No More Mommy Wars: A Series

No More Mommy Wars: A Series March 18, 2013

Hello friends! Do you remember when I wrote this post a little while ago? It was a hard post for me to write, and an even more difficult story to have lived. Something struck me, however, when the comments started rolling in. It was some version of the popular phrase,

“You’re damned if you do and damned if you don’t.”

Yep. Sums up how others will react to our parenting choices, no matter what they are.

So I decided to do something about it. Since writing is the thing I do, I reached out to some wonderful writer mommies who I knew had stories to tell.

Over the next few weeks, they’re going to share their stories here.

Today’s first post in this series is written by a friend of mine who has been both a “working mom” and a stay-at-home-mom. She’s seen and heard it all, and she has been kind enough to share her thoughts with us all. Many thanks and welcome to Leanne!

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On Working and Staying Home

Before my husband and I became parents, we were unsettled on one important issue. Would I stay home with our kids? With his education and skill set, we knew he would always be the main supporter of our family. What we couldn’t decide was whether or not I would continue to work once children came along.

As my husband and I discussed the pros and cons and all the various reasons for one side or the other, we still came up undecided.

We finally agreed that I should give working a try, but I could stay home if that’s what was best for our family.

As we neared our first wedding anniversary, we found out we were expecting our first baby. We were over the moon.

However, I had just started an accelerated Masters program for teaching. I was working full-time at the same university where I was earning my degree. With the significant employee discount, I knew I would be a working mom, at least until my program ended.

I took the appropriate action, filled out all the right paperwork, and found a loving daycare center. When our sweet baby boy was born, I immersed myself in being his mommy. For the first several weeks, I didn’t allow myself to think about anything but him.

Soon enough, though, my leave was over.

From relatives, friends, co-workers, and complete strangers, I heard a wide variety of judgmental and hurtful comments about my decision to go back to work.

I could never let someone else raise my child.

I would never choose to work.

Children should always come before anything else.

A mother’s place is at home.

Going back to work was painful enough, I didn’t need anyone else to make me feel worse. It took me a long time to accept that I was doing what I felt was right for my family, and it wasn’t anyone else’s business.

I definitely had hard days as a working mom, but overall, life was good. The only times I doubted myself were when someone offered an unsolicited opinion about me working outside the home. It would often take weeks for me to recover, but eventually I did by remembering it was my life.

I eventually completed my Masters program and was lucky enough to be hired in the local school district. I was cautiously optimistic about teaching at a struggling school. The first week of school drained me to the point of sickness. I thought it was the challenge of a new routine, a long commute, and difficult students.

To my surprise, I learned that I was also pregnant with baby #2.

I made it through the school year by the skin of my teeth. We happily welcomed our daughter into the world, and I enjoyed our long summer break together. I made the difficult decision to go back to work that fall because my husband and I were trying to dig ourselves out of a bit of debt. Within the first month, however, it was clear that my heart wasn’t in it.

After a great deal of thought, discussion, and prayer, my husband and I agreed it was time for me to stay at home with our children. It wasn’t an easy decision, but peace enveloped me as soon as we made it.

It didn’t take long before the opinions started rolling in.

Obviously, you can’t handle it.

Kids who stay at home aren’t as socialized as kids in daycare. Your kids are going to suffer.

I would never be able to stay home all day long.

It must be nice to get to quit.

You better be careful or you’ll lose your identity.

You must be crazy. If you quit, you’ll never be able to teach in this district again.

I thought I’d learned to trust my own instinct, but I allowed these comments to pierce my heart just the same.

Even after being home over a year, I still hear snide comments every now and then, and they still hurt. What I’ve come to realize is that someone will always have something to say about my choices.

As mothers, we must learn to trust ourselves. What works for one family may not work for ours. What one family experiences may not be our experience. We all come with our own unique circumstances. Only we know what is best for our families.

