The latest round of the current stay-at-home-mom vs. working mother debate has been refueled. The latest mom choice scrutiny can be attributed to Hilary Rosen, a Democratic political analyst at CNN. Last week, Rosen said that Mitt Romney’s wife, Ann Romney, has “never worked a day in her life.”
The comment left pundits on the right side of the aisle reeling and some on the left side a little embarrassed. Fox News has been beating the drum of the under-appreciated and persecuted stay-at-home-moms as a way to sway the public towards their ideological divide, claiming the comment was hurtful, insulting and elitist.
Ann Romney, who raised five children, battled cancer and Multiple Sclerosis, came out in the spirit of her husband’s rival by following the mantra that one never lets a serious crisis go to waste, responded via Twitter, “I made a choice to stay home and raise five boys. Believe me, it was hard work.”
Rosen later apologized, but the political firestorm ensued.
To me, the debate is silly. Dare I say I agree with Bill Maher on the subject and agree that the outrage is completely manufactured.
I have done both. I stayed home with my kids through their infancies, but longed to go back to work. For me, I didn’t particularly enjoy staying home with my kids. For me, it was rife with enslavement and drudgery. I could only stack blocks for so many hours before I wanted to put a skewer in my ear and out the other end. I found it boring, tedious and under-stimulating.
It’s not to say that I didn’t love witnessing their first steps and feeding them and holding them. But something was missing from my soul as I wasted away in solitude, watching Caillou and pacing with a crying baby, trying to find what it is that he wanted. I felt like my brain was slowly withering.
There are pluses and minuses to both choices, although some choices are more forced than others, influenced by a family’s dynamic, education level, career choice and financial situation.
To me, staying home with children is mostly considered a privilege. And if you love it and you’re good at it, then a family can reap the rewards and benefits from having a parent around 24/7. And make no mistake, it is hard work. As stay at home moms like to point out, they never get a break.
After I went back to work, I used to joke that I went to work to rest.
But working outside the home presents another unique set of challenges and physical exertion that neither side has a monopoly on. Surprisingly, I find that many stay-at-home-moms suffer from self confidence issues and need working moms to validate their choice when it shouldn’t be that way. A homemaker doesn’t need any outside validation. Anybody who doesn’t think that staying home with young children is back-breaking work needs to get their head examined, but on the other side of the debate, anybody who doesn’t think that a working mom has her work cut out for her and works equally as hard, also needs to get their head examined.
When you work outside the home, not only are you dealing with pressures from bosses and companies to make things happen, but your motherhood responsibility doesn’t simply go away. Your responsibilities double. Not only do you have to get up at the butt crack of dawn, put on makeup and uncomfortable clothing, but you have to put out fires in the workplace all day and come home to a host of house management responsibilities — cooking, cleaning, helping with homework, going to sports games and parent/teacher conferences. If you have a helpful husband, as I do, this makes it much easier, but it’s still overly demanding.
Staying at home has a lot of fringe benefits. You can wear what you want, set your own schedule and go to the Zoo on Tuesday if you want and you don’t need an advanced degree to do it! I don’t say that as a criticism, but some women don’t want to go to college and decide they want to be CEO of their households instead. I’d compare it more like a work at home job. Most people would see that as a rare opportunity, while others feel more productive in a structured office environment.
I guess the difficulty level is largely based on your unique situation and your support structure.
So, do I feel sorry for Ann Romney who likely had a lot of help during her homemaker years? I would imagine, hired help. No, I don’t.
Do I feel sorry for the working mom who has quality child-care and a supportive husband? Not so much.
Do I feel sorry for the single mom who has to work full time and take care of kids? Yes. Sorry moms, if it’s a contest, she wins.
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