The SAHM Debate

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On Friday I came across a blog entry about the debate over whether moms should work or stay at home. Reading through the comments I became more and more enraged at the ridiculousness of both arguments and the petty, catty tone of the women writing them. I can’t believe how easily women turn on each other. I have never had a choice about working. For us it’s not a matter of sacrificing eating out or shopping at Walmart so that I can stay home. If I don’t work full time we can’t afford to pay our bills. PERIOD. So I work.. even though it kills me to leave my kids every day. I can’t think about whether or not it would be better for me to stay home because I simply do not have the option. Society finds so may ways to make women feel guilty and inadequate. It’s time we band together and change the tone of these conversations. All of us feel overwhelmed and guilty about something. All of us question whether we are making the right decisions. It wouldn’t be such a heated debate if people really felt the answers were so black and white. It’s the gray areas that catch us and put us on the defensive. If we could just stop arguing and start recognizing that we are all simply trying to make the best choices for our families maybe we could help each other to be better mothers instead of attacking each other.

So I spent the morning freaking out about the whole thing and trying not to let some of the comments get to me (one particularly lovely lady wrote about how she chose to stay home with her kids and now that she is back to work teaching school she can TOTALLY TELL which kids have moms who cared enough to stay home the first five years). It so happens that I was actually home with my kids on Friday. My daughter had a fever and, since she has had two febrile seizures, we don’t mess with fevers in our house. I came home from work so I could spend the day pumping her full of Tylenol and Motrin in an attempt to ward off any sudden temperature spikes.

I was still coming up with retorts to the whole awful argument as I laid my kids down in my bed to read books before nap time. I read through The Giving Tree once on autopilot. Then a little voice said “Read it again, Giving Tree, Mama.” I looked at my two year old. Her eyes were glassy and she was laying there limp and lethargic, a shadow of her typical self.  I snapped out of my revere and reached over to brush the hair from her flushed forehead. ” You want this one again? You don’t want a different book?” She shook her head no. “OK, baby. We’ll read this one again.”

As I turned back to the beginning of the book I was suddenly completely aware of everything in that moment. A breeze blew in the window carrying the smell of freshly cut grass. My three month old son kicked his pudgy little legs and cooed between us. And it occurred to me that nothing else mattered.  I was here right now with the two most perfect little people in the world. I could feel their warmth and hear their breath. They are alive and beautiful and I am the center of their world.

My weekend was filled with moments like that.. moments of grace where time moved more slowly for just a few seconds.. just long enough for me to take in the details and commit them to memory- The sound of Rory’s laugh as she played in the lake, the feel of her lips as she kissed my nose, my cheeks, my mouth, my ears.. again and again. And, finally, the heat of my son’s solid little body as I rocked him in the dark after a long day.. not wanting to put him down because as soon as I did he would be a little bit older.

I wish we could all stop focusing on what we are, are not or should be doing. I’m as guilty of it as anyone else. I’m going to try, though, to live in the moment a little bit more.. to really appreciate what I have. When it comes down to it my kids won’t remember how much or how little time I was able to spend with them. They will remember the quality of that time and the love they received.

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6 responses »

  1. So I was getting infuriated right along with you reading about being a SAHM. I obviously don’t have a choice. Then you actually brought a tear to my eye reading the 2nd part. Such great moments make everything else fade away!

    • It’s true.. and it’s so important to remember that as moms because, as I’m sure you’ve discovered, as soon as you have kids time starts moving at warp speed. You spend so much just getting through the hard parts that you forget to really cherish the good stuff.

  2. Ok, now I’m crying. That was beautifully expressed. It is hard to hang on to that way of looking at the world and being present in the moment especially when you have two little ones and the chaos that comes with them. But to have the knowledge and understanding of such moments, to try to find your self in that place at least once a day, creates a pattern, a habit that will enrich your life beyond measure.
    We all do what we think we have to do for our families. No one way is right or wrong because we are all unique. We all think differently. Do your very best every day and in every situation. Your best may even be a total meltdown some days, but it’s still your best at that time. If you always try to do your best, you will have no regrets.

  3. That’s lovely, Jill, and your peaceful description completely talked me down from the vicarious fit of rage I felt upon reading the first paragraph.

    Uh-oh. Maybe not completely: here I go.

    The discussion you described, where people freely dictate “what moms should do” is infuriating — as if there is any one choice that is right for every mother, or even every mother within a particular demographic or social population.

    That stuff makes me completely crazy-go-nuts. It’s about choices, not about dictating one path that all women should follow. Follow your own path, make your own choices, and you and your kids will be happier for it.

    (That’s not, y’know, YOU, Jill; that’s the hypothetical whoever “you.”)

    • Seriously. It’s simple math people healthy happy momma= healthy happy family . What it takes to be healthy and happy is different for everyone. I totally agree. Makes me crazy-go-nuts too.

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