Can Working and Stay-at-Home Moms Be Friends?
An EXCLUSIVE Betty Series
Working Moms and SAHMs: Separate but Equal
What’s right is what works for each one of us
-Lisa B. Samalonis
Today, as a home-business owner, primary provider and single parent, I walk the line between the two worlds of full-time mother and full-time stay-at-home parent, and the path can get a little bit muddled. Although I try to glide seamlessly through the worlds like a chameleon or shape shifter of sorts, I am often caught in the middle, falling neatly on neither side.
Many mothers I meet seem to be judging the decisions of other women, seeing themselves apart from those who chose a different road than they did. The acrimonious atmosphere is awkward at times. When I encounter women at birthday parties, sporting events and at the park on a Saturday afternoon, the conversation invariably leads to our working status.
“Do you stay at home with the kids? Do you work?” they ask. I shake my head and try to explain the home writing gig and parenting, which have been my full-time jobs for the past 10 years.
“That must be sooo great to make your own schedule,” they say.
Yet, this dream job comes without a regular payday, and with moody clients and a workload that fluctuates with the rising and falling stock market. I am a hybrid, a half-and-half, and to many, my job is the best of both worlds. For me, most days it is.
Today, when the archetype of “perfect mother” is an ideal so unattainable, so absurd, we all struggle. And when we struggle, often it is with each other and ourselves. The decision of what to do for our life’s work is such a personal, guilt-ridden one, it can be hard to accept another’s decision. For in accepting the diametrically opposed decision, it’s as if we were somehow negating our own. In reality, the mother down the street or in the next cubicle is not all that different. She might just need a friend to lean on, someone to vent to or a person to understand and help her deal with her dilemmas. While we women may have realized we can’t have it all (at least not at the same time), balance is still elusive. It is still a daily struggle for many, and it’s definitely one for me.
To handle my fluctuating yet mostly heavy workload, I shift from writer and college instructor to the mother of two school-aged boys and back again several times a day, if not within a single hour. Sometimes I forget who I am talking to or almost miss a deadline. I often have more work than I have child care, so it can get hectic – more hectic than other mothers and some people in my life realize.
Don’t get me wrong; I wouldn’t change my situation. I chose to leave my full-time paying editorial office job for a more family-friendly, flexible one with more financial risk and a higher personal payout, but the challenges do abound, even after so many years. I regularly choosse to swap sleep and relaxing in front of the television watching Grey’s Anatomy or CSI for working after the homework is done and the kids are inbed. This allows me to keep up and to sneak out to see the Christmas concert or chaperone the annual school trip to the zoo. To me, nothing beats an autumn afternoon at the park with my boys or attending the spring science fair to see what they and their friends have concocted. Secretly, I fear that when they hit their teenage years, they will no longer want me around. So, I am not giving up these moments if I can help it right now.
I have come to believe that, often, what’s best is what works best for each individual mother and her family. One thing I wish is that all mothers, no matter their working status, could pull together, get along and support each other. I wish for the day when I can glide seamlessly through each given world and feel the warmth of sisterhood rather than the squabbling of separation.
I wish that day could be tomorrow. It can. Let’s do it together.
Lisa B. Samalonis writes from New Jersey, where she lives with her two sons.
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