To the Full-Time Moms


daycare, working mom, full-time mom
It's hard for me to believe, but this January it will be two years since R started full-time daycare. If you've been around The Lady Okie blog for any length of time, you know that going back to work after having R was one of the hardest if not the hardest things I've ever done. Although I never saw myself as a stay-at-home mom, once I had a child, I was surprised to discover that it was something I really wanted.

Over the past two years, I've used this blog as part catharsis for my own emotions and a way to process my thoughts about being a working mom. I've also tried to use my (small) platform as an encouragement both to other working moms who have a hard time like I do and also to shine a light on some of the negative stereotypes I see surrounding working motherhood and traditional daycare.

What I have discovered in my journey is something I knew but had to see firsthand to really understand: this is an incredibly sensitive topic. SAHMs want to feel validated in their choice to be home with their children as an important job even as they sometimes feel less than a contributor to their household income and society at large. (I say this based on other blog posts I've read from SAHMs and conversations with friends of mine who are SAHMs.)

I do completely understand how a mom who stays at home can get frustrated and defensive when someone implies that staying at home means they "don't do anything." Kids are a lot of work, and anyone who wonders what a SAHM does all day just doesn't even know what they are talking about. Raising children is very important and vital work and should be celebrated and supported.

On the other side of the coin, as a working mother, I struggle to feel that my work as a mother is validated even though I may not be with my children all day. There are three phrases in particular that I see and hear often in regards to being a SAHM that I passionately disagree with. I just saw one of these the other day on an "about me" page I read of a blogger who recently redesigned her site. I assume that the people who say these things don't intend to be hurtful to working moms, but they are very problematic.

"I quit my job to be a mom."
"I left my job and got promoted to a job with zero vacation or sick days, but it's the best job in the world: mom."
"I am a full-time mom."

Let me explain.

If you have a child, you are a mother. 

Having or not having a job outside (or inside) the home does not make you more or less of a mother than you already were. You also do not get "promoted" to the job of mom upon leaving your job at the office. If you have a child, you are never off duty. There are no part-time moms. I have a full-time job in an office outside of my house, and I am also a full-time mom. 

This is not to say that a mom who stays at home with her children is less than a mom who works. Both are hard in different ways, and both come with struggles and successes of their own. Both types of moms should be encouraged, supported, and celebrated. 

All types of moms are needed in our society as examples of all the different things moms can do.

We need stay-at-home moms and moms who work in the corporate world and moms who work in the nonprofit world. We need moms who work from inside their home and moms who run their own businesses. We need moms who work part time and moms who teach and moms who keep other moms' kids. Moms are awesome, and we need moms everywhere because everyone has different strengths and weaknesses they bring to all kinds of different situations.

What so frustrates me about the above phrases is the implication that to have the title "mom," you have to be home with your children, and that only after quitting your job are you truly a mom.

As a mom, I have made the best decision for our family at this time by continuing to work and contribute to our family income to help my husband in providing food, clothes, health insurance, and a home for my children. I have (with Jordan) researched, toured, and chosen a daycare provider I trust where R (and soon J) has fun, learns, and is safe. She is not being "raised" at daycare, despite what the internet likes to say about it, and I have never once considered myself "off duty" from motherhood just because I've dropped her off at daycare to head to the office. I am a mom always, wherever I am, and so are you.

What I would like to do is help people understand how their words might be implying something about working mothers that just isn't true. And not only that, but it's hurtful. 

Even though it has been so, so hard, I am so grateful for the past two years and for how much I have grown as a result of working and taking R to daycare. I've had to learn to trust my child with someone else. I've had to learn to give up some of my ideas about schedules and food and learn that it's okay if it doesn't always go exactly how I would have wanted it. (Still learning it, by the way.) I've learned to juggle sick kids and sick days and working at home and being efficient with the time I have because I want to be a good employee but also intentional with the limited time I have with my children.

I've needed to have open hands and have also learned to have a more sensitive and empathetic heart, especially for my fellow working moms. I know this is cliche to say, but honestly and truly--if through sharing my story over the past two years I have encouraged even one other working mom to know she isn't alone, it is worth it. If I have opened the eyes of even one person to the struggles and insecurities of working motherhood, it is worth it.

