Mommy Wars: Whose Job is More Difficult?

In case you missed it last night, Hilary Rosen criticized Ann Romney by saying quite publicly that Romney “hadn’t worked a day in her life.” And then Twitter erupted. Rosen stepped on a landmine and not just in regard to the current political climate. I am not even going to begin to tackle the political controversies within this statement, but what I can’t help but address is one of the age-old wars that it ignited among moms everywhere.

As if the mompetition that exists among us isn’t bad enough, we are also engaged in a mommy war called “Whose Job is More Difficult?” It’s the stay at home moms versus the working moms and both sides are sure their job is the hardest. Both feel misunderstand by each side. And both are going ballistic in a side ring since this comment was made.

I’m one of those individuals who can’t clearly identify on either side. I’ve got one foot in each camp. I’m a working stay at home mom. I work from home and I stay at home with Gus. I should also let you know that I don’t have a nanny or any help of sorts. Nobody watches my kid for me while I work or cleans my house because I don’t have time. Many people mistakenly assume that those of us staying at home while we work also have help. Not so with me.

My job consists of juggling my motherhood duties with my teaching and writing duties. It means that I’m sneaking in to check emails whenever I get a spare minute and putting my phone on mute for conference calls when my kiddo is screaming. It means that when I put Gus down for his bedtime, the second half of my day begins. I put a pot of coffee on at eight o’clock and get busy in my office in the living room. If I get to bed my midnight, it’s considered early.

Is it rough? Yes. Is it tiring? Yes. But it’s my choice.

I’ll be honest. There are days I wish I could make a different choice. There are days I’m envious of the working mothers because I miss my old career and frankly, sometimes going to work seems like taking a break. Then there are the days when I’m envious of the stay at home mothers because they are just working one job. And believe me, for the record, staying at home with your children is very much a job. But it would be awfully nice to just have one job.

Here’s where I think we need to change our thinking a bit in regard to this debate.  It’s a classist problem. What I mean by this is that it assumes that all women have the option to choose to either stay at home with their children or go to work. The only women whom this choice clearly exists for are those women in a high enough financial bracket where they have the luxury of being a one income family. For many of us, being a one income family isn’t remotely feasible. It would result in hungry children and the electricity getting turned off.  In addition, it assumes that all women have partners. What about the single women? What about those women who are solely responsible for raising their kids? If they stayed at home to be with their kids, this would result in the use of welfare. Then we’d be attacking them for being on welfare.

I’ve got an idea. What if we stopped arguing about whose job was the most difficult and started focusing on what we could do to make everyone’s job easier?

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33 Responses to Mommy Wars: Whose Job is More Difficult?

  1. Peg says:

    Amen. I too have a foot in both camps. I dont think of myself as a stay at home mom or a working mom but I have overwhelming responsibilities in both arenas. Nobody walks in anybody elses shoes and being judgmental just comes off as being insecure if you ask me. Moms need to empathize with each other and not put each other down.

  2. Barnmaven says:

    I never had the choice to work or not work. I have been the breadwinner in my family since before my children were born, and then was a single mom. I have very good friends who are stay-at-home moms and I know there are times we BOTH wish we could switch places! Working outside the home full time with a long commute makes it very hard to do all the house/yard/pasture/barn things that need doing AND give my children the time they need from me. But it also gives me a break from my kids on their tough days.

    • Mommy Psychologist says:

      I never had the choice either. It was either go back to work or find a way to work while being at home. It just so happened that a few months after Gus was born, all my student loan debt rolled out of deferment and into repayment. It was like having a second mortgage, so being a one income family wasn’t even an option for our family.

  3. theotherlion says:

    After we have that cleared away, can we stop yelling at each other over sleep training, organic food, and when they should reach basic developmental milestones?

  4. Rach says:

    I have been both a working mom and a SAHM. Each come with their own dramas and difficulties. I will say that working as a teacher, I was far more exhausted with much less time for ME when I was working. My mornings were spent getting everyone where they needed to be and the evenings, once the girls were in bed, were devoted to grading, lesson planning and other work related things. It was exhausting. While I miss the adult companionship I had while working, I don’t miss the rest of it.

    That said, I LOVE your last couple of paragraphs. You are SPOT ON. I worked in an inner city school for seven years and yes, this particular mommy war definitely has some class issues.

    This is, as I’ve said many times before, without a doubt, the hardest job I’ve EVER had. Mommies should be helping one another not judging and fighting. ARGH!

    • Mommy Psychologist says:

      I remember while I was pregnant and all the moms would look at me and proclaim that being a mom was the hardest job they had ever had. I’d think quite smugly, maybe for you, but not for me. Then, I had my son and well, can we say I knew EXACTLY what everyone was talking about!

  5. I get exhausted thinking about this and I don’t think it will ever go away (sadly!). For the record, I work outside the home part-time. I have no idea what that makes me (and people really, really like labels). Am I a SAHM? Some days. A WOHM? Some days. Maybe I should label myself a PT-WOHM-SAHM. Or maybe you can just call me a MOM.

  6. Rachel says:

    I totally agree with your last two paragraphs. I suppose on some level, I do have a choice. It’s a choice that would result in loss of excellent health benefits, dental insurance, vision insurance, not to mention retirement savings. It would mean going on free- and reduced-price lunch when our kids go to school. I don’t feel that the benefits of staying home would outweigh the loss of financial independence that we have as a two-income family. I have friends in that situation and it’s not fun. And since my husband is starting his own company, his income is less reliable right now. It’s a choice for me, but the only other choice is close to poverty.

