* Column of the Week:
I am a stay at home, work at home, sometimes working mom.
If you were to look at my life from a glance, I am most definitely a full-time stay at home mom. I am an expert at making produce seem appealing (dipping sauces are kidâ€™s kryptonite), I know who the funniest guest on Sesame Street has been (Neil Patrick Harris, I love you), and sometimes I fantasize that â€œThe Talkâ€ on CBS is really a group of girlfriends Iâ€™m meeting with at a coffee shop. But since Iâ€™m a writer and dance teacher as well, I also know how to type on a computer with one hand while tossing Pop Chips in to childâ€™s mouth with another. I even multitask in the car by choreographing dances and writing columns in my head (which means that these beautiful, golden words originated while Nissan-ing around town to ballet practice).
In the beginning of becoming a mom however, I only wanted to be distinguished by staying at home (and thatâ€™s that). If you asked me at the time why this was important to me, I had more answers prepared than Charlie Sheen on an E! News interview. I wanted to be deeply present in my girlâ€™s childhoods, so I would never look back on a troublesome moment and say, â€œI donâ€™t know what happened to them?â€ (or worst of all, start blaming someone else). I wanted to soak up every brief, fleeting instant of their youth, so that I wouldnâ€™t forget their favorite color, food or the weird way they said â€œokâ€ once theyâ€™re grown. And since the closest Iâ€™ve ever gotten to scrapbooking was saving a stack of In Style magazines, I knew I would need to rely on my own firsthand accounts of their development (rather than photos and imagery from the past).
But despite my best intentions and strongest convictions, life intervened with my plans (as it usually does)â€¦ and by â€œlifeâ€ I mean marriage at a young age, zero credit, no savings and tons of unforeseen medical bills. Suddenly I found myself creating jobs were there were none, redefining what I wanted to do with my life, and literally working around the clock. Although being a full time mom is the hardest job in the world (thanks for the shout out Oprah), I was no longer able to commit myself to the task in the way that I know I can.
The battle of the â€œstay at home momâ€ against the â€œworking momâ€ seems like an on going (and often nasty) debate amongst the parenting community, in which close friends can be pitted against each other with one mention of Farmville vs 401K.â€™s One of my best friends is a working mother, and she admits that sheâ€™s a better mother for it. Instead of reading her child the same Eric Carle book over and over again (while subconsciously watching Regis and Kelly out of the corner of her eye), she feels that sheâ€™s far more dedicated to her daughter in their time together, because she doesnâ€™t take it for granted. Instead of resenting her time at home (even if just a little bit), she is able to fulfill a part of herself as a woman that needs to be challenged creatively, thus making her a happier, more balanced mother overall.
In my case, I think straddling the divide makes things harder than ever. Instead of going off to a quiet office to focus on work efficiently (as my husband gets to do), Iâ€™m doing roughly the same amount of work while tiny hands are redecorating our floors with multicolored markers. Instead of being able to devote myself to my childrenâ€™s growth and development as I originally intended, I have to work before they wake up, during their naps, at night or any time Elmo is on TV to buy me a few seconds. But even though I never imagined my life as a mother this way, Iâ€™m trying to go with the flow (even if that flow involves a flooded inbox and spilt almond milk).
Motherhood is a lot like presenting a birth plan at the hospital when youâ€™re going into labor (which my L & D nurse sister got a good laugh at while I was pregnant with my first): itâ€™s a cute idea and you mean well, but chances areâ€¦ youâ€™re going to do whatever is best for your family in the moment. Luckily, I was able to have relatively natural births and no C-sections as intended (even if I didnâ€™t get to bounce on any balls or swim in Jacuzzis while singing Tibetan monk chants). In the same sense, Iâ€™m happy to be privy to as many of my childrenâ€™s memories as possible (while still helping provide for our family in the in-between hours).
There is no â€œrightâ€ way to mother, just like there is no perfect child. In the same way that we let our children mold and influence whatâ€™s best for them, we need to let ourselves off the hook, get off our soap box and stop judging other mothers around us making different choices. There is no point in being a stay at home mother if you unintentionally transform yourself into the martyr (you know, that mom who is always more stressed out than everyone around her, as if sheâ€™s the only one experiencing parenthood). And there is definitely no benefit to being a working mother, if you accidentally become the elitist (that mom who wonâ€™t let herself relate to anyone who isnâ€™t a colleague).
So whether weâ€™re stay at home moms, working mavens or a little bit of both, the important thing is that we all share one particular job description above everything elseâ€¦â€¦.. mom.
And in the end, do we really need anything more than that?
*Â Bailey Vincent Clark is the Editor-in-chief, author and founder of Makeover Momma. She hosts Makeover Momma TV on Tuesday (7 PM/EST & 4 PM/PT), and writes this column weekly (at least in her dreams!)
Makeover Mommaâ„¢ occasionally receives cosmetic products for review, with no obligation to positively promote or cover said brand. Receiving products has absolutely no influence over our recommendation of any particular product.