assumed that they are not as interested/capable of being equally dedicated, hardworking members of the workforce as fathers.

My point, about the blog, is that the way it is being PRESENTED (not necessarily the content) reinforces exactly the same sort of gender role stereotypes that presumably drove the interest in creating it in the first place. In my view, that's counterproductive to actually achieving some level of true equality in the workplace. We need to move past the stereotypes.

Posted by: Brian | March 9, 2006 12:15 PM

brian, no offense, but i think the premise of the blog is sound; our society's expectations of parents break down along gender lines. and face it, working mothers are still, by and large, tasked with the "traditional" domestic responsibilities.

we're not beholden to that dynamic at our house, so i'll read this blog through my stay-at-home dad, heinamackafrau lenses.

(wapo, while you're at it could you clean up my double post above? thanks.)

Posted by: spaceneedl | March 9, 2006 12:27 PM

I'm glad that you're "at peace" with yourself and all moms of the world. Truly.

But the way your book is being promoted -- in your article in the post, in the Newsweek except -- seems to try to create tension where it's not there already, to set up artificial distinctions.

What do you think we can do to improve things for all moms, rather than throwing gas on the fire?

Posted by: Elizabeth | March 9, 2006 12:27 PM

A couple of thoughts, from a work-outside-the-home mom.

1) I know several stay-at-home moms, and, while they are busy, it's with things they choose and not for 40 hours plus commuting and lunch time like me. So they're not just as busy as I am.

2) While these moms stay busy taking care of their families, who do you think is taking care of mine? Ummm...still me, on top of working outside the home. My husband definitely helps, and maybe more than those with stay-at-home moms. But those chores don't go away just because I work outside the home.

3) Finally, I still volunteer (albeit less) at my daughter's school and at church and with her sports teams and such.

So, my belief is that stay-at-home moms, while not idle and do things for which I am thankful, are NOT as strapped for time as those of us who work outside the home unless we have a substitute mom doing all those "mom" things. I really resent being made to feel like stay-at-home moms are just as busy as I am--no way!

Posted by: Sue | March 9, 2006 12:30 PM

I graduated from college in 1984, started working, got married in 1990, had a child in 1993 and 1996. Other than my maternity leave (3 months off for each) I never stopped working. Income into our home is about 50/50 for my husband and myself. When I think about changing jobs I now look at health benefits and whether or not my doctors are on their lists. I ask questions about being able to leave work to attend a program at school or if I can adjust my schedule in the summer so that my kids can attend band camp or basketball camp. If the answer is no, they I do not go to work there.

We all have choices to make, and I'm sorry, but women have more difficult choices then men when it comes to the household, jobs, children. That's a fact.

Thanks to the WaPo for getting this blog together.

Posted by: jenniferm | March 9, 2006 12:37 PM

I am a mother who shares child care with my husband and works part-time at home.

I DON'T agree that this blog is helpful that it only targets mothers -- I think that's part of the problem -- people assume it's only a women's issue -- and you know what? Then it is. Women, if your children's fathers aren't doing their share of the child care, then ask! And women without kids, don't have them with men who aren't going to be true parents.

And it's ridiculous to talk of this as a "mommy war". Yes, women are stressed with balancing work and parenting -- myself included -- but the stress isn't because of other parents. It's because it's hard to find part-time work with benefits and make enough money that you have enough free time for your kids -- and yourself.

Posted by: work_at_home_mother | March 9, 2006 12:52 PM

I'm glad to have a place like this to vent and tell (funny?) stories with like-minded women. Occassionally, I give speeches about being not just a "working mom" but a small business owner, as well. I started up the business when my kids were toddlers; I did it to spend more time with them. Little did I foressee the reality of life as an entrepreneur. The business happened to have taken off big three weeks after i started it and I was on the road so much my three year old son actually told people: "MY mommy lives in Dallas." (When I heard about that, early one morning en route from EWR, I cried the whole trip south.

After all these years as one of the only "working moms" on my block, both the kids and the business are doing well. But i do often wonder how I am doing-- as a mom-- especially as I reflect on this little quip from my daughter, now a college freshman:

"When I have kids, I'm only going to work until 3 pm. That way, MY kids will have THEIR mom HOME when they get out of school."

I sure hope she can manage to do that. For if she can "have it all" on her own terms, her kids will be lucky indeed.

Posted by: shelley | March 9, 2006 12:59 PM

Thank you for this. I think the balance of work is family will always be tipping in one direction or another. I have a 5 month old son and work full time. I love my son, but I need to work. I've found that the "mommy wars" are so caustic to our combined goal of raising the next generation.

Thanks and good luck!

Posted by: NewMom | March 9, 2006 1:01 PM

Clarifying "need to work" in my previous post:
1. We can't live on one income alone. Even though we make well above minimum wage. (wasn't there a post story recently that a family of three needs $67K annually for basic sustenance of food and shelter?)
2. I like what I do.

I think having a forum for working parents would be helpful, but a lot falls on the mother's shoulders. My husband's office is not forgiving of flex time (if he's out of there by 7, it's a good night). And he's just a staff assistant, not some high-powered corporate attorney.

Posted by: NEwMom Part 2 | March 9, 2006 1:09 PM

I have to disagree with "SEC" that she would have chosen to work because she saw her own mother being undervalued for staying home. Don't accept that stay at home Moms are undervalued - do something about it. In order for women in all walks to have opportunities and parity, we have to realize that raising children and running a family are important and worthwhile whether or not they are financially rewarding or socially recognized.

At the same time, one of my biggest concerns about this decision is the impact that my choices will have on women's choices in the future. Prior generations fought so I had the option to pursue a career. If I give that up to stay home, do I malign their efforts or, even worse, make things harder for my daughter when she will someday be faced with the same choice?

Posted by: KLTA | March 9, 2006 1:09 PM

I have listened to complaints from several Moms (and Dads) I know who work by choice while raising children, about lack of time for themselves, their family, their neighborhood, while at the same time they spend weekends shopping for nice clothes, nice cars, and nice new material items to decorate their large homes. There is an abundance of this in the DC area. If the end result of working is to have material items that provide status, then I don't want to hear complaints about a lack of quality time with your children.

Posted by: Spinner | March 9, 2006 1:16 PM

I just turned 30, and I'll admit it, I'm scared to have kids. The thought of it just paralyzes me. I can't imagine not working, but day care would cost a third of my salary. Not to mention all of the other expenses a child entails, from diapers to college. I would really like to have kids, but the choice seems to be not being able to spend time with them, or not being able to provide for them.

Posted by: Crunchy Frog | March 9, 2006 1:21 PM

I'm a 24 year old recent college graduate, and find this blog very important. Why? Because I plan to have a family in the future. I've been noticing how women are pushed and pulled one way or another, trying to balance their work, family, and personal life. I must confess that I feel quite intimidated by all the anecdotes by women who are trying to keep it all in check. It's making me rethink whether I should pursue graduate school, where I could incur thousands of dollars in student loans, when that money could go towards a new house, retirement, etc. I have a family friend who pursued a medical degree, only to give up her practice to become a stay at home mom! It seems to me that all the hard work and schooling was wasted. Not for nothing, because I realize the value and importance of raising a child. But why go through all the expensive schooling if you're not even going to use it?

Also, we live in a society that's becoming increasingly dependent on 2 incomes to support our current standard of living. Women *need* to work in order to afford the mortgage/rent and other expenses. I guess that's why I feel that I'm at a crossroads these days, and look to you current working parents for advice and insight before I myself become a mother.

Posted by: mimi | March 9, 2006 1:28 PM

I agree that stay-at-home women are not as busy as working women, and have made specific choices about the time they devote to activities outside the home.

I have always worked full time except for two two-month maternity leaves. Husband and I earn about the same and find all funds easily gobbled by metro area prices!

Yes, it is hectic. But. I know and everyone at my house knows that I would go crazy, literally, without work.

I have also seen what happens to women who stay home with their children, then are abandoned or widowed later. It is extremely difficult to recover without a work history.

My daughters are growing up expecting to work, not expecting that it is someone else's job.

Posted by: rch | March 9, 2006 1:30 PM

Thank you SUE! Why is it that no one ever acknowledges OUT LOUD that stay-at-home-moms vs working-moms is a false debate? BC I am sorry, but no matter how much we value stay-at-home moms' work, the working mom is doing all that worl PLUS working outside the home. They can never be as busy or as harried, or work as hard, as a working mom. We are doing both. Stop pretending.

Posted by: Lisa | March 9, 2006 1:30 PM

Someone made a comment that stay-at-home moms don't affect the lives of working moms, and so everyone should be cool with everyone else. The fact is, though, men who have stay-at-home wives (and 98% of stay-at-home spouses are women) have a huge advantage in the workplace.

Men with stay-at-home or part-time-working wives hold most of the most powerful business, political, academic, medical, and law jobs, and they rely heavily on their wives to clean the house, arrange everyone's lives (dr.'s appts, social engagements, etc), do the laundry, provide almost all the childcare (including nights and weekends when they are putting in overtime), cook the meals, run the errands, buy the gifts for family and friends, take care of the yard, etc, etc. When a (rare) women in one of these 60+-hour-a-week powerful jobs goes home, she almost invariably goes home to a situation where her life has not been ironed and smoothly arranged for her. Even if she has housekeeping help and a nanny for the kids, she still has to arrange schedules, plan things, take care of social things, run errands, etc. She does not have a stay at home wife.

It is much easier to work 60 hours a week when you don't have to go home to cook meals and take care of your and everyone else's lives--it's much easier to work 60 hr a week when your time off is really time for relaxation and family enjoyment.

So stay at home wives should be aware that they are giving their husbands a huge advantage that working women do not have, and, hence, they are hurting working women.

(Not to mention the fact that many stay-at-home wives are also college-and-beyond educated, and this fact hurts educated working women who really are going to continue working and not drop out. As a working women scientist, I have gotten many rude comments from male superiors over the years that I shouldn't bother because I'm just going to "stay home with the kids" eventually.)

Posted by: person | March 9, 2006 1:43 PM

"And women without kids, don't have them with men who aren't going to be true parents."

Wow! That is certainly a thoughtful comment. And now women have the added burden of having crystal balls. Now why don't you give me what this Saturday's powerball numbers and I'll be happy.

Posted by: Anonymous | March 9, 2006 1:49 PM

Why are fathers so frequently not even mentioned in these kinds of discussions, or if they are mentioned, it's only parenthetically? The fathers I know (my father included) are as much fathers to their children as their wives are mothers to their children. They face these work-life issues and are often very torn/concerned about them. Yet they are almost always mentioned as an afterthought in these discussions, like, "Oh, yeah, this applies to that handful of men out there too that happen to care about being fathers."

I do agree that the 'balancing act' has been overall more a female than male burden....but WHY? I think one big reason is women themselves. Women are taking all these responsibilities solely on themselves, not expecting/demanding/contemplating that their husbands will share these concerns and responsibilities equally. Women have made this a 'women's issue.' That's not good. One result is that it's a self-fulfilling prophesy - men feel excluded, like they are the second-in-command/vice parent/understudy parent and it's not really their issue, it's their wives', and that mothers will always be the chief parent, with fathers just sort of providing secondary support.

And it entrenches inequalities.

Ms. Morgan Steiner, why is there only "a splash of husband thrown in" in your own life? Does your husband effortlessly coordinate work and family? If so, maybe you should ask how he does it and learn from him. Or is it that you assume it's all YOUR job to balance and all he has to do, or could ever want to do, is work?

Posted by: BetsyAnne | March 9, 2006 1:56 PM

In response to Mimi:

I am in the same boat as you; all this "Mommy War" stuff terrifies me.

Unlike you, my mind is not made up one way or the other about having a family. I do know for sure, however, that I am going to law school next year and that I want to be a successful attorney. So much of what I read/hear in discussions like this one makes me think that it would be impossible to do both. I've even read very irate posts in other forums along the lines of "If you're not going to stay home with your kids, don't have any, because they're your responsibility and you would be abandoning them."

There seems to be so little discussion of the men in our lives - you know, the childrens' fathers? I'm in a serious relationship with a man who is going in to film, as a teacher, critic or cinematographer... all much more difficult to get into/make money in than law. We've discussed the options - he could stay home at least part time, we could hire a nanny, or perhaps by that time, there will be more flexible options available to me too... he tries to assure me that we'll work out what is best for us. I really appreciate being with someone who considers this as much his issue as mine.

But even so, I'm intimidated and daunted. I just wonder if anyone can help me make sense of all this... I also look to those of you with kids to offer insight.

Posted by: Amie | March 9, 2006 1:58 PM

First, I think the "mommy war" issue as described in Ms. Steiner's book, in Newsweek, and in the New York Times's recent coverage of the issue, is really talking about a very small segment of society - highly educated, relatively wealthy professionals.

How relevant are these discussions to most of America, where the financial pressures are much greater and the professional opportunities much less glamorous?

Don't get me wrong - the work vs. SAH issue is raging at all levels of our society right now; I'm just not sure how much insight people can provide when they live in million dollar homes and can afford housekeepers and don't actually *need* to work to make ends meet. That just isn't reality for most in this country.

Posted by: Seattle .. | March 9, 2006 2:02 PM

To the working women who think you're busier than stay-at-home moms: you're right. I'm a stay-at-home mom and I realize that I am not as frantic as my working mom friends, because I keep to a schedule I alone create. I'm not constantly trying to squeeze in demands from the office along with everything else that goes along with raising children. But I must say that the fact people are arguing over who's busier seems kind of pathetic. I mean, who cares, and what does that prove? Every time I read about the "mommy wars", which is quite often lately, I become more depressed that women just do not support each other. Or I guess I should say that parents do not support the choices of other parents, since we now seem to be hearing from stay at home dads as well.

