Friday Free For All -- A Working Mom's Secret

I was in New Jersey last weekend, visiting the small town where I lived when my first child was born. One of my former neighbors, who freelances for Johnson & Johnson, stopped by to say hello. It was a sunny Saturday. Downtown was filled with moms, strollers and multiple offspring. As we were catching up, I remembered that when I lived there, the average number of kids per woman was three or four -- pretty high compared with nearby Manhattan and other larger towns. During the week, moms ruled the town. You rarely saw dads during daylight hours, since they were all commuting into and out of New York. My friend surprised me with a confession: "You know, for years my neighbors never knew I worked. As a freelancer, my hours were flexible and I worked at home a lot. I pretended that I was a stay-at-home mom. You were the only one who knew."

This news struck me as kind of funny and very revealing. As I thought about it, I realized I know lots of women who either underplay or overplay the amount of time they spend working to fit within their community values and seem normal compared with other moms. I sometimes do it myself -- dressing down when I know mostly at-homes will be in attendance, dressing up when the function will have more working moms. Do you ever do this? Do you know any moms who pretend not to work -- or pretend to work -- as a way of fitting in? Why are some of us moms so uncomfortable with being different?

On another note, don't forget that Bill Coleman of Salary.com will chat live today at 1 p.m. on washingtonpost.com about the survey I wrote about yesterday.

By Leslie Morgan Steiner |  May 5, 2006; 6:00 AM ET  | Category:  Free-for-All
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For the first two years of my daughter's life, I worked part time-- very part time. I worked maybe 4 hours a week, and sometimes not even that. I felt OK talking about it to the SAHMs, since it was such a small amount of time. But, I confess, when I was talking to a working mother or someone I felt would not like my choice, I would really play up the "working part-time" thing. It wasn't really to be intentionally deceptive, but rather to avoid getting yelled at. Even then, I would get negative attitudes from people, like, "If you both think staying at home is important, why doesn't HE stay home?" (Now he is the SAHD and I'm back at work!).

It's sad that it has to be like this, but, well, some people like being judgmental. I like to avoid it if I can.

Posted by: Ms L | May 5, 2006 8:37 AM

This opens up a lot of other issues, but mainly, do your neighbors need to know ALL your business? I find this is somewhat crazy.

My husband is out of work for periods of time (his job is contract) and we regularly live on one income, so my question is, why does everyone need to know?

Life doesn't always fit in a neat, tidy box.

Posted by: ladycheckitout | May 5, 2006 8:44 AM

I know a lot of lawyer moms who tell people they work in "an office downtown". Many people think/hope we are secretaries. We let the false assumptions stand because of the incredible hostility we have sometimes received when we identify ourselves as lawyers. It stinks!

Posted by: Anonymous | May 5, 2006 9:28 AM

I have a special needs daughter with mild CP. You wouldn't believe the look from the other moms in class when I tell them I work. It is like I am ruining my child. How could I let my special needs child go to a regular daycare? She can't possibly be getting the care or therapy she needs. Actually working makes that possible... My new job covers physical therapy and the leg braces she needs (while my husband's doesn't)? My company allows for liberal flex time so I can make all the therapy appointments she has and my 15 minute commute has me home by 4:30. Plenty of time to do things together. I have never lied about what I do. I am proud of the woman and mother that I am.

Posted by: Momma Daria | May 5, 2006 9:44 AM

I actually don't bring up the fact that I'm a SAHM unless I'm with other SAHMs. I've had too many experiences where working moms say to me "So, what on earth do you DO all day?" and "Aren't you bored?" Once I stood there as a very good friend of mine (who works) and a couple of her friends talked about how much easier it would be to be a SAHM than to be a working mother. I simply don't care to get into it. I don't have an opinion one way or another about who has it hardest, but it does bother me that women aren't more supportive of one another and more respectful of different choices. Same old gripe.

Posted by: MJEMom | May 5, 2006 9:56 AM

I think it is human nature to "play to the crowd" to some extent. I spent many years working 4 days a week and did the same thing as Ms L in talking to different people with different lifestyles. No matter how comfortable you are with your choices it is not worth debating them with casual acquaintances.