When it comes to making a difficult decision, be sure to include God. Pray for guidance. Seek support and encouragement from others. Treasure those sweet little gifts from God and know that they love you no matter what. Make peace with what you decide. And take what others say with a grain of salt.

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Leanne Willen enjoys writing about faith, family, and finding happiness. Her blog, Life Happens When, encourages others (and herself) to embrace the moment and enjoy the journey of life.

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What Are Your Thoughts?leave a comment
  • I am so glad you are doing this series. I just had a similar experience this weekend–my family really doesn’t approve of me working, and they’re not shy about saying so. It’s really disheartening- I feel like the work I do is important and meaningful, I would love to have their support, but I don’t.

  • I am so glad you are doing this series. I just had a similar experience this weekend–my family really doesn’t approve of me working, and they’re not shy about saying so. It’s really disheartening- I feel like the work I do is important and meaningful, I would love to have their support, but I don’t.

  • Love how you spelled out both sides of this issue so clearly, Leanne. I work part-time from home, and so I have this weird hybrid identity as a mother. I hang out with SAHMs since my schedule is flexible and I have lots of at-home time with my kids. But I also identify with being a mom who works outside the home, because I have deadlines and projects and headaches over arranging childcare. Sometimes people think that this kind of part-time arrangement must be perfect, the best of both worlds, but I also get the worst of both worlds: the guilt of leaving my kids, the piled on stress of feeling pulled in a zillion directions at once. Ironically my professional work is academic research and I study vocation, so all day long I read and think and write about calling. Thanks to that work, I am learning so much about how God calls us to multiple callings throughout our lives, and that we each partner with God to weave together the callings that are all part of our vocation – wife, mother, professional, friend, daughter, sister, volunteer, etc. I think the more that we can talk about this contentious issue from the standpoint of calling – and not just career – the more we have to offer a different perspective to the old mommy wars debate.

    Thank you for your wise perspective this morning!

  • Love how you spelled out both sides of this issue so clearly, Leanne. I work part-time from home, and so I have this weird hybrid identity as a mother. I hang out with SAHMs since my schedule is flexible and I have lots of at-home time with my kids. But I also identify with being a mom who works outside the home, because I have deadlines and projects and headaches over arranging childcare. Sometimes people think that this kind of part-time arrangement must be perfect, the best of both worlds, but I also get the worst of both worlds: the guilt of leaving my kids, the piled on stress of feeling pulled in a zillion directions at once. Ironically my professional work is academic research and I study vocation, so all day long I read and think and write about calling. Thanks to that work, I am learning so much about how God calls us to multiple callings throughout our lives, and that we each partner with God to weave together the callings that are all part of our vocation – wife, mother, professional, friend, daughter, sister, volunteer, etc. I think the more that we can talk about this contentious issue from the standpoint of calling – and not just career – the more we have to offer a different perspective to the old mommy wars debate.

    Thank you for your wise perspective this morning!

  • Leanne thank you for sharing your experience on both sides of the battlefield – it’s so true that you get very loud complaints on both sides no matter what you choose! I’m working right now with the goal of being able to stay home in the future (long story short I have no inclination to homeschool my young children – never, ever wanted to be in elementary ed. – but want the option there and the ability to be active in their teenage years) and fully expect everyone who tells me I’m a horrible person now for working to tell me the same when I’m not!

    And I’m sorry, but I think that those “if you quit no you’ll never work again” horror statements are bogus. That kind of stuff happened all the time in my previous career and it was generally better respected to admit when you were overwhelmed or something became more important before you either had an anxiety attack from stress or made too many bad decisions and burned too many bridges.

    The great thing is that if you were able to, and wanted to, find time your education and background could be put to amazing use as a volunteer either within said school district or with a non-profit organization.

  • Leanne thank you for sharing your experience on both sides of the battlefield – it’s so true that you get very loud complaints on both sides no matter what you choose! I’m working right now with the goal of being able to stay home in the future (long story short I have no inclination to homeschool my young children – never, ever wanted to be in elementary ed. – but want the option there and the ability to be active in their teenage years) and fully expect everyone who tells me I’m a horrible person now for working to tell me the same when I’m not!