Posted by: MomNC | March 9, 2006 2:04 PM

Lisa, thanks for your comments! I honestly DO appreciate the moms who can be the PTA president, attend all school functions, volunteer in the school, and still keep their homes immaculate. My daughter has observed that the homes of her friends with stay-at-home moms (who are ALL pretty involved in the schools) are really nice and clean and orderly, while ours is not. Hmmm...sometimes I just can't keep up! And, by the way, I am the PTA VP and, oh, am now running out of work to take my daughter to the doctor before taking her to swimming. Thankfully, my wonderful husband will cook dinner after he has time to come home from work and relax a while. (My relax time is after everyone else is in bed...) And I think my husband is more of a help than many...I drop off to school, he picks up. He usually cooks weeknight meals because he's home earlier. He usually takes her to swimming, I pick up. And on and on. But tradition still makes me feel like I should be doing the bulk of the work. Go figure!

Posted by: Sue | March 9, 2006 2:06 PM

Having kids is rough, but you will never know true love until you have held your own child (whether it be a biological child or adopted child). I've been through a lot of agony as both a working mom (harried and resentful and tired) and a SAHM (relaxed but sometimes bored and insecure) but there is nothing I love more than my children. There isn't even the smallest question in my mind that having children is the greatest thing that I've ever done, and the most rewarding, and worth all of the work and stress that comes with it.

You'll work it out. You will.

Posted by: To Mimi and Amie ... | March 9, 2006 2:06 PM

I can't stand to see the word "work" applied only to for-pay careers. Is there no other way to describe such a situation? Work is work, whether it's with your kids or with clients, whether it's doing laundry in your basement or giving a presentation in a boardroom.

I don't even have kids and I bristle every time I see or hear the phrase "working mom." Like the rest of them are lounging on fainting couches eating peeled grapes or something...

I know it's easier to use the term "work" than "engaged in remunerated employment" or whatever, but certainly we can come up with something more precise and less offensive.

Posted by: emc | March 9, 2006 2:09 PM

I think this is an important blog and important discussion because it lets people understand each others a little better. I always dreamed of being a stay-at-home mother and never imagined taking my infant to daycare. My husband and I waited 5 years after we got married to have children, but our financial situation is such that we cannot afford for either of us to stay home. I’m not talking about having nice cars and fancy clothes, I’m talking about paying rent (we don’t even have cable TV or Internet). And yes-- we both have college degrees and jobs that pay way above minimum wage. I felt terrible putting my child in daycare, and on top of that I had to tolerate lectures from neighbors and articles in the media about how terrible it is to put babies in daycare. I was and still am hearing things (and there’s even a post to this effect here in this blog) like “Women who choose to work abandon their children over material things”. Everyone’s situation is different. Some women would like to stay at home with their children, but they just cannot afford to do so, they simply wouldn’t be able to pay rent. And these are college-educated parents we are talking about, not minimum-wage families. The only thing I have to ask stay-at-home moms is please, please, don’t assume that just because women work, they chose luxurious material things over spending time with their children. And also – who do you think takes care of my family (cooking, cleaning, laundry etc.) while I work??? Working mothers have to do these things too on top of working outside home.

Posted by: Elle | March 9, 2006 2:11 PM

I LOVE this blog site. One thing that most moms who earn income outside home is that millions of them they get a worse deal on Social Security than the wives who don't earn income...even when both couples have the same total income and pay the same social security taxes. It's true. It's because of our old old rules about spousal benefits. Eugene Steuerle at the Urban Institute has written about this in past years. You can also find info at womenforasschoice.org, my organization.
Check it out!

Posted by: Lea | March 9, 2006 2:12 PM

Mimi and Frog - I'm with you. I have a career and a husband and a ticking bio clock. I want to have children but sometimes the notion of 'having it all' seems to apply more to guilt. Either you are guilty for staying at home and perhaps having a smaller house or fewer luxuries or you are guilty for not spending time with your children. I hope some of the mom's on both sides talk about the up side - some serious reasons and points about how their days are happier or better through work and/or children.

Posted by: Engineer | March 9, 2006 2:12 PM

Well, the thing is, you CAN have it all -- just not all at once.

Posted by: MomNC | March 9, 2006 2:14 PM

Thank God for my husband.I am a mom but he can both mom or dad when necessary. They don't come like that anymore. We are 2 working parents with 2 kids. The right partner, common goals and vision for the family sure make things a lot easier.

Posted by: DC | March 9, 2006 2:16 PM

Why does MomNC think that women can have it all, just not all at once, when almost all men have work and children at the same time? Just look around you. Almost every single man in the country "has at all, all at once."

Posted by: person | March 9, 2006 2:17 PM

Okay, I had to bring up one thing about daycare. My kids were in a fabulous daycare when they were little. So wonderful that both my husband and I were concerned that they'd have to leave daycare if I quit my job. They got so much out of the experience - even from a very young age. Being in a structured setting with other kids their age and a teacher who *loves* and *knows* that age group is not a bad thing.

There are lots of bad daycares out there, but I hate the way the word Daycare is used almost like Orphanage or something - an inherently bad thing. I'm so glad my kids had the experience of daycare. They learned a lot about sharing and behavior and interacting with other kids and they had a wonderful time.

People who don't know anthing about daycares have an unfair predjudice against the institution. I would chose a good institutional daycare against most at-home daycares any day of the week.

Posted by: Virginia | March 9, 2006 2:17 PM

I never said it was fair. It's just true. And I've found in my life that it's easier (for me, others may find otherwise) to see things as they are, not how I want them to be, and to make my choices accordingly. It works for me.

Posted by: MomNC | March 9, 2006 2:24 PM

For Amie:
From a full-time working Woman/Mom/Wife. Don't make any life altering decisions from what you read here. If it is your desire to have children, do it. The other stuff will work it's self out. Your priorities will define themselves, and the rest of your life will fall into place. You'll find a way. We all make sacrifices in one way or another.

As an additional note, when I get home from work I am so excited to see my family. I have energy, and more importantly patients for my kids. It's not only the quantity of time I can spend with them, but it's the quality of that time. I wouldn't change anything.

I feel extremely lucky to have the experience of motherhood. Some days are hard, no doubt. The rewards are incredible!

Posted by: CTm | March 9, 2006 2:27 PM

I’m a full-time working mom by choice but it doesn’t make it easy. Yes, I could quit, my husband and I could move w/our two kids to a smaller, older home and live w/o the extra’s we’ve come to enjoy for our family. But working full time allows us excellent health benefits, allows us to save aggressively for the children’s college funds and puts my master’s degree to use and shows my two children that it is valuable to contribute to the world outside your front door. Unlike when I grew up, I don’t want my kids to have to save their lunch money to buy their yearbooks or to go to cheerleading camp. I want to provide that for them. I am lucky to have a husband who is a true partner and an incredible dad. Also, I work for my own well-being. I like interacting with adults during the day, using my skills and education to make a difference. My husband and I work in related fields and we have much to talk about at the end of the day. Also, I can show my kids that a good education and career is worthwhile. I like contributing financially to my household. I don’t like stressing over my bosses thoughts about me leaving to pick up the kids. I hate traveling for my job and would love for our family to have a non-hurried sit down dinner every night. There are sacrifices for sure. But we also have a goal. I hope to scale back my hours in a couple of years in my search for the right “balance” of work and home life. I want to be the one picking my kids up from school, taking them to practice and leading the PTA. It will happen. Someone once said—-you can have it all, but maybe just not all at once.

Posted by: 21704mom | March 9, 2006 2:42 PM

There are many sides to this discussion -- but two basic sides that I see are the people (both moms and dads) who have the choice and those who don't.
I'm lucky enough to have the option to either work or stay home. I remember when I went on maternity leave with my first child and my boss told me -- "Whatever you do, you're going to feel guily. When you're at home, you'll feel guilty that you're not working; when you're at work, you'll feel guilty that you're not with your kids."

I quit that job after I had my second child. i wasn't crazy about the job and the logistics of child care (at least the way we were attempting to set it up) were insane.

Staying home can be claustophobic. With no child care. I am with my kids 24/7. If there is something I need to do, I take them or I negotiate a child care deal with my husband or a friend. It was much easier to take care of quick errands when I was working. (No such thing as a quick errand with two kids.)

Freelance writing keeps me sane. And while I contemplate a return to work, my mommy guilt side kicks in and I choose to wait a while longer.

Posted by: Stephanie1 | March 9, 2006 2:51 PM

Can someone answer this question: Why is this a "war"? Why do you care if I stay at home or work? How does it make any bit of difference in your life? And why do I care what you choose? Is this just another way to classify your neighbors into "for" or "against"? I guess it is an intersting topic. After all, I'm here following this blog, even though I don;t care if my neighbor stays at home or works. But after all is said and done, can someone tell me what's the big deal? Are we just trying to find someone to relate to?

Posted by: works | March 9, 2006 2:51 PM

As someone for whom this decision is fast approaching, I'm curious as to how hard it is to change your mind. If I choose to stay home only to find myself going crazy for intellectual stimulation, how hard is it to get back into the career world after a year? Two? More? I'm starting to feel that, with the help of this blog, I may be able to make a more rational decision after all. It's great to hear so many perspectives.

Posted by: KLTA | March 9, 2006 3:01 PM

This is for crunchy frog.
If you have the opportunity and are excited about what you might learn then you must GO TO GRADUATE SCHOOL!! Don't debate this, don't even bother to collect your $200 on your way past GO. Education gives you choice, power over your own destiny, and access to more meaningful and interesting work. Even if you decide at some point to stay home with your children (which is a perfectly fine decision for someone at any level of education) then you will be able to return to a better job if and when you choose to go back. The confidence that you gain will be useful to you for the rest of your life whatever you choose to do.
Most women who stay at home with their children do eventually decide to return to work, and it sure is alot more exciting to return to a career (even if you decided to take a mommy sabbatical) rather than something that just pays the bills. You'll also set a good example for your kids who will be grateful while in their twenty-somethings to have a mom who is excited about her own life rather than emmeshed in theirs.

Posted by: rumicat | March 9, 2006 3:05 PM

I second NCMom's comments. Why is this a competition? Personally, having lived in the DC area for seven years, I think it is in the air up there. Mo Money, Mo Money, and "Excuse me, who did you say you worked for?".... Otherwise they couldn't afford the cook, the housekeeper and nanny. I know that I am making broad sweeping judgements here, but I have enough friends and family up there to know that there is a kernal of truth to it. I am a SAHM, going crazy at times, but happy to have done it. The kid enters K next year and I will approach getting back into the work world then. I just can't imagine not having spent all this time with her now. You only have one life and one childhood.

Posted by: ChapelHillMom | March 9, 2006 3:09 PM

I find all of this interesting but not relevant to ME as a Black woman. It often seems (not ALWAYS) that this issue--just like the women's liberation movement originally--is mainly one for white, middle- and upper-class women. I was divorced 3 months before completing my bachelors degree; my daughter was almost 3 years old. I also earned my M.A. and Ph.D. as a single parent, working full-time (and doing a lot of business travel)while getting the last 2 degrees. I worked because I was responsible for raising a child and because I wanted to make a better life for us. In addition to working for sustenance, I worked because I was skilled, curious, and was fulfilled by being out in the world doing work that made a difference. My mother worked, as did most of my friends' mothers did. The concept of a SAHM was foreign to me. Women of color generally know without being told that we are going to work outside of the home; we weren't raised with the expectation that working was a choice. As a result of the lingering effects of the destruction of the Black family during slavery, because of welfare, poverty, drugs, crime, etc., Black women have almost always been in the workplace--it was an issue or survival, not an option. This is not a complaint, just a reality check for those who have and can exercise the luxury of choice. I never felt guilty because I worked or felt the need to defend it. My daughter (who's almost 33) is the talented, funny, accomplished woman she is because she had the examples (and the genes) from me, my mother, and my grandmother to guide her.

Posted by: Looking Back, from Washington, DC | March 9, 2006 3:12 PM

Sure, working Moms make sacrifices. SAHM's easily make sacrifices that are just as large. Many of us made this choice not because we wanted to but because we felt it was best for our kids. Please don't write back and say "It's really not fair to your kids if you resent your choice." I don't and that's another choice I make - to be content and happy knowing that I chose what I believe is best for my children. There IS a tension between working and SAHM's. Working mom's look down on us because they assume we're not as gifted in the workplace; frankly, many of us look down on you because you're not willing to make the hardest sacrifice of all for your kids.

Posted by: Adelphi | March 9, 2006 3:22 PM

To Looking Back, you are amazing. What a wonderful role model you are for your daughter and for all of us.

I don't know why it's different for black and white women, but it is. That would make a great book. Maybe you should write it!

Posted by: MomNC | March 9, 2006 3:23 PM

Actually, there is a great book about how these issues play out differently for black women -- it's "I'm Every Woman" by Lonnae O'Neal Parker, a Post journalist. I'm reading it now, and really enjoying it.

Posted by: Elizabeth | March 9, 2006 3:31 PM

I worked at high-powered firms, etc. for 15 years after attending Ivy League schools. I always assumed that I would work full-time, hire nannies to watch my kids, and become a partner. But I first went part-time, then quit entirely.

I'm glad I worked as a lawyer, because I learned a lot about life (not just law) in the process. But I do not regret quitting. Since then, I've had the time to guide my children through a less-than-perfect public school system, volunteer extensively, and keep things running more smoothly at home. I feel much busier now than when I worked 50 hours/week, because I no longer have a nanny to take care of the kids.

Posted by: Former Lawyer | March 9, 2006 3:49 PM

I never considered not working, I have always been very into my work as a scientist. In fact was inspired by my stay-at-home mother, who would have been a scientist or engineer in different circumstances. At first I thought I would not have children but then the baby hunger hit me around my late 20's. So, I had two children, took 6 - 8 weeks off for each birth. Then, got divorced when my younger child was 4. Both kids are now grown (well my son is still in college) and doing well.

