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?
I hear you! The nice ladies at the day care center knew more about raising kids than I did! Also, I love my daughter, but I also love my career. I shouldn't have to choose between both. That is why day care centers exist. My daughter also loved going to day care because she got to play with her friends and not hang out with her boring mom all day!ReplyDelete
Yes! We've had the exact same experience! The daycare could not be better and our girls absolutely love it there. They're definitely thriving and learning things that I simply couldn't teach them or wouldn't even know how! I'm forever grateful to the women at their daycare, they're like extended family!Delete
I promise, if it wasn't for a homecare worker - wonderful elderly lady - who cared for my child her first year while I went back to work, we wouldn't have been as successful as parents. I LOVED that woman. My daughter thrived there. And the woman was so patient with us as new parents, suggesting things like, "It might be time to start her on solids ... or ... you might want to see if she will turn over for you." She said things in ways that made us feel we'd be seeing it for the first time. It was a wonderful arrangement. Sorry for your elevator mishap. Next time that happens, hit the alarm button before walking off;)ReplyDelete
Having help is everything, and having help like that, where they're patient with you and helping you through this maze that is parenting, is life-changing. We have that at daycare and I literally don't know what I'd do without them!Delete
You know, I changed my own judgmental paradigm when I *had* to go to work with a 6-month old. Whaddya know... my daughter is all the better for being exposed to many different kinds of people from infancy. Her caretaker was from Sri Lanka; the other boy and girl were of different ethnicities. And because she got used to sharing her day with different kinds of people from that young young age, she had zero traumatic separation issues with preschool, and then she was totally ready to learn in kindergarten. This is *my* story; it's neither better nor worse than others, but the right one for me and my kid.ReplyDelete
There isn't "one right way" to parent! If we all did the exact same things with our kids we would have a boring world. Each family needs to create their own space in the world and make it work for them. #nothingbutlove
Totally agree - everyone has a different situation and different needs. I'm so glad yours worked for you!!Delete
And it turns out I'm a better mother knowing I have help. We shouldn't have to do this mothering thing on our own -- and certainly not against other moms!ReplyDelete
100%. And historically, women HAVEN'T done it alone - it's just that it used to be the other elders in their village/neighborhood, mothers, grandmothers, aunts, etc. So it's never meant to be a solo venture, and for those who ARE doing it solo? You're my hero!Delete