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.