I learned pretty quickly that you just can't please everyone. So why worry about whether this person or that thinks I should have stayed home, what good would it do me. I don't see why it has to be a war at all. I frankly don't care what choices other women make, it is up to them. Having children did make me feel closer to other women than I had before, since I had this in common with them whether they worked or stayed home, before that I was with men so much I felt a little cut off from other women. Generally speaking, I didn't seem to get as much flak about how I was being a mother from women as I did from men I worked with. Some told me they would never let "another person" bring up their child as I was, but I said oh but you are, you are letting your wife do it for you. Some told me since I was a PhD and smart that I should just stay home and have 6 kids because I needed to spread my genes - but like they didn't need to go be a full time breeder. I never got that kind of crap from other women.

Life is an adventure, and there is no one perfect way to live it. Sure I have felt confused from time to time and wished I could be two people, so I could do it all. But for the most part I have enjoyed the ride. And I would never want to put another woman down for how she decided to do things.

Posted by: Catherine | March 9, 2006 3:55 PM

I too, have never understood why this is a "war". Life offers us lots of opportunities and challenges, many beyond our control and vision. I started my professional life 22 years ago and I thought that when I had children I would stay home. Financial reasons made that difficult when I had my first and second children. When we decided to have a third, we decided that I could stay home which I did for about two years until it didn't make sense financially. That was ten years ago and I feel grateful that I enjoy my work and that I work in a fairly supportive enviroment even though I work in a field where there aren't many women. Six years ago my husband died of cancer at the age of 38, leaving behind three children 11, 8 and 6. I was grateful to be working when it happened because it was one less thing that I had to figure out. I've had a lot of people who have helped me out. One of them is my brother-in-law who became a stay-at-home dad shortly after his brother died. He's helped out with after school care when they were younger. Now, my kids help him out with their three children by babysitting and doing yardwork. My brother-in-law and sister-in-law made childcare decisions for their family that have worked for them and it also benefited my kids. I had my share of rude comments from a few "at home" moms but I found out that they were just rude people. My view is that life can change in a moment and so there is no sense in looking for a "war" where there doesn't need to be one.

Posted by: ChiCharlee | March 9, 2006 4:00 PM

It seems that many women who have children decide to stay home for the first few years then pick up their careers once the kids are in middle or high school. (was true of my mom and her generation and I'm seeing it even in this discussion). I'd be interested in hearing from others who have decided a different route--to keep working full-time until the kids are IN middle school--the time touted as possibly the toughest for kids during their school years. My plan is to go part-time when the kids hit middle school so I can be around more often during the day (especially after school when trouble is most likely to happen). Thoughts?

Posted by: 21704mom | March 9, 2006 4:04 PM

From above: "I don't know about Brian, but I've found that people who are single or childless don't have children or husbands that they have to spend quality time with." Hope that was sarcasm! In this age of electronic leashes (blackberries, cellphone, conference calls, etc.) work/life balance is an issue for *everyone*. This working, childless reader thinks it would be great if this blog went beyond the Mommy Wars.

Posted by: KJ | March 9, 2006 4:09 PM

How can any of us our there declare we know what is harder for you versus me?

My mother was a stay-at-home mom, who raised 4 children (one sick), with a very limited income from my father's salary. They went without and while had the "luxury" of time, never in life had the "luxury" of peace of mind, or financial security.

On the other hand, I work 40 hours weeks, and have one child. We are not wealthy but want for nothing. Sure, I am more harried. But I would bet the world life was harder for her.

Posted by: J | March 9, 2006 4:11 PM

For KLTA and any other soon-to-be moms debating whether to continue to work or stay at home (lets assume that it's basically financially neutral and is a choice based solely on what is personally fulfilling for you):

My advice to any of my friends who have been on the fence with the go-to-work/stay-home decision is to at least try going back to work for a couple of months. If you do and you're miserable, you can always quit and stay home. If you don't go back, you're in a bind if you find yourself climbing the walls as a 24/7 mom (or dad). Being a 24/7 parent is a job opportunity that is always available. Returning to your old job/finding a new one isn't quite as secure of a situation.

For what it's worth, I don't know a single mom, myself included, who wasn't torn with guilt or angst before returning to work. In my case, working makes me a better mother - I am excited to see my child every day and don't get mommy burn-out. I have another friend who tried going back to work but quickly discovered that she found all of the fulfillment she needs at home with her daughter.

There's no right or wrong - it's what works best for you and your family. As long as we all respect each others decisions and don't pass judgement on others to make us feel better about the decisions and sacrifices we've made, it works out beautifully. Let's be grateful that we have such an array of choices and thankful to our mothers' generation for blazing that trail for us.

Posted by: Rebecky | March 9, 2006 4:11 PM

As I look back in history and see what women did before us to make sure that we, as women, actually have choices and can manage the same jobs as men. I don't understand how some women can throw all of those years of progression to the wind and regress into the 1950's where women stayed at home.

I'm proud of being a strong woman- one who can juggle multiple things and still raise healthy social intelligent children and still work my 45+ hours/week and endure long commutes.

Let's face it, we all sacrifice- working moms sacrifice so that the doors to the future will be open for our children to have choices!

Posted by: Proud to be a Working Mom | March 9, 2006 4:18 PM

Who sacrifices for you to be a "strong woman" - you or your children? Sounds like your "sacrifices" are actually notches on your belt.

Posted by: whosacrifices? | March 9, 2006 4:21 PM

Do you know who sacrifices- ME!

I sacrifice many things not to have notches on my belt but to strive to set an example for my children!

Posted by: Proud to be a Working Mom | March 9, 2006 4:26 PM

To 21704mom: I agree with you and plan to do the same thing. My kids are 6 and 3. In about 2 years I'm going to work half-time, during school hours only. The pre-adolescent and teen years are when a parent needs to be there the most, even as the kid is beginning to pull away from parents and form his/her own identity. My spouse and I have been making financial decisions for the past 3 years with this plan in mind, and we're very thankful to have this choice. By the way, I'm their Dad. I'm looking forward to this new phase in my life and our family's life. I hope I don't have to witness battles in this fruitless "war" while out and about with my kids. I think people just need to lighten up about this.

Posted by: Changes | March 9, 2006 4:26 PM

Proud to be a Working Mom, et. al.-

The fact that this debate exists, in part, is evidence that we are not "throwing all of those years of progression to the wind and regressing into the 1950's." The element of choice is what the struggle was all about. Mothers who have the financial stability to choose whether they participate in the paid labor force (and this is a critical distinction) are blessed with this choice due to the work of the previous generation of women. Women who have the option to stay home, and choose to stay home, are not harming the women's movement. They are celebrating the existence of this choice, and they should not be looked down upon for this choice, and they certainly should not be blamed for moving our society back into the 1950's.

This artificial partitioning of mothers created by this mommy war distracts our society from what our true goals should be- encouraging a greater balance of work and family for men and women- so mommies AND daddies are supported in whatever decision they choose for their family. I propose a mommy truce, and a renewed effort for more family friendly policies in the work place and in society as a whole.

Posted by: Mommytruce? | March 9, 2006 4:36 PM

Looking Back, from Washington, DC:

Thank you for bringing race into mix.

First, as a working-outside-of-the-house mom, I am constantly trying to connect to other women in the same shoes, so it's not about SAH vs working-outside-of-the house, but for me it's about the ability to relate. I work by choice and circumstance. Hubby and I make relatively the same $. My student loan debt (another issue altogether) = a mortgage in many non-urban areas. Plus, I actually do liking working as much as I love hanging out w/the little one.

BUT what's often missing from these conversations is the added dynamic of race. I agree that there almost seems to be another layer of expectations (from family, society, etc) for women of color to "achieve" = working and it's just what we do.

RE: Daycare. I use an in-home family child provider and it's great.

RE: Men. My husband TOTALLY contributes, I drop off the little one, he picks up, we both clean/cook but let me break it down: I still organize everything, our bills, our doctor's appts, our vacations, our oil changes, etc. AND no one asked him how long he'd take off work then the baby was born or is it hard for him to leave his kid at daycare. SO while I'm super glad there are more a) contributing dads, b)SAHDs, and c) just more "with it" men, it's not the same!!!!!!! People tell hubby that it's great he TOOK A WEEK OFF when the baby is born. A week? It took me a week to be able to walk comfortably to the freakin' bathroom post birth.

Anyhow, I appreciate the purpose of this blog, hope there are more conversations regarding race and more opportunities for props for working-moms, seems like all the love reserved for SAHM's- which bless them, b/c it's a hard job for sure, but we working moms contribute too!

Posted by: **aloha)) | March 9, 2006 4:36 PM

To Adelphi who wrote:
"Working mom's look down on us because they assume we're not as gifted in the workplace; frankly, many of us look down on you because you're not willing to make the hardest sacrifice of all for your kids."

Again -- for a lot of women these days going back to work is not a choice, it is a matter of survival. And it's not just for women of color. If I 'chose' to stay home, we'd be forced to move into a studio apartment in a very bad neighbourhood where my nextdoor neighbor would be dealing crack. Is that the kind of sacrifice you are talking about?

Posted by: Elle | March 9, 2006 4:47 PM

How about covering the *choice* of whether to become a parent or not? It seems as if everyone "always knew they wanted to be a Mom" or "always knew they hated kids and never wanted to deal with them." How do you deal with the biological clock that woke up only when you're past 40 and single and in a low-paying job you love?

Posted by: Pat Doodle | March 9, 2006 4:55 PM

This is interesting. I simply don't care what other people think- if a SAHM thinks I am doing the wrong thing by working or a working-outside-the-home mom thinks I am doing the wrong thing by arranging a year of LWOP as I approach the birth of my second child this summer?? I am sorry that people feel they can't have it all. Maybe because my spouse and I met at work and are at the same place in our careers and on the career ladder, we've been very supportive of each other (in fact I traveled for work to Asia and Africa the same year I had our first child). I have also noticed that it is really true that work expands to fit the time you have. It used to take me 2 hours to cook dinner after work. Now I can whip up the same recipes in 20 minutes while having a 2-year-old "help" me. I love my job, I am lucky to be able to work cause I have a great daycare, lucky to be able to take a year off and be guaranteed a return to my current position. My SAHM mom friends and I have never had a conflict and I just don't see where there is one- we each support the other's choices and laugh about the "grass is greener" syndrome. I am not saying that it's not hard to balance, find time for friends, etc. It's also hard because my spouse and I are not from the area so (like many DC area residents) we don't have the family support network here- no leaving the kid with Grandma for a few hours. But I think couples can make it work if they've got the same ideas and plan things out well in advance and I'd rather spend my precious spare time doing something extra with my kid or husband than worrying about who works harder or whatever. Life is short.

Posted by: MCM | March 9, 2006 4:55 PM

Thanks to all who've posted. Kudos to Lisa and "person". I am a female executive with 2 kids about to enter middle school. I am the only female high-level manager in my whole company with kids still at home. Ohter female's kids are grown. Nearly all my male peers have SAH wives. I just can't compete with them in level of time or intensity. Plus I HAVE to work as husband can't, and there's no change in sight. I need a wife of my own to take care of me the way my colleagues have.

Posted by: annabelle | March 9, 2006 5:07 PM

I was excited to listen to this on NPR's Diane Rehm show, however could not finish listening because I was then producing work for a company. I have first hand experience on both sides of this publicly verbal as well as inner war. So I am interested. As I see the definition here as: one person is better for themselves and their children than the other is. It seems to be our social nature to try to be better than others or berate ourselves because we are not better. The dialog from the Mommy Wars book is necessary for us to become aware and learn to avoid this social and self destructive pattern. My own circumstances forced me to experience both sides of the mommy wars. I came from a righteous position to an understanding position. What defines "Good" mothering and good care for OURSELVES are not necessarily what others dictate nor what we have inherited. I am working on redefining and exploring what "good" is. I am learning to be kinder to myself,lighter with my kids and other moms. Women Who Love Too Much by Robin Norwood is worth re-reading. I am taking on a conscious effort to re-edcuate myself, forgive myself for beating myself up, as well as giving other moms a break from judgement. I look forward to learning more about Leslie Morgan Steiner's study.

Posted by: Janajean | March 9, 2006 5:14 PM

I was raised by a SAHM who complained the whole time about not having enough money. So I work fulltime and have two healthy, happy teenage boys who did't have to hear their mother complain about not having enough money. I also work so my two boys won't have to dig into their pockets when they're adults to pay for me in my old age. At least my parents have Social Security and other tax-supported health benefits in their old age. I don't for a minute assume those social programs will be around when I'm old and unable to work. So why am I a work-outside-the-home mom? So I can eat when I'm 80 years old. That's why. Like the business slogan goes: "'My house is worth a million dollars' is not a retirement plan."

Posted by: stephanie | March 9, 2006 5:17 PM

I’m in this book group with five of the smartest, most interesting women I know. All are moms of school-age children or younger. One teaches aerobics and writes stories for children. One is an attorney working half time at a trade association. Another combined her pre-kids experience as an event planner with her work as a pre-school teacher into a development position at a private school. Another is a science writer who produces more work from home than many of my highly billable colleagues at the office. And still another is a health statistician who plans to return to research, this time merging her years of teaching pre-school with her background in child development. As for me, I’ve worked full time outside the house since my 9- and 12-year old daughters were born.

The point is that none of us has done it quite the same way.

Who is doing it the "right" way? Each of us is.

Who has doubts from time to time? We all do.

What do we talk about when we get together? How hard it is to balance. Whether we are raising our kids well. How difficult it is to carve out time for ourselves. We trade ideas and celebrate each other's successes, whether at work or at home.

Some really tough issues have been raised in today’s postings. I look forward to checking back to hear the insights of other moms who have been there.

Posted by: Carol | March 9, 2006 5:38 PM

It's been fascinating for me to read this blog. I've just left my job to become a SAHM - again. It's not the first time I've decided to stay at home and I'm not sure it'll be the last.

