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.
I look at it this way: Life is a big, scrumptious cherry pie. You get to decide (for the most part) what size to cut each of your slices. Equal slices might be ideal for one woman, but not another. It is your pie...you select the slice sizes. Each slice of your pie represents a different component of your life: Motherhood, Womanhood, Your Career, Your Marriage, Friendships, Household, Hobbies, Talents, Volunteer Work, etc...Once again, it is your pie. It seems that women who are happiest, have sliced their pie in a way that works for them and works for those around them. Some women opt to cut bigger slices for their children by staying at home during the day while others deem working hard at building a career as a great way to contribute to their children's slices by providing life's little extras for them. I am certain that having your slices just right will bring you fulfillment and success and that being out of balance (I.e. Working too hard or not doing enough for yourself or deciding not to take that yoga class you've been thinking about) can push you further from what you are hoping to accomplish in life. For me, it's really about setting my priorities and just doing the best I can.
I am a work at home mom. I have two amazing daughters and a husband who loves me despite the way I am hopelessly flawed. I think it is because he sees my flaws in a Jo March from Little Women charming sort of way instead of in an intervention candidate sort of way. I have a business that I enjoy: I design and sell birth announcements and holiday cards . I author blogs: www.buzzworthybabynames.blogspot.com  and www.theskinnyonmatilda.blogspot.com. 
Since retiring from being the Stay at Home Nazi, hanging up my Finger Pointer Flag, and getting back to work, I have most certainly grown up a little. Perhaps my next post at the popular pregnancy site will have more to do with putting award-winning blueberry pancakes on the griddle on a Saturday morning working side by side with my two little assistants and less to do with what sort of mom I think that everyone else should be.
Bonnie Bell is a married twenty-something with two daughters. She is the one who you caught rolling her eyes at your latest playgroup when the conversation turned to SpaghettiOs and everyone's uterus. She lives in Denver, Colorado but stays away from the Rocky Mountain High crowd.