Ok, I’m calling it. This working mum vs Stay at home mum stuff is bullshit. I’m so sick of seeing lists and ideas pitting one against the other. It doesn’t help any of us. Or dads for that matter. You don’t see them copping this kind of shit. Let’s think about the psychological upheaval having kids does to one’s mind. It’s crazy. One day you feel in control, next you feel like you’re not cut out for it. One day you feel so grateful and blessed to be in the position you’re in, the next you feel ready to tear your hair out with the mundane and the Groundhog day. BOTH working mums and stay at home mums feel this. Doesn’t matter the location, doesn’t matter where the kids are. This is an intrinsic thing within us all. So let’s clear a few things up:
No, working mums don’t get to enjoy coffees in peace. Because often they are running around so madly trying to cram in so much extra work into a shorter time frame so they can get out the door to get to their kids. They too suffer from the cold cup syndrome.
No, stay at home mums don’t lounge on the couch eating bon bons and go have fun coffee chats and playdates every day. It’s a grind. A big grind. Of cooking, cleaning, keeping kids alive, running errands, keeping everything in line. There’s no let up.
There’s been a ton of these articles getting around late, espousing what not to say to a working mum, or what you should never say to a stay at home mum. For fucks sake. Let’s just stop it all now, shall we? We are our own worst enemies sometimes, perpetuating this division. So I propose let’s make a list- 5 things you should never say to a Mum. That’s it. A MUM. With no caveat about being at home or at work. Because that is irrelevant. Or you know, we could even stretch out on a limb and say things you should never say to a Dad. Ooooh errrr… taboo!
- Don’t ask a Mum what she does all day. Whether that be ‘lounging at work’ or ‘lounging at home’. Mums are freaking busy. No matter where or what they do, they are busy. There is no let up. The job just continues around the clock. Whether it be working outside the home and then rushing home to work in the home, and then having to take outside work home with them. Or whether it’s working in the home, from 6am until 10pm. We ALL work non-stop.
- Don’t tell a Mum she looks tired. No shit. She will be tired. Whether she’s at home all day (no she doesn’t get to have a rest) or whether she’s at work all day (no she can’t use her lunch break to rest. Because often she doesn’t get a lunch break), she’s going to be tired.
- Don’t say to a Mum “I don’t know how you do it” Whether working, or choosing not to work, coping can be tough either way. Being at work for a lot is a necessity. How do they cope being away from their kids? They do it bloody tough. Even when women work because they need that for themselves, they still don’t escape that feeling of sadness and guilt at missing their children. Being at home is also a tough gig. Giving up a career, walking away from a job which gave satisfaction and an income? That too brings its own guilt at times.
- Don’t bring up choosing career over kids, or choosing kids over career. Either way the decision is a hard one. And often not done flippantly.
- Never ask “don’t you feel like you’re missing something” Erm. No. No no no no no. Working mums ARE missing their kids and stay at home mums ARE missing that previous career. For the most part. There are some working mums who feel like they’ve got the best deal, and there are some stay at home mums who feel like they’ve got the best deal.
We all come from different walks of life, with different values and different priorities. But no matter what our own values and ideas are, you know something? All of us are just trying to do our best for our kids. If we feel that’s us going out and working, then we’re out there doing it. If we feel that’s us being at home, then we’re doing it. Can we just cut ourselves some slack here? One type of mum is no more superior than the other, our kids are going to thrive regardless of our decision to work or stay home. Wanna know why? Because whatever we’re doing, we’re doing for THEM. And they know it. They don’t know any different- they see us working in the home and out of the home. It’s about quality, not quantity. And ensuring they know they’re loved, they feel secure and safe and they’re happy. That’s it. Happiness comes in many forms.
For all the studies that show children are better off with a parent at home, you’ll find an equal amount of studies showing children thrive when parents work. Research is a ridiculous thing. You can skew data to show you almost anything you want it to. Don’t be fooled by ‘scientific’ studies and ‘experts’. Truly. It’s all smoke and mirrors. There are often many caveats in their research and when it comes to human functioning there is no precise, hard and fast rule. What works for one might not work for another.
So what does it come down to? Respect. Simple really. Respect for others’ choices, or necessities. Respect that others’ situations work for them, and we have no right to go raining on their parade. And where do we think our kids learn respect from? If we can’t show it to other Mums, what hope do our kids have?