    And I’m sorry, but I think that those “if you quit no you’ll never work again” horror statements are bogus. That kind of stuff happened all the time in my previous career and it was generally better respected to admit when you were overwhelmed or something became more important before you either had an anxiety attack from stress or made too many bad decisions and burned too many bridges.

    The great thing is that if you were able to, and wanted to, find time your education and background could be put to amazing use as a volunteer either within said school district or with a non-profit organization.

  • Thank you all for your encouragement and kind words!

    Grace- I definitely understand how you feel! It is so disheartening when you work so hard and don’t get the support you need! My line to people with overbearing opinions was/is “I appreciate your concern, but I’m doing what’s best for my family.” Hang in there!

    Laura- I can certainly imagine how working part time is the best AND worst of both worlds!! I love that idea of “calling” vs. “career.” I definitely feel that God called me to be a teacher, but I just haven’t figured out how that works for my family, yet. I believe He has called me to be “at home” for the time being. I’m hopeful in the future I will see exactly what He wants from me!

    Molly- I agree with what you said about “never working again.” Our public school district has a very stressful hiring policy and I was very lucky/blessed to get hired immediately after completing my program. There are many people I know who have been waiting several years to get the chance. Also, if you quit, they are less likely to rehire you. So there is an element of truth to what people said there. However, I left through a childcare leave of absence. Even though that leave will expire soon and I will then resign, I feel that my reason for leaving was valid. I didn’t walk out of the classroom one day and never come back (as many teachers do). I didn’t leave to take another job. I left to take care of my family. If the district doesn’t want to hire me back because of that, I don’t want to work for them anyway! Family always comes first!

    Yes, I’m always thinking about how God wants me to use my teaching background and degree. Homeschooling? Maybe. Volunteer? Possibly. I feel like when my kids are bigger, I’ll have a little more clarity! Good luck to you on your journey!

  • Thank you all for your encouragement and kind words!

    Grace- I definitely understand how you feel! It is so disheartening when you work so hard and don’t get the support you need! My line to people with overbearing opinions was/is “I appreciate your concern, but I’m doing what’s best for my family.” Hang in there!

    Laura- I can certainly imagine how working part time is the best AND worst of both worlds!! I love that idea of “calling” vs. “career.” I definitely feel that God called me to be a teacher, but I just haven’t figured out how that works for my family, yet. I believe He has called me to be “at home” for the time being. I’m hopeful in the future I will see exactly what He wants from me!

    Molly- I agree with what you said about “never working again.” Our public school district has a very stressful hiring policy and I was very lucky/blessed to get hired immediately after completing my program. There are many people I know who have been waiting several years to get the chance. Also, if you quit, they are less likely to rehire you. So there is an element of truth to what people said there. However, I left through a childcare leave of absence. Even though that leave will expire soon and I will then resign, I feel that my reason for leaving was valid. I didn’t walk out of the classroom one day and never come back (as many teachers do). I didn’t leave to take another job. I left to take care of my family. If the district doesn’t want to hire me back because of that, I don’t want to work for them anyway! Family always comes first!

    Yes, I’m always thinking about how God wants me to use my teaching background and degree. Homeschooling? Maybe. Volunteer? Possibly. I feel like when my kids are bigger, I’ll have a little more clarity! Good luck to you on your journey!

  • Pat

    The mom and her immediate family need to decide for themselves. Also– We need more quality part time options for women.

    Remember the old expression: “If Momma aint happy, aint nobody happy.” Maternal happiness is important. That might mean working outside the home, and it might mean working at home.

    Thank you for sharing.

    And it can be hard, even for the mom, to decide what is best.

    We can all try to be safety nets for moms with children. Offering adult company to women who are stay at home moms. Or offering to help moms who work outside the home. I also respect the comment, “It takes a village to raise a child.” How can we part of that village?