Like MomNC, I find it sad to read the defensive posts and find the lack of support between working moms and moms who stay at home. For those working moms who contend that they work harder, I would say that's the whole point behind staying at home. For me, one main reason why I left work this time was that not only was I harried and rushed but so were my husband, my daughter and my son. We would all get home around 6 pm, eat a rushed supper, and then run out the door to some school activity/lesson/scout/etc..

After a while, I had to ask myself which did I want more: money or time? That's what it came to in my situation. My job was not close to home and I could not find one closer to home. Even with a 6 hour workday, I was out of the house close to 9 or 10 hours a day. In the end, I opted for time. Now, if I had a job 15-30 minutes from my home I would probably still be working.

After switching from one lifestyle to another several times, I find myself admiring both groups: those that work outside the home and those who stay at home and keep the household going. Neither are particularly easy things to do.

Proud to be a Working MOther - I don't think we are throwing 30 or 40 years of progress to the wind. The whole point of the women's liberation movement was to create choices. Previously women did not have a choice if they wanted to work in many fields. But opening up the professional world to women does not mean that staying at home is no longer valid option.

Are my undergraduate and graduate work(s) all for naught because I'm not actively using them as a wife and mother? I hope not.

Posted by: in and out of work/home | March 9, 2006 6:00 PM

This is a fascinating blog and sorely needed. I agree that making comparisons about who works more is detrimental. We are all busy most hours of the day--it's how we spend those hours that is the issue. I do disagree with the comment that stay-home moms work less than 'working moms'--it's not usually as if the working moms are spending the entire day at the office AND caring for their children--someone else is doing it for them. It's a matter of supply and demand. Someone is caring for the children during the day--either the parent, or a day care provider. It's called work when the day care provider watches a child, but not work when a parent does?

I work full time but I am fortunate to have a job that allows me to telecommute all week. Therefore, am I a stay-home mom or working mom? I am both, and I tell you, doing both is HARD. I am also single, so don't have anyone helping me in the evenings.

We all do what we can, right?

Posted by: Alison | March 9, 2006 6:03 PM

To the one who addressed me, Adelphi:

You're right and I must apologize - my assumption is worse than the one that I accused working mom's of having towards me. In fact, I overstated my case in a hurtful way. It's really not up to me to judge or look down on anyone for their choice.

To clarify what frustrates me: So many say to me in a patronizing way that it must be nice to be but that they "need" to work or "have" to work. What they mean is that they want to be "fulfilled" and have extras that I have given up. I really think that a person could look at my gifts, my personality, and my family's means and say that I "need" to work or "have" to work. But I've chosen not to, again, not because its what I wanted (at some level) but because I felt it was right. And of course, doing what is right is what I want to do (at another level).

Again, I do apologize for being offensive. I really was wrong both in my words and even in my sentiment.

By the way, I also think that "working" or "stay at home" is frustratingly black and white... but that's enough from me right now.

Posted by: adelphi | March 9, 2006 6:19 PM

Lots of good comments in the wake
of the column! I was 23 and married in 1980, had my son in 1983. And given the -- let's face it -- difficulty of being a mom
and working, I'm so glad he's 22 and grown and on his own! What I
find appalling is that the womens
movement and apparent change were perking 25 years ago, but here we are still facing the same issues.
And some folks still want to pit
at-home moms against working outside the home moms! That's not the place we should look or where we should spend our energy!! Why is it still not possible to find good and economical day care? Why do women who take time off find themselves way back in the line for opportunities upon their return? Time to take on the "Motherhood Mystique"? I think so!

Posted by: SFMom | March 9, 2006 6:32 PM

I think adelphi hit the nail on the head for me as a fellow SAHM. Staying home has not been the easiest thing for me, and has certainly driven me nuts at times, but I believe the sacrifices our family has made to allow this choice benefit our child. I know her as well as know any other human being on earth. And I cherish that.

Posted by: ChapelHillMom | March 9, 2006 6:32 PM

The "sacrifice" concept really gets under my skin. By saying you made the sacrifices to stay home, isn't that implying that we're selfish/wrong for not making those sacrifices? Despite working FT, I'm very confident I know my child better than anyone else - including his daycare provider.

Thanks for this blog. It is sorely needed.

Posted by: gali | March 9, 2006 7:02 PM

Why not do both? I know- unfortunately it is very hard to find the work situation I have. I'm full-time, but only go to the office/work 3 days a week. The days I go in my 6-month old baby is in the high quality daycare center in the lobby of my building. I see him a few times a day. The other 4 days- I'm a stay@home mom. We now have a full-time work@home option which wouldn't be feasible with an infant, but as soon as my child (and poss. future child) hit school full-time- I plan to work from home so I am here when they leave and when they return from school. I have an advanced science degree and work for the Fed. Govt. It pays too much (daycare is only a small portion of my 6-figure salary) not to work. Plus, I want a career that I can have once my children leave the nest. It's a shame that more businesses can't be as flexible as my office.

I hate people that bash daycare. Some of the good quality daycares provide such excellent education and stimulation. It is amazing how much further ahead many of these 'daycare children' are when they reach school. The socialization aspect is also wonderful. Unfortunately, good programs are ridiculously expensive and not feasible for many parents. Things like this seriously need to change.

Posted by: dcmomma | March 9, 2006 7:12 PM

I'm a Silicon Valley marketing executive, who's taken time out of HIS career, to be "Mr. Mom" to our almost 2-year-old son.

I have a Wharton MBA. In fact, I was in Leslie Morgan-Steiner's class, and had at least one class with her. (Business French - hey, Leslie ;-)

I'm not going to get into all the details raised by previous posters, many quite well-put -- other than to say this:

==> It's a (expletive of your choice) being a stay-at-home DAD, too.

No matter how much praise I get for taking a few years out to stay at home -- my career has taken a MASSIVE hit. Interviews often drift off into the (legally unspeakable and subtle) haze of how the other candidates have stayed abreast of the market & technology, and are currently employed.

I can't count the times, since I've started interviewing again, that the (male) interviewer's said "gee, I WISH I could've done that!" -- and a week later, heard "thanks, we're going with someone else who's a little more current...."

My personal beliefs about this (taking a time-out to raise children) are two:

(1) it's a bigger issue for women, by and large, because they (for whatever reasons) much more often make the choice (or see themselves as needing to);

BUT

(2) when men make the choice -- which is admittedly and unfortunately far more rare -- we pay the price, too.

Andrew C.

Posted by: Andrew C. | March 9, 2006 7:15 PM

This is a topic that has interested me since my days in grad school, where I met an older woman who worked pt outside the home and took care of her little girl the rest of the time. She was limiting herself career wise, but felt this was her calling at this point in her life. I do admit this is primarily a white, middle and upper class issue. Since grad school, I have become a mother (now ages 12 and 8) - and I have been fulltime at home, had a pt job, and now am employed fulltime. I can also say without doubt that juggling pt or ft work could never have happened without the help of friends (most of whom are SAHM). I also have a husband who is far more present than most - but the vast majority of my friends (all of us married to great guys who are great dads and clean the house, etc.) know that the rubber still hits the road with us. This is a female issue. There are issues for dads staying home - but they are different.

All we can do in our lives is deal with the choices given (when we have them). We have been reared with the American fallacy of "having it all." There is no such thing - if we think of trying to be a great mom, exercise all the time, have plenty of money, have a rip-roaring marriage, and read all the best sellers. There is such a thing as a calling that each person has in her life (and it changes as our lives change). The best we can do is try to follow that call, and support others who also try to follow it (especially if it differs from our own).

Posted by: Rio | March 9, 2006 7:31 PM

I am a busy working mom. I value my time that I spend with my 4yr old son. I noticed though, that his grandparents and other relatives take it upon themselves to chastise, correct and discipline him, even when I'm with him. I really don't appreciate their comments, and actions. I interpret their behavior as a statement on my "inadequacy" as a mother, because I work long hours. I am very stern with him and correct his behavior, when necessary. I am even harder on him than any of these outsiders.
I think their actions reflect their negative feelings towards working mothers.

Posted by: Josie | March 9, 2006 7:35 PM

I think the war we wage is against ourselves, continually second guessing our choices whatever they may be.
I never desired children as I was growing up, and cried when I found out I was pregnant, although I was and am happily married. I was afraid of how my life would change and the opportunities I would lose. But after the initial surprise I found that I enjoyed being pregnant and fell in love with my little baby. We now have four beautiful, active children who push my buttons and try my patience and who help me see the value of eating meals together, playing silly games and saying I'm sorry. I feel overwhelmingly that children are a blessing and that I am privileged to be a parent.
I admire women who are employed while raising their children and I'm also grateful to my husband who provides the opportunity I have to be home with our kids now. When I return to work I hope that I can parent my children as well as some working moms that I know and that I will have adopted a greater measure of the exuberance for life that all children exemplify.

Posted by: E.G. | March 9, 2006 7:43 PM

Thanks for this conversation. As a mother of a 13-month old I have found it interesting that all the fun classes like Music Together and similar programs for parents and toddlers take place M-F, between 9 and 5 p.m., precisely when both my husband and I are at work. I would love to share these experiences with my son and I am sure many men would like to do the same. Part of this ridiculous and distracting division between working and stay at home parents is a STRUCTURAL problem based on old economic and cultural models and expectations. As so many people have already noted, many of us have to work and many of us choose to work because we value the intellectual challenge that a professional life often provides. Perhaps it is time for all of us to be more creative about how we raise our children and work to ensure that the time we spend with our children is quality time. And, for those of us who do work, let's challenge service providers to offer interesting parent-child opportunities outside of the traditional timeframe.

Posted by: Amanda | March 9, 2006 7:44 PM

I am responding to what Amanda had to say about 9-5 kid/parent activities. Perhaps these activities are geared at these times due to the natural clock of kids. There is a reason they call the 5:30 to 6:30pm time the witching hour. Even the most wonderful of kids can go thru a transformation at that time. Hungry, tired, etc. Have you thought of asking for flex time in order to fit a class in once a week?

Posted by: LDB | March 9, 2006 8:40 PM

This may raise some bloodpressure out there, so keep in mind that I believe this is GENERALLY the case, but certainly not always. Women (working or stay at home) take on the bulk of the childrearing because (in my humble opinion) we are best at it. We put our kids first. We tend to intuitively know what they need. We are more social creatures who will do a better job of developing a social network for our children. So...all of this talk about whipping fathers into shape is a bit hollow, in my opinion. My husband is a fantastic dad, but he is not genetically programmed to "mother" our two children. Bring on the ripe tomatoes!

My other beef, which has been touched on here, is the assertion that you "cannot" live on one salary. Certainly, there are many people in our society who cannot. There is also a large group of people (many of whom are contributers to this blog, I am sure) who choose a big house, two cars, swimming/karate/piano/dance lessons for their kids. This is your choice, but I would prefer that you simply admit that you can't give up the good stuff! You are making a choice, might be a good one, might be a bad one, but it really is a choice. Make peace with it.

Posted by: Chris | March 9, 2006 9:12 PM

What incredible comments. Thanks. I feel like I want to reply to everything that everyone has said. Soon enough! We will get to all the issues raised -- the frustrations experienced by moms (and a few dads) on both sides of the working and at-home divide, the myth of unlimited choices, how you get dads to do more, how much our own needs and our kids' needs change over time, and everything else that goes unsaid in the lives of moms. I look forward to endless discussions to come!

Posted by: Leslie Morgan Steiner | March 9, 2006 9:19 PM

There is a time for everything...Moms and Dads should do what feels good and right to them and ignore the criticisms. For some, that means stay-at-home, for others that means working full time. The other choice is part-time, which I did for the first 14 years of my kids life (along with grad school). I couldn't stay at home full time, I tried working weekends only and almost went crazy. Now my career has taken off and my husband is home trying to get a business off the ground, our roles have reversed. The adviceI give my 15 year old daughter? Life, and spouses, are uncertain, you better be able to support yourself.

Posted by: momnp | March 9, 2006 9:20 PM

I don't understand why we spend so much time defending our decisions or judging the decisions of others.

Last year when I complained about being charged a late fee for picking up my son from school (yes, I was late), my mom asked me why I didn't call a friend for help. Until she asked me that, I hadn't ever considered doing so. She continued to tell me that for some reason she has seen that women of our generation are afraid to ask each other for help.

Is this why? I guess I always figured that asking for help was a sign of weakness - admitting that I can't do it all by myself, failing. Perhaps it was just me. However, rather than building up walls around ourselves, trying to neatly categorize who we are based on whether or not we are employed, we should be reaching out trying to find ways to help and support those around us in whatever way we can!

Posted by: mommytrucesupporter | March 9, 2006 9:38 PM

To Amie and Engineer -- The decision to have children was very difficult for my husband and me. We were both working full-time and enjoying finally having enough money (after both of us being in grad. school) to afford vacations and dinners out. We knew how difficult it had been for our few friends who already had children to juggle work, babies, and adult time.
We now have two girls, ages 5 and 2. I am so glad that we decided to forgo our impromptu ski vacations and luxurious Sundays spent languishing on the couch with the paper. Holding your child for the first time, rocking her to sleep at night, receiving that first sloppy kiss -- all the great vacations in the world cannot compare to these moments.

I was committed to being a stay-at-home mom because my work during my pregnancy involved providing speech therapy to young children in daycares, many of which were truly horrible. However, I was not prepared for the depression I felt when, after 10 days or so, my husband returned to work and his very busy job and travel schedule. I really needed some structure or I would go nuts!! Fortunately, working part-time has been an option for me. In fact, the majority of my colleagues right now are working part-time. My children attend preschool two mornings a week, and I do "paid work" during those hours. It is difficult to find time to complete my paperwork, not to mention trying to get to the gym and the grocery store, cook, etc. -- but I am so glad that I am able to be with my children most of the time. I feel that I have the best of both worlds -- I enjoy the challenge of working and feel that I am staying current in my field, yet I am also able to eat breakfast, lunch and supper with my kids every day, take them to music lessons, tennis lessons, etc., and just play with them. I think that full-time working moms who wish they could work less or stay at home moms who wish they could work outside the home part of the time should be more aggressive in pursuing non-traditional, more flexible schedules. I know so many moms who are not happy with their current work situation yet are not willing to make the case for a more family-friendly employment scenario. Working part-time has allowed my marriage to feel more "equal" -- my husband, although he really wants to be involved anyway, HAS to help out more than most dads because I have occasional meetings, classes, and other work-related obligations that occur outside of my children's preschool hours. Also, I think of the first hour of work each week as the salary for our house cleaning service. We have our house cleaned twice a month and it is unbelievable how much that helps my state of mind. I still take care of many other house-related tasks, but knowing that someone is scrubbing the bathtubs twice a month is worth every penny.

