Glaring Through Pea-Green Colored Glasses

My six-year-old daughter came home from school, threw her backpack on the couch and blurted out, “We talked about what we wanted to be when we grow up.”

“Oh, yeah? What did you decide?” I asked going through a mental list of all the possible choices that would eventually lead to her unprecedented success.

“I want to be a mom like you.” My heart sank into my stomach. At a moment when I should have been beaming with pride, I felt a free-falling sensation that sent me spinning into a speech to try to feel grounded. “You know, you can be anything you want to be,” I told her. “There are so many wonderful things in this world to experience. A doctor, an artist or maybe a writer (wink, wink), you can be a mother and anything else. You don’t have to choose one or the other.” She looked at me as though I had just given her a lesson on the theory of relativity, smiled and walked away. I wanted to grab her and hold her down until she assured me that she had other ambitions in life.

We all want our children to succeed but we want our girls to conquer the world, to break through the glass ceiling. So why is it when they grow up to become successful career women and mothers we criticize them?

The debate between working moms and stay-at-home moms continues to smolder – any denunciation causes a spark that ignites an explosion of talk show specials. SAHM’s, the antagonists in this classic story of bitter rivals, are forcefully spewing justifications in the form of judgments in hopes of producing a legitimate argument that not only convinces others her decision is right but also convinces herself. Not that the protagonists don’t carry their load of doubts but they are usually planted thoughts brought on by snubbing at school functions or guilt upon deletion of “volunteers needed” emails.

During one of the times when the flame was high on this explosive discussion, Dr. Phil produced a show covering the topic where he introduced Andrea, who had been both a stay-at-home mom and a working mom. She stated that she sees both sides of the debate and wonders if the controversy is more a case of being envious of what the other mom is doing. The mother working outside the home wishes she had more time with her child; the stay-at-home mom desires to be recognized as a creative person in her own right. Though I agree with her statement, I do not believe that each envious party is equal in their covet.

To desire for more time with your children is a reasonable complaint but to yearn to be seen as an intelligent, capable woman behind the kids and piles of laundry is a life of demeaning isolation. 18 years of glaring through pea-green colored glasses at not only working moms but at other SAHM’s (a bit of a keeping up with the Jones’ between SAHM’s) can leave one with a distorted view of who they are; eventually losing sight of their identity. This makes for a bitter, judgmental, defensive mommy who buries herself in domestic activities.

What is the real reason we, SAHM’s, play the antagonists?  Are we fighting for our beliefs in child-rearing or fighting to just be heard? Why would we want to attack those who are successfully raising kids while fulfilling the craving to be recognized as more than a housekeeper – essentially widening the path that women like Elizabeth Cady Stanton and Susan B. Anthony fought years to clear? It is no wonder the U.S just now, according to an article by Marcia Reynolds on the Huffingtonpost.com, went from 31st to 19th place in a report that ranks gender equality in 139 countries. We can’t stop fighting amongst ourselves long enough to fight for each other.

It is important for us to find or continue an identity outside of children when we become SAHM’s. Not only for ourselves but for our daughters who mimic our every move – so, instead of playing the role as antagonists and watching as the classic story of bitter rivals throws manure on the path to equality, we should take off the pea-green colored glasses and view the world through a broken glass ceiling.

All photos provided by photobucket.

11 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. Hott Mama
    Nov 16, 2010 @ 08:14:41

    …and this is exactly why the movie Secretariat struck such a nerve for me.

    Reply

  2. kelly @kellynaturally
    Nov 16, 2010 @ 08:37:01

    @HottMama – Secretariat was a fantastic movie & I really liked the message that it was sending – that women CAN do anything – be powerful, strong, successful, ambitious, career-driven AND (can you believe it, there’a an AND?) a great mom. It also showed (which you didn’t mention in this article) that Dad has to step up to the plate, no matter what choice Mom makes for the early years of her childrens’ lives – staying at home or working. No one can be expected to do it all – alone.

    I don’t understand why, when we HAVE the choice – we can’t make it in peace. What you do with your OWN LIFE is no one else’s business. Why the judgment from all sides? Or maybe what I want to know is who really cares? Really. There are TELEVISION shows about someone’s choices? I don’t get it. It doesn’t phase me if someone judges my childrearing choices – they are MINE. I have to wonder at women who really care enough to judge others or to let others’ judgments affect them so much, really are confident in their own choices? Are they REALLY fulfilled in their own life? Because if they were, they wouldn’t notice someone else’s so much.

    Another thing is that no one criticises the mom who makes the choice to work outside the home when the kids are in school for the vast majority of the working day. Why does it matter to anyone what a woman chooses for primary childcare & housekeeping duties before teachers are involved when it doesn’t seem to matter after teachers are involved? And again, what about the Dads? Why not the same level of criticism when a dad makes the same choices? Do we really believe that a Mother’s PHYSICAL PRESENCE 24/7 is so much more important than a father’s in a young child’s life?

    Moms: do what you feel is right. What you need to do. What you want to do. We each are better off when those around us are happy & fulfilled – including ourselves. And who cares what anyone else thinks. Do what makes you happy, and be happy in what you do. Your children are watching.