  • Pat

    The mom and her immediate family need to decide for themselves. Also– We need more quality part time options for women.

    Remember the old expression: “If Momma aint happy, aint nobody happy.” Maternal happiness is important. That might mean working outside the home, and it might mean working at home.

    Thank you for sharing.

    And it can be hard, even for the mom, to decide what is best.

    We can all try to be safety nets for moms with children. Offering adult company to women who are stay at home moms. Or offering to help moms who work outside the home. I also respect the comment, “It takes a village to raise a child.” How can we part of that village?

  • I’m not a mom but I struggle with this and I’m nowhere close to having to make this decision. After knowing tons of SAHM and Working Moms as well as hearing the stories my sister has told me from working in a daycare I really am at a loss as to what to do. On one hand the extra income would be nice on the other hand I need to make enough money after paying daycare for me working to be worth it. On one hand I see kids of working moms who feel neglected and struggle and I see moms that are just plain TIRED all the time.

    I think part of it is as women we have to identify with what makes us happy. Does working make us happy? For the first time in my life I’m working a job that makes me happy and makes me WANT to go to work and I could totally see myself working this job while having kids.

    So many people throw their opinions at us and it gets so confusing as to what the best decision is. Thanks for sharing your story.

  • I’m not a mom but I struggle with this and I’m nowhere close to having to make this decision. After knowing tons of SAHM and Working Moms as well as hearing the stories my sister has told me from working in a daycare I really am at a loss as to what to do. On one hand the extra income would be nice on the other hand I need to make enough money after paying daycare for me working to be worth it. On one hand I see kids of working moms who feel neglected and struggle and I see moms that are just plain TIRED all the time.

    I think part of it is as women we have to identify with what makes us happy. Does working make us happy? For the first time in my life I’m working a job that makes me happy and makes me WANT to go to work and I could totally see myself working this job while having kids.

    So many people throw their opinions at us and it gets so confusing as to what the best decision is. Thanks for sharing your story.

  • I dream of the day I could work from home half the week and at the office half the week and have it still be a full-time job for me, as our family needs the income. I think being on both sides of the equation gives you a unique perspective. I hear people say all of those things all the time and they ping at my heart for many varieties of reasons.

  • I dream of the day I could work from home half the week and at the office half the week and have it still be a full-time job for me, as our family needs the income. I think being on both sides of the equation gives you a unique perspective. I hear people say all of those things all the time and they ping at my heart for many varieties of reasons.

  • I just want to say thank you for putting this series together. I find myself having these same conversations with friends how I find so many mothers having “wars” with one another or themselves based on someone else’s life. I have really enjoyed reading each post in the series so far, each with their own take. So great! Thank you!

  • I just want to say thank you for putting this series together. I find myself having these same conversations with friends how I find so many mothers having “wars” with one another or themselves based on someone else’s life. I have really enjoyed reading each post in the series so far, each with their own take. So great! Thank you!

  • sayin’ i love you

    People will always have an opinion about our life decisions. We shouldn´t let those opinions get to us but they do. It happens to me a lot. I am a stay-at-home mom of three and I constantly feel judged because sometimes people say comments about how I am wasting my life, my education, what the hell did I go to school for anyway, to wipe butts? And also, I feel judged when I sometimes complain about having no money, they give me the look “well, if you had a job ( a real job)”. They always think staying at home is not a real job. I don´t care anymore, it´s my calling and I am also very lucky to have the support of my husband in this decision.

  • sayin’ i love you

    People will always have an opinion about our life decisions. We shouldn´t let those opinions get to us but they do. It happens to me a lot. I am a stay-at-home mom of three and I constantly feel judged because sometimes people say comments about how I am wasting my life, my education, what the hell did I go to school for anyway, to wipe butts? And also, I feel judged when I sometimes complain about having no money, they give me the look “well, if you had a job ( a real job)”. They always think staying at home is not a real job. I don´t care anymore, it´s my calling and I am also very lucky to have the support of my husband in this decision.