Winter 2008, the 3 of us with the flu, when it hit me: “this working thing is no not working for us…”
I think I do a pretty good job of choosing my soap boxes wisely. You won’t hear me rant about politics (not here, not anywhere, not with a goat, not on a boat, not with a Donkey, not with an Elephant…you get my drift). I don’t live with the illusion that my view of God is correct or superior in its probability. I don’t even subscribe to a health philosophy 100% of the time. 80% of anything is enough for me. I work out begrudgingly, and sneak donettes into my diet more than I should. Which is to say I should probably never eat those toxic circles of lard, but I MUST. OH YES. I MUST. I believe choosing a school is personal, and public vs. private holds no water with me. How the heck would I know what school is best for your child? The Information Superhighway has turned the world into a glass house. “No stones allowed”, is my motto. At least 80% of the time.
But the Stay At Home Mom vs. Working Mom debate just pisses me off. Has always, will always, can always…make me madder than Max when I take away his fried chicken. Affirmative: I feed my cat fried chicken. I’m trying to respect his religious preferences these days (our cats are Jewish…long story). But back to the point at hand: THIS is the DUMBEST argument ever proffered into the American Stratosphere. It has pit woman against woman, and what’s more idiotic than the war itself, is how we let it happen. Women are supposed to be evolved. Communicative. Loving. WE SHOULD HAVE KNOWN BETTER.
I can only assume it started as jealousy between two friends, one who wanted to have a career, but felt pressured to stay home, and one who wanted to stay home, but had to work for economic reasons. And from there, it has blown into books, Oprah interviews, Editorial columns, magazine articles, endless blog posts, and now that I think about it, why hasn’t the movie come out? Hollywood has dropped the ball on Mommy Wars, the Movie. If they’ve got time to make another Bourne movie, they’ve got time to put Kristen Wiig in a cast of woman who can make snarky facial expressions while doing embarrassing things (i.e. intercede between squabbling siblings in a parked minivan, trying to be stealthy while using the toddler potty stashed in the back. I’m not saying I’ve done this, but rather merely suggesting it’s not wise to ingest 2 chili cheese dogs and onion rings right before making a long commute through an area of town with no public restrooms.) But I digress. I think we can all agree that Kristen Wiig should have the lead, yes?
But then the Pinterest Posters started, and well now…that is JUST ENOUGH. It reads, “I hear you. Raising kids and running a house keep me busy too. I also have this little gig on the side called a full time job.” Walk away Lori. Put down the keyboard and walk away. Because that’s just idiocy, plain and simple. Who on earth imagines that a Stay At Home has the exact same job as a Working Mom? That we do the exact same things, only I have 8 more hours per day in which to do it? That’s about as true as me loving the act of cleaning this house, then making some tea and sitting down at noon to watch ma’ STORIES. Shush. No talking during The Young and the Restless.
I’ve juggled a career with Motherhood. I have been a Stay At Home Mom. It’s NOT the same ‘tat tall folks. Not even close.
After ruminating on this topic for quite some time, Greg summed it up quite nicely for me: “Lori, you in-source as much as possible. Working Moms outsource as much as possible. Therein lies the difference. One way is not better than the other; they are just different ways of doing business.” Leave it to the Operations Officer to make it simple. From a distance, this makes me look like Martha Stewart, and it makes Working Moms look like ladder climbing CEOs. In reality, the truth lies somewhere in the middle.
(1) Many of my working friends have given up the illusion that they can “do it all”, and have outsourced housekeeping. GOOD MOVE. House work is thankless, no matter what your job title. My Mom is retired and has a housekeeper, because hell…she’s retired! She doesn’t want to spend her free time scrubbing toilets. I in-source…I scrub my own toilets. OK, to be fair, I sometimes scrub toilets. Sometimes I blog instead.