Posted by: KS | May 5, 2006 9:59 AM

I don't think that dressing up or down in certain situations necessarily is a reflection of pretending to be something that you aren't - it's a natural social adjustment, and isn't limited just to moms. For example, I dress up a lot more in Washington, DC than I do going to work with colleagues working in more rural areas. It's not because I'm pretending to be something I'm not....I just would feel awkward being the only one in the room wearing heels and dressy slacks, when everyone else is in jeans and sneakers.

Posted by: watergirl | May 5, 2006 10:10 AM

I'm sure everyone has told a version of this story.
Actor 1: I was out on the course last weekend.....etc, etc, etc.
Actor 2: Oh I love to golf!!! Where do you play?
Actor 1: Well I like the course over at Club A but Club B is closer to home so I usually play there.
Actor 2: Yep Club A's got a nice courses but I like C myself. Why the last time I was there...blah, blah, blah.

What Actor 2 didn't tell you:
1. He's never played at A just heard it was nice
2. Last time he played at C was 5 years ago
3. Last time he even swing a club was over 2 years ago (but hey who's counting)
4. He doesn't like golf all that much but plays because it's expected of him.

These kinds of stories happen all the time. The fact that mothers do it too isn't some sort of shocking sign of conflict between SAHM vs WOHMs or some major social commentary. It just means mothers are human (a major news story!). Us humans are programmed to be social animals and we want to fit into the pack. We all do this all the time. I don't dress the same or act the same when I'm meeting a colleague for lunch vs. meeting a girlfriend. Yes different social groups have different expectations and thank god for it. I'd be bored to tears if I had to spend all of my time with the same people who all thought the same and acted the same.

Posted by: cw | May 5, 2006 10:12 AM

I'm proud of who I am no matter where I am. While in college, I was in a class with an exchange student from England. He was very pleasant until he found out I was an Irish American. After that he didn't talk to me much anymore (until our big blow up in class), anyway the point is that I don't care who likes me. I am my own person and I work to support my family, so what!

And, quite frankly I don't want to raise a daughter who feels that she has to change to meet her environment. If she's around a bunch of pot heads she has to be one too? If everyone is picking on someone, she has to as well to fit in, come on.

My best friend is a SAHM and we never have any of these conversations. But maybe that's because she is my friend and we support each other.


Posted by: scarry | May 5, 2006 10:14 AM

I confess I have always played down the nature of my work with "regular" people (i.e. not the people I work with or encounter with my job), but not for the SAHM/WOHM issue. I just don't like the look people give me when they find out I have a PhD in chemistry, like I have two heads or something, or like they are suddenly afraid they will look dumb. It is such a conversation killer. I just say "I work in a lab" and let them think what they want, which generally is that I am a med tech or something. But I guess all that is more a product of how much flak "smart" girls would get. I could never hide the fact that I wasn't a SAHM and never tried to, although I didn't give grief to SAHMs either. Basically just always wanted to make people comfortable whoever they are.

Posted by: Catherine | May 5, 2006 10:15 AM

I sent my child to after school care when I worked. When I was laid off, I continued to send him, because all of his friends were there. My daughter now attends (just twice a week) so that she has friends to play with, because many of her friends are so overscheduled, there's often no one to play with after school.

Some people think I work outside the home and the staff knows now that I do not. I sometimes feel embarrassed, even ashamed about not working. Other times I couldn't care less.

But when I worked, I remember my son's kindergarten teacher chastising me for not spending enough time with my son. (Who knows what he said in school!? I worked 9 to 5, five minutes from home).

You just can't win! So you might as well do what works for you.

Posted by: Kate | May 5, 2006 10:18 AM

"But when I worked, I remember my son's kindergarten teacher chastising me for not spending enough time with my son. (Who knows what he said in school!? I worked 9 to 5, five minutes from home)."

Are you kidding me? He and I and the principal would have had a little talk? I can't believe that someone would do that. Teachers are their to teach not inflict their own values on children.

