Today I got asked by a stranger in my work elevator if I “regret” that I have to come to work every day and leave my kids “alone.” So I laughed and said “well, they’re not alone, they’re with their friends and caretakers at daycare.” And she bristled. Like, I physically saw her recoil. “Daycare is no substitute for their mother!”
Thankfully for her, the elevator got to my floor before I could slap her.
Which is on the heels of an off-hand comment in the gym locker room last week by a new-ish mom (she had her first daughter just before I had my second) who proudly told me that she resigned from her job a few weeks ago after realizing that she “just couldn’t do that to my baby girl.” When I legitimately was curious what she meant and said as much, she replied “let her be raised by someone who’s not me.” She then went on to tell me how much kids benefit from having their mom at home while I tried to blow dry my dry hair so I didn’t have to listen to her rationale for why she’s better than me. To be fair, she didn’t say she was better than me, she just implied it in the following ways:
“You’ve never wondered what kind of long-term impact this is going to have on your kids?”
“Doesn’t it break your heart to leave them every day?”
“Her well-being is more important than any corporate ladder…for me. But everyone’s different.”
And to help round out your total vision of my last few weeks (or two years) the following things have also been said to me about my parenting:
“How do you juggle it all? It seems like your career is thriving, so….do you get enough time with your kids?”
“I’m so impressed that you can leave your kids every day. I could never do that.”
“Have you missed important milestones yet? That’ll be so hard.”
And ladies? Every single remark was made by a woman: mom-on-mom crime!
Sidebar: I asked my husband this morning if he’d ever gotten asked if he’s considered quitting his job because of the kids or regrets leaving them every day. He said no. He has people sympathize that leaving them every morning is hard, but that’s as far as it goes.
So this is what I have to say:
Stop it. Stop with the Mommy Wars. Stop with the comparing your life to others to make you feel superior or ease whatever guilt you might be feeling. I get it. It’s hard. It’s hard to be a stay-at-home mom, it’s hard to be a full-time-working mom, it’s hard to be a fricken MOM. It’s hard. But I really don’t want to have a rap sheet for assault because my mom-guilt would increase exponentially if I have to explain it to my kids while trying to teach them that hitting is wrong.
I mean, yes, I’m pretty sure I missed the first time my oldest learned to crawl and, hell, probably when she took her first steps. Don’t get me wrong, the nice ladies at daycare were gentle enough with my ego to not tell me that they witnessed these things first, but I’m not new here, it probably happened. And that’s ok. Because they’re used to second-best, after all: I didn’t breastfeed them (“I feel so sorry for you that you don’t get to feel that bond…”), fed them formula (“I mean, I’m sure it’ll be fine, though obviously breast milk is best…”), didn’t make my own baby food (“…I just didn’t want them consuming all of those preservatives…”), and I let them eat macaroni and cheese (with preservatives!) and watch cartoons (“…I’d just rather they get outside or read a book. We got rid of cable altogether.”)
So please, just stop. Stop it. Stop with the mom-on-mom crime of one-upping and condescending and thinly masked attempts at shaming. Please stop. Put down your weapons, raise that white flag, and just say what we all want to say: “Goddamn I’m so tired. Am I doing it right? Will my kids be ok? It’s hard, isn’t it?” And the non-hugger in me will lay down my shield, drop my giant mom-purse, and full-on hug you. Because goddamn I’m tired. It’s hard, isn’t it?