One of my posts was recently picked by BlogHer to be featured under their Family section. Surprisingly, it was categorized under a label I had never seen before: SAHMS. I later found out that this acronym stands for “Stay at Home Moms.” I had never seen that word before in my life. And again it makes me think how Americans love their labeling. There needs to be a name for everything. And of course, every label must have an opposite. Let me introduce you to the new modern war of SAHMS vs.Working Moms.
I personally have been on both sides, and that’s why I don’t like it every time I see criticism or anger from one side to the other. Who is a better mom? Who has the secret to excellent parenting? Who is to blame for unfulfilled dreams? Who suffers more? Who gets more credit? It never ends. Women are constantly criticizing and judging each other, especially when it comes to parenting. When are we going to learn that a more community-oriented and open heart attitude will make everyone’s lives much better? Is this a result of modern life, a side effect of women’s career and financial success? It looks to me that the more successful and independent we get, the more we act like men in order to be recognized for our achievements.
Well, let me give you some bad (or good) news: we are not men. We are mothers, nurturers, lovers by essence. Our destiny is to nourish, to create. We can also be providers, but honestly we will have to pay a price if our main goal is to provide. Some women say they’ve found a “work-life balance.” I am still trying to find it. All I can say is that it’s not easy and we can’t have it all.
If you put your family first, your financial and career life will likely suffer due to the fact that there is no physical time to do everything. If you prioritize your career over your family, then the kids will suffer. We can send them to the best schools, best day-cares, and hire the best nannies, but our kids want us and nobody can replace Mom. We can get help and support, but no one can give our children what we can give them. At the end of the day, children want their mothers.
I have seen both sides: Before my children were born, I had a promising acting and on-camera career. It all stopped when my first baby was born. I just did not have the energy or time to go to auditions, put on make up and create a perfect external image. After being in bed rest for almost 80% of my pregnancy, I was overweight, overtired, and hormonally imbalanced. But I did start a very profitable voice-over career. I guess there is a silver lining for every cloud.
When my children were 1 and 2 years old, I had a very successful award-winning restaurant in San Francisco, and my babies would stay with a babysitter or go to daycare. I have to admit, I did feel guilty for leaving them at such a young age. I knew exactly that my babies needed me, but I still had that old competitive, egocentric woman in me who could not give up and had to show the world that I could do it all. The truth is, I ended up selling the restaurant and started focusing on my children after all. Then I felt guilty for not being able to succeed professionally, or even make my own money.
Somehow in this modern world women are raised to be a walking contradiction: we have to go to college in order to be successful, well educated and intelligent. We also have to be the best mothers and give everything to our family. I firmly believe there is no way to accomplish both 100%.
The other day I posted a picture of my kids at a local water-park on Facebook. It was Tuesday afternoon… just right after school. A friend of mine who is a working mom, immediately commented on it, and asked “What are you doing at a waterpark on a weekday? Aren’t the kids supposed to be at school?” I replied that school was off at 2pm and that the kids spend the afternoons with me. I enjoy taking them to fun places since kids grow up fast. Somehow I felt hurt by her tone. She is a successful professional. Her kids stay with a nanny or go to aftercare. She makes her own money, and has hired full-time help at home. She somehow was telling me that she did not approve of my choice of staying at home with my kids. What was I doing at a waterpark instead of working at an office? I also get the “you are so lucky you do nothing all day” comment, especially from men.
Being a full-time working mom is very hard. I did it. It’s stressful, exhausting and heart-breaking when the kids ask us why we are not with them. I admire mothers who can do it, especially single moms who have no choice. They are the superheroes of this world. But being a SAHM is also very hard. There is always housework to be done, laundry that’s piling up, and something that needs to be cleaned. There are drop-offs and pickups, school events and hours of volunteering, school projects, homework, play-dates, sports, children that need to be entertained and educated, sick kids that need to go to the doctor, extra curricular activities, sleepless nights, long hours and no pay. It’s the most demanding job in the world.
But when women realize that we need to help each other and support each other – like some remote tribes do – to stop comparing each others lives. To be grateful for what we have and stop crying for what we don’t. To live in the moment, and to stop acting like men. Only then will we find happiness.
Consuelo Lyonnet firstname.lastname@example.org