Posted by: scarry | May 5, 2006 10:32 AM

I agree that a lot of this is just natural social adjustment. Whether or not I was a SAHM or not, I would dress up more for parties where I thought other people would be more dressed up and less for parties where I thought other people would be more casual. You also naturally play up the things you have in common with others--if you are with SAHMs, you'll emphasize the stay-at-home part; if you're with working moms, you'll emphasize your working life. Heck, when I am with other attorneys, I emphasize my "resume"; when I am with non-attorneys, I gloss over what I do. If you're hiding what you do because you're ashamed of it, that's a problem; if you're just doing it to facilitate social relationships, I don't see the big deal.

Posted by: Karen | May 5, 2006 10:35 AM

This is so dumb, I don't care what SAHMs think about my profession, child rearing abilities etc... My parent's taught me not to worry about the Jone's and I don't. I enjoy most of the SAHMs in my neighborhood and hope they like me too but don't only roll my eyes when I hear certain SAHMs complaining about those people who don't volunteer enough or at all at school...etc.

Posted by: SME | May 5, 2006 10:40 AM

I am astonished at the number of people who downplay their professional accomplishments. I'm sure it's just a function of my own personality, but I cannot imagine being so concerned about what others think of me that I deliberately concealed my Ph.D., or went out of my way to sound less successful than I am. It's one thing to fudge your golf record; it's an entirely different ball of wax to imply that you're a part-time legal secretary when you're actually a full-time partner. What the hell?

Posted by: Lizzie | May 5, 2006 10:50 AM

I'm always stunned at the judgmentalness of people about a family situation. If my choices make you question your life, then why am I too blame?

Anyway, I'm working non-mom who recently took time off between jobs. I found that I was just as busy during my time off as I was when working. I can't even imagine a SAHM not being busy - the time may not always be exciting, but then how many desk jobs are?

Posted by: LaChatteAgile | May 5, 2006 10:51 AM

i'm with ya, Lizzie. equal pay, respect, and acceptance come from respecting yourself.

Posted by: scarry | May 5, 2006 10:53 AM

why do you continue to perpetuate myths and stereotypes? I have friends who work outside the home and friends who don't. We share our lives, we are all mothers! No one I know cares who works and who doesn't. You need to find something more relevant to complain about, how about world hunger, disease prevention or world peace?

Posted by: tired of Leslie | May 5, 2006 11:07 AM

Lizzie

AS I indicated, some folks feel the need to downplay their professional accomplishments become of TREMENDOUS HOSTILITY they have experienced.

When I am at a PTO meeting, I just don't feel like dealing with bad vibes that can never be resolved. Most of the women who give me a hard time are the SAHMs whose husbands are lawyers.....

It is only in these limited settings where my kids are concerned that I take this path.

Posted by: Anonymous | May 5, 2006 11:11 AM

you might want to look at why these women are giving you a hard time. Are you arrogant or rude? i am a stay at home mom, and several of my working mom friends are attorneys. we get along just fine. and many of the people on our elementary school pta board are working moms. why do you stereotype people?

Posted by: tired of Leslie | May 5, 2006 11:19 AM

"AS I indicated, some folks feel the need to downplay their professional accomplishments become of TREMENDOUS HOSTILITY they have experienced."

But that's my point. Who cares about someone else being hostile about your career? Why give it any more attention than an eye roll and a "Whatever?"

And this is also why I think that my own indifference to that sort of thing is a function of my personality, because there are many women in my own family who care deeply about that sort of thing. I just honestly do not understand why. There's too much other stuff to spend time and effort on to waste any of it caring what someone who has no effect on my career thinks about it.

Posted by: Lizzie | May 5, 2006 11:23 AM

I agree with Lizzie, why hide who you are? Although I can understand that if a person has had previously bad experiences with other people, they will keep things closer to the vest. I am a WOHM and I have a best friend who is a SAHM. With her, I tend not to talk about work as much just because what I have in common with her is the parenting aspect. My other best friend is a WOHM, with her I tend to talk a little bit more about work. It's a function of what I have in common with them. However, I am very much a "this is who I am" type of person and I don't hide anything at all. On the other hand, I have not personally experienced any kind of hostility from people who chose different paths. I guess I'm lucky that way.

Also, people tend to have different views on talking about work. Some people really identify themselves by their jobs (nothing wrong with that) and talk about their work a lot, especially if they are passionate about it. Other people, for a variety of reasons (they don't identify themselves as much by work perhaps) tend to talk about it much less.

