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Stay-at-homers or working moms: do you ever envy the other side?

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The thing about moms who work outside their homes is that we love to hate the moms who don’t.

Not as individuals. But as a demographic of nameless, faceless minivan drivers toward whom we direct a venomous mix of resentment, bewilderment and envy.

We spot them in their workout clothes and tell ourselves their days must be so mindless.

Every time we mooch their graham crackers, every time we borrow their Handi Wipes and every time we ask them, last minute, to cover for us in carpools, we’re reminded of our own half measures.

What a waste of talent and ambition, we try to convince ourselves, congratulating ourselves on our choices.

I write this after having spent a week off living like a stay-at-homer.

For the first time ever, I got to linger among the moms after drop-off at day camp, joining their ritual coffee klatch.

“We’ve never had your type in the mornings,” one of them told me.

“My type?” I asked.

“Yep. A rusher,” another mom answered.

Ouch.

Still, I loved every minute of it.

As it turns out, it’s possible to spend five perfectly meaningful weekdays impervious to news releases about Gov. Bill Ritter’s signing ceremonies.

It’s possible to pull weeds for three hours at a time and enjoy an enormous sense of accomplishment.

And it’s possible to feel fully engaged refereeing our boys’ lightsaber battles afternoon after afternoon.

“Mom. Why aren’t you going to your job?” asked Ike, our 4-year-old.

“This is one of my jobs, being your mom,” I told him.

“But why are you dressed like that?” asked Abe, 6.

“Because I went to the gym,” I said.

“The gym?” Ike asked. “What’s a gym?”

(It had been five years since I last set foot on a treadmill.)

As parents with full-time jobs, there are muscles we don’t use and things we don’t make enough time for. At our house, those include working out, letting our kids sleep in when they need to and hanging out in the backyard eating blueberries.

There are errands we don’t catch up on, thank-you notes we forget to write and, always, all too much time missed with our children.

“I didn’t know your kids had a mom,” the barista at our neighborhood coffee place told me Thursday after three years of patronage by my boys and their sitter.

I love my work. I love our kids. And I’ve made my choices.

But it was good, if only for a week of mandated furlough, to live my life without a deadline. It was kind of fun to shop for groceries late in the morning, when nobody’s there. And it was sweet to be the one who slathered our kids with sunscreen in the mornings, then be there to reapply in the afternoons.

I’m back at work, still cursing the stay-at-homers, as, I imagine, they’re organizing their kids’ toys or underwear drawers. It is a luxury, no matter your job title, to get to do just one job at a time.

-Susan Greene is a Denver Post columnist

Are you a stay-at-homer or working mom? Do you ever envy the other side and how do you balance everything?

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Comments
  • comment avatar ZippyChix4 July 22, 2010

    I am a working mom who gets the luxury of staying home in the summer. So I get the best of both worlds. When my kids were younger I used work as a refuge and a spot to take a deep breath while doing something that I love to do. It was my little secret; I could groan that I had to go to work and how difficult it was, but in actuality I was giddy knowing that I would get a few minutes to myself and be able to associate with the adult world for a few hours each day. Now don’t get me wrong, I adore my kiddos and love being able to tend to their needs, but they know that just like they need school to nourish their souls that mom needs work to nourish hers. They recognize this and encourage my endeavors. Although the hours that I work are amazing…every once in a while during the hubbub of school, sports and activities, I do get wistful and wish that I had a day off each week to regroup and get things done. This feeling soon passes and I know that all will be fine as summer is nearing!

