Stay at Home Moms vs. Working Moms

For most humans, internal justification is an important part of life. In some cases, an instinctual survival tactic. In others, a conscious deliberation yielding a certain result to boost our own egos. Maybe a bit of both.

The thing about justification is that it acknowledges a different point-of-view, carefully rebutting the opposition until a point of confidence—often arrogance—is attained. This makes us feel good about our decisions. We’re right. We’re noble. We’re thoughtful, intelligent, selfless, entitled…you name it. Whatever makes us feel comfortable with whatever decision or circumstance we’ve justified.

But what about the other side? If you can give a clear “why” (aka justification) regarding a decision—even a happenstance—in your life, then you’ve considered the other side. By declaring your justification, you’re thereby implying the contrasting choice, circumstance, or viewpoint is wrong. Lesser. 

Some justifications are universally accepted when it comes to the general human code of ethics. Others are merely personal choices that, when stacked neatly side-by-side, create the unfortunate wall that divides people based on trivial differences. 

A group all too prone to justifications that imply judgment (if not outright condemnation) to the other “side” are moms. Wheweee motherhood is one big web of justifications. From the way you sleep train to how you feed to what you feed and your choice of entertainment, every mom justifies why her way is best.

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I could go into about a thousand different “this” or “thats” of motherhood, but the opposing mom forces to which I can speak from personal experience on BOTH sides is the Stay at Home Mom (SAHM) vs. the Working Mom (WM).  

Ohhh lordt what a double whammy wall of justifications to break down here, folks. For the most part—at least in my first-hand experience—most moms take the implication route rather than overt accusation. They justify their decision or circumstance, then leave the rest unsaid…often in loaded Facebook statuses or Instagram quotes for all other moms to see and feel either validated or attacked.

[A few of the] Justifications of WMs:

“I want my kids to grow up seeing that women can do it all, and they have a strong, capable mommy.”

“I think it’s important to contribute to our family financially.”

“I don’t want to be one of those moms who loses her identity in her kids. I need the stimulation.”

[A few of the] Justifications of SAHMs:

“I don’t want someone else to raise my children.”

“I made the selfless choice to put my children before my career or anything else.”

“I believe my purpose is to be the most devoted mom I can be.”

Now take a look at those justifications, and glean the implications. Working Moms often make Stay at Home Moms feel inferior. That they are somehow less capable and strong. Spoiled. Lost. Mundane. Stupid. Too comfortable. 

Stay at Home Moms make working moms feel guilty. They are somehow less devoted to their kids. They’re selfish. They don’t have the innate ability to mother whole-heartedly.

Even backhanded compliments between SAHMs and WMs add fuel to this war of justifications. “Oh I could NEVER stay at home with the kids! I’d go crazy. I don’t know how you do it.” “Oh I could NEVER go to work every day and manage my guilt. You’re stronger than I am!”

What each side is actually saying is “I’m too intelligent to do what you’re doing,” or “I’m too loving to do what you’re doing.”

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Now, these justifications often come from necessity, right? Most working moms or stay-at-home moms don’t have a choice. Many do (like me), but most don’t. Most mothers are working or not working based on the financial gain of their household-- they either need a second income, or the cost of childcare outweighs the point of having two working parents.

So it’s not that justifications are a “bad” thing, necessarily. If something is not a choice, it’s a good survival tactic to find positivity in your circumstance. And if something IS a choice, it’s good to believe you made the best one…or else what are you doing?

The problem with justification is forgetting—as we often do—that people are not the same. Your personal justification should have no bearing on the way you see another mom’s decision, or on the way you make them feel—even inadvertently.  

Perspectives are not the same. Needs, desires, types of intelligence, love languages, relationships, and purposes are not the same. And no, backhanded compliments do not count as being “nonjudgmental.” Telling someone that their choice would be too hard for you is NOT humbly recognizing differences.

Recognizing differences would be to genuinely respect the other side of the coin. To be intentional with how your words—even thoughts-- might implicate someone else who has a completely different set of worldviews, needs, and desires. If you say “I only get two hours with my kids each night, so I make the most of them”, are you watering down the ample time another person has?

I’m not telling anyone to walk on eggshells here…though if that’s how you have to start in order to create a new way of thinking and communicating, then maybe a few eggshells are in order. What I’m trying to do is help break down the defensive, justified walls that mothers build in pursuit of raising the little munchkins we love so fiercely. 

I’ve done both. I worked full time for a year, and am now staying at home with my 19-month-old (pregnant with #2). It would be easy for me to list off all the reasons that I, personally, think life is significantly easier as a working mom. But for many of my friends, they thrive more naturally at home. One is not “better” than the other. One is not “easier” or makes someone “stronger”…they’re different experiences for different people. Both have legitimate difficulties, and both have perks.

I’ve personally vocalized some of the justifications and backhanded compliments mentioned above. I regret saying them—even thinking them. I know they didn’t come from a place of judgment, but ultimately, that’s what they are. I can now see that truth more clearly having lived a little on both sides of the coin.

Since I’ve chosen to no longer justify either experience to myself—rather I’m open to being a SAHM forever or potentially rejoining the workforce at some point—it’s allowed me to more fully comprehend the divide between WMs and SAHMs. I’ve felt the brunt of judgment on both ends, and perhaps doled out the same, and have come to a place of near-disinterest in the justification game altogether (at least on this topic).  After all my contemplation, I hardly see a difference between my choice or circumstance to be a SAHM vs. a WM.

At the end of the day, I love my child the exact same amount. I do my best with the time I have with him, whether it’s 2 hours a day or 24 hours a day. I know that whatever he experiences as a result of me working or not working is in God’s hands anyway. We all know well-adjusted, happy individuals who spend their childhood in daycare or who spent their childhood at home.

If we love our children whole-heartedly, then as moms, all of our decisions are equally “right”. Unless you’re letting your toddler run next to a cliff or encouraging your kid to bully classmates online. In that case, get it together, lady.

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Shannon Leyko