Our society puts these expectations on women to be able to do it all. Women have to be able to work, to mother, and to be beautiful. We have to be strong, but not too strong. We don’t want to lose our femininity, because that’s not attractive. We have to be smart, but not so smart that we stand up for ourselves and our beliefs. We have to be there for our husbands, and continue to maintain the home even if we work outside of it too. We are told when we should get married, when we should have kids, when we have too many kids.
I continue to become increasingly irritated with society and their annoying demands and standards for both stay-at-home and working mothers. If a woman chooses to work and have children she is ridiculed, and women who need a break are seen as weak. I recently talked with two women, both are young, married, work outside of the home, and have one child under the age of two. One woman confessed that her and her husband had made the decision to stop preventing having a second. At first she felt excited to start expanding her family even more, but when her period came a couple weeks later she felt relieved. She was having a hard time admitting that she thinks managing work and her son is hard enough right now. The second woman wants another baby but worries that she can’t handle it all. She is overcome with sadness and guilt each morning that she has to leave him. She actually thinks down about herself because she is continuing to work. “My mom was home with us, and I just remember how great it was,” she confessed to me. Both of these women are comparing their lives, their current situations, to other mothers and other families. As if any other person has the same dynamic that they do. In reality, no one can make the decision for them, and no one else will be responsible for what they decide. Mothers today are hesitant to make these choices for themselves because our society chimes in every chance they get about what these women SHOULD be doing.
Obviously I see value in my choice to be home with my girls most of the week. My decision is equal part what I think is best for them, and what I think is best for me. I have met countless women who all have made different choices when it comes to raising their children. I know women who stay home with their one child and some who stay home with their five children. I know women who work part time for financial reasons, and some who do it for sanity reasons. I also know women who return to work after six weeks and work full time away from the home. All of these women are good mothers. No matter what we choose to do, someone out there is going to tell us we are doing it wrong. On top of that, we will always be hardest on ourselves; mom guilt is a real bitch.
“You know what a condom is right?”
“Don’t you own a TV?”
“Are they all yours?”
“Were they planned?”
“Oh, can’t you afford help?”
These are just a few of the questions I’ve been asked MULTIPLE times when out with my three children. In my four years as mother I have learned three things.
- It is not appropriate to throat-punch random strangers for being dumb and rude; even though you’re going to want to… a lot.
- This is my family, my partner and I will decide when to put the p in the v, when to use protection, when to get pregnant, when to work and when to stay home. We will decide if we have one child, or if we have a dozen. We run this household together, in an equal partnership where each person gives 100% of themselves to help our ship stay afloat. This is our crazy ship and it is no one else’s business how we choose to run it.
- People will judge you whether you’re a saint or a sinner, do what makes you happy. Mom guilt is the worst battle I’ve faced with myself yet. The awesome responsibility that comes with being a parent is terrifying. You are responsible for these people. These little kids that will grow up one day to be actual functioning adults, or so we hope. That responsibility is terrifying. Add in your own feelings, your own hopes and dreams, needs and try maintaining your own life all while raising another is a constant juggle.
Sometimes, when I take a break, I catch myself in this crazy delusion that if I step away even for a moment, everything else stops. Like the world stops moving forward. The girls will stop playing; my household will stop functioning, Earth stops rotating. I give myself so much power, and so much weight. In reality, if I step away for ten minutes, an hour, even a day, everything will continue moving forward. I am not the sun pulling everything forward. Everything will keep moving, keep growing, and keep functioning. I need to step away for that snack in the closet. I need that hour at the gym, that night away with my husband. I work away from the girls two days a week, and that is ok. We aren’t neglecting them and their needs because we temporarily step away. They continue to grow, they continue to function, and the world continues to revolve. At the end of the day, we come back to them and continue to mother.
To my friends I mentioned above, you are both wonderful mothers. Your boys are both adorable and happy. Give yourself credit for what you juggle each day. Trust that you will always make decisions that have their best interest at heart. Adding another child to your family will not make you love your boys less. It is ok to work, it is ok to stay home, it is ok to have another child and it is ok if you choose not to. If people can’t respect your choice, maybe we should just start throat-punching them.