Back in October, I was out to lunch with baby in tow when I overheard a conversation that usually makes me cringe. It was between two moms, and they were going back and forth about their other mom-friends, when one of them said, “It’s just sad to me that ________ doesn’t really get to spend time with her kids, you know… because she’s chosen to work and have someone else raise them.”
Oh, for the love.
I’ve been at this “working and mothering” thing for almost a year now, and I have big feelings about it. But before we get into my big feelings, I want to start by saying–hopefully with humility and grace–that this entire conversation is a privileged one. As human nature goes, we tend to insulate ourselves with people who look and talk like us, and forget that others live with many different realities. In 2012, only 64% of children lived in a home with two married parents. And of that 64%, quite a few lived beneath the poverty line. So, let’s start there.
Here’s my other disclaimer: I very much have an equal partner. When Kyle is out of town, it’s a felt loss. When he comes home from work, he picks Keegan up and spends time with him. Kyle does laundry, unloads the dishwasher, pays most our bills, and does almost all the outside work. I know that I am fortunate to have someone who is fully invested, and I do not take him for granted. He champions me, encourages me, and supports me. Let’s just admit it: without him, this conversation would look a lot different. I know that.
When we found out we were having Keegan, we began seeking advice and praying about how to tackle the working/mothering decision. If you haven’t caught on by now–I love advice, and sometimes to a fault I can’t make a decision without at least five people weighing in. So I asked many women, mostly those who were older than me, and they all had different responses with many contrasting circumstances. Some never entertained the question because their family couldn’t afford it. One couldn’t get a work visa because she wasn’t an American citizen, so the decision was made for her. Some worked part-time, in and out of the home, and some stayed home full-time or worked full-time. In every scenario, they were all mothers raising their children, regardless of logistics.
Three months after Keegan was born, I was given an amazing opportunity to do what I love with very flexible hours. And for us, it’s the perfect balance. I work part-time and our childcare situation is wonderful. I truly could not ask for a better person to watch our son while I’m working. And here’s my big conclusion: IT’S ALL GOOD. I believe every single mother should make the choice based on what is right for her family, her own unique makeup, and her family’s financial situation. We’re all sacrificing, and every woman’s decision will look different because she is different, and so is her family.
For some women, their dream includes the minivan with crushed up goldfish and that is beautiful and worthy and true. And for others, their dream might be that but their reality demands something else, so let’s encourage them instead of shame them. For others, they come alive doing all kinds of other things and you know what? That’s okay, too. That doesn’t take away from her motherhood. Let’s not shame one another because we’re living different stories. Isn’t there enough insecurity in parenting? Don’t we all wonder if we’re doing it right and if we should be doing something different or better or more? Is it just me? And mostly, why do we care?
I’m saying this because I sense that we’re all growing tired of this being an “either/or” conversation. We don’t need tribes on this one. We need life-giving conversations. So let’s champion one another. Let’s trade high heels and exchange yoga pants (well…) and share stories about the things our children do that make our hearts explode. And then can we put down the working/stay-at-home swords and replace them with laughter and solidarity? Let’s try that instead.
And yes, this is my call to go live in the clouds. I happen to like it up here.