Posted by: speechtherapymom | March 9, 2006 11:04 PM

Thanks for having this blog. And thanks to the commenters who put the hard work and stress into perspective, i.e., it's for the kids, and ultimately, for yourself, because there absolutely has not been anything better in my life than hearing my twin girls laugh when I make silly faces at them, or seeing them turn around giggling when they hear "Skip to my Lou," or watching them marvel at their own feet wearing their new pink shoes.

Someone once told me that perfect is the enemy of good. That has helped me a great deal in keeping things in perspective. I'm not saying that I have all the answers to this work-life juggle, but I see that my girls are healthy, happy, lively, and doing great developmentally. Certainly, like normal kids, they have their mischievous or difficult moments. But, if this is how they are, does it matter how they got there? I think there are a lot of different ways to get there.

Posted by: As long as the kids are well | March 10, 2006 12:31 AM

I am so glad to see this blog. I don't think KLTA has had a good response to her question. I am finding that after staying at home for four years with my children I am unemployable in my previous career. I think all parents need to support all parents. The working parents could open the doors a little wider to the parents who have been out of the workplace for several years. I am finding this transition to be very difficult.

I do work part-time teaching music but this is not enough. At this point I cannot make enough in a full-time job to pay for two children in daycare.

So, here is my crazy solution and I am hopeful in a forum like this one I might find some like-minded parents who want to create this space. I would like to form a collective of working parents. We rent a space large enough to have a working space for the parents and a separate play area for children. We would work 6-8 hours a day and each parent would spend 1 hour of the day taking care of all the children. This way we would support each other in making money, providing quality care for our children and staying with our children all day. This idea is in its infancy and could certainly use some revising...but what a concept. Any interested takers? Anyone have any ideas on how I might make this work? I want to work and stay with my children (or have them nearby where I can play with them). I know plenty of moms who work at home and cannot really get their work done and forming a collective we might be able to create a new way parents work instead of having a me vs them scenario.

Posted by: LadyoftheLake | March 10, 2006 8:08 AM

I used to work part time when my children were young. I do feel that working part time allows women to derive the benefits of both. I am now back to work full time because my children are older. When I was ready to go back to work full time, my part time work provided me with skills and experience that I could include in my resume. Without that it would have been harder to find a full time job.

I do want to thank all the SAHMs because they are out there in our schools and neighborhoods making sure everything runs smoothly. I am not available to do that, so I appreciate the time and effort they are making on my behalf and for all the women and children that benefit from their efforts.

Posted by: oldmaidblogger | March 10, 2006 8:40 AM

To 21704mom, I work full-time in an office (kids are in an excellent childcare center) and can't imagine trying to work at home until my kids are in school. In fact, I've been contemplating this a lot, and it seems to me that I *must* go part-time and work out of the house when my kids are school age -- how do little kids in grade school get home before 3 p.m. without their parents around? Aftercare programs just seem like throwing more $$ into the daycare pit (which is full of many wonderful, caring teachers/staff who deserve every penny of their salaries). And, you're right, middle school and beyond is when you want to be right there so your children don't question whether you are supporting them, there to help during tough developmental times, or care about the decisions they make (good or bad). I'm not sure how we'll do it, but I hope we can figure out a part-time, at-home work solution by then (it's about 5 years off for me.)

Posted by: nylonthread | March 10, 2006 9:12 AM

My mother was a stay-at-home mom in the 60's when it was women in the workplace were frowned upon. As I grew older, I realized that she would have been much happier working than staying home with the children. When I grew older and had my own child I was determined that I would make the choice that was right for me and not what society would impose on me. I'm a working mom and have been ever since my daughter was born. Even my husband agrees, that I am a much better mother because I am doing something that provides me with a great deal of self worth. When my women colleagues discuss the issue with me I always tell them that if they feel really guilty working, then don't work. Figure out a way to live on one income. I see too many children at my child's care programs whose parents feel incredibly guilty they are both working and then do everything they can to "make it up to them." Those children are the ones that act the worse and are spoiled rotten.

The hardest thing about being a working parent is coming home exhausted from a day of work and then having to parent. It would be so easy to give into every crying jag or temper-tamtrum to keep the peace but then your child wouldn't grow up with the right values and good manners. Yes, it's hard to have to discipline your child when you haven't seen her/him all day and you want them to love you not be mad at you. But as someone once wrote, you're not doing a good job as a parent if they don't say you're mean at least once a day. I guess I'm doing a good job.

Posted by: WorkingMom | March 10, 2006 9:31 AM

First of all, we all need to stop whining! If we have children, then it’s time to suck it up and be a parent, whatever kind of parent we are, whether than some ideal that never was. If that’s a stay at home parent, great. If not, great. But there should be no war between the two because I would like to believe that the ultimate goal for all of us is to raise good kids who turn out to be good adults.

However, I do agree with the person that was discussing the point of not being able to get by on one salary. It’s entirely possible and my husband and I did it. And in New York. I was the one who went to work because my job had health benefits but my salary was less than stellar, certainly less than any 6-figure income. We lived in a small apartment and had birthday parties catered by the local dollar store. But we did it and managed to do it for over 8 years, until our youngest started school full-time. We made do with less than many of our double-income friends.

No, our kids did not have dance/swimming/music/gymboree classes or any of those things. We played music at home, took them to the beach and let them run themselves ragged at the playgrounds. In my opinion, all the busyness of childhood has taken away a lot of the fun. And it’s a vicious cycle because parents feel guilty. If they work outside the home, they want to make sure they’re working for a good reason, such as providing all the classes etc., that they can afford. If they stay at home, they want to make sure their kids aren’t missing opportunities and so therefore sign the kids up for all sorts of things. I know—I’m guilty of the guilt-trips! All that over-scheduling does is make kids tired and cranky; it teaches them to always be wanting more, more, more. And I do believe that it makes them easily distracted and also easily bored. A lot of kids don’t seem to be able to entertain themselves by drawing a picture, reading a book, or creating games with dolls or army men or whatever. They seem to be in need of constant stimulation from outside sources and constant movement.

However, in the end, despite anybody else’s opinion, it’s a matter of doing what’s best for your family. If your family is lucky enough to have a choice about someone working outside the home versus staying home, that’s great. If you need two salaries just to make a rent payment and put food on the table, that’s the truth of a lot of people’s lives. If you know you’re going to go insane staying at home with an infant whose only form of interaction is crying, eating and pooping with a little smiling and cute gurgling thrown into the mix, you’re probably better off not staying home all the time! I’ve had friends who have gone through all the various permutations; stay at home parents; working outside the home parents with kids in day care almost 10 hours a day; parents who have been able to hire au pairs; parents who mix it up over the years. And so far, all of the kids have turned out just fine because the parents were able to find the method that worked for them and be content with it.

Posted by: nomorewhining | March 10, 2006 10:12 AM

The publication of this book and the dialogue begun in its aftermath has really occurred at a time when I have been thinking a lot about this. I am a 35-year old mother of one, married and I work outside the home.

Most of my female peers were raised by a generation of women who treasured the opportunities afforded them by the feminist movement of the time. Our mothers marched and protested to have more professional options. I saw first-hand a mother who stayed at home when we were young, divorced, put herself through graduate school and made life more comfortable for herself and my sister and I.

From this example, I learned that I was smart enough and determined enough never to have to rely on a man to take care of me. Most of my female peers learned the same thing.

So, why is it that now I find myself the ONLY working mother of my female friends from high school and college? It blows my mind that I am the only one from my circle of friends.

It is so alientating to me to feel so alone. These are women I've known since I was very young and I FEEL their condescension about my choice to work outside the home. Of course, what I experience from them is my own mixed guilt feelings about being a working mom, but if I had an nickel for every time one of them says "well, im doing what's best for my child" and "I don't have to worry about that because I'm home with my child"...i could afford to stay home!!!

I feel alienated because these smart, well-educated mothers that were my running mates for years are looking down their noses at me. And I feel betrayed in a sense that they sacrifice their professional goals so that their mates can pursue theirs.

I feel terribly about this. It is a HUGE divide and it makes me feel cut off from the very women I've relied on for so long for friendship, companionship and advice.

I don't know how to heal the rift, but I do find myself turning away from those friendships....

I just find it interesting the assumptions women make about each other...
1) that we care about material things: I'm not working to buy Hummers and live in a McMansion. I work to pay the bills on our modest life and to sock away $$ for my son's education. I work because its good for my brain!

2) That their way of raising kids is the only way to ensure healthy, happy kids:
As if my child will end up neurotic and miserable, whereas theirs will be completely happy and well-adjusted.

As I said, I don't know how to heal the rift, but I do know that it is very palpable for me.

I love my son above anything else in my life..but the balance of working outside the home makes me a happier mommy and more appreciative of how wonderful it is to forge such a strong relationship with my son.

Posted by: Jake's mom | March 10, 2006 10:19 AM

Sorry, had a typo. Should read "If we have children, then it’s time to suck it up and be a parent, whatever kind of parent we are, rather than some ideal that never was."

Posted by: nomorewhining | March 10, 2006 10:44 AM

Obviously there is a need for this blog, just look at the opening response, so thanks for starting it. I agree with the posters who say this should not be a war.

That said, I cannot stop myself from responding to some of the earlier comments about how WOHM moms work harder. I have to respecfully disagree. For the record, I was lucky enough to stay home with my daughter until she was 10 months old, and during that time I spent a lot of time with friends with toddlers. I have worked many years as an attorney and also as a secretary, at high pressure firms and at a government agency, and I have been back at work for 6 months. From what I have experienced and seen, there is nothing easier about being home with a child than working. I have yet to have or observe the job that I think is harder than taking care of young children well, and I have worked pretty hard over the years. For moms who stayed home 3 months and then went back to work, you dealt with incredible sleep deprivation and quite possible colic or reflux, but, you have no idea how relentless/thankless it is to take care of an older baby or child day in and day out, so it is irresponsible to say that you work harder. The hard work of staying home is balanced out by tremendous personal rewards, and there is more flexibility with time, so I would probably choose to stay home if money were not a factor. But it is, so I do not. I also am lucky to have a job with regular hours and wonderful daycare, so I do not have any guilt about my decision, my daugter is not deprived by my not staying home. Now the topic of reasonably priced quality daycare is one that needs a lot more attention.

I definitely plan to look into working part-time or partially from home during the middle school to high school years, I think that is a movement about to happen.

As to the questions about why classes are offered during daytimes midweek, I am equally frustrated, but, I understand why these classes are midweek. First, SAHMs need them, it is hard to keep a child stimulated and entertained all day without resorting to TV, so that creats the demand. Second, teachers for these classes want weekends off too, so weekend classes are harder to come by and fill up faster. They do, however, exist.

Posted by: another mom | March 10, 2006 12:36 PM

I am horrified at the accusations that stay at home moms aren't as busy. I've done both, and when I worked I could get my hair cut, eat lunch while sitting down, and do errands unaccompanied on my way home. More importantly, I was using skills I enjoyed and was good at.

Now, I don't go anywhere without hauling a 2 year old in and out of the store, I'm growing my hair out of necessity, and I just finished my son's cold leftover pizza for lunch. More importantly, I was raised to be a professional, and I find the skills I need at home to be very difficult and foreign. So to argue that I am "doing what I want" while working mothers are forced to do things they don't want makes no sense. To argue that stay home moms have more time, especially more time for themselves, is way off base and exceedingly petty.

Announcing that you're working hard and other people aren't is darn judgmental.

Posted by: Beanhauer | March 10, 2006 2:55 PM

I think the bottom line is that unpaid work isn't valued, no matter how hard or impressive it is. Somehow, someone who is paid to care for kids is working, but someone who does it for their own kids is not.

When I left work, my nanny said she could never stay home all day with kids, because she would be bored. My NANNY. Who stayed home all day with my kids. When she thought stay home moms were doing nothing, I realized how deeply people believe this.

Posted by: Beanhauer | March 10, 2006 3:19 PM

I strugle for years after deciding to stay home after my first child was born. I am educated and know that I would be a fabulous working woman if I'd made that choice. We choose to live on one income because our quality of life is much better with me staying home. My husband has been able to advance far better in our or "his" career because of our sacrifice. As a home educator I make sure our lives run smoothly. I take care of everything that's involve taking care of a household, planning vacations, activities, social commitments, new and old friendships, etc. I homeschooled our oldest child for the first two years before he started school ( he is a grade ahead ). I am currently teaching both children a new language. Even with just one salary, my husband makes sure that our finances would allow me to stay home if I chose to in the event something were to happen to him. Although, my husband doesn't help much around the house, he shows respect to my contribution as a lifestyle fascilator. My contribution allows him to have a relax attitude and a non rush lifestyle outside of work and more time for friends, family. Yes, we probably could have a bigger house, two cars, eat out more often and have a lot more extras and status. We just decided we were not going to follow this hyper - culture of having to have everything now. We want to follow our own path. Contrary to common thinking, SAHM are excellent managers. They can multitask with the best "real work" managers out there. I guess what it comes down to is ones perception of what success is. Having lived from time to time outside of this country, I have some understanding of the global market and the need to prepare for the future. still, I chose to be a SAHM. I don't take much notice when "working" moms thumbs their noses at me, as if to say, can you prove to me how far you went in school. I find it to be particularly so in this area. The point is I made the choice they are often to scared or don't want to make - that is for those who do have a choice. And no, I don't worry he will run out and leave me in finacial ruin. If that were to happen, like you, I would go out there and create my life over again.

