The Mommy Wars Are Irrelevant

The mommy wars are irrelevant. Choose what's best for your mental health.

No mother is perfectly happy or perfectly balanced. Not the stay-at-home ones, not the full-time-office ones. We’re all crashing around in our bumper cars trying to pick the right path through traffic.

The mommy wars are irrelevant

A few years ago I shared that I was a full-time mom with a seatmate on an airplane. “There’s no substitute,” she said. “It’s the best thing you can do for your kids.” She had been a stay-at-home mom.

Last year a Harvard study showed us that kids of working moms are better off in almost every way. That either felt great or terrible.

Either way, we crave the validation that these studies and interactions bring. We need to feel like our path is the one in which the kids will be all right, and that all the challenges and difficulty are worth it.

But what path is the one in which we’re all right, above what’s “best” for the kids? We should feel confident to choose what serves us best, because stable, well-adjusted parents with robust mental health are the greatest gift.

Six years down the road, I’m proud to watch close friends choose paths that are different than mine. The rightness and defensiveness of new parenthood has—mostly—worn off. I filter the motherhood studies, advice, and recommendations through the lens of what’s best for me and my family. I’m grateful to know women who stay at home full-time, who work in an office full-time and have au pairs, who cobble together childcare for freelance work, whose kids go to part-time preschool or full-time day care, who homeschool, or who go back to office work after years away.

No mother has it figured out. Being in balance takes a thousand ongoing adjustments. I’m grateful to have the freedom to fall, and to watch as others create their lives different from my own.

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15 responses to “The Mommy Wars Are Irrelevant

  1. Well said Ev. And there will be another study next week or next year that concludes something different. If all moms wait long enough, their parenting styles will all be vindicated.

  2. Hey, I followed the link to the Harvard study and it only says daughters of working mothers tend to earn more than daughters of non-working mothers. I would expect that daughters of non-working mothers probably follow in their mother’s footsteps (and don’t have income). Anyway, I think it leads into your point that you need to measure happiness in whatever metric suits your family best. For some families that’s more financial security and trips to the beach, and for some families that’s more hand-me-downs and peanut butter sandwich parties. However, your family defines happiness…go get some more of that! 🙂 Amen.

    • “Go get some more of that!” Yes! And thank you for being my CNN correspondent who interprets the research. Watch out, I’ll be calling you back in.

  3. My mom was a stay at home mom and her loving example has impacted my life more than anything. Especially, after she passed. Love this post.

    • I love your comment–it’s so tender! It’s a privilege to give our children the gift of being with them in the best way we can–whatever form that takes. I’m glad your mom was able to do that for you. ❤

  4. I love this! You are so right. I’ve been a stay-at-home mom, a full-time office mom, and now a free-lance work-from-home mom. Each job is exactly where I need to be for my family at that specific time. I think it’s important for our kids to see a strong work ethic, but also a willingness to take chances and chase dreams. I completely agree that each family has to follow their own path.

    • Thanks, and I love your Jo March username! Little Women is my favorite (and Anne of Green Gables, of course). I love hearing your experience of having lived three very different schedules. It’s affirming to think of things as an ongoing metamorphosis.

  5. I absolutely love this. I am a stay at home mother, and a first time mother at that, and I struggle on a daily basis on whether or not I’m doing what is best for my daughter. There are some days where I am so thankful to be able to be home and watch her grow, but then there are their days where I feel less than because I don’t work. The thing that gets me is that mothers in today’s society are so quick to judge. So whether you say you’re a stay at home mother or a working mother, someone will always have something to say about it. Bottom line is this-and I have to tell myself this on a daily basis- your child is your child, no one else’s. If I feel like staying home will benefit her more than putting her into childcare so I can work, that is my business. I watch my daughter grow and learn more and more every single day, and I am just so grateful that I have the opportunity to be a part of that. Thank you for posting this! I needed to read it!

  6. Beautiful creative writing! Love the insightful thoughts you deliver.

  7. This post was wonderfully helpful, as we have after long consideration decided I am going to take a step back from teaching and stay home with our children. The responses of those we have told have been surprisingly opinionated. Most have said I am making a mistake, I will miss teaching too much or they could NEVER do that, while a select few have expressed extreme envy over my ability to stay home. As you stated, it has to be what’s right for your family, not the scientific studies.

  8. Crashing around in bumper cars — that is definitely me lately. As I’m bracing for one to start middle school this fall, I’m also avoiding the studies that say moms of middle schoolers are more stressed than other moms 😦

  9. So true. I am going thrpugh this struggle now, it’s a tough choice either way.

  10. This is my current dilemma.

  11. Yes! It’s about personal choice and knowing that there are many different roads to fulfillment.

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