Those Are Fighting Words.

by Bonnie Bell


"Why don't you just raise your own children."

 

Yes. I wrote that and then I attached it to a post about childcare in America on a popular pregnancy, baby, and parenting site. What followed was a chaotic inbox full of scathing emails questioning my intelligence, parenting aptitudes, and even my sex drive.


The original post was in response to a woman who had not yet had her baby and was seeking childcare options. I was not yet a mom and as we all know, everyone is a better mother before they have children. I set out to stand up for the mini-van stay at homes that I was certain I would join the ranks of upon becoming a mother. As the responses poured in ranging from bitter insults to play by play explanations of cooking blueberry pancakes every Saturday morning, I realized that I had done the equivalent of taking a baseball bat and striking a beehive. I hit a nerve in Working Mothers who are stretched to their limits to make everything in their lives dance around in seemingly effortless rhythm. I was so certain that I was right about being a Stay at Home Mom and that working mothers were missing everything about their child. I made angry remarks about children being something to check off of the to-do list and that they are equivalent to being fill-ins for the Holiday Christmas Card.


I want to re-emphasize that I said all of this before I actually had children.


Then the baby hunger pangs started. I wanted to frequent Janie and Jack and be invited into the back fitting rooms in Due Maternity. I needed to justify my trips to Pottery Barn Kids and my subscriptions to Baby Couture Magazine and Fit Pregnancy. And yes, I pictured the secret club of motherhood to be magical and enchanting and perfect. I would be the perfect mom.


As I waited for the arrival of my first daughter I determined that I would be a Stay at Home Mom and not just any Stay at Home Mom - I would be a Super Stay at Home. All beds would have hospital corners. I would sew all of our own clothes using organic wool from the sheep that I would raise in our back yard. I would buy an interest in a cow from a local dairy so that I could serve my children only unpasteurized milk. I would join the PTA and head up the Volunteering in my child's school. I would be Betty Crocker in the Kitchen, Martha Stewart in the Living Room, and The Perfect Mother in the eyes of my children.


Um...as you may have guessed (with or without help from my exaggerated foreshadowing), I have found motherhood to be quite different from how it was portrayed in the brochure. It is different for every woman. I can't believe I judged so harshly and without merit, the choices of other women. For any of the 3000 responders to my ridiculous attack on working mothers who are reading this, I am very sorry for making assumptions and judgments about your life and your parenting. Now that I have children, I have a deeper understanding of the need for flexibility.

ACowboysWife
08.05.08

The number one excuse I read for not staying home is finances. I don't buy it one bit. Being married to a cowboy, we make very little. In fact, a good paying ranch job only pays an average of $1200 a month. We were at a job for 5 yrs where bring home was $800. Did we get to take luxurious vacations? No but we were happy, fed, clothed, and had a nice vehicle to drive. Money isn't the key to happiness, I know this having come from it.

Azucar
08.05.08

You know, I wish I could stay at home. Sadly, my husband is a school teacher who works for a state with one of the lowest salaries for teachers in the nation. It's his dream job, but it means that I have to work just to keep a condo roof over our heads.

It's always fun when ideals run into making ends meet.

I would love to stay home, everyone just vote for a tax increase so that my husband can make more!

jrosenthal
08.05.08

Bonnie, I thank you for your honest post, and your apologies to all working moms out there. I never read your previous post, but I think that your previous comments are a sentiment held by many women (mothers and non-mothers alike). My personal feeling is that what works for one woman may not work for another. I hear all the time that women should stay home, and "tsk tsk, you're a bad mother if you don't." This I find to be really annoying....What right do any of us have to tell others how to lead their lives? I have enough respect for each woman, wife, and mother out there to not profess that I know what's right for them. So Bonnie, thank you for having the courage and honesty to admit when you made a mistake and realizing that every woman is different. I think we should all not judge what other women decide to do and how they raise their kids/manage their household. Instead we should respect and embrace the differences among us and be there to support each other whether we're working moms or stay at home moms.

SadiesMom
08.05.08

I think it's great that you can look back and admit your were wrong. Motherhood isn't what I expected either. I'm a working mom, and my husband is the work-from-home parent. No one calls us old fashioned because *shocker* the father stays home with his daughter!

ACowboysWife
08.05.08

Well, I'm old fashion (even though I'm only 32) and I still think that women should stay home to raise their kids. I actually wrote about this a long time ago if you care to read it. AT the bottom there is a link to my response towards a comment I received.
http://acowboyswife.com/2007/05/23/where-is-a-womans-place/