Posted by: amom | March 10, 2006 3:41 PM

If you look at raising a kid as "work" then why did you have one? No one made you have a kid.

Posted by: Brian | March 10, 2006 3:59 PM

I'm a 35 year old mother of two who works full time outside the home. After reading through the vitriolic comments posted on the Good Morning America's discussion board re: the so-called "Mommy war" and the saner ones here, I agree with most everyone who's posted on this site that there shouldn't be sides in the issue. We're all parents trying to do the best for our kids. Whether parents work full time, part time, or not at all is a personal choice.

Posted by: 37027mom | March 10, 2006 4:32 PM

These "wars" are what they are because no one is actually listening to each other. And the way everyone frames their points says more about their mindsets than the points themselves. For example:

"I made the biggest sacrifice" - did you ever wonder why YOU had to be the one making the sacrifice and not your husband? If you did, and it was you because you made less money, did you ever wonder why it's almost always the woman making less money?

"I never get a moment to myself as a SAHM" - did you ever wonder why that is? If taking care of your kids is a job, and no one's saying it isn't, why DON'T you have a systemized plan for time off, breaks, trips to the bathroom? Did it just not occur to you that you were entitled to same?

"My husband doesn't have to do chores because he makes the money and I keep the home" - a lovely arrangment, I'm sure, when there are only two people in the house. Kids seem to exponentially increase housekeeping needs - dirt, food, laundry - and yet the chores stay divided between the two adults. Why is that? Why does the breadwinner's time at work remain stable over time, but the number of hours required to complete a laundry cycle increases over time as the clothes get bigger and dirtier?

"Day care sucks up half my paycheck" - why is it YOUR paycheck that you're thinking of that is paying for the daycare? Men have children, too. His paycheck is also paying for daycare. Why aren't you framing the point as a percentage of family income?

"You have no room to complain because XYZ was a personal choice" - why do you assume it was a choice at all? If I stay home with a handicapped child who needs all of my resources, was that a choice? If I have a major case of PPD that miraculously seems to clear up the day I go back to my paying job, was that a choice? If you pull back far enough, getting up in the morning is a CHOICE, but I don't know if you can call it a choice when the alternatives are all horrible.

"I can do what I do because my husband helps" - have you ever flipped that around and said, "He does what he does because I help"? Sounds kind of dismissive, doesn't it? Almost trivializes the contribution?

Call it semantics if you want to, but we're just going to chase our tails until we're all using the same terms, and choosing only those that mean exactly what we're thinking.

Posted by: Sanya | March 10, 2006 5:18 PM

I find Brians comment that raising a child is isn't work hilarious. I've been on both sides and believe me, it is WORK. Wonderful, boring, fullfilling, cranky, silly work. But, I do miss those unaccompied bathroom breaks sometimes....

Posted by: SIG | March 10, 2006 7:16 PM

I was interested on the comments of the daughter of the "60s housewife" who sensed her mother's dissatisfaction and made different choices when she herself became a mother.

I had the opposite experience. My mother was a classic 70's feminist. She left to pursue an advanced degree in a different state when I was 8 and didn't come home full time until she was done with her education when I was a teenager. As a result I am almost pathologically unable to leave my own kids and work outside the home. Of course, my mother's mother was a repressed 50's housewife.

I think the question of what kind of mothers we had is an interesting and important part of this discussion. Did you feel abandoned? Was your mother depressed and unfulfilled? Those factors probably play as big a role as anything.

Posted by: MOM06 | March 10, 2006 8:57 PM

I am a SAHM who had my eyes opened by something on this blog. Thank you, working mothers, for keeping the dream of equality alive. Thank you, especially, on behalf of my daughter. I had an interesting conversation with my mother-in-law last month. She was divorced with two little kids in the 60's, got a masters degree, and made a life for herself. She really doesn't understand that I am not conflicted about staying home with my children. Granted I work two very part time jobs (which keep me sane) but I think there is a very real difference between mothers today and those who are now 60 plus years. I am fully confident that my husband will never leave me, and I know that I am capable of supporting myself if necessary. Perhaps the previous generation of women was kept dependent, a form of slavery(?) and lived in perpetual fear of being left by their husbands. Prior to the 1950's this was frowned on socially, but the generation of women who was raising kids in the 60's and 70's saw men leaving in droves to seek personal fulfillment. Anyway....most of my friends really aren't conflicted about their choice to stay at home or work. We are all just trying to have fun with our kids, pay the bills and go to Mexico every 2 or 3 years without children! When my daughter comes home and tells me that Jose is so lucky because his mom works at Taco Bell and his dad at McDonald's that tends to put things into perspective for me. I am unbelievably lucky.

Posted by: Chris | March 10, 2006 9:11 PM

My mother was born in 1926 and was
fully engrossed in childrearing and
being a SAHM when the 1960s ramped up
and the 1970s roared in. She worked up until 2 days before I was born in 1957 and then was out of the work force for 16 years. She went back to work when my youngest sister went into grade school and worked PT, much to the huge dismay of my traditional "no wife of mine is going to work" father.
My father died in 1977, leaving her with four children ranging in age from 19 to 9 -- and she quickly ramped up to FT work
and finally retired eight years ago at the age of 72!
She has said many, many times she wished *she'd* come of age when I and my siblings (3 girls and a boy) did, as she feels she would have had so many more OPPORTUNITIES.
She never said she wanted to work full-time
her entire adult life, but so much good for both genders occcurred from the 1960s onward in terms of educational and work opportunities, chances to use talents so fully. My mother would have made an *excellent* attorney and, maybe, a judge, but women in the small town in which she grew up just did not go to college. She was a legal secretary for 13 years and definitely knew as much as any male lawyer in the offices in which she worked, but she had taken another path and it didn't include (for her) finding a way to attend college and then law school and then craft a career -- and have kids. Although she wishes she'd had the opportunity, she has always said she's glad she had her four children. I admit I did take my cue from her and her experience and paid attention to the winds of change. I went to college, became a newspaper reporter, worked FT until 2 days before my son was born 22 years ago, went back to work (PT) for a year 3 months later, and then resumed FT work.

Incidentally, I am from the same hometown and attended the same high school as the late Betty Friedan who had the guts to call out the truth about life for women -- and men of the 1950s and 1960s.

I think it's important to consider that life is more than *either* working or parenting. Ideally, I think it should
involve both. That is a life well-lived.

And why is it that the work men do at home to care for family is called "help," as in "my husband will help me." Help? I think we need to finally leave that one behind. What he does is part of being a man, a husband, and a father, a human.

Posted by: SFMom | March 10, 2006 11:34 PM

Chris, it sounds like you and I may have lots in common. Like you I am fairly confident that my spouse is going to stick around for the long haul - as he often puts it. During the 11 years we've been together he has paid for the college degree, tutoring, language training and hobbies. Before we got married we had long conversations about marital expectations. We are both very practical people. We decided when we had kids I was going to stay home to care for the family. He wanted an educated wife, but he didn't want a working one if their we children involve. This may sound like I have no control or power, but on the contrary. I'm am relied upon for reasurrance and maitaining our schedule for everything outside of his work. I don't earn our money, but outside of stocks options. I decide where our money is invested. I do all the research and is responsible for the location/place of where we will retire. He decides how much we will need to retire comfortably. I am the go to girl for everything. I'm the personal trainer, the map reader, the researcher, the proof reader,the motivator, the coffee mixer, the diet planner, the wardrobe planner, the telemarketer, the language practice partner. I do everything. He's out there slaying the dragon acting all confident as if, he could move a moutain. I don't bring home the income, but I'm the behind the scene girl who makes it all happen. Before marrying we sat down and ironed out everything, including how we were going to worship. Being a sahm is hard and glorious. It helps if you're not resentful of your role. It also helps when your spouse recognizes your importance in his life and act accordingly. It's nice that he desires making you comfortable because he is greatful for the sacrifices you're making for him and his children. I am satisfied as an sahm because we decided way before the kids came along what it is we wanted from each other. We each accept our roles and our lives and try not to harbor resentment because of various disapointments. One more thing, my situation works as a sahm because of one key factor. We have the same spending habit. We "I" DO NOT spend above my means. We're very comfortable, but our philosophy is, if we cannot afford to pay cash for it then we probably cannot afford it. He said he needs to be able to sleep at night and I agree.

Posted by: amom | March 11, 2006 1:36 AM

This is my second posting :). I was thinking how superficial the mommy wars thing is... stay at home or working, it basicaly means your kid's dinner is assured, and the car and the mortgage are being paid for... I live one block away from my little town's homeless shelter, I guess the folks there would wish to worry over mommy wars...
I work as a college math professor and have one pre-teen daughter, I'm a single mom. My daughter's soccer team has an assortment of moms to show for. Yes, the hero rol of the stay at home team parent mom irritates me on and off... then again, we talk about what she would do if she would be on her own with the kids... we talk about (our) aging parents... another (now divorced) mom is a mortgage officer of a local bank. I asked her about life insurance variants,
interests on small money savings accounts, and opening savings accounts for our kids... Other friends I have both work very hard in blue collar jobs, after that the husband looks after his twin brothers with MS... their house is nearly payed off and their kids college accounts are in better shape than my daughters... they have their hands full with work and preserving some quality of life, and some of their worries are entirely loaded on them by fate - the sick and handicapped brothers - these have other joys and pains than mommy wars...
Yes, it seems to me that watever way each parent (single or not) does it, what we all want is a stable job, and having a life...
and that's what takes most of our time and energy...
When I go to conferences, now that my daughter shouldn't miss school (or soccer tournaments :) ) by tagging along as she did when she was little, she often stays with friends. I do worry some to try to make sure I properly reciprocate such favors and sometimes I feel it's an uneven deal for the hosting parents...
One way or the other, mothers and kids do better if mothers help each other out... so I try to not miss chances to help out, in order to "earn good karma" :). Kids see more options about how to deal with life, relationships, money, work, education, etc, from seeing how other people deal with these issues. That way they grow up to have more resources. I guess I picked up this way of rising kids in my Southamerican home country, where optimizing resources was a must due to economical tightness... I found a string of American parents here that cherish these same ways... Reading books, it seems to me this way of parenting is closer to African American ways :). Interestingly, when my daughter was little she used to go to a Children's Museum our town had, for after school activities; it was run by an African American man (married to a local school teacher). I loved the way he had the kids handle conflicts with each other, safety, and other things dear to us in life (I hate the word values :) ).
For years I dreamed with a cool Subaru outback (rather than my cheaper car that drives me arround exactly as well :) ). Now my daughter says she never wants to see me drive a station wagon ("that's a mom car"),
even though that would keep more dog hair and soccer stuff out of my face... because I have to be cool and "not do what everybody else does"...
Goin back to voluntering time at school and such... While I never do trips, chaperoning, and such, I ended up being invited to be part of the site council at my daughter's school. I religiosly show up, and then I have tussles with other members - they wish to put more resources into sports, I root for more resources into teaching foreign languages and science...
'nuff for today :). Take it easy, y'all!
Spring is in - enjoy it, and enjoy being able to afford what you can afford.

Posted by: Marianne | March 11, 2006 4:30 PM

The "ultimate mommy wars" took place this past year in California. Nurses, teachers and pta moms combined forces, along with their spouses, to defeat Governor Schwarzenegger's ballot initiatives. Now that was a Mommy War!

I've never had any use for the fight between two valid choices. If both choices didn't have merit, there'd be no battle. So get over it and do the best you can with what you've got!

Posted by: pta mom | March 12, 2006 11:41 AM

Too funny that "person" resents SAH's because men with SAH's are more successful than working mothers. So all women are supposed to work full-time to give women an equal playing field!?! Oh Pleeeassee!

If you want an even playing field, find a man who'll stay home and take care of you and your kids. Don't even TRY to tell me that I'm supposed to live my life according to your rules, for your advantage.

Posted by: Anonymous | March 12, 2006 3:54 PM

Most people I know don't fit into neat categories, but fall somewhere in the middle of the continuum.

I am a stay-at-home-mom now but plan to go back to work when my daughter (now two) is a little older. I chose to be a stay-at-home-mom because my salary would barely have covered childcare and commuting expenses, and I wanted to be at home to enjoy my daughter when she's small. I don't think there's anything wrong with daycare, but going back to work just wasn't worth the five dollars an hour or so I would have cleared, when I really would prefer to be with her anyway.

I thought long and hard about what I would do, and ultimately made the choice that was best for *my family*. I don't know why people feel that in order to defend their own choices, they need to attack someone else's. (And this goes for women on both sides of the debate.)

Posted by: Rachel | March 12, 2006 5:53 PM

Being a working mom, I find myself so jealous of the stay at home moms for the time they get to spend with their kids. And then I stop, because when I get home, despite being tired and stressed, I feel I have more patience for my kids and more joy at the mundane evening moments with my child. I am fulfilled at work and at home. Is there any life without some regrets? Do I worry that my girls will not understand? Sometimes, but then I feel that if I do my best and show them why Mommy went to work every day, they will eventually be happier and more balanced. Is it easy, no. I fortunately have a choice and I made my choice to be a working mom, just as my neighbors chose to stay home.

Posted by: Sunniday | March 13, 2006 10:09 AM

I worry about financial dependence. Do all SAHMs have large separate savings? Do they really feel that their partners' income is truly their own? Never mind a bigger house, another car, etc. I need what Virginia Woolf referred to as "room of one's own." I don't see how to afford it without bringing in cash of my own. Paid work empowers.

At the same time, I wish my mom had been home in the afternoons when I was growing up. I loved my babysitters; they broadened my world view; they kept me safe and happy. I just remember missing my mom a lot.