Posted by: bloggerbabe | May 5, 2006 11:26 AM

"are you arrogant or rude?"

Why does she have to be arrogant or rude for people to give her a hard time? Some stay at home moms are hostile to working moms and vice versa. I've experienced it as a working mother and I'm sure that SAHM's have experienced it for staying home.

Posted by: scarry | May 5, 2006 11:27 AM

I agree with Lizzie. I can't imagine a man hiding the fact that he has a Ph.D. I mean, it just wouldn't happen, folks. So why are women doing it -- or the equivalent, like pretending they are not in a highly paid job? I don't get it.

Posted by: MJEMom | May 5, 2006 11:42 AM

Suspect: Arrogant or Rude
TO CLARIFY!!

When I was at the PTO MEETING (not talking about work), some SAHMs married to lawyers were hostile to me in part because I was able to arrange my work schedule to attend the meetings and their husbands claimed they couldn't. There were obviously other factors involved.

I haven't tried rolling my eyes and saying "whatever", but I think that might be intepreted as "arrogant or rude".

Posted by: Anonymous | May 5, 2006 11:45 AM

Is'nt the question why do people sometimes take to heart the negative views others have of them? I suppose everyone has certain insecurities but goodness, women should be proud of what they do in the workforce, proud of who they are as human beings. Why let the small stuff bring you down.

Posted by: SME | May 5, 2006 11:48 AM

so the sahm's at the pto meeting were hostile, but why does it have to be said that they were hostile to you because they are sahms and you are not? maybe they are just jerks! i have been a sahm for 18 years. I'm not hostile to working moms and they are not hostile to me. I think we need to respect each other, there is solidarity in being mothers, and we shouldn't try to divide ourselves!!!

Posted by: tired of Leslie | May 5, 2006 12:02 PM

MJEMom & Lizzie:

I'm a man, and I don't talk about my MS unless it's particularly relevant, because some great, smart people who didn't go to college might be uncomfortable about it UNTIL THEY GET TO KNOW ME. If it came up, I'd mention it, but I feel pretty average most days, even though I know I'm not, so I act it. If the HS grad can carry on a sustained, productive debate about barriers to care in geriatrics, great, I'd possibly have more respect for their ability to do so than one of my former classmates, since they probably had to go farther out of their way to be that well informed. But I don't try to engage everyone in a sustained dialog like that, I try to ask about their fields as much as I talk about my own.

So I'd rather they got to know me a bit first, and I them, rather than have them see me as the geeky guy who went on and on about health care policy or net neutrality.

Posted by: The Cosmic Avenger | May 5, 2006 12:02 PM

"I haven't tried rolling my eyes and saying "whatever", but I think that might be intepreted as "arrogant or rude"."

I meant this as an internal eye-roll. Sorry for the confusion.

And it doesn't sound like the lawyer's wives were being pissy with you because you're an attorney; it sounded like they were being pissy with their husbands and displaced it onto you. If that's they way they behaved, then I agree with Tired of Leslie - they just sound like jerks, which come in all flavors.

Posted by: Lizzie | May 5, 2006 12:04 PM

i don't have any kids, but i like reading these posts and hearing about the challenges.

i have a career and when i do have kids, i do plan to continue working. and i will cuss out anyone who gives me a dirty look or has unwarranted commentary about my lifestyle. bottom line is when you start paying my bills, you comment on how i live. otherwise have an opinion you can reasonable argue or keep it to yourself. do what works for you and keep on moving.

Posted by: mine | May 5, 2006 12:20 PM

I don't think the anonymous poster is implying that the PTO women were hostile BECAUSE they are SAHMs, nor do I think she is exhibiting any hostility of her own toward SAHMs. I think she is just stating the simple fact that WHEN she encounters hostility of that type she responds to it by being less open about her profession.

I too am very saddened by the amount of hostility between SAHM and WOHM moms, and I wish we could just all ease up on each other and recognize that we are all doing the best we can under our circumstances. However, it's clear that this hostility exists (just read yesterday's comments), and it doesn't make any sense to say it doesn't.