    • Mommy Psychologist says:

      “The other choice is close to poverty.” Well said. I couldn’t have said it better myself.

  7. Zee says:

    I can’t say it better than Rachel. There are all kinds of moms out there: Those who live a comfortable enough life to be able to forgo working, those who don’t earn enough to justify babysitting fees, those who choose to stay employed for a bit more financial security, you name it. It’s pointless to debate which kind of moms have the hardest time. All moms work hard, but those who live in poverty or don’t make enough to support their kids, or don’t have good medical insurance to take care of themselves are the ones who have the hardest time.

    • Mommy Psychologist says:

      Yep. We’ve all got it hard. Don’t forget those moms whose children have special needs who are also contending with all of the additional tasks that present themselves in those scenarios. Any ideas as to how we put a rest to this silly “war?”

  8. Honestly? Anything that includes “M”, for Mommy, is hard. Period.

  9. Judy says:

    To be honest, I’d love for someone in my family to stay at home. It doesn’t make sense for me to, because I’m the breadwinner. And my husband does not want to, so it’s not like I can force him to. There are any number of unique situations. I wish we could all (myself included) stop deciding for other people whether they “have” to stay at home or not. It’s the choice they make. We’re not inside their heads, or their homes.

    • Mommy Psychologist says:

      Thanks for your comments, Judy. You brought up a good point about fathers choosing to stay home. This mommy war leaves them entirely out of the debate even though more and more families are choosing this as an option.

  10. Deb says:

    This is an argument that keeps cropping up over here in the UK as well. I’ve been both a working mum and stay at home so have experienced both sides and in my experience both groups work equally hard. When I had my first child I worked part time but by the time I had my second child and then third child it became increasingly difficult. Expensive childcare, the lack of flexible work plus my son’s special needs made it very hard for me to work outside the home. It was easier to stay at home but in some ways I didn’t have much choice as I felt that my son was too challenging for the childcare on offer. I now do a few hours of support work a week but in the main we survive on my husbands income. I feel lucky that we can.

    • Mommy Psychologist says:

      I like that you brought up children with special needs. Many times the conversations surrounded this debate don’t take into account the different challenges in parenting a child with special needs. Thanks for bringing it into the discussion.

  11. Heather says:

    Honestly, the thing that kinda struck me out of this whole thing is the idea that parents who have one parent at home are automatically better parents, with better & healthier kids. I work part-time (by choice) and it was the best balance for everyone in my family — including my daughter.

    I know it is always harder if you don’t have a choice in the matter, but I’d like to think that those kids with working parents are not ruined for life because their parents can’t be home with them 100% of the time. The vast majority are loved, cared for, and thriving. I hate that “daycare” is such a dirty word. My daughter has WONDERFUL teachers, they are like extended family to her. Frankly, I’m glad she has them in her life.

  12. Sherri says:

    Why is it assumed that SAHM are in a higher income bracket? Some of us choose to live on less (my husband and I drive older cars that are paid for, we wear clean hand me downs and usually eat home cooked meals) so we can be more available to serve our family and communities. So many assumptions out there and not enough caring heart and open minds.

    • Mommy Psychologist says:

      I appreciate your comments, Sherri. It is not an assumption that SAHM are in a higher income bracket. The statistics actually show that SAHMs tend to be middle to upper middle class. It doesn’t mean that there aren’t those in lower income brackets who choose to stay at home, but the majority of mothers who choose to stay at home are in higher income brackets. You can’t really argue with demographic statistics.

  13. Melissa says:

    I’m a stay at home mom, and I don’t consider my job hard although my husband swears it’s harder than his job. Does it take patience? Yes. Does it take multi-tasking? You bet. Does it stretch my abilities further than ever before? Of course. But that doesn’t mean it doesn’t come with a hundred pros that my husband’s job doesn’t. At the end of the day, I spent my day with my daughter. I can’t imagine being tied to a phone and desk all day like my husband. He’s the bread winner, the REALLY hard worker. I don’t mind having the second hardest job in the household, I’ll gladly take it. My hat goes off to every woman who is working and raising a child. I seriously have no idea how they do it. There haven’t been any women presidents because they’re too busy raising children AND working. ;)

    • Mommy Psychologist says:

      Thanks for your comments, Melissa. I don’t know…There are certainly days when I long for a desk and a phone. Even though I used to spend 70 hours doing really intensive work, it still wasn’t as hard as the emotional toll motherhood has been at times, especially in the early months.

  14. Dad of E says:

    I just read Jane Roper’s blog post on this, then your comment and your own post. I think you completely mis-read what she wrote. You should read it again. She was clearly writing about disadvantaged mothers, many of whom are also single mothers — not the other way around.

  15. Penny says:

    As a SAHM, the assumption that annoys me the most is that I “love” this, I don’t really “love” it but I do it because we believe its best for the kids and ultimately choosing what is best for the kids makes me happy and sleep easier at night. Personally I know that if I was working and the kids were in care, the guilt I would feel would outway any financial benefits our family might gain. Its a personal choice that only each family can make.

  16. Dee says:

    I happen to be a young stay at home grandmother of twin six month boys and their sister who is only 30 months old. My daughter works 2 days a week to carry the family’s health insurance. This is the toughest job for anyone. It is also a job that is done with genuine love and care. I’m happy to be able to help my daughter and grandchildren. Sacrifices were made to do so but you cannot put a price tag on your grandchildren’s pure joy of knowing they are being given the best care while their mom is working.

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