Friday, August 13, 2010

'Round the Block: Straight talk from two women just like you who have been there and done that

Bloggers Megan of Soy Boy Mama and Holly of Bringing Home the Bacon have survived growing up in the '80s, college, graduate school, married life, motherhood and the corporate jungle. They want you to know breastfeeding boobs are workin' boobs, but they won't be that way forever. (Although you might not recognize them at first ... without a baby attached ... and you'll have to look lower ... no, lower ... little lower ... there.)

Holly: Did I mention that I live in a farm house where the conditions, especially in the summer, are only two steps above Little House on the Prairie