And sometimes its not even hostility, just a lack of understanding of another person's life. Before I went back to work, some of my other SAHM friends would make comments about how they just couldn't comprehend how a woman could go back to work and still feel like a good mother; they knew at the time that I was finishing law school and intending to go back to work. I don't know that they meant to be hostile, I think they really just don't get it because they are very happy with their current situations and wouldn't be happy working. It seemed futile to me to try to get them to see things from my point of view, so I just let it go. It didn't make me feel bad about myself, and I don't begrudge them their point of view. I just figure there's no point in making it into a conflict, I'd rather enjoy my day with them and appreciate what we have in common: a love for our kids.

Posted by: Megan | May 5, 2006 12:24 PM

Yeah for Meagan!

Posted by: tired of Leslie | May 5, 2006 12:36 PM

So, working moms shouldn't assume that SAHM are hostile towards them because they work. That's fine

But, SAHM can assume to know about working mothers lives and the working mothers get kudos for ignoring them?

I'm sorry this seems unbalanced and biased.


Posted by: scarry | May 5, 2006 12:46 PM

Scarry,

I suppose it might be construed as unbalanced to let it ride when someone makes an assumption about my life, but honestly, this sort of thing happens all the time in every facet of life, not just on the issue of staying at home vs. working. People make unfounded assumptions about what sort of person I am (and I assume this happens to everyone) for all sorts of weird reasons. If I picked a fight with every person who made an incorrect assumption about my life, it would be an exhausting row to hoe. If you're up for it, you go girl. But it's not for me. I try to address someone's ignorance when I can, but I don't think it's worthwhile to try to do it every time.

Some WOHM's make assumptions about SAHMs, and some SAHM's make assumptions about WOHM's. It happens, and I don't think it's always or even usually malicious. So I try not to get too exercised over it.

Posted by: Megan | May 5, 2006 1:00 PM

It's just a variation of 'when in Rome do as the Romans' do'. When I go to the beach I wear my bathing suit, I want to fit in (rolls of fat and all).

Ivy league, Ph.d, letter carrier, stay at home Mom -- we never really left high school.

Posted by: RoseG | May 5, 2006 1:04 PM

Rose G, so true. Everyone needs to read "Queen Bee Moms and Kingpin Dads". Everywhere I go, I am astonished at how similar certain people are to the way they most likely were in high school. And I also agree with Megan -- I don't bother addressing ignorance every time I meet it. If I did, I wouldn't be doing anything else.

Posted by: MJEMom | May 5, 2006 2:04 PM

This will probably bring up some firestorm, but personally I have felt judged more by other young women my age who don't have kids yet. The moms I know, both SAHM and WOHM, seem to understand (a little more, at least) that every family is different, and there's a lot of tradeoffs and gray rather than black and white. I was probably the same way before I had kids!

Posted by: Ms L | May 5, 2006 2:06 PM

My friends are equally divided between working and non-working moms and there is never any hostility or any judgement passed. My two really good friends, both SAHM, are so busy, I would say even more than me, a working mom. They are completely at the demand of their family and have no time for themselves. I totally laugh when I read these statements about SAHMs that have nothing to do with how my friends live. My friends who are WOHM usually have a really good childcare arrangment that allows them to concentrate on a career, such as grandparents and/or extended family living nearby. And we talk about all kinds of things -- the Iraq war, pre-schools, the price of gas, vacations, our children (probably 60%).

The hostility that I have experienced, and I wonder who else experienced the same are from working parents who are peers who have a much more hands off parenting (which in reality means nanny parenting) than me. It's both men and women. One colleague remarked to me that a nanny can take a child to a sick doctor visit, why do I need to do this (this is about a child under 2).

Posted by: some of my best friends are SAHMs | May 5, 2006 2:08 PM

I met a SAHM recently with 4 little kids and I commented that she must be really busy and that she had a tough job. She then looked like she was trying to figure out if I had insulted her, which made me sad- I really do think that being a SAHM is a tough job (especially with 4 little kids!) I myself feel that I have to expend a lot more energy when I'm home with my 2 little boys than when I'm working at the office. I definitely wasn't trying to be insulting or condescending.

It's sad that WM-SAHM relations are so strained.

Posted by: randommom | May 5, 2006 2:12 PM

Magan,

My comment wasn't directed at you. It was directed at the assumption that in general working moms are always precieved as the ones putting SAHMs down, but it's not always the case. My comment was more directed at tired of leslie.