    Reply

    • Torie Combest
      Nov 16, 2010 @ 09:59:10

      Kelly,

      I have yet to watch Secretariat but I am familiar with the strong lady behind the horse. I admire strong business women who are great mothers and I agree with your comment. Ultimately, we need to make the decision that makes us truly happy but with the constant debating it seems neither party is truly satisfied with their current situation. Will there ever be a complete contentment with the choices a mom makes? I think there will always be judgment and self-doubt to throw fuel on this debate.

      As for the men, I did not mention them because I wanted to focus on women fighting amongst each other. Let’s face it, when it comes to our children, women carry more guilt than the majority of men. This debate isn’t going to be solved with men taking on more household duties – it is a burden that only women carry. SAHM’s have more to defend and more people to convince, not to mention having to rise above the labels and faux-definitions of what a SAHM does.

      You are right, our children are watching our every move and it is vital that we show them how to be happy in every situation. Thanks for commenting.

      Reply

  3. Michelle Saunderson
    Nov 18, 2010 @ 16:19:58

    Great post! I have viewed this debate from all aspects and I agree with you wholeheartedly.

    Reply

  4. nashneit
    Nov 18, 2010 @ 19:30:10

    I am a strong believer that if she can, a mom should be home with her children especially in the early years of their lives. However, if you are a woman pursuing a career and only intend on being with your child for that short leave of maternity, more power to you. As long as you are providing a loving, safe and healthy environment for your children, you should do what makes you the best you which will help you to be the best parent for your kids. I personally believe that for me to be the best to my baby at this particular time in life, I need to be there for her as care giver, mom and whatever she needs. Fortunately I have been given the opportunity to do so because of a strong family support system built up from my husband, relatives and friends. I am a strong woman and I know what I am capable of but what is most important to me is my little girl’s happiness and health.

    Reply

  5. Travis McClain
    Nov 19, 2010 @ 13:48:31

    Japanese mothers are under extraordinary pressure when preparing their children’s obentos (lunchbox meals, basically). Each meal is expected to be enough to nourish the child without being too much, so there’s a proportion issue made complicated by the erratic nature of growth spurts. Each selected food needs to be different in color and texture, so that the meal as a whole is harmonious. Each day needs to be different from the day before, because sending a child to school with the same food two days in a row sends the message that the mother just didn’t care.

    There is scrutiny from other mothers. A mother can find herself summoned to school to face questions if her child’s meals aren’t up to snuff. There are whole magazines published to give helpful suggestions to make obentos practical, budget-friendly or as elaborate as the family desires. Can you imagine someone trying to sell an American mother a magazine dedicated entirely to packing a lunchbox?

    My point in all this is that motherhood is always under a microscope. The criteria for judgment change from one era to the next and vary from one region to the next, but every mother has always been aware that someone somewhere thinks she is a failure. Working moms, then, might feel that they could silence that judgment if only they had the time at home they’ve sacrificed. SAHMs conversely feel as though their own star is dimming while their peers are engaged with the world, and become bitter toward the women who’ve found a way to include work and motherhood in their lives.

    We know that happier people got the lucky breaks we didn’t get. That’s why they’re happy. Everyone we know who wasn’t luckier than us is generally comparable in circumstance. Ergo, different circumstances = lucky = happy = successful. The truth is always something else, but this is how we perceive things.

    Reply

    • Torie Combest
      Nov 19, 2010 @ 17:22:01

      Travis,

      That is a lot of unnecessary worry over lunch. I believe in healthy lunches but not to the point that it is a part-time job. I doubt that having the same lunch two days in a row is going to send kids on a downward spiral to failure. I couldn’t imagine having that added stress but it is unbelievable what we can get used to or what can become our norm. If I was handed a magazine on how to make lunch, my feminist claws would make an appearance.

      No matter what we do someone is hiding around the corner with judgment, slander and unwanted opinions; however, SAHMs carry so much more baggage along with trying to live above the stereotype and suffering from a loss of identity that I can’t help but think that we will never be truly comfortable with this role.

      As always your comment rocks. Thanks for commenting.

      Reply

  6. Carla
    Nov 19, 2010 @ 16:43:15

    This is a great post. I’ve been on both sides of the fence–working away from home and SAHM. Right now I stay at home–that’s where I feel like I need to be. I don’t need to worry about critics.

    I saw you on MBC and am your newest follower!

    ~Carla

    http://www.jollyjansen.blogspot.com

    http://HoustonParentsMagazine.com

    Reply

  7. Jillian
    Nov 22, 2010 @ 16:03:40

    I’ve been battling this SAHM v Work Mom for a while now. Often thinking I’m not as good as I can be because I’m a SAHM. And then I ask myself, arn’t our children the most important thing? Shouldn’t I value myself because I’m raising and teaching and comforting the most valuable person in my world? It’s hard finding your place when you’re home with your child. A great challenge :)

    Reply

    • Torie Combest
      Nov 28, 2010 @ 10:19:52

      Jillian,

      I love the name of your blog. I agree, it is a challenge to find a place in the world when you are a SAHM but we should do what makes us happy. I believe (because I have to or I will lose sanity) that there is a way for us to be home and also be the person we set out to be. I will let you know when I come up with this great solution to our identity problem.lol

      Reply

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