Something has frustrated me and it’s more than just a personal issue. It’s part of the epidemic of mommy guilt and an unfortunate side-effect of patriarchy, although it may not be immediately obvious that they are related.A comment was left on a friend’s Facebook feed congratulating her for being a good mom, but then followed up by bashing moms who “don’t work”, but still drop off their kids at daycare. It wasn’t overtly stated, but rather implied that these mothers do not enjoy their children and the phrase “to get away from them” was expressly used. Later it was mentioned that such moms are dropping off their kids for “shits and giggles”.
Maybe I’m especially sensitive to such judgmental statements because I am a stay-at-home mom whose son goes to daycare regularly. Or I could be reacting so vehemently because I recently had a conversation with a friend who is struggling through post-partum depression. She feels like she has to do everything and can’t keep her house in the condition she would prefer. I spent so much time trying to convince her that she needs a break. That her son would be fine with another caregiver once he was accustomed to it. That there’s no way we can do it all and there’s nothing wrong with taking time for ourselves for “shits and giggles”. In fact, for most of us it’s necessary. Thank God she hasn’t read the previous mentioned conversation. The last thing she needs is more guilt and judgement weighing on her.
And that is why I felt the need to write this post. How many women out there were silently reading those comments and convincing themselves that their deserved breaks make them bad mothers? That they are slacking on the job. That their kids won’t want to be with them when they’re older. That they shouldn’t have had kids in the first place! (Yes, that was mentioned too. Seriously? Now we’re touching on eugenics because some mothers supposedly can’t hack it?)
Or maybe I was especially irked by these comments because I had a difficult time with my adjustment to motherhood. As gruesome and horrible as it sounds, I remember suddenly having new perspective on the horror of mothers who hurt their children. (I feel the need to proclaim that I would never hurt my son. But I do now understand how the complex intensity of motherhood could drive someone insane.). Simply put: The work Does. Not. End.
We don’t get lunch breaks. We don’t get coffee breaks. We don’t get to enjoy a commute to and from work (yes, enjoy! What I would have given to be stuck in traffic BY MYSELF, listening to music and just…driving.). In fact, many of us don’t get a break to get a full night’s sleep (my son is almost two and still wakes many times at night).
Let’s do some math here: There are 168 hours in a week. A person who works a full-time job works generally 40 hours/ week leaving them with 128 hours for leisure time (I’m including sleep in here). Full time daycare is generally 50 hours/ week. Therefore, if a stay-at-home mom drops off her children full time she gets 50 hours/week off from her job. I’m not including sleep in there because for many moms that is time when she is on-call. Even if we did include a full eight hours of rest each night, she would still have only achieved 106 hours off of work as compared to a full-time worker’s 128.
Now, clearly these estimates are full of flaws. Many husbands* do help out with some housework, but some do not. Some kids sleep through the night consistently from a young age, many do not. Some couples have family nearby who take the kids occasionally for date night or “shits and giggles”, some, like my husband and I, do not.
The point is, don’t judge. You don’t have that woman’s kids. You don’t know how much they wake at night or how long it takes to get them back to sleep. You aren’t married to her husband or trying to maintain her home. Most importantly, you aren’t in her head and her kids are not your kids.
Whenever I get down on myself for not being able to accomplish something others seem to find easy, my therapist reminds me that different people have different abilities and thresholds. There are things I can do easily that I take for granted.
If you are able to work 168 hours/week raising your five kids and you love every single gosh-darned minute of it, good for you! You deserve a medal! And you know what? So does the mom who “got rid of her kids” for 50 hours a week because she was wise enough to know that she needed that time so that she could function during the other 118. Maybe it makes her an incredibly attentive mother during those other 118 hours while you are plopping your kids in front of the TV so you can do the dishes and cook dinner while balancing laundry on your head.
Or maybe not. Maybe she’s juggling everything as much as you are the rest of the time. And maybe you are still handling it better and more attentive to your kids. So what. It’s not really any of your business, is it? Is she neglecting or abusing her kids? If yes, than by all means speak to her about it! If not, really, does it have anything to do with you?
Which leads me to my last point. They aren’t your kids. That’s right. Not your kids. Guess what? They are her kids. You know what that gives her the right to do? Raise them in her way and ask as many people for help as often as she wants. She can choose to be the sole source of their emotional, physical, and spiritual development or she can follow the philosophy that it takes a village and since we don’t really have much of a village these days, a daycare it is.
There has been a lot of talk lately about women’s rights being under attack. Once again, the issues of unpaid housework and childcare are absent from the dialogue. Of course, working women ragged for no pay nor benefits doesn’t make the news because that is how it has always been.
My hope is that these issues will make their way to the forefront as we continue to struggle, but that hope wanes when I hear hard-working women attacking each other for addressing their needs in a way most men wouldn’t hesitate to address them and no one would question it.
The only way we begin to get there is when we teach our children that it’s ok for moms to take care of themselves too. And as a bonus, when we take care of ourselves, we have a greater capacity to care for our children and become better parents.
*Please note: “husbands” is meant to imply any sort of co-parenting relationship.
What do you do when those around you judge your need for a break? Do you have any tips for tired moms trying to navigate their way through judgement-infested waters while balancing home, family, meals, friends, and possibly work outside the home?