And, i'm Irish so i'm usually always up for it! I geuss it's sometimes a character flaw.

Posted by: scarry | May 5, 2006 2:14 PM

I completely agree with "The Cosmic Avenger". This is a societal issue that has absolutely nothing to do with Mommy Wars. In general, a Capitalist society bases the value of things on what someone else will pay for them -- what someone else thinks of them (with exceptions, like the nutty study from yesterday's blog).

It's so easy and tempting to validate your own (education, values, choices) based upon what others think of them. And when you're around others, especially people you don't know, you're much more likely to characterize your choices in a way that sounds more palatable to them so you don't feel de-valued as evaluated by that other person's own value judgements.

Not to pee-in-the-punchbowl here, but you simply can't erase this dynamic in a capitalist society. And would you want to?

(A pee-in-the-punchbowl reference posted where it would be readily seen by an audience that is largely upper-middle-class and suburban is an example of the lack of adherence to societal norms that you could get if you don't spin your thoughts in a way that would be palatable to your audience.)

Posted by: Random Guy | May 5, 2006 2:54 PM

Scarry, I'm totally with you on that point! And I'm not as mellow as I'm probably trying to make myself sound. If I feel like someone is throwing down the gauntlet, as opposed to just being oblivious (and I don't think I'm always good at telling the difference), man, look out. I must have some Irish in me too!

Posted by: Megan | May 5, 2006 3:01 PM

Did anyone else think that Bill Coleman's live chat was partial towards SAHM? Whenever someone wrote in and said anything in the least bit negative about his survey or SAHMs, had something arrogant to say or even agreed with one poster who said the backlash was "ignorant"

But when someone wrote in and said that SAHM's worked harder than 99.9% of working mothers all he said was "interesting perspective"

Nice, thanks Lindsay for having him on.

Posted by: Anonymous | May 5, 2006 3:19 PM

I guess I am completely out of touch. I have been a SAHM and now a WM and have friends on both sides. I have never encountered any judgement or comments or anything close regarding my family choices. Downplaying my career, that's just odd to me. I can understand not using a bullhorn to announce it but if it comes up in conversation...?

I agree with Ms. L, for me, the Moms I know are in solidarity because we have so much to knowledge to give each other and we trade info. all the time on various kid stuff. But my friends w/o kids who still call me on Wed. to go out Wed. night or who want to crash a party, that's were the judgement comes in, but so what, they'll understand one day.

Posted by: Out of Touch | May 5, 2006 3:28 PM

I don't even have kids, and yet I am constantly defending my choices on everything from how I pack my house for a move to how I fit in time for the gym. Good manners dictate that, unless you are being directly asked for advice, you should not offer an opinion about another's lifestyle unless it's a compliment, or a word of encouragement. I don't think this problem is limited to mothers, although I'm sure they get more than their fair share of unwanted suggestions about how to manage their lives. Since good manners are hard to find in our society, the best defense is take everyone else's comments with a grain of salt.

Posted by: Leslie (not the author) | May 5, 2006 3:38 PM

PS - these blogs are a prime example of how polarized our society is on the subjects of parenting, feminism and women in the workforce. They've also really opened my eyes up to how many wackos are out there just waiting to pounce on anyone whose opinions differ from their own. Moderation, tolerance and good manners do not seem to play a role in a lot of the posts.

Posted by: Leslie (not the author) | May 5, 2006 3:41 PM

It sounds as though many of you are determining your self worth through the eyes of other people. Does it matter who works? Does it matter who doesn't? Why are people self conscious about their choices? When I speak with my friends who stay at home and we discuss the choices we made and why we did so I don't take what they say as being a criticism of the decisions I have made. And vice versa. I sometimes wish I was a stay at home mother because I could do more on the home front. But my friends who stay home sometimes wish they worked to have more "stimulation". These are all personal decisions people make based on their own unique situation.

Someone in my office recently passed on a really great quote by Eleanor Roosevelt.
"Great minds discuss ideas
Average minds discuss events
Small minds discuss people."

