There is no topic that can bring the claws out faster than discussing whether a woman should stay home, work from home, or work outside the home while raising children. And in true philosopher fashion, I can’t help but ask – Why? Why do we, as women, feel the need to judge and berate one another regarding such a personal family decision? When did we stop supporting each other?
Some have argued the shift initially came with feminism. As women fought for equality in the workplace those who worked in the home felt they needed to defend their choice. Given the arguments that were raised in the fight to bring equality, I can understand how women content working in the home would resent implications of empty days and a wasted life. Especially given, the relentless schedule of caring for children and maintaining a home.
On the other side, feminists perhaps felt their efforts were for not when there were women choosing to stay home. I have read arguments stating those who fought for workplace equality felt unsupported by women who worked in the home. Here, I believe, portrays part of the problem. Those who felt their life was wasted tending to a home, and wanted to be taken seriously in the workplace were right in how that made them feel. Just as those who were content tending to a home were right in how that made them feel. It appears neither side took the time to relate to the other or make the distinction – this is what works for me. Instead of celebrating the fact that women would now have choices, we turned on those who did not share the same vision and made our default tone defensive.
Certainly I do not believe simple misunderstanding to be the sole source of women verbally attacking each other. Though, it does seem plausible to have played a major role and luckily misunderstanding can easily be remedied. When it comes to careers and raising children, women face many factors while weighing pros and cons of their decision. Whether deciding to work outside the home, inside the home, or stay at home, it is never a decision made lightly and doing what is best for her family is always at the forefront.Further, those who have to decide heavily based on financial reasons, rarely feel the choice was their own. Which is important to note goes both ways: women must work outside the home to keep the family afloat, or must stay home because the cost of daycare outweighs their salary. Leading me to the main culprit in our misinterpreted interactions with one another – guilt.
As mothers we are always contending with our own guilt, and let’s face it self-inflicted guilt is an emotion all women excel at. More often than not, when I’m in conversations with women who have made the opposite choice, I find we usually end up justifying our choices more for own benefit and guilt than the person we are speaking with – which I’m sure the other person hears as reasons they made the wrong choice. The judgment taking place is not directed at the other person nearly as much as we are judging and berating ourselves. So the next time you hear a debate of whether you should be a stay-at-home-mom (SAHM), a working-at-an-office-mom (WAOM), or a working-at-home-mom (WAHM) – remember, be kind and choose your words wisely.
Realizing that what works best for one woman and her family, is not what works best for another, while respecting our various views may just calm the guilt monsters in our own minds. If we are able to eliminate the defensive tone from our conversations and show a bit more vulnerability we will be more capable of connecting, regardless of our difference in decisions. In doing this, we just may find we have more in common than we think and open up new levels of support. There are not many who could not benefit from a little more support and understanding.