Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Weekend with Megan H.

I needed to go to Edmonton for business, so Megan joined me for the weekend once the work was done. Here's some random shots -- more pics at Meg's site.

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Perceptions of "working" motherhood

I've been alone with the children during the evenings this week. A few days ago, I took them to the playground down the road after supper, to blow off some energy. A mother out alone with three children usually attracts a lot of attention in B.C.; people tend to stare and either marvel or scowl.

While pushing Toddler N. on the swing, I started chatting with another mom. She asked me if the three of them were all mine. I said yes and prepared to hear the dreaded phrase, "you've got your hands full!" Instead, the mom nodded and said, "We've got four: my daughter, my older son, and the twins."

We immediately started talking full speed; another mother-of-more-than-two is rare here. I thought I'd made a new best friend when I happened to mention I work full-time outside the home.

The other mom blinked and said, "Oh, that's why you're so calm. By six o'clock I'm ready to lose it."

I wanted to sit down on the wood chips and cry. I finally found a person who understands a part of my life, and she threw the Mommy Wars in my face.

I find this tendency of moms to suppose other mothers' work arrangements are easier to be tremendously annoying. I've been a stay-at-home mom for three and a half years and a working mom for four years. Both are hard.

Sometimes, they are hard in the same ways -- kids are kids and their needs don't change. It's just a matter of how many hours you're dealing with it on weekdays. But there is a dramatic difference in being with your kids all day long versus being with them half the day, I admit that.

But why anyone would think working all day long in a high-stress job, commuting for an hour each way, then coming home to cook a meal and deal with children alone all night (another high-stress job) would induce calm is beyond me.

Let's be honest here. I do a very demanding and stressful job with multiple deadlines in a day. The only reasons I can do it between 8:30 and 4:30 is because my bosses are understanding and because I am a ninja. It often takes the entire bus ride home to find my equilibrium before walking twenty minutes from the bus stop in heels to children desperate to see me. And this isn't even me at my very best -- I gave up my best so I could be home before 6:30 p.m. or 7 p.m. every night.

I wasn't in the mood for that kind of judgment at the park, so I wished the mom a pleasant evening and started climbing the jungle gym with Toddler N.

The next day, I stumbled across a conversation about working motherhood and stress at Momversation.com. "Ooh!" I thought. "Awesome, let's see what the bloggers have to say."

I was disappointed: although there are some 9-to-5 workers who are panelists on Momversation, NONE of them were part of this discussion. All of the mommy bloggers in the conversation worked for pay from home. That's valid work, and has its own set of stressors I've never had to have. But let's acknowledge it is not the same as strapping on heels and trooping out the door at 7:15 in the morning. When you work at home, your child's school play, dental appointment or field trip is not a professional crisis. It takes a long time for me to get home; the round trip means I lose half a day of work. There are many days I just can't leave, and I don't know that until 20 minutes before I was planning to go. I've managed to avoid missing anything important, but it is always on my mind. I would have liked that reality, the reality of many working for pay moms, to be reflected in the discussion.

Work is work. It can often be stressful. Motherhood often conflicts with it. Can't we find a way as mothers to acknowledge the differences in our work without thinking everyone else has it easier?