Posted by: typical working mother | May 5, 2006 4:14 PM

Amen to that, typical working mom! Wow. From reading these posting, I think I have to get more in touch with my daughter's generation. Is there really that much animosity out there, or is it just misunderstanding? Has society made no progress in 25 years?

I am the mother of four, the oldest is 25, the youngest is 18. I worked fulltime before the oldest was born and would have returned to work fulltime after his birth but in 1981 there were few (if any) child care centers that would accept babies under 6 months old. So I worked part time from home and continued to do so for several years, returning to part time work in an office setting before becoming a SAHM. Why did I opt for SAHM status? Because I couldn't take the 40+ extra hours of mommy/wifehood on top of part time working - it was wearing me out big time. After 12 happy years of SAHM, it was time to send this passel of kids to college, so off to fulltime work I went.

At no time did I base my personal worth on whether or not I was employed. I was constantly working whether or not I received a paycheck.

We all make our own choices based on our own needs and priorities. I always thought that was the point of the feminist movement - for women to have the freedom to make the choices that men have. If we have lost the ability to respect others' choices, then we have lost the war.

We all (men, women, WOHM, SAHM) need the strength to be comfortable with our choices and to respect the path others have chosen.

Posted by: One Old WM | May 5, 2006 5:03 PM

Yes, of course these jobs exist! They're called 'stealth jobs' == little jobs you do while the kids are in school that don't really impact overall on the family's life. You don't miss events because of them, you can still chaperone field trips, etc. etc. etc. YOu still pick the kids up at the carpool lane at the end of the day, etc. They're not your identity. They're just how you pay the bills. They're not very prestigious and they don't pay very much. But there you have it . .

When we lived in Vienna, VA there were some very judgmental mom cliques and so there were a lot of us working undercover. For example, some of the moms didn't want any working moms in the scout troops because they didn't feel like being exploited and abused by people who didn't help. So I just pretended like I didn't work even though I did.

Honestly, though, I think in that school working moms had a bad rep because a lot of them did really jerky things like sending the nanny in to help out in kindergarten because the mom was too busy. (I once hosted a swimming birthday party where I made a point of calling all the moms and making sure they were comfortable with their young child swimming in a pool, and offered to pay for a parent if they were not. I had one mom send the nanny without asking first if it was OK -- and then the nanny ignored the child while she chatted on the phone and I worried that the child would drown. That kind of stuff gives working moms a bad rep.)

I think it's human nature not to want to be associated with a negative stereotype -- and in this case, the stereotype was largely based in truth.

Posted by: Stealth Mom | May 5, 2006 9:17 PM

Stealth Mom, Any mother/father who would put a child in harm's way because they're "too busy" is simply neglectful - it has nothing to do with whether they are working or not. I bet you that the working mom who sent the nanny to your pool party (and you ended up worrying about her child) would be as neglectful of the child even if she was stay-at-home. That is so outrageous though! Not to mention that she probably would have made it your fault if anything had happened to the child, God forbid. How very shameful. I work, but it would never occur to me to dump my child on someone else like that.

Posted by: vj | May 6, 2006 10:32 AM

"For example, some of the moms didn't want any working moms in the scout troops because they didn't feel like being exploited and abused by people who didn't help. So I just pretended like I didn't work even though I did."

That's judgemental and just goes to show that it goes both ways. I wouldn't want my kid around women like this. Besides isn't it discrimination?

Posted by: scarry | May 6, 2006 12:21 PM

if you can afford to take off from work and take a sabatical and raise your kids, how great! no one can substitute for a full-time parent...

Posted by: father in wi | May 6, 2006 6:30 PM

"For example, some of the moms didn't want any working moms in the scout troops because they didn't feel like being exploited and abused by people who didn't help. So I just pretended like I didn't work even though I did."

I was a girl scout leader for many years. The leader and co-leader did 98% of the adult work required for the troop. Parents were welcome to volunteer and assist, and we appreciated any help we received. If there was something that we couldn't handle and we didn't get volunteers, then the girls chose different activities. I never once felt exploited or abused.

Then again, I believed that Girl Scouts was for "all girls" regardless of where they lived, who their parents were, what their parents did for a living, and whether or not their parents helped. Besides, the girls themselves decided on activities, trips, and projects with guidance from the leaders.

