Minnesota Mamaleh: The Mommy Wars

We Mamas have the corner on worrying and second guessing ourselves. Once confident go-getters, we become questioning, analyzing kvetchers about the million bajillion decisions that we need to make as soon as our new little bundles are in our arms. And once the sleep deprivation sets in. That seems to effect things, too.
As we become all-consumed with our babies and the tremendous amount of love and responsibility that come with them, we suddenly have a hard time following our gut and using the self knowledge that we worked so hard to gain in our younger years.
One of the hottest topics for Mamas everywhere is the stay-at-home mom versus the work outside of the home mom bit. Otherwise known as The Mommy Wars. Insert scary music here, right?
You can take two perfectly pleasant women who happen to not see eye-to-eye on this topic and sparks will fly. My advice to you is to run for cover. And run fast. Because one thing that I know for sure is that parenting, mothering, is so very personal. It’s an exercise in self reflection and a down-and-dirty test in who we are. So when someone does things differently than we do, we feel like they think that we’re doing something wrong. And that we’re somehow not doing what’s absolutely best for our kids. We take it as a judgment of us rather than you know, other people’s own personal choice.
We all so very desperately want to be good parents, the best parents ever even, that we lose sight of the fact that we’re simply wired differently and find our happiness in different ways. What our kids really need is for us to feel secure and content with our lives. Not every single minute of every single day, mind you. But you know, as a general rule.
I think that we’re just overpoweringly afraid to be…wrong. I knew from the second that my first maternity leave started that I wanted to stay at home full time. I’m not saying that I didn’t have bad moments, bad hours, bad days. I did, for sure. Jason rearranged his then teaching schedule so he could be home mid-day to check on me. And, you know, wipe my tears. Because being a new mom is hard. And emotional. And overwhelming. But even at the end of those terrible, horrible, no good, very bad days I always knew that I’d rather cry it out at home than at work. But I certainly didn’t always feel this way.
When I was in college I never imagined that I’d be “just” a stay at home mom and love it so-very-much. I had dreams. And ambitions. And I had absolutely no idea that my kids would turn into those dreams and ambitions! Embarrassingly enough, I totally spoke up and shared my opinions with my Mama friends.
One of my most cringe-worthy moments was a response to a girlfriend describing her own daughter’s desire to be a mom when she grew up. I actually thought that it was sad. And a waste. What was actually sad and a waste was the fact that I took the time to judge my friend and her daughter! My biases and assumptions were coming from my own experiences and societal influences. My mom worked and still does. I didn’t know very many stay at home moms so my only reality of what smart, successful women do when they grow up was that they go to work.
In reality, what smart successful women do when they’re all grown up is get to know themselves really, really well. They figure out where their bliss is, what they can manage and where their heart’s desires lie. And then, if at all possible, they follow that path. No matter what society, their best friend or even their mother says.
Now, I taught part time until the girls where three and a half and one and a half. During that time, I checked in with Jason about taking the plunge and staying at home with the kids full time. Every. Single. Day. As always, bless him, right?
We did indeed eventually take that plunge and while he works extremely hard, we live extremely tightly because we’re following my bliss. I think the saying goes something like, “happy wife, happy life.” We’re all better parents, better spouses and better people when we’re actually doing what makes us happy. Every single one of us.
Unfortunately,  realizing that I wanted to stay at home only made my assumption pendulum sway the other way and I started assuming that everyone felt exactly like me. That all women wanted to stay at home with their children and if they weren’t staying home, finances were the only deterrent. Like they were for me. I know, embarrassing, but true.
My first “a-ha!” moment realizing how very wrong I was, was when Chloe was born. Kayli and I both took maternity leaves that spring. Her’s was from day care and mine was from teaching. At the very same time a close friend of mine kept her son in day care when her own new baby was born. I don’t think either one of us could fathom where the other was coming from. Today I know that my girlfriend’s family truly valued independence and made their decision based on respecting their two-year-old’s schedule.
My family (who valued what? Co-dependence, I guess) thought that we’d all just muddle through the crying and the diapers together. And you know what? Kayli and her buddy are both completely fabulous kids. As far as we can tell, neither one of them is scarred by their independent or co-dependent based families. But if either one of us tried to follow each others’ bliss, for whatever reason, that’s where we’d run into unhappy moms, unhappy kids and unhappy lives.
I’ve only done the Mama thing here in Minnesota so I know that Midwest Mamas worry about this topic. A lot. But what’s absolutely fascinating to me, is that seemingly across the world in Israel where life is different. Society is different. Expectations and even assumptions are different. Mamas are worrying right alongside us.
There’s just oh-so-very much to worry about as a Mama. How our big-grown-up life decisions will effect our own happiness, our spouse’s and our kids’ happiness covers just a small fraction of the worries. How those same decisions might effect our children’s world views and what they see as options and choices for themselves carves into another layer. What we really don’t need on our worry plate is what that other mom, the one over there, is thinking about our choices. More than likely she’s just wondering how to get the ketchup stain out of her shirt or the play-doh out of her carpet. Just like you. And me.