  • comment avatar Jen July 22, 2010

    Being a new stay-at-home mom to my 20-month-old daughter, I can tell you it’s miles harder than any of my previous work experience. Also the most rewarding. I assume you are referring to moms with kids in school all day, or with kids old enough to not require full-time supervision? As for relaxing coffee breaks and trips to the gym, forget it! Not a chance unless I find a rare day-time babysitter or have the energy to wake up at 5am. I do go to the store in the late morning as that’s the only way I can get in and out as quickly as possible grabbing all the stuff I need while dealing with a fussy toddler. I am grateful to have the opportunity to stay home with her, but it’s hard work. I’m lucky if I squeeze a shower in during short nap breaks. If we’ve had a bad day (lots of tantrums) I find myself missing my two-hour work commute because at least there it was quiet. I love watching my daughter grow up – analyze a leaf for 30 minutes, learn to talk, etc. I wouldn’t trade it for the world. Once she’s in school, I look forward to going back to work, though it is tempting to take a year off and relax!

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  • comment avatar Lori Lavender Luz July 22, 2010

    Yay that you got a taste of the Other Side! Youch about some of the comments from the day camp mom and the barista.

    I’m a work-at-home mom. It has its challenges, too, but it gives me the best parts of the other two options.

    Still, I’ve been known to mooch graham crackers and baby wipes.

  • comment avatar Candace July 22, 2010

    I like this topic. Too often we focus on who is right and who is wrong. Bottom line you can’t have it all at the same time. I’ve done both: when I was a SAHM I missed work. When I worked, I missed my kids. Working at home would be a great compromise but not all of us have that option.

  • comment avatar Gretchen White July 22, 2010

    I’m a SAHM with no envy for the other side. I did the other side. It involved pantyhose, bad coffee, office politics.

    It’s not the life for me at this point. Plus, how much would after school/day care cost for 8 children? More than I’d make doing almost anything.

    Luckily, I like being at home, hanging out with my little people. I find a lot of freedom in being a SAHM.

  • comment avatar Alison July 22, 2010

    I feel a little schizo about this issue! I love being a stay-at-home mom, but I was never a fan of my “career” as I sort of fell down a path that I never intended upon. Had I had a career that I loved, I think I would be dying to get back into the game. As it stands, to do what I want, I think I need to go back to school and I just can’t figure out how to juggle mother-hood, wife-hood and school. I know people do it all the time, but I personally am at an impasse. What I am most jealous of in regards to working moms, is the time spent alone, away from one’s kids. A few working mom’s I know hate the long hours, but they also claim that they are much better at focusing on their kids when they are actually in the room with them…

  • comment avatar Mary-Frances Main July 23, 2010

    I have been at home either as a stay at home Mom or working the entire 9 years I’ve been a Mom. I have a 9 and an 8 year old. I love it! But lately it seems like it would be fabulous to be able to divide my life. Have totally focus on work during work and then come home and put my attention completely to my family.
    What Moms who work don’t know is that you never ever turn off when you work at home. Work is there, family is there, laundry is there, insurance issues and home business problems are all right there.
    You also get a bit sick of your house.
    So, there are definitely pluses and minuses.

  • comment avatar Dana July 26, 2010

    What a great article. I’m so tired of hearing about why staying at home is better than working moms or vice versa. The fact is the best I can do for my child is work. I would drive her to the looney bin if it were any other way. I’ve worked since I was 15 years old and if I stayed home I would try to “perfect” my child as she would be my main focus. By working, I can balance my career and mommy brain cells without over-focusing on one or the other.

    But, this is right for me. It doesn’t mean it’s right for everyone.

  • comment avatar Kagey July 29, 2010

    I am continually fascinated by how moms (and families in general) are finding odd ways of making worklife and homelife fit together. Nanny sharing, in-home daycare by another mom in your neighborhood, the local daycare that can deliver kids to school or pick up on the other end. The dad works swing, mom works days, and somehow there’s always a parent (or grandparent) with the kids.
    And then there’s the job end: working part time, full time with “flex hours”, working full or part time from home, consulting part in the office / part from home, and the list goes on. I’m currently teaching part time at a community college. Right now, I teach only evening sections, and usually my husband can manage to get home in time for me to dash off to class. It makes for late nights grading, and at the end of the semester I take whole Saturdays to finish — usually hiding out at the public library — but we haven’t had to establish “daycare” yet. And our schedule could change — but I’ll relish not being a “rusher” just yet!

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