I am so grateful for each person who has reached out to me over the past two years with comments of support and encouragement for me as I walked this road. Working motherhood is where God has placed me in this season, and I want to be faithful in it even when it's hard. (Still learning this one too.)

So, cheers to two years. And to all the full-time moms out there (that's all of us, by the way): your work is important. It matters. You're a great, fantastic, and wonderful. 

Cheers to you.

For a list of all the posts I've written about working motherhood, go here.
Carolann Chambers said...

While I have no idea what you are going through, I want you to know that reading the way that you write about your struggles with such grace has inspired me to open up more on my own blog. I have a few posts in the works that I am fine-tuning so that I can get the exact right words out. Also, I totally understand why those phrases bother you. My mother always worked and I hate when people say "full time mom." Like I didn't have a full time mom, working full time to support me AND working full time as my mom?? I think that I am more sensitive to this because there are many problematic phrases that people say about military spouses. One of my favorites is "well, you knew what you were getting into." I don't say that to anyone when they tell me they are struggling, so I don't understand why it's ok to say it to military spouses. I am trying to write about them and explain why they are so problematic, but again I am searching for the right words. Thank you.

Renee said...

You are truly an inspiration to me!! As a full time working mom at a high level, high stress job, it's HARD. I've got baby #2 coming in March and I'm not sure how I'm gonna do it...but with people like you to inspire me I know I can do it!! Thanks for your honestly - your insight - and your inspiration.

Laura J said...

I don't even know what to say, but thank you. I'm coming up on my two year daycare anniversary with mine, too. I'm just glad to know there are people out there who just get it, and can write about it so accurately.

Laura Morgan said...

Man, I have totally referred to myself as a full-time mom. It's only ever been in an effort to explain what I do, not what anyone else doesn't do, but I now see how exclusive it sounds.
I think I saw someone on FB trying to defend the use of "full-time mom," and I totally understood her point. BUT the point you're making is bigger. We're all full-time moms. None of us ever stops being a mom. I'm going to try to remember how my word choice reflects that. 💜

The Lady Okie said...

Thank you for being willing to have these conversations, friend. You have opened my eyes to things from the other side too, and I appreciate you!

Nadine said...

I love what you said about how just because you have a full time job doesn't mean that you aren't also a full time mom. Dropping Zoe off at daycare those first few weeks were some of the most emotional of my life. I spent all summer agonizing over the decision to do it and while it has gotten more bearable, it still isn't "easy." You are right, we need SAHM and working moms of all kinds, and we are all in this together and all need support.

Annie said...

Thank you!! Count me in the group of people that hearing 'one' other mom in the same boat and same feelings as I - HELPS! I have a high stress, executive level job and when I need a break - reading that i'm not alone - HELPS.

Sarah @ Sweet Miles said...

Yes, x's 1,000. The "full time mom" is what drives me absolutely nuts. As if I'm NOT a full time mom because I work. I can guarantee I'm just as much a full time mom AND balance a full time job. Thanks for putting this out there!

Jen said...

Yes to all of this!!!! Thank you!!!! Everyone who is raising kids regardless of working inside or outside of the home is a rockstar!

Stephanie said...

Thank you! Thank you! Thank you! My 3 year anniversary of working outside the home is today. I'm about to head back in 10 days after 3 months off with my son and I needed this. I've had to defend my choice to work more times than I can count. And get so incredibly defensive when SAHM insinuate that I am less of a mom or love my kids less because I'm not home full time. My kids are my world. And even though I'm not home 24/7 every decision I make I make with them in mind. If I ever felt they suffered because I was working, I would quit (if possible) or find another solution for them. I've made so many sacrifices for them despite working. We really do have to learn to value all types of mothers and support each other instead of judging and criticizing each other. I really needed this post today.

Julie @ Just the Joy's said...

You are such an inspiration, Amanda! Even though I was only a work from home Mom for a short time and since then (2 years yesterday!) have been a SAHM, I feel like I can always relate and/or learn from your motherhood posts. I hope I have never given any of those negative impressions to you in regards to my "job" as a SAHM because I 110% agree that motherhood (or parenthood for that matter) is a full time job no matter what. I admire you (and other Mom's) for balancing work + mom life and I admire SAHM's for their roles as well. There should be no comparison to a working mom vs. non working mom. It's all hard work and neither role is better than the other!

