Family life

The real stay-at-home mom challenge? Admitting there is no challenge

We need to walk away from the tired (and offensive!) working vs. stay-at-home mom battle.

Jen and her family. Photo: Danny Sheppard

Jen and her family. Photo: Danny Sheppard

If I’m being totally honest, our family’s decision for me to become a stay-at-home mom was one we didn’t put a whole lot of thought into. It happened over dinner at a chain restaurant one evening, and my husband and I listed the pros and cons on a piece of brown-paper tablecloth (in crayon, no less). My husband, a technical writer, drew a flow chart and factored in things like eliminating daycare costs, losing my income, selling our new home in the suburbs and spending more time with the kids. We ignored the somewhat-bleak financial future that the flow chart showed us, figuring that the payoff of endless hugs and affection from our kids would be worth it.

The next day, I called my boss and quit my job. Then I started what I believed was the best job in the world. Two days into my new gig, I was already questioning my decision and decided that being a stay-at-home mom was nothing like what I’d imagined it would be (where were the tea parties and play dates?). I now thought it was the hardest job in the world.

A few examples of the thoughts that ran through my head at the time: Working parents didn’t have to take their toddlers grocery shopping, they got to put on clean clothes every morning, they got the luxury of peeing alone, and they didn’t have to watch Caillou for 12 hours a day. Even research shows that being a stay-at-home parent is more stressful than going to work, and earnings calculators suggest that we are worth a fortune. Being a working mom was a cakewalk compared to the (sometimes literal) crap I dealt with every day at home.

And that’s how I unwittingly became a combatant in the so-called “mommy wars.” At one point or another, I think all of us step onto that battlefield, but it’s stay-at-home moms that seem to carry the most fire in our bellies. Recently, mom of seven Susie Johnson wrote a piece for Scary Mommy in which she dared working moms to take The Stay-at-Home Mom Challenge. Comparing her small charges to unruly employees, Johnson challenged working parents to complete three simple tasks during the course of their day: keep their office tidy, prepare a document and make a phone call. Johnson’s blog entry details a day full of frustration at home with kids that’s relatable to any parent. I haven’t made a phone call during daylight hours in almost six years, and I can’t remember the last time my house was clean.

But reading this felt like a sucker punch to the gut. It makes no mention of the working parents who would love the opportunity to be home with their kids—messy monotony and all—but can’t afford it. It also ignores the fact that, as moms, we have far more similarities than differences, and we’re all just trying to keep our heads above water. At least I’m not the only one who feels this way, based on the online responses to Johnson’s post. I’d like to think the comments are enough to put an end to the “mommy wars” and any other silly stay-at-home mom challenge, but sadly I don’t think I’ll see that in my lifetime.

Let’s all take a deep breath and repeat after me: We’re all moms, and we’re all in this together.

Follow along as Jennifer Pinarski shares her experiences of giving up her big-city job and lifestyle to live in rural Ontario with her husband while staying home to raise their two young children. Read more Run-at-home mom posts or follow her@JenPinarski.

Read more:
Stay-at-home mom: I hate being a housewife>
What makes a working mom?>