I guess I'll need a home office. . .

Posted by: Adrienne | March 13, 2006 2:41 PM

I worry about financial dependence. Do all SAHMs have large separate savings? Do they really feel that their partners' income is truly their own? Never mind a bigger house, another car, etc. I need what Virginia Woolf referred to as "room of one's own." I don't see how to afford it without bringing in cash of my own. Paid work empowers.

At the same time, I wish my mom had been home in the afternoons when I was growing up. I loved my babysitters; they broadened my world view; they kept me safe and happy. I just remember missing my mom a lot.

I guess I'll need a home office. . .


Posted by: adrienne | March 13, 2006 2:42 PM

Amanda...there are plently of classes that are offered on Saturdays. I am teaching a music class on Saturdays now albeit there are only two children in it, we are hopeful more families will join.

Posted by: ladyofthelake | March 13, 2006 4:32 PM

To those who have complained about "person's" comments: It is a fact that stay at home wives are hurting working women because they are providing a huge advantage to men over women in the workplace and because they are proving the cynics and sexists right that "women are just going to waste their educations in order to stay home."

So, even if you don't like inconvenient facts, you should be aware that even though you are helping yourself (the more you "help" your husband, the harder he can work and bring home more money for you to enjoy) and even though you are helping your children, you are hurting the causes of working women. And you are helping to ensure that there is nowhere near equal representation of women in the careers that shape our public policy, our access to health care, etc, etc. You are helping to bring us backwards to an age where nothing more is expected of women than to incubate and raise babies.

Posted by: bleu | March 15, 2006 12:35 PM

I am a doctor in upstate new york. My husband is a surgeon. We have a very fortunate life with 3 teenage daughters. My main issue is that I dont feel I can give any aspect of my life the time it needs- I run out of work and can't contribute as much as my partners do-ie research projects,I am often late to pick up my kids and tired/stressed at the end of the day,my husband gets very little of my attention. My stay at home friends feel "sorry " for me because I am always busy- does this feeling of inadequacy get better?

Posted by: barbara | March 15, 2006 1:12 PM

A few thoughts...

A lot of the families I know with 2 work outside the home parents pay someone to clean their homes, have groceries delivered, pay for yard care, eat out a lot more than we do, etc. They are outsourcing some of the work they just don't have time to do because their jobs take a lot of time (no judging here, just relating my observations). As a SAHM, I *am* busy providing a lot of services for my family. I try to get this stuff done during the day so we have more family time when my husband is home at night and on the weekends. I agree though that arguing about who's busier is kind of silly--we're all super busy. That's just life with young children.

I agree with everyone who asked where the men are in all of this. I *do* wish that men figured into this whole debate/allocation of duties far more than they do. Do men miss their newborns when they head back to work right after they're born? Do kids miss their dads when they spend so much time at work? Also, what about the financial pressure men feel when they are the sole breadwinners? Do men worry about how to "have it all"? Do men feel guilty about their "choices"?

I've been home for nearly 5 years... I didn't think I was going to be home (I am highly educated and ambitious), but I couldn't bear to leave my firstborn when he was a newborn, so I didn't. My husband and I felt very open-minded and flexible about the whole thing. At the time, he was happier in his work situation and had better benefits, so I saw it in part as taking some time off to figure out what to do about my career. Now we have an almost 5 yr old, an almost 2 yr old, and I'm due with #3 (the last one!!) next month. I'm starting to get restless, so we're plotting our next move: the plan is for me to wrap up educational loose ends and go back to work while my husband will stay home (in a year or so). We are *so* fortunate in that we can handle the expected big dip in income (from the big hole in my resume) for a few years. My husband would like to get a freelance career off the ground, and while he won't have much time at first, hopefully, he'll be able to ramp up as the kids are older and more independent (and spending more time in school).

I have sympathies with those representing many of the facets of this "debate." Raising kids is good work, but oh, it's HARD.

Posted by: BoulderMom | March 15, 2006 5:28 PM

If staying home is the proper "sacrifice" for you to allegedly make for your children, I don't really have a comment. I do, however, have two questions - the first, particularly for those women in similarly situated educational backgrounds as their husbands - how are your husbands sacrificing? And second, if you have daughters, do you think that by reinforcing the allegation that most women will eventually "just end up at home anyway," you are hurting your daughter's opportunities for excelling in a profession of her choosing when she is an adult?

Posted by: Anonymous | March 16, 2006 11:29 AM

My mother is one of the most sucessful women I know. She makes more money than my father ever did, she's got a Master's Degree and is working on a doctorate right now, while still working full time.

When my brother and I were young, however, she stayed home with us because she wanted to. She and my father thought that would be best for us. My childhood was a happy one - and her staying home did not in any way hurt my "opportunities for excelling in a profession of(my) choosing" when I became an adult.

I work full time now, as does my husband, and I make a fairly decent living. Yet I'm choosing to stay at home once our children are born, like my mother did. I may go back to work once they're in school, I may not. Either way, they will know that they can do anything they want to. Stay home, work in an office, travel around the world - anything. Yes, we lead by example, but we also are able to teach our children that there are unlimited possibilities for them. If a woman is a lawyer, would you say that she's teaching her daughter that women can only be lawyers? Of course not. So why give stay at home parents a bad rap?

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

To the woman responding to my post - I appreciate your thoughts! You raise some interesting points, but I think we're missing each other a bit. I am not worried that daughters grow up and are limited to what they think they can do because they are raised by SAHMs. My question is more: do SAHM think they are contributing to the actual limitations women can face because of other women choosing to leave the workforce (however temporarily that may be). I ask because I have heard many times, across industries, folks in decisionmaking positions argue against promoting/hiring women because "they're just going to leave when they have kids anyway."
I don't think there is a question that many people still have that mindset, so I'm wondering if the folks who envision their choice as self-sacrifice have given thought to the long-term implications of it.

Posted by: Anonymous | March 16, 2006 3:25 PM

Right back atcha! (Neither of us used names, but I hope you know who I'm talknig to! *laugh*)

I don't see it staying home as a sacrifice, so maybe I'm the wrong person to answer your question. I am wondering, though, what your feelings are here. Should women not stay home, ever, in order to rid the work force of this notion that women are... less desirable (?) because they may one day procreate? I'm really curious here as to your perspective, or what you think women *ought* to do.

To answer your question, though, no, I've never considered the "long-term implications" of staying at home to raise my children - at least, not when it comes to some corporate arena.

Posted by: Anonymous | March 16, 2006 3:34 PM

Okay, I've given myself a name, you can call me WA for short if you want!

You know, I think this is a really, really tricky arena. I am currently working out what we "ought" to do, which is why I'm excited to have found this board.

I think people ought to do what is best for their families, this part about long-term effects is something I was thinking about recently and couldn't quite answer myself. I have been extremely lucky (blessed, however we can categorize it) that I am in a very good "using a village" situation. Husband is one of those high powered lawyers who everyone keeps referencing, but put his foot down at work and works at home one day, I'd work at home one day, and we live near our families so one mom has a day and day care is the 5th day. I couldn't stay home because I would go crazy, and every once in a while I get a little wistful that I wish I could SAH and like it, but it's unfortunately not for me.
That said, I think that there are just so many factors we don't think about involved with family life that the long-term question is one that keeps coming back to me. I get so frustrated at work when I hear "why promote Ms. So&So, she'll be leaving someday anyway," which makes me wonder what kind of world we are creating for our daughters (& sons who want to be home or part-time). However, I also think my husband would do our same offspring a disservice if he didn't work within his realm to change things and make professional life more family friendly, too. It's just so hard a topic, and so beyond the binary work-don't work situation we think about.
Thanks for engaging this question with me!

Posted by: Wondering Aloud | March 16, 2006 4:17 PM

Wondering Aloud - I have a name now, too. =) I'm actually really glad to be having this discussion with you because it seems to come from a better place than some of the ... arguments, accusations, what have you - that have come up on this blog so far.

I'm 27, and to be honest, not exactly the most world-minded person. I wouldn't say that I'm self-centered, really, just that I don't often think globally. I never would have thought up your questions (which is why I didn't last long as a philosophy major, I suppose!).

I don't know what the answer is as far as changing the minds of people who think that's not worth hiring or promoting a woman because she has the potential to be a mom. I don't know what the answer is to "fix" corporate America and make it more family friendly. All I do know - or believe, I should say, since what do I know - I believe that it's imperative that those of us who want to (and are able to) stay home do. It's imperative that those of us who want to take vacations to be with our families in do that. It's imperative that we all - men as well as women - continue to let our bosses and our bosses bosses know that family is important to us. Yes, our jobs are important to us - but those of us who are not willing to sacrifice having children, having spouses, having LIVES outside of work... We need to keep reminding each other of that.

So I don't think that we need to not stay at home so that the stigma is erased. I think that we need to continue to do it so that the idiots who have a problem with it will eventually get over it.

That being said, it's 4:30 and I have an hour and a half commute home to my husband and dogs.

There's more to life. ;-) Good evening.

Posted by: GotMeThinking | March 16, 2006 4:32 PM

Well said, you, too!

Posted by: Wondering Aloud | March 16, 2006 4:57 PM

I enjoyed reading the insights of Ms. Steiner's Wharton classmate, which touched upon the sacrifices so-called SAHMs (or Dads) make in terms of their careers. We economists like to call this the opportunity cost, i.e., by my staying home mostly with my four boys, apart from some stints working as a teacher or as an economist for a consulting firm, there is no doubt that I will ever achieve the illustrious career that my Phi Beta Kappa Ivy League degree would have indicated. When I've interviewed in the past, the gaps in my work history to stay home full-time are not viewed in a particularly favorable light. Yes, taking children to the zoo, to the playground, to the nature center, running the household, etc., etc., involves some multi-tasking, but I would have to admit it doesn't demand the full array of skills in a typical office environment.
However, what continues to shock me among the full-time "working" moms is their choice of child-care. With their salaries, I would strongly advise them to hire the best British nanny that money can buy, rather than hiring sitters with barely a high school education.
I live in an area where these moms can well afford high quality child-care, but like Lani Guinier years ago, hire the cheapest labor they can find. Recently, one proudly told me that she bought her nanny a car (my husband and I most certainly haven't bought our teenagers cars). She also castigated me for buying non-organic fruits and vegetables. With four children, I think this would stretch our budget a bit. And I firmly believe her children would be better off with her working fewer hours and buying non-organic produce and not feeling obligated to buy her nanny a car. Of course, this mother and I live in a privileged area where we have these choices; for many men and women in areas of the country like the Sago mining town, their next-best alternative is working at the Walmart with no health insurance coverage.

I am glad everyone is trying to end the strife between SAHM moms and working moms. I have certainly witnessed lots of what Ms. Steiner depicts in her book from 1987, the year my first son was born, and 2006, the year my youngest turns four. I wish I could say that women have come to accept others' choices more; but, unfortunately, it seems to have gotten worse. I personally would ask for a cease and desist to those who claim full-time employed moms are "busier" than SAHMs. Life is pretty crazy, whether you have children or not, whether you work as an MD or a nurse. As a British friend of mine with four kids and I recently agreed, we've been too busy raising kids to sit down too often. But we're looking forward to catching up on decades of cinema together in another decade or so! I fantasized that I'd write a book with all my "spare time" staying at home with children, but this has not materialized. Hats off to Leslie Morgan Steiner for starting this discussion and finishing a book!

Posted by: suzyswim | March 16, 2006 10:43 PM

Having "worked" both sides of the fence, I disagree with the poster who appreciated the work of stay at home moms but didn't think they were as busy as a working mom; the stay at home work is just as hard and "busy" as work outside the home. Many SAHM's have more than one kid, playdates, sports practice, keeping up with the daily household chores, and other issues that take a lot of time and effort just to keep the household moving. A stay at home job is more than 40hrs. a week, it never stops. I think that both working and stay at home moms have it hard-they have full time jobs that take a lot of their time, and most often don't get the "me time" that we need.

I am now a work outside the home mom-I stayed home for 4mo. and applaud the stay at home moms who do it full time. My situation, although not unique, is still unusual; my husband works from home and cares for our 15mo. old. so I feel very fortunate. I don't work in the corporate world but I do work in a public library. I enjoy it! I am the one that makes the money but it's a decision that I struggle with, even now after having been back at work for almost a year.

So again, having "worked" both sides, I see both jobs as full-time and busy. I think that this blog is great because, struggling with this myself, we all need to know that we're not alone, that there are people out there who are struggling with the same issues. Dads can also use this as a discussion forum as the work outside the home/working stay at home parent struggle/debate(whatever you want to call it) is universal. It just seems that more moms respond to it than dads.

Posted by: anon. | March 17, 2006 11:50 AM

I work part time with a fairly lucrative job and educated colleagues who understand me. I also look with amazement and sometimes jealously at the breezy, Flo Henderson types. I guess what upsets me the most in the discussion (in a hurt my stomache sort of way) is how much CHOICE is really not part of this equation for most of the working moms I know. I am talking about the educated, middle-class in this instance. I drive an old-ish car and never spend money on myself, but do send my kids to great pre-schools, etc. I knwo I am a lucky one BUT when * any* starter home in the DC area costs $500K these days, so how many of us have the luxury of being one-income households.

When people tell me it's a choice I want to kill them. Tell me , what choice do I have here?

Posted by: Quitely Hysterical Working Mom | March 17, 2006 4:28 PM

Ever hear a mom who stops working to be at home full time say now I am full time mom> Working mothers are full time moms too.

I so agree with Sue and the other bloggers who say the working moms are doing everything else the stayy at homes mom due, plus work outside the house, that is the ones who do not have nanny's picking up the kids, cleaning service.

I was tlaking about the whole issue with a stay at home moma nd she said to me, I wish I had someone taking care of my kids. I was shciked because I/we do take care of our kids. I make their lunches, get them dressed out the door, and then they have their day at preschool and the evening we do all the house stuff and still stive for good quality time.