Tiffani P said...

Blessed by you, woman. You are saying and learning the stuff that has also been a part of my journey. I think being a SAHM is an infinitely hard job, I think being a working-outside-the-HM is also infinitely hard. We need grace with each other and love and respect. Love you.

Unknown said...

<3 <3 <3

AnneMarie said...

Thank you for writing this! I've sadly heard those phrases so much over the course of my life that I just got used to them, and didn't even think about what they imply-all the people I've heard use these phrases don't mean anything bad by it (they're usually just enthusiastic about their stay-at-home life), but you're right; these implications are hurtful, and we really need to support the reality that there isn't just one "type" of mom.

Stephanie said...

You have 100% encouraged me. I don't watch TV or play on my phone for those hours between coming home from work and baby's bedtime because I don't want to miss a minute I have with him. In a way, I feel more present being a working mom than I (personally) think I would be if I stayed at home. I know the time I have with him is limited so I don't complain when he's fussy or wish the hours away 'til bedtime.

Maria said...

"Full time mom" is about as silly as calling my husband a "part-time dad" because he's going back to work next week (I'm not ready to talk about it). I have so many examples of moms in my life that I haven't really paid attention to the labels, but I can definitely see how they can be hurtful or imply the wrong thing. But I 100% agree that even from the moment you conceive, you are a full time mom and that never changes. I've loved and cared for this girl since I knew about her and I am still a full time mom whether I return to work, stay at home, spend 2 hours in Target without her, or have to fly to another state for a business trip. For the rest of my life, I will be a full time mom (just ask my own mom - she still parents me!).

Rach said...

I have no doubt that you have encouraged so many other working moms. Your willingness to be open and vulnerable are so important! And I imagine that you have helped SAHMs be a little more aware of what their friends who do work outside the home are going through. I always appreciate your honesty!

Also, this:

"I've had to learn to trust my child with someone else. I've had to learn to give up some of my ideas about schedules and food and learn that it's okay if it doesn't always go exactly how I would have wanted it."

She's only two months old and this is already SO hard for me. Christopher and I are totally on the same page, but when people offer to baby sit for me I really struggle with knowing how much I should emphasize the importance of her schedule and of things being done the way we want them done. And I imagine this will only get even more complicated as she gets older (with food choices and media time especially).

Katie @ Live Half Full said...

Thank you, thank you, thank you. And cheers. :)

Betsy said...

Oof. This makes me glad I don't read a lot of mommy blogs (or blogs written by moms) - because my real-life community is primarily made up of moms who work outside the home, I'm totally unaware of a lot of the SAHM v. Moms With Day Jobs tension. Every parent is a full-time parent, no matter how much time s/he spends at an office! I can't believe that needs to be said, but thank you for saying it so passionately.

The Girl who Loved to Write said...

I had a conversation with a friend on this topic recently and she said something that really stuck with me. She said it's natural for all of us to think that our job is the hardest.

It's natural for working moms to think that it's the hardest because they have to be away from their kids. It's natural for stay-at-home moms to think they have it the hardest because they are always with their kids and have no time of their own. It's natural for work-at-home moms to think it's the hardest job because they have to work and take care of their kids all day. There's always going to be a part of us that thinks "Okay but she definitely has it easier than I do."

I think it's important to think about that and respect that in all moms. There are hard parts in all stages, and all moms are SO IMPORTANT. Working doesn't make you a better mom, staying at home doesn't make you a better mom. And being a mom is hard, no matter how you do it.

Anyway, I don't even know if that made sense, but this is something I think about a lot and that little conversation has helped me see/have compassion for/respect each and every type of mom.

StephTheBookworm said...

Yes, yes, yes. I hate the feeling of being undermined because I work. I am still a mom, even when I'm at work. I am still thinking about him, checking in on him, etc. I recently read somewhere that FT working moms work the equivalent of two FT jobs and I believe it because after work ends, I'm still doing stuff: taking care of Caleb, cleaning the house, walking the dogs, etc. I wish there wasn't such a division between working moms and SAHMs. As a librarian, I see tons of SAHMs here every day with their kids and I feel like I'm on the outside looking in. I know they're not all like this, but they seem very cliquey. Bottom line: we are all full time moms, like you said. We just do it in different ways.

