Make the Conscious Choice to Let Judgment From Other Moms Go
While I definitely think that the media overhypes and sensationalizes the “tension” between mothers who are employed outside the home and moms who stay home with their kids, I also can’t deny that some mothers can be all judgy mcjudgerson about the choices our sisters in (babes in) arms make. And frankly, while I hope I was never openly rude about it, I was waaaaaay more judgmental myself about super-busy working mothers with young kids before a harsh dose of reality in the form of a divorce pushed me out of comfortable work-from-home motherhood and into rush-from-home-to-the-office-every-morning motherhood. I had always, always worked since becoming a mother, but working outside the home on someone else’s schedule was an entirely different experience than freelancing and doing contract work from home. I became much less judgmental very quickly after my life was turned inside out like that.
Fast forward ten years post-divorce and I am now happily remarried, with five children instead of the three I had when my first marriage ended. My two youngest are currently only one and four years old, and in stark contrast to the decade I spent working primarily from home when my three oldest children were very young, I now work 40-plus hours per week at a very demanding corporate job, and I also work what essentially amounts to a second job with my various blogging and consulting projects. As our family’s primary wage earner, this is what I have to do to keep the mortgage paid, health insurance current and shoes on all the kids’ feet. Plus, I absolutely love my work, which I know is a real luxury since so many people – men and women – kind of hate their jobs, but know they have to get up and go do them every day so their families can eat and stuff.
My demanding career means that I simply cannot do many things that women who are not employed outside the home, or who have part time or flexible freelance work are able to do. I cannot serve as classroom mother. I cannot be on the school fundraising committee. I can’t always be the one to pick my children up or drop them off at various afterschool activities, and it’s simply not possible for me to make it to every one of my 8th grade son’s ball games. I rely very heavily on my husband, whose job is in general far less demanding than mine, my mother in law and my sister – who is a stay at home mom to her own three kids – to pick up the slack for me in the areas I cannot hit the mother mark, but they can’t do everything. So that means that in some ways, and in the eyes of some other moms who DO have the ability to go on field trips as chaperones, I am probably considered kind of a loser of a parent.
Sometimes, I do pick up on a vibe from certain other moms, or occasionally over the years, from people who work at my kids’ schools in various capacities, in which it’s made clear to me that they think that I am a bad parent, or that I somehow care less about my children because I can’t do some of the things I’ve mentioned due to the demands of my paid employment. This vibe used to really, really bother me, and the sense of guilt I took on when someone went all snarkily judgy on me with some kind of remark directed at my mothering could really get me down. But eventually, I kind of had an epiphany, which was that I had a CHOICE whether to feel guilty or not feel guilty when someone would say something about how I hadn’t helped out with the baseball team’s end of year party. To paraphrase Eleanor Roosevelt, the only person who has the power to make me feel bad is….me.
It also helped a great deal when I switched jobs and landed at my current company, where I am lucky enough to work within a team of people that includes many other working mothers, including the VP and SVP directly above me. Their jobs are even more demanding than mine, and I have learned a great deal in the time I’ve been here from observing the way the two of them never, ever apologize for the fact that they are damned good at what they do for a living – that they enjoy what they do – or for the fact that the scope of their own mothering responsibilities is comprised to a large degree of earning money to feed, clothe and house their kids and spouses.
Doing the work to pay the bills and make sure your kids are able to see a doctor when needed IS a very important mothering task, so even though I may be doing less of some OTHER mothering tasks – like classroom volunteering – I am doing MORE of some others, like making sure my teenagers will be able to go to college in a few years. And now that I am more comfortable with my own mothering mix of duties and tasks, and have made the conscious choice not to let any other parent or teacher’s unsolicited judgment change how I feel about myself or the job I am doing as a parent, well, I feel much better all around.
Here’s the deal: no matter what you do as a mother, there will be judgment. That’s simply beyond your control. So I recommend you do the thing that IS within your control, which is to let that judgment roll right off of you. Just Let. It. Go. Don’t validate it by acknowledging it or complaining about it. Because even if you changed everything about whatever it is you’re doing that has some women negatively judging you, you wouldn’t end the judgment. Somebody else would still disapprove of something you’re doing. So I suggest that we all start right now by making it clear to everyone around us – to our kids, to our kids’ friends’ mothers, to preschool teachers, to angry guests with too much time on their hands who appear on the Anderson Cooper talk show…. to everyone – that we approve of OURSELVES as mothers – that we are judging ourselves, and in our judgment, we rock.
How about that?