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Staying Home and Working As A Stay-At-Home, Working Mom Is Hard Work

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How could I ever miss a moment like this?…

* 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 kid’s kryptonite), I know who the funniest guest on Sesame Street has been (Neil Patrick Harris, I love you), and sometimes I fantasize that “The Talk” on CBS is really a group of girlfriends I’m meeting with at a coffee shop. But since I’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 child’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 that’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 girl’s childhoods, so I would never look back on a troublesome moment and say, “I don’t know what happened to them?” (or worst of all, start blaming someone else). I wanted to soak up every brief, fleeting instant of their youth, so that I wouldn’t forget their favorite color, food or the weird way they said “ok” once they’re grown. And since the closest I’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)… and by “life” 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 “stay at home mom” against the “working mom” 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.’s One of my best friends is a working mother, and she admits that she’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 she’s far more dedicated to her daughter in their time together, because she doesn’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.

Quick, remember this moment… I’m out of the house!

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), I’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 children’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, I’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 you’re going into labor (which my L & D nurse sister got a good laugh at while I was pregnant with my first): it’s a cute idea and you mean well, but chances are… you’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 didn’t get to bounce on any balls or swim in Jacuzzis while singing Tibetan monk chants). In the same sense, I’m happy to be privy to as many of my children’s memories as possible (while still helping provide for our family in the in-between hours).

There is no “right” way to mother, just like there is no perfect child. In the same way that we let our children mold and influence what’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 she’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 won’t let herself relate to anyone who isn’t a colleague).

So whether we’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 else…….. mom.

And in the end, do we really need anything more than that?

* 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.


10 Comments » for Staying Home and Working As A Stay-At-Home, Working Mom Is Hard Work
  1. Bailey:

    I think you have been inside my head! You put into words exactly how a lot of us feel!

    Hugs!
    Erin

  2. Ali says:

    Well written, Bailey! Thank you!

  3. This article is well written and you addressed a problem that many mothers have…..the Mommy wars we have seen so much on the internet lately and in individual discussions, which is best, stay at home moms or work at home moms. We know what works best…..what works for that one family is what is best. Supporting other moms rather than trying to convince what they are doing is wrong is much better for everyone around. Both working moms and stay at home moms has its difficulties and downfalls, but both roles do have their benefits. We appreciate this article :)

  4. Shannon says:

    Love your comparison of motherhood to a birth plan. So true!

  5. Melissa says:

    This is great. Some days I do sit and think, I should just be enjoying this time, and not filling it with a large to-do list that makes my head steam from just looking at it.

    But, then, I remember, that I am doing this so that I can not just be there while the kids are little. I do not want to return to my 70 hour work weeks, with travel that takes me away from my kids once they get into school.

    It is so hard. But I know it’ll be worth it.

  6. Jackie Lee says:

    What a moving article. I find myself feeling very similar to you. Although I love to work from home, I sometimes feel as though I’m split down the middle and nothing ever gets 100% of my attention.

    In the beginning the idea that I was “available” to my daughter even if I was not constantly entertaining her made me feel a lot better. If she needs me I’m here, but I recognize I don’t have to be her sole source of entertainment… that’s really helped me on busy work days.

  7. Michelle B says:

    Very well written. I work outside the home bc I need to AND because I want to. Like your friend, I think it makes me a better parent. I need adult interaction that doesn’t revolved around kids.
    I used to shy away from my opinion, but I don’t now. Some moms make the choice and some get it made for them. I give mad props to stay at home moms. It’s not something I could do.

  8. Julie says:

    Beautifully written as always! Thanks for appreciating the fact that we are all MOMS – and that’s what we should focus on…the common link – not the differences and judgements. People must do what works best for them, and let’s face it we are ALL working hard to provide the best life we can for our children!

  9. Darby Lohrding says:

    I love the pic of you in the gown…gorgeous!!
    Great article, too! So point on!!
    Thanks for putting on paper what many of us play over and over in our heads!
    Hugs
    Darby
    darbyscloset at yahoo dot com

  10. Tammy says:

    Nicely stated! I hear you on the snatching segments of time when you can. When that’s all we’ve got, it’s what we take! When you are passionate about raising your children and the other work that you do, you make it happen in the moments that you have. You are doing a fantastic job, Bailey!

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