We chose to be a two income family, but we are lucky that we both work for companies with family friendly environments.

Our kids have truly benefited from childcare experiences, we have been very lucky and they are thriving 3 and 5 year olds.

If we all give qualilty time to ur children, that is what matters most. YOu can be a stay at home mom, but if you are on the phone or chatting with moms at games and practices, and are not organzied, is that better for the chidren?

Finding balance on your own and not comparing should be everyone's focus. We have good qality time with the family, but we also like our new house too!

Posted by: mominmaryland | March 17, 2006 4:37 PM

I have been amazed by the assumptions people make about others' incomes when it comes to mothers' working inside and outside of the home. My husband is a social worker, so I am the "primary" bread winner in our family. And yet, I find many of the women in my community who work out of the home part-time or stay at home full-time assume that my husband must make more money than I (and as much as theirs do.) I even had one woman comment to me that all someone has to do to work part-time or stay at home is to limit the number of TVs and types of cars they have! As if those of us who work full-time all have fancy, expensive cars and a billion TVs.

The other thing people neglect to consider in families' finances is the diffences in what people pay for housing. Most of my friends who stay at home part- or full-time bought houses before prices skyrocketed. Unfortunately, we could not do that with our incomes. So the cost of our mortgage makes it impossible for me to stay at home even part-time (though I'd love to.) Just because you live in the same neighborhood doesn't mean you are have similar financial circumstances, and this is true even for the most financially careful families.

Posted by: Anonymous | March 17, 2006 4:54 PM

I am a 30 year old childless woman, one year away from beginning a career as a lawyer. I suffer from depression. In therapy, I've had the opportunity to relfect on my parents' love, which was and is potent and present despite the fact that both worked continuously throughout my childhood. I used to resent them, since they were absent a lot when they should've been present. But I don't resent them anymore; I now understand that they were doing the best they could, and I'm lucky to have been raised by people who taught me the value of commitment in all three spheres of my life: family, community, and work.

Despite this relatively positive foundation and the fact that I really look forward to having a family, I am freaked out by the potential impact pregnancy, birth, and child rearing (while working) will have on my own mental health. I am in a relationship with a man who is a great parent to his children and will be a great father to our kids. My depression is managed, at least as well as it can be, and so hopefully I'll get through the stress of having a family without major incident.

But it seems clear that it will be hard. The best advice I've heard from anyone who balanced work and family was that women need to accept that they simply won't be the best they can be at either their job or their mothering. For perfectionists, this seems like a recipe for disaster, but perhaps having realistic expectations will help mitigate the disappointment one feels....

Posted by: je ne sais rien | March 17, 2006 6:55 PM

To Frog and Mimi,

I am a grad student at a very well known Ivy Leauge school and I can tell you that earning an MA is very costly but also quite rewarding. Make sure to find out if the school you apply to has a loan repayment program to help students who are in debt.

My mom sacrificed so much for my dad. We had a VERY tradiational family but my mom worked from time to time. She had almost completed her MA when she left to have kids. Her career suffered. I wish she could see me now but she can't because she died at the age of 46. She never finished her degree. My father has two MA's. Don't put off a degree - it might be harder to complete when you have a family - you don't know what cards fate will deal you.

To all the women on this blog - Stop judging and start listening to each other and yourselves. Both WM and SAHM can produce loving, successful children. What is important in the end is that we are true to ourselves and talk to kids about why we make the choices that we do. We also need to make peace with ourselves because society will damn us no matter what.

As for the marriage issue - I have heard many successful women tell me that choosing the right marriage partner is the most important thing. No one seems to know what that is though. Maybe women aren't doing a good job of telling the men in their lives what they need. Thoughts?

The Race Issue - I am a young black woman and in discussions with other young black woman I have found that they are seeking a more traditional life where they will not need to work. This is a bit of a shock to me given the earlier comments on race. Is the pendulum swinging?

Posted by: JJ | March 17, 2006 11:04 PM

I find it funny when people debate about who is busier. the working mom, or the stay at home mom. I work part time. My husband and I have arranged our work schedules so that one of us is always at home with the kids.
We are missing the point when we debate who is busier. The difference is that the SAHM mom is always available for the child, and the WOHM is not.

Posted by: Kate | March 19, 2006 11:00 PM

I am a single mother of two: a mother by choice, but not single by choice. I grew up in the '50's, the first of five children- I saw my son's new face when I was the age my mother had been at first sight of the face of her fifth. The road of life is indeed paved with intentions, good and bad- I didn't learn what was *really* important in order to make a competent choice for a partner who would love me and be a reliable father, until it was hindsight.

Toothless court documents stipulate the basics of monetary and parenting-time input from their fathers, but for my children to receive them I must take additional action and spend money I don't have with no confidence that any lawyer's pursuit will collect from a bloodless turnip.

A recent study published by social researchers at Carnegie-Mellon reports that women (still) earn about seventy cents to each man's dollar, and that parent status confers a distinct advantage on men, but a significant disadvantage on women, in the paid workplace. This disparity increases with each additional child.

This is from a letter I wrote to the editor of the Washington Post on 6 March 2006:
-----------
In regard to _Moms at War: Attacking Each Other, and Themselves_ by Leslie Morgan Steiner (The Washington Post, 6 March 2006):

Women are not "at war" with each other, nor with their employers, husbands or other partners, children, or parenthood. It is with the naked emperor of "equal pay for equal work" whose importance is given lip-service in the paid workplace, but who turns his blindest eye on those who labor unremunerated, left behind in this bottom line-driven society.

If one is to follow his/her bliss, one's parents frequently counsel not to quit the day job. If one's dream is the top of the corporate ladder, its pursuit is met with responses quite different from those to one who dreams of bearing and raising their own children. "I have to work. I wouldn't be myself if I didn't. My job (most days) makes me feel energized, important, successful..." -when the pursuit of happiness is the pursuit of toddlers, how does the ensuing success pay the bills?

Money has not come to this traditional workplace of women; there is a disconnect between the salaried "worthiness" of a CEO or janitor whose daily process is rewarded with a bucket of dollars, and the priceless worthiness of a parent whose daily reward is a bucket of dirty diapers or the slammed door of a moody adolescent's pique. It is an issue of the *perception* of worthiness, made artificial with placement of a dollar sign before the title of one's purpose. It is precisely the reason that "working mothers... treat stay-at-home mothers like dirt." It is because there is NOT equal pay for equal work in a woman's world. Ms Steiner appears to have cast her own blind eye on the "unworthiness" of parenting, and relinquished control of her mother's dollar to a man: "...I've crafted a pretty ideal work/family situation, ...I'm still envious of the trust stay-at-home moms seem to have in their husbands and in life, a ... confidence that they will always be taken care of. Some days I'd kill for a dose of their faith that neither my husband nor life will leave me stranded, destitute, unable to protect myself and my children without the independence conferred by a job and paycheck of my own."

If no child is to be left behind, we must enable our society to leave no parent behind.
-----------

Posted by: Shannon Beatty | March 26, 2006 10:21 AM

I am a grown woman now, but I was raised in a very traditional family where my mom stayed home all the way through our high school years, and my dad was the breadwinner. Once we kids had left the nest, my mom expressed interest in working outside the home, but my domineering dad who has done very well thought that would reflect badly on his ability to bring home the bacon, and essentially told her that he didn't want any wife of his working outside the home. As you can imagine, I have become a great champion of equal rights for women, and have more than once been thoroughly disgusted with the inability of my mom to stand up to my dad and take a job outside the home anyways. Now I realize that this is a separate issue, women in situations such as these not standing up to their husbands. But it makes me wonder how many women have 'chosen' to be stay at home moms (those that can really afford to 'choose'), and how many of the older generation just did it because it was expected societally or because their husbands expected it or demanded it of them? (Just a side question). Anyways, I WISH my mom had worked outside the home at least part-time when I was growing up because it would have taught me how to balance life and work much better. I feel like those of us that grew up with traditional moms have had a harder time of it because we have to plow all of this new ground trying to figure out how to be a successful career woman AND balance family life at the same time. I'm not feeling sorry for myself for having to be a 'pioneer' in my family lineage, but just letting working mothers out there know that I think what they are doing is teaching their children a very important lesson.

Another thing that I WISH my stay-at-home-mom had done was to not give ALL of herself to the family. She was absolutely devoted to us kids and my dad, and our needs ALWAYS came before her own. She took very little time for herself, had few activities outside the home just for her, and essentially 'lost' herself in raising family. So I was taught that everyone else's needs should come ahead of my own. Well, I went through a phase of my life thinking that a man's needs should come before my own, and not really understanding how to stand on my own two feet. Luckily, I was spunky and obnoxious enough to get thoroughly disgusted with myself and realize that it is VERY IMPORTANT to take care of yourself and stand on your own two feet as a woman, especially when your impressionable kids are watching. So to stay-at-home-moms, make sure your kids know there is more to YOUR life than just being their servant, and make sure that your husband is showing proper respect for all of the work that you are doing, because if you are not being shown respect and appreciation in your house for the work you do (my mom didn't get a lot of respect for the work she did around the house), you are teaching your daughters that the work you do is not worthy of respect.

Posted by: AnnK | March 26, 2006 12:20 PM

I am currently 35 years old and finishing up my PhD in a field that I love, but I also want to start a family soon, and I am struggling with starting my new career and taking a job that would be much better for me career-wise but would require much more time at work, versus accepting a 'lower' position that would not serve my career as well but that would allow me to spend more time with my family. I know that I need to work at least part-time (emotional sanity), but as many above, really struggle with the career versus family issue. Would appreciate any comments on how others who may have been in similar situations and found that settling for a more family friendly work position DIDN'T end up being career suicide.

Posted by: JAK | March 26, 2006 12:23 PM

My aunt was a stay at home mom in the 1970s. She told me her biggest problem was finding other stay at home moms to associate with. She said the same argument isn't new at all. I stay at home. I'm also working on my master's degree. Unlike my aunt, I have a group of other moms to connect with, because some smart woman who stayed home realized she needed support from other women.
Don't tell me I'm not busy, or as busy as a working mom. Some working moms are super busy and would make my day look like a trip to the spa, some have jobs that allow them to go to the gym for an hour and then lunch. Everyone's lives are different. We make choices based on the options we have. Spare me about who has the most choices and who made choices. We all did. Those who have to work get a say in how far their commute is, or what field they work in. It's not about who's busier or who works more or who has it better. It's about who you are as a woman, what you want, and what choices you make given your options.
Now, whoever said that women who stay home ruin it for working women? Well, spare me that responsibility. I don't. It's not about sahm's vs. working moms. A driven, ambitious woman who wants to rise to the top of her field can. Any limitations she meets can be attributed to her refusal to work crazy hours, possible glass ceilings *I'm sure they still exist* and a perception on the part of men in some fields that women should stay home. It's not the sahm's stopping them though.
I was a working mom for ten years before I became a SAHM. I will probably work again. And I freely admit that I am fortunate to have the choice to stay home. I didn't think I would ever be able to. I also am fortunate because I know that when I want to return to work, I will be able to. And with a masters degree, to boot.
How is my situation not indicative of progress for women as a whole?
Now, for all the men out there? Man, I am with you. Working fathers who are there for their families have a real struggle. I watch my husband. It's not easy for men to carry the burden of being the main and only income earner, of having to try and climb the ladder enough to satisfy their ambitions while at the same time, trying to stay involved with their children's lives. Being a family man is hard. Oh, and when I worked? My husband and I split things halfway down the middle. Crazy huh? A guy who does laundry and gets the kids ready for daycare. They do exist.

Posted by: Lahdeeda | March 29, 2006 6:32 PM

I too can't see why there needs to be a Mommy war. Not all of us have the opportunity to stay at home with our kids...I was fortunate, but with that choice has come many, many, many sacrifices that my husband and I kept evaluating each year.

There is a role for all of us in this "game", we all have gifts to offer our community whether it is working, staying home, working from home, working part time, or taking a little time off to stay home with a child.

Stay at home Moms truly help support their community in a valuable way (there are some exceptions) by helping out when a working Moms daycare falls through, by volunteering in a classroom at school when other parents are unavailable (thus supporting the teachers and students), by arranging fundraising at school, volunteering on hot dog day at school, by doing daycare in their homes for working moms, for being supportive friends to working Moms and so many other things. Some Moms volunteer at seniors homes, in homeless shelters or feed the hungry programs, help at the community centre....usually while their kids are in elementary school....when others are unable to because of the hours they work outside the home. Ultimately they are staying home for their family, but help contribute in a way all benefit from.

Working Parents contribute to the community by providing services all of us need, by employing stay at home moms in family daycares (enabling them to work hours flexible enough to stay home and still make a little money). Working Parents are usually very generous financially when it comes to fundraisers, because they know they don't have the time to give....which is great, as some of the SAHM's can't contribute as much $$money but can afford the time. Working moms are the teachers, doctors, nurses, scientists, builders, and workers that we need contributing to our society!

SAHM's don't have the money to buy convenience food but the time to make the item from scratch...doesn't always taste as good, but fits the budget. Working Moms wish they could afford the time to make the time consuming meals, but can afford to cut the time with yummy meals that from the deli or butcher that have been prepared nicely.

I think there will always be jealously on both sides of this issue, but I think we need to embrace each other and see how we really work together to grow our communities....and no way is the wrong way!

Posted by: Plum | April 25, 2006 1:46 AM

There are few men at volunteer luncheons because few men are willing to take leave to go to these functions. As a former elementary school PTA president and a continuing volunteer through my children's 19 years on public school education, if I am going to take time away from work, I prefer to do it for something that benefits my children. I have also been involved with schools where the "thank you" events occasionally takes place at a time more ammenable to those who work regular hours.

Posted by: John Dickert | June 9, 2006 9:38 AM

The comments to this entry are closed.

 
 

© 2007 The Washington Post Company