The Working Mother Debate – It’s Not Our Job to Judge

The Working Mother Debate – It’s Not Our Job to Judge

When the Powerball jackpot first grew to nearly 1 billion dollars people across the country imagined being able to quit their job and live a life beyond their wildest dreams. Isn’t that the societal expectation – that you would quit your job if you won the lottery? But what if you loved your job and decided to keep it? People might think you’d lost your mind. Why would anyone choose to work if it wasn’t a financial necessity?

The notion of having so much money that you could do whatever you want makes one think a lot about choices. Would I quit my job, what would I spend my winnings on, where would I live, and how much societal good could I do with all of that money? Then the mind leads you down the path of related topics.- jobs, work, identity, family.

Millions of women work because financially it is something they must do. There are those who work simply because they enjoy their chosen profession, and there are many women who are fortunate enough to stay at home and raise their children if that’s what they prefer. This should all be socially acceptable, but the truth is, many women experience the disdain of other ladies who have chosen a different path.

We all want to to be feeling respected and valuable for who we are and what we do. But ever since mothers entered the workforce in larger numbers decades ago, it seems that a subtle war has been waged. It’s the working moms versus the stay-at-home moms and it can get ugly. For those who cling to the societal expectation that a mother should only want to be at home with her children, working women are viewed as an aberration, as selfish people somehow shirking their responsibilities. The other camp views women who stay at home as somehow selling themselves short, or taking the easy road – perhaps even as throwbacks to a bygone era.

According to the US Department of Labor, 57% of women participate in the labor force. A full 70% of women with children under the age of 18 work in some capacity. Married women with children are nearly as likely to work as single women. Working women are not a minority, so seemingly the notion that a woman would choose to either work or to stay at home wouldn’t be cause for tension, but it is. Working women are routinely “shamed” for not being present at school functions, or for having a nanny or babysitter playing with their kids in the park rather than being there themselves. This shaming does not take the form of a scarlet letter, but it instead manifests in snarky comments or openly nasty discussions within the stay-at-home mom camp.

And it goes both ways. Working women often ask each other “what do stay-at-home moms do all day?” Think about it, one of the first questions people ask when meeting someone is “what do you do?” Answer them with “I cook, clean, run a kids taxi service, stock and manage a household, tutor my children after school, provide cheerleading services at my kids sporting events, and basically take charge of the general welfare of my entire family” and people’s heads would spin.

Having operated in both camps, I know this as fact: this us-against- them mentality really does exist with some people. The truth is, you know yourself best and if you feel empowered by working or by staying home, then that should be enough. Whether someone has to work or does it by choice, why aren’t we more supportive of those decisions? Is there a way to make stay-at-home moms feel respected and valuable even if that isn’t the life path you would choose?

Mom with Kids

Ultimately it is up to you to feel at peace with the choices you have made. Putting aside the doubts and second-guessing and truly embracing where you are allows you to move forward with confidence. Once you can achieve this for yourself, it is easier to be tolerant of other people’s choices. The realization that we each have our own path and have a duty to embrace our true-selves as we navigate our own course is key to happiness.

Note that it is not a judgement or an invalidation of our choice simply because someone chooses another course to become their true selves. We will all shine through as long as we embrace where we are and where we are going and that it’s a personal choice that needs no approval or validation from others. No doubt we can all feel empowered when there is non-judgement, support, acceptance from others, we simply shouldn’t be derailed from our course if we don’t receive it.

Toss aside societal expectation. These days we should focus more on being a positive role model and that can only be achieved if respect is a part of our daily mindset. Respect for ourselves and for the choices of others. If we can achieve that, then we have all won the lottery.



Sources:

1. http://www.dol.gov/wb/stats/stats_data.htm

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