I thought the mommy wars were over.
My neighbor told me about a recent comment that her daughter's friend had made. My neighbor's daughter, with a MA from Notre Dame and working in finance in downtown Chicago, has just had her first baby. Her dream had always been to stay home with a child, and she has now made the choice to put her career on hold and raise her son. When informed of Sara's decision, one of her working friends expressed her shock and said to her, "But Sara, you're so smart!!"
Again, I thought the mommy wars ended in the 1980's when women got it out of their respective systems to criticize the "other camp" of mothering choices. I thought those battles and those biases were long in the past.
As women, don't we all just make the best decisions we can for our children? And if that decision for some reason is forced upon us, don't we just try to do the best we can? There are moms who choose to be home and moms who work and both absolutely love their choices. I know working mothers who would love to be stay-at-home moms but their husbands are out of work and they have to take the reins. I know stay-at-home moms who would love to be working but cannot find a job.
If women are putting their child's best interests first, then whatever choice she feels does that is the best choice, is it not?
I was passionate about staying home to be with my son. I could easily put my career on hold because I knew there were always jobs. I knew there was only one window of time for me to stay at home and guide my newborn into boyhood. I knew enough developmental psychology to know that he needed abundant amounts of security, familiarity, routine, physical touch, verbal interaction and cognitive stimulation. Dick and I felt that I could do that job better than a daycare provider could. (Add to that fact that I was so in love with this tiny person, I could hardly stand to leave him in one room and go into another for the first month :)
That was OUR choice for US. And while I remember feeling sorry for some of my working friends that they were missing out on the daily magic that I got to experience, I never disrespected the choice that they made to work. Neither did any of my working friends disrespect my choice.
I know a young new mom who wants desperately to be a stay-at-home mother, but she and her husband did what I think many are doing today. Making financial decisions based on two incomes. They bought a 2-income house and two 2-income cars. And they now have 2-income debts. And they need those 2 incomes to "make it." They are regretting living up to their means now.
When we got married, we put all of my income in savings and lived off of Dick's income and made all decisions based on one income so that I could have the choice to stay home when we had a child. By the time Sam was born, we knew we were able to meet all of our obligations because we had lived that way for years. That would be my advice to any young newly married couple. Because you really don't know how you are going to feel once that baby is in your arms. It was one of our best decisions in 30 years.
So my young friend asked me what I would do. She said, "I feel like we should sell this house and downsize to a small house with small payments that we can afford on J's income." I told her that if her heart's choice was to stay home with E, that would be a great idea. I told her I would do that in a heartbeat. I always say I would have eaten mac and cheese every night for the gift of staying home with my sweet boy.
I hate the mommy wars. It demeans those on both planes. We make choices only for ourselves, not for others. It should be no more a derisive issue between women than what type of home decor they each like.
Though Sara will never read this, I say to her and to any other stay at home mom: If anyone makes you feel that you are putting your "smarts" in a closet in order to do this job, they are ignorant. Ignore them. You will use more of your brain every day than you had thought possible.
It takes smart women to work in finance and it takes smart women to mold a young life and assume the roles of 24/7 nurse, guidance counselor, nutritionist, dancing partner, librarian and reader, playmate, chauffeur, mediator, body guard, teacher, toy repair guru, and housekeeper (and plenty more).
Hang in there, Sara. You made the choice of your heart, and are fulfilling a dream of what you want your mommyhood to be. You have my respect. Welcome to the hardest and most wondrous job on the planet!!