Bitter. That’s the only way I can describe the comments after a recent New York Times piece I read. A lawyer turned stay -at -home mom wanted to re-enter the work force. She was unsure what to do to restart her career. I was prepared to read her story without judgment. I’m sure she worked hard for her law license. Who could blame her for wanting to use it, right?
Then I got to this part of the article.
Unfortunately, I soon realized that I would rather extract my eyeballs with a teaspoon than plan a school fund-raiser or decorate a first-grade classroom billboard. I am bracing for the hateful comments, but I’m going to just lay it out there. I love my children, but my children are not enough. I need more. More important, I want my children to need more. I believe working mothers help foster that elusive sense of independence that seems to be lacking in so many kids today.
I’m no lawyer. I traded in the dream of being a reporter for fourteen years of staying home. Several of those were spent decorating classroom billboards, chairing fundraisers, and being on the PTO. I sure hope I didn’t cripple their independence gene. (Insert sarcastic eye roll here).
The comments after the article were mostly in the pro-work camp. Many reeked of a subtle holier-than-thou sentiment to me. And a couple mentioned the double standard of men in the work force, none judged for working after the birth of their children. As I read on, I found myself feeling less concerned with Ms. Romaniuk’s unused law license. The inference that only working mothers could teach independence tempted me to hand her a teaspoon myself. So much for not being judgmental.
Then, I took a step back. This is what’s become of us. Working mom vs. stay at home mom. Who’s better? Who’s right? It’s become less a choice than a social commentary. Instead of uplifting each other, we’ve become our own worst enemies. Instead of being proud of a woman that chose to walk away from her career for a while, I judged her for the desire to go back to it. Who was really the bitter one here?
I understand what it’s like to have a second beginning. When my youngest child started kindergarten in the fall, I had no idea what I was going to do. I contemplated six boring hours a day, alone, in the house. Unpleasant visions filled my head. Me in a pink bathrobe, watching the antics of Kathie Lee and Hoda. Would I start referencing my “shows” in daily conversations? Would Blake’s evil twin steal his wife before he woke up from the fifth coma of his soap opera career? Someone hand me the classifieds!
The truth is Jennifer Romaniuk and I aren’t so different. We both want the best for our families. We both want our children to grow and thrive. We both want them to have the fierce independence we lose when we become mothers. The paths we take to get them there may be different. Hers is filled with boardrooms and business suits. Mine is filled with PTO meetings and bake sales. Neither path is more “right” than the other. Both could be a lot smoother with less judgment.
Nearly three months have gone by. I’m still “jobless,” as it were. Though, I’m never without work. The years I spent as a stay-at-home mom weren’t the end of a career. They weren’t a death nail in the coffin of my life. The last fourteen years didn’t leave me socially stunted, unable to cope with other adults. I’ve learned more in the last decade and a half from my experiences as a mother than I ever could have writing for a newspaper.
Chief among them is the humility that only comes with motherhood. The ups and downs and joys and pains are shared by all of us, no matter what choices we might make for our families. I have no advice for Ms. Romaniuk. At least not any that she wants to hear. But I’m learning some things are better left unsaid. I even put my teaspoon away.