It seems anytime I’m reading an article or listening to a book about motherhood, there is a reference to the Mommy Wars.
We should all know this is counterproductive to women. I want to officially call a truce.
The Motherhood Mentoring TV show I am creating with your help through funding at Kickstarter will be the beginning of the Mommy Peace Accord.
Though I am grateful I have been able to keep my career alive while raising kids, I am also grateful I was able to do all the stay-at-home-mom things I wanted to do with my children — room mother, girl scout leader, soccer coach, attend every school play, and so much more, including the little day-to-day tasks that are even more important: organize backpacks, help with homework, make family meals, read bedtime stories, drive kids to their activities, and engage them in hundreds of crafts, science experiments, workbooks, board games and other play during summers and before they were old enough to attend school.
I was able to do all those things because I arranged my work schedule around my kids’ schedule, and because I worked out of the house two days a week and ran a business from home on the other days. I did this for a variety of reasons, but the No. 1 reason is… because I wanted to. I wanted to do all of those things with my kids and for my kids and for myself. I enjoyed them!
I loved planning and executing school parties and girl scout meetings; I was not coerced into volunteering. I enjoy board games, and kind of miss Candy Land and Sorry now that my kids are older. I got a kick out of making a vinegar and baking soda volcanoes. I guess I’m still a kid at heart.
I made my life conform to my dream: To keep my career and be completely hands-on with my kids (even though I wasn’t technically a stay-at-home mom 24/7). Does that mean other moms should do that?
No! Unless they WANT to, and they can find a way to make it happen. If moms really wish they could be working mom part-time and be stay-at-home mom part-time, I would love to give them the encouragement and tips to try to make that happen — though there is no guarantee anyone can make it work for themselves, their family, their job, their industry. But they should not be afraid to try — if that’s what they want!
What about moms who have no interest in working anywhere and want to be available to their kids every day and every night? Then I applaud those stay-at-moms for doing what is right in their heart.
If mothers are staying home with their kids because of guilt or shame or they think they are supposed to or someone told them they have to, then maybe those moms should try something different.
If mothers wish they could stay home with their kids full-time but can’t afford to, then those moms are doing the best they can with their situation, and we should support them. I would also suggest that if they really want to stay home and not work, they should look into other possibilities: Could they work part-time and still make ends meet? Could they cut some expenses from their budget? It’s not easy, and for some mothers it’s just not feasible. But don’t give up on a dream without at least trying!
I know a mom who would have never quit her job because her family needed her income, but when she got laid off — somehow they made it work financially. And after she realized that they could continue to make ends meet without her job, she became a stay-at-home mom.
What about moms who would rather work in an office around other adults five days a week, than spend any of those days making bead necklaces and drawing with chalk on the driveway? Then those moms who work full-time are following their dream — and should be commended as well.
The worst part about the Mommy Wars is telling someone else how they should feel: The working moms insist mothers should want a career to contribute to society; the stay-at-home moms insist mothers should want to be available every day to nurture their children. Each mother is the only one who knows inside if she wants to work or not — and if she is following what her heart tells her, she is doing the right thing.
If she’s not sure — and it’s no wonder so many of us are confused because of all the conflicting messages — then I think it’s fine to try one or the other or a mix of both. When I discovered my 2-days-gone-out-of-7 was the perfect combination for me, I happily stuck with it.
That doesn’t mean it was easy for me. The stresses of trying to juggle it all regularly wore me out and sometimes tore me apart inside — but that’s mostly because I was trying to do it all perfectly. It all seemed so important, that I couldn’t figure out how or where to cut corners. That’s the dilemma that overachieving moms are facing every day, and the one that is causing a lot of us great anxiety.
That’s why I’m creating an Overachieving Moms TV show: to showcase many different kinds of mothers who have reached some level of success balancing kids, spouse and work – without judgment about how they did it! Some breast fed; some didn’t. Some worked from home; some traveled overseas for their jobs. Some had date night once week; others went on vacations without the kids. There are as many ways to find fulfillment as an overachieving mom as there are families out there.
In Jessica Valenti’s “Why Have Kids,” she talks about how mothers feel guilty when our kids don’t automatically fulfill our need for happiness.
I realize not everyone loves to play board games or make cupcakes, so moms should not feel inadequate when they don’t adore every aspect of child rearing. Plenty of mothers still feel a void despite having the blessing of happy, healthy kids. For many moms, being a parent is not enough.
In many cases, Valenti notes, mothers had to give up things that made them happy to make time for kids. And those things that had previously contributed to their happiness are suddenly gone when kids are taking up most or all of their time.
I know when kids are young it is VERY hard to find time to bring those things back. But I have found as they become old enough to be home alone for a period of time, in my case starting at about 12 years old, you should work those things back into your life. In our case, just this year I am bike riding more and my husband is playing guitar more than we have since before our kids were born.
In her book, Valenti cites a conduit to this happiness — what I call the big “K”; it’s one of the main ways we can seek happiness and overcome problems, but it’s a method I know that can work for us and against us: Knowledge.
Sometimes, as mothers, we consume so much media telling us what we should and shouldn’t do, we get wracked with guilt if we aren’t leading the life we think we’re supposed to. On the other hand, when we are facing problems, we should seek knowledge to get past an issue. What mother doesn’t welcome a visit from a mom friend who just finished potty training when she is in the middle if it? We all want someone to come along who can relate and help give us pointers and help us see the light at the end if the tunnel when we’re in the midst of a crisis — whether our kid is flunking a class, our boss threatens to fire us, our kid is caught fighting on the playground, our husband spends another weekend at the office, or we just want to get the baby to sleep through the night,
If you read my blog and see me mention the ways I balanced motherhood with career and marriage and see what was important to me and see me suggest you try it, that does not mean I think my way is better – or even for you. It’s just what worked for me – including the encouragement and motivation. I don’t judge, and my show for and about overachieving moms is designed to be void of judgement.
The artillery that keeps the Mommy Wars going is judgment about what is “good” and what is “bad” for kids and mothers and fathers and families and society.
Of course there are plenty of things out there that are deemed “bad” for our families, and many of us have committed these “atrocities” at some point – but are hesitant to tell other mothers. I’m not proud that I fed my toddlers food from a jar, because I never did get around to using the blender to prepare the homemade organic purée I always thought I would. I hate to admit that I allowed my 14-year-old son to begin playing M-rated video games, but it’s too late to go back after caving in to the pressure tactics: “Everyone else is doing it.”
Should we beat ourselves up over it?
In such matters, I believe moderation is key.
If you have a drink with friends in front of your kids once in a while, that’s moderation. If you are caring for children and are drunk every day by noon, I think we would all agree that’s a problem that needs intervention.
So while I wish I fed my family organic food but I generally do not, I do make sure they eat plenty of fruits and veggies every day and try to minimize candy, chips and pop. And while my son has those violent video games on the shelf, he’s not allowed to play them until school and activities and all homework and chores and music practice are done (which usually leaves no time during the weekdays).
We need to stop worrying about the minutiae of every little mistake and think in terms of moderation overall.
And in the Mommy Wars, moderation means understanding that either extreme cannot be the ideal for everyone: We are ready for some mediation to reach common ground and agree to disagree.
I am putting together my Motherhood Mentoring TV show with your help to give you guidance from a large and growing community of moms who want to help each other in the name of the new Mommy Peace Accord.