(2) Many of my working friends outsource birthday parties at professional establishments. And for the all their guilty conscious hoo-ha for not baking the cake and making the hangy-thingys, I have the EXACT SAME guilt for in-sourcing the parties, and spending too much time gluing the hangy-thingys and not playing with my kids. Fishing line and thumb tacks doesn’t equate to my children receiving more love. It just means I have more burns on my fingers from hot glue guns. All Mommas love their babies; we just express it in different ways.
(3) Many of my working friends opt out of chairing large PTA events, choose medium-sized events instead, or do their events with Co-Chairs. Smart move. An all-school event can be a full-time job. Santa Shop was a 60-week commitment for me, and there were weeks I easily spent upwards of 30 hours working on it. On the other hand, Stay At Home Moms Chair tons of events and attend ALL of the PTA meetings. It’s what we do when we’re not watching our stories and lunching with the ladies. We call it “having an excuse to be around adults”, and it’s wonderful. I love me some PTA, and I’ve enjoyed every minute I’ve spent volunteering with those lovely parents.
(4) Many of my working friends try very hard to volunteer at school as much as they can. When a scheduling conflict arises, they outsource to me, and I gladly help out. It’s very important to me to have working friends. While I teach their daughters the virtues of friendship and global awareness in Daisy Scouts, they teach my daughters that careers in teaching, law, medicine, and the sciences are every day things, well within their grasp. I see our support of each others schedules as mutually beneficial. We all want the exact same thing: to raise healthy, smart adults who engage in socially responsible and meaningful lives.
(5) One of my closest friends is a Scientist with an international reputation. I’m always amazed at how present she is in her child’s life, despite the pressure she must feel at work. You know what? All of my working friends impress me with their focused presence. I take her daughter to school, and she bought me a VIP parking spot. She outsourced on something I had already in-sourced, and lo and behold, I’ve got my name on a parking spot right by the school’s doors. HELLO? WIN-WIN?!
(6) If there is something I can make, rather than buy…consider it in-sourced. Disney Vacations? Nope. I in-source with creativity and crazy crafting. Really cool Halloween costumes? In-sourced. Pottery Barn Kids? Went there once, walked right back out. Spare time? Spent crawling on the floors of Consignment Shops, buying second hand (and loving it! I consider it my own pot-shot at rampant consumerism.) Cooking? In-sourced. School lunches? In-sourced. After-school activities? In-sourced. Jam? IN-SOURCED. God, we go through a lot of jam.
Summer 2012: when it hit me: “this not working thing is working for us”.
I did not set out on this journey to be Martha. I decided to stay at home for the same scatter plot of reasons anyone would…meaning, there is no single set of reasons. There are a million. The same million reasons one chooses to work. I’ve never understood why Working Moms feel so secure in telling me that my craftiness makes them feel bad. That I should be less good so they’ll feel less guilty. Should I in return, request that they tank their careers and get fired, so I’ll feel more secure in their presence? Be less good at work please. It’s messing with my insecurities.
Is my job similar to a Working Mom’s? Absolutely not. Unless a company is willing to pay me to come up with snacks & crafts that reinforce the Girl Scout badge of, “Courteous and Kind” while simultaneously organizing a school-wide Spirit Week, mop my floors, make sure Greg never has to miss a day of work when the kids get sick, accompany my Grandfather to his doctor’s visit, talk any variety of Stay At Home Mom friends off the daily ledge of “Why in hell did we agree to do this?”, come up with menus for all-family events (that’s right…Stay At Home Moms host most of the holidays), and convince an entire school to get behind the annual fundraising agenda….UNLESS I’m going to get PAID to do these things, then I’ll just go ahead and say I’m happy with my choices.
More importantly, I’m happy with yours too. I honor your choices. I listen to your complaints, and feel they are valid. Your feelings are truth to you, and to me. If you get a big promotion, I’ll be the first to clap and bring you a Chicken Pot Pie. If you decide to quit and Stay At Home, I’ll be the first to bring you a Chicken Pot Pie (and a bottle of really, really strong rum). I’m a woman who supports other women. Women are the Universal Constant of Love, and that love starts here.
Who would like to join me?