Unknown said...

Thank you for always being so open about being a working mom. I have been so encouraged by you in my own journey as a working mom. I also just want to tell you that you are doing an amazing job with your kids and doing the absolute best for your family.

I'm struggling right now because in my personal life, most of my friends are SAHMs. However, I have an amazing community of women at work who are all young, working moms with small children. We talk about bad daycare drop offs, lack of sleep and the dream of hiring a cleaning lady one day. I often feel like I'm stuck between two worlds, neither of which feels right. I don't like that I'm away from my son all day, but I don't think I'd do very well staying at home full time either.

I agree with you completely. It is frustrating when people imply that you have to stay at home to be a mom or that I'm not making sacrifices in order to do what's best for my child. I think it comes down to working moms and SAHMs not understanding each other. At times, I think we each want what the other has and we just don't know how to empathize with each other. I hate this because I find myself unconsciously judging SAHMs for silly things which is the last thing I want to do. I've been trying to commit to understanding my SAHM friends more, while striving to be positive about my current working situation. And there are a lot of benefits to being a working mom. My child goes to anyone and I never have an issue leaving him with a babysitter, in the church nursery, etc. And his teachers at school are much better and more qualified at helping him learn new concepts and skills and I have been so appreciative of that.

Keep up the good work of encouraging all of us in our journeys! You are very much appreciated.

The Lady Okie said...

Yes, totally makes sense! I think I have a lot more sensitivity toward these things than I might if I didn't work full time away from home. It is all hard, and I just wish people thought about how some of the things they say can be hurtful toward other moms! If more people talk about their experiences we could have important voices and be able to value what we all do. Your friend is wise :)

Although I will say that for ME, being away from my kids and missing them is harder than being with them all the time. Maternity leave even though I was tired and wanting a break sometimes was easier than feeling like I'm constantly missing them all day.

The Lady Okie said...

Thank you so much. I'm glad this was an encouragement to you :) And I totally, totally agree with you! I am the same way once I'm off work in the evenings. I like being very intentional with that time. You're doing great!

The Lady Okie said...

I totally agree! I was going to say, my mom is still a full-time mom even though she doesn't have kids at home. She is my on-call therapist at all time lol! ;)

Kari said...

I completely agree that all moms are full-time moms. I would be so frustrated if someone implied that if I worked outside the home I was not also fully caring for my child! Smoke might billow from my ears! :) Likewise I think all moms are working moms; SAHMs dislike the implication that just because they're at home means they're not working. I can't tell you how often I had women in DC ask me, "What do you do all day," as if I were lounging around and had no purpose in life--it was so belittling!

I wish women would respect each other's choices (or the situations in which they find themselves), stop measuring their roles and hardships against those of others and realize that every individual has challenges unique to their situation and that supporting one another in those challenges is vital. Which is why I think it's so great that you're reaching out to other moms via your blog, sharing your personal journey, encouraging other moms who may be experiencing similar feelings, and raising awareness among moms whose journey may look different from yours.

I'm sorry that your returns to your job after maternity leave have been so emotionally difficult and am sorry that other women have made this worse by questioning your decisions or your full-time status as a mother. Although I haven't met you in person, I can tell you are such an awesome mom, Amanda. Your two children are blessed to be cared for so deeply by you.

The Lady Okie said...

Definitely! Staying at home is a lot of work, and anyone who wonders what a mom does all day clearly has never taken care of a toddler. Because oh my ;) I think it's good for all moms to share and encourage each other in our various roles, and I'm thankful for my friends who are SAHMs who share so I can learn from them!

The Lady Okie said...

It's really so hard to leave a baby at daycare. Honestly, I can't let myself think about leaving J in December, because it makes me too sad. It's gotten easier with R, because she's older now and can tell me some things about her day and have opinions and actually play with friends (yesterday when I picked her up, they were all painting individual mini pumpkins and she was so happy haha), but leaving her as a baby was so so hard for me. But it's also a good lesson in trusting God, and I do like that she can go to the church nursery or just be with other people and not cling to me all the time. It's good for her too, I think.