It was once the battle of the sexes. Enter motherhood and it’s the battle of the moms–working moms and non-working mothers passing schoolyard judgment and criticism about how they raise their children and run their lives.
We’ve all heard the subtle judgments like, “It seems like the baby spends more time with the nanny than her own mother,” “That mom has never left her baby for even a minute to use the bathroom alone,” or “She’s juggling so many balls, they are all about to drop.”
No matter the choices each mother makes when it comes to working, being home or doing a mix of both, somehow it’s often other mothers who are the biggest critics.
Here are six mothers’ takes on the “Mommy Wars,” how they made their choices and how they are actively trying to skip the judgment of others.
Stay-at-home mom of two
Amy Hodgman, Evanston, mom of a 4-year-old and 22-month-old
I don’t even feel like it was a decision, I just knew I was going to stay home. I have so many friends that work full-time, part-time or that stay at home, and it would be ridiculous of me to judge anyone else. Staying home is hard. Being a working mom is hard. I have felt a little judged when I’ve sensed shock from a working mom I know that I am not losing my mind with no professional part of my life. Or I sometimes feel judged when I don’t have anything professional to contribute to a conversation, just anecdotes about my children.
The positives of my situation are I get to see all of their stages up close and personal. I get to witness all of their firsts, rock them to sleep and snuggle them when they are sick. I do feel like I am lacking in personal time, and I have trouble putting myself first. I’m not sure if working would make that feel different or not. I miss adult time with no kids present, but don’t we all?
Everyone’s decisions have so many layers, I don’t think it’s our job to judge anyone on what works for them.
Working mom of two
Kristen McChristian, Schaumburg, Spanish teacher, mom of a 7-year-old and a 10-year-old
For me, it was an easy decision to be a working mom. Our two incomes allow us more freedom to do the activities and vacations we want, while giving me a chance to save for the kids’ college and for my own retirement. Most of the moms I know all realize that none of us has life all figured out or has a smooth motherhood experience. We all know we are just staying above water, so to speak.
I think “Mommy Wars” exist because it’s human nature and because of our culture these days. Social media creates an ideal that is unachievable for many moms and that causes some moms to look at other moms and make comparisons.
I think all one can do is not worry what others think as long as we feel good about what we’re doing as mothers.
Stay-at-home mom of two
Melissa Hanses, Elmwood Park, mom of a 2-year-old and a 1-year-old
We decided I would stay home because it is what we wanted and it worked out, so we are blessed. I had worked and made all of my own money since I was 12, so now that I’m working harder than ever before and not getting a “paycheck,” that was a very big adjustment for me.
I think the worst mom judging that has happened is over stay-at-home moms and their wardrobe. Listen, if you are a stay-at-home mom and you have the time and energy to get dolled up every day, great, do what makes you feel good. But don’t make other moms feel like a slob for wearing yoga pants and a ponytail to play with their kids! I feel like we live in a “keeping up with the Joneses” society. It’s very sad and if everyone could just learn to be happy with themselves and their situations, I feel a lot of it would go away. In my opinion, most of it stems from jealousy or envy. If you are truly happy with yourself and your decisions, there is no reason to judge or “be at war” with anyone else.
Working mom of two
Kelly Widuch, La Grange Park, senior account executive, mom of a 3-year-old and 1-year-old
I work because it’s what’s best for my family and myself. My most important job will always be being mom, but I am lucky to have a second job that supports that. Whether you are a stay-at-home mom or a working mom, I believe we are all trying to do what is best for our families and figure out what works. So I try not to judge people’s choices that are different from my own.
For a long time I fixated on how to find my own work/life balance. But I have come to the realization that this may not exist, at least not for me. There are days I feel like I can’t do anything right, that I am not giving 100 percent at work or at home.
I somehow have learned to cut myself a break and just do the best I can. Women need to support other women and remember how hard this motherhood thing is. What works for me may not work for you. At the end of the day, I think we all do it for the same reason, for the love and well-being of our families, and that’s something to support in my book.
Working mom of two
Kerri Joy, Oak Park, sales training& development director, mom of a 2-year-old and a 7-month-old
I wish it was a choice to work full-time, but it’s more like a necessity. The positives are I have the ability to utilize my degree and I have time that is “my time.” I think people are always going to judge others. It’s that concept of the “grass is always greener.” No one wants to admit that they are unhappy, so we live in a world where everyone acts like the way they live is the best, instead of being honest and admitting the challenges they face.
Although our society is so modern in so many ways, the idea of motherhood isn’t. The expectation is still to be the “Stepford wife.” If you stay at home, then your house should be clean, you should cook and be the perfect wife. And if you work you should be able to juggle it all: work, come home and cook and never be tired.
So “Mommy Wars” exist as a way for people to validate their decisions.
Working mom of one
Elizabeth Hess, Oak Park, lawyer, mom of a 1-year-old
I had my son after I’d been working for nearly 11 years, at which point it really seemed like a forgone conclusion that I’d continue to work full-time. For a long time, I was careful not to judge because I didn’t have children myself and had friends who had children and made various decisions about their careers after having kids. Witnessing others make those decisions—sometimes regretting their choices or being unbelievably happy with what were initially very tough decisions—lead me to conclude that there is no one-size-fits-all pathway.
The challenges pretty much boil down to the usual cliché—you can’t have it all, at least not all of it all of the time. It helps to accept that it is impossible to achieve the perfect balance between home life and work at all times, and sometimes you just have to let things go. The grass can always seem greener and we need to keep everything in perspective.
Being a good mom—one that works or stays at home—isn’t easy, so most of all, we need to have each other’s backs.