Mommy Wars, Schmommy Wars

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The media’s notion of the “Mommy Wars,” where briefcase-wielding career women face off against stroller-pushing homemakers, is largely a fabricated stereotype. Some mothers work because they want to. Some mothers work because they have to. Especially in tough economic times, though, intact families will find all kinds of creative and cooperative ways to get the bills paid without sacrificing their children’s needs for hands-on parenting.

Are we working moms? Are we at-home moms? Or are we an unlabeled something in between?

I suppose that I am a working mom. Those words look odd to me on the page and feel foreign on my tongue, but they are true. I never in my lifetime planned to be a “working mom,” and yet here I am . . . with a husband, eight kids, and a job that provides income my family depends upon.

I happen to be one of the lucky ones. I have a supportive husband, I enjoy what I do, and I am able to work almost exclusively from home. But still my work costs me something. It costs my family something, too.

Dinner might be more homemade, the refrigerator might be clean, and the laundry might be caught up this afternoon if I didn’t have phone calls to make and a deadline to meet. At the end of most days, I do come up short on time somewhere — for sleep, for exercise, for answering emails. I make family my first priority, and I aim to make sure it’s never my kids or my husband who get the short end of that stick, but I would be lying if I said they never did.

Pretending that being a working mother doesn’t come with some level of compromise isn’t fair — not to our families who pay part of the price, and certainly not to other women who might then enter family life or working life with unrealistic expectations.

Just like every family, there are compromises we have been willing to make. A clean refrigerator might be good for my family, but a paid gas bill and health insurance are good for them, too.

Whether we moms leave our homes every morning to earn a paycheck, stay home full time, or attempt some creative combination of the two, it’s most important that we make working decisions with our eyes wide open about what they will cost us.

No one can have it all. We need to figure out what we really want.

Not too long ago, one of my sisters, an at-home mom, wrote me a quick note: “It’s all well and good to be a stay at home mom and find fulfillment and happiness right here at home, but it feels good to see a mom out there in a business environment telling it like it is and keeping up with the best of them. Congratulations.”

Meanwhile, as I watch her family thrive and grow, I say, “It’s all well and good to find happiness in a combination of work and home life, but it feels good to see a devoted mom in a home environment raising beautiful children who are true lights and gifts to the world. Congratulations.”

There are no Mommy Wars. We’re in this together. With God’s grace, the best moms — at home, at work, and all the places in between — will win.

About Danielle Bean

Danielle Bean

Danielle Bean, mother of eight, is editor-in-chief of Catholic Digest and Faith & Family. She is also author of My Cup of Tea: Musings of a Catholic Mom, Mom to Mom, Day to Day: Advice and Support for Catholic Living and (with Elizabeth Foss) Small Steps for Catholic Moms: Think. Pray. Act. Every Day

  • Nicole

    Right on Danielle. We are all in the trenches together. Thank you!

  • Claire

    Good point about compromises. While I’m thankful that I have been able to make ends meet by working just a part-time jot outside the home (as opposed to working fulltime, out of financial necessity, when my son was a baby), I still resent the time that my job takes away from my family and the added dimension of juggling that it adds to our household schedules. Yet if I gave up this part-time job, the financial compromises would come at a bigger cost than what we’re willing to pay. My part-time job, as opposed to a fulltime job, already involves significant financial compromises and sacrifices, and quitting altogether would tip the balance too far in the other direction for our comfort zone. There is no ideal scenario, and I think gratitude is the key to making the compromises and sacrifices worthwhile.