It's sad that our children are possibly being excluded from worthwhile activities and organizations due to something as silly as this. Do what you can for your children and stop worrying about what other people are doing.

PS - I was a mother with a full-time job for the entire 7 years that I was a Scout leader. Boy, did I have a messy house then:)

Posted by: bj | May 6, 2006 7:47 PM

Nothing can substitute for food on the table, a roof over their heads, and money for college, either.

Posted by: scarry | May 6, 2006 9:48 PM

I think the judgements people have experienced are a matter of human nature. I have SAHM's in my neighborhood who go out of the way to welcome us(my kids and me) to events with their kids. I do my best to make sure I pitch in as much as possible (sending extra snacks to playgroup, offering to to the morning end of carpools to preschool, taking vacation days to host playgroup). On the other hand there are the Queen Bees in the neighborhood who will only invite SAHM's kids to events, though they are acquainted with the WOHM's and their kids. There are also WOHM's who also clearly abuse the good nature of their neighbors. Just got to accept that there are "Different Strokes" and do what is best for you and your kids.

Posted by: sunniday | May 8, 2006 12:52 PM

any mom or dad who leave out a child an event b/c their mom dad works, is just vile.

Same thing goes for the working moms. People should grow up and not take it out on kids.

Posted by: scarry | May 8, 2006 2:37 PM

I know many working moms who contribute countless hours of volunteer work at our elementary school. this year's 'volunteer of the year' is a WOHM. there are plenty of opportunities to pitch in, which benefits one's own child and the community. it takes a village. I'm a SAHM, and I say no to some volunteering because I am busy. WOHMs can do the same thing, just help when you are able. What doesn't go over well is 'I can't help because I work'. Just say 'I can't help this time, sorry.'

Posted by: tired of Leslie | May 8, 2006 5:17 PM

yes working mothers don't tell anyone that you are too exhausted to help them because you work or that you'd rather spend time with your children than volunteer at some stupid popularity contest event at school.


typical!

Posted by: Anonymous | May 8, 2006 9:58 PM

ok, typical, don't be so negative. personally, i volunteer at school for the things that involve my children. Thus I volunteer and spend time with my children at the same time!!

Posted by: tired of Leslie | May 9, 2006 11:30 AM

It is typical that some SAHM don't want to hear that the reason working moms don't want to volunteer is becasue they work!!

And, I don't care what you do with your kids, but you shouldn't tell working mothers not to say they can't volunteer becasue they work. It's a valid excuse and i'm sorry that you can't see that.

Posted by: Anonymous | May 9, 2006 12:29 PM

that's because work is not a valid excuse. many WOHMs volunteer at our school. if all the moms share the volunteering, more gets done, which is better for the children. maybe you should see someone about your anger.

Posted by: tired of Leslie | May 9, 2006 1:32 PM

Any excuse is a valid excuse not to be around woman like you. Just becuase someone doesn't agree with you doesn't make them angry, which seems to be some people's first line of defense when someone doesn't agree with their SAHM mentality.

Posted by: tired of you | May 9, 2006 2:23 PM

If work isn't a valid excuse then what is? I mean give us an example. I'm having a slow day at work some i'm reading all the blogs!

Posted by: scarry | May 9, 2006 3:09 PM

scarry, I agree with you. the angry one has lost track of my point, which is just say you are too busy to help if you are too busy. Whether you work out side the home or not, if you're too busy to volunteer, then don't do it. 'I can't help because I work' doesn't go over well with the volunteers. that's because plenty of WOHMs find time to volunteer. Again, we should all do what we are comfortable with, and stop picking on each other.

Posted by: tired of Leslie | May 9, 2006 3:21 PM

It was too good to be true. I knew somewhere down the line someone would get upset. There is nothing wrong with being a SAHM or WOHM, you have to do what's best for you and your family and make sure that you feel comfortable about whatever you are doing. At the end of the day it's between you and your family. I have expereinced both, I've been a SAHM & WOHM. You always get those ones who don't understand, you're just damned if you do and damned if you don't. This should not be something that you have to pick sides about, it's about what's best for you and your family and that's the bottom line.

Posted by: mrsjerome2 | May 25, 2006 4:35 PM

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