Lately there seems to be a lot of buzz surrounding the debate between “working moms” and “stay-at-home-moms”. Which is harder? Which is more desirable? One post I read described having the ability to be a stay-at-home parent as a luxury; another responded by breaking down the costs associated with childcare, claiming that staying at home often makes more sense financially. Yet another article described being a stay-at-home parent as a luxury… for the spouse who works (I loved this one!)
The thing is, it’s much easier to put people into categories and build walls than it is to understand the depth and complexity of individual circumstances.
I am a stay-at-home mom by choice. Sort of. Frequent moves make it difficult for me to work, and the jobs that have been available have not paid highly enough to justify the cost of childcare. I also always hoped to be able to stay at home while my children were young, so I don’t begrudge the circumstances which make that a practical choice. In the future, I will probably be a working mom.
I know moms who work out of necessity and moms who work because they love it. I know moms who have to— as in, are contractually obligated— keep working, even if they might rather be at home. I know moms who stay at home by default or because they don’t have viable work options and moms who stay at home because they want to. I know moms who work from home. I also know that most moms will probably fill different roles in the 18+ years her children are under her roof.
Of all of the moms I know, each is hard-working. Each is presented with challenges in her day, and each strives to parent her child to the best of her abilities.
All of our circumstances are different, our desires are different, our job options and career paths are different, our financial circumstances are different, our children and families are different. Our society wouldn’t function nearly as well without the moms who populate the workforce, and it wouldn’t function nearly as well without the moms who stay at home with their children (and thus often fulfill other unpaid roles, like volunteering in their children’s classrooms).
So why does it have to be “us” vs. “them”? Why do we have to debate which is harder, or which woman is more deserving of our praise?
The answer is simply: we don’t! Instead, we can work to appreciate the challenges that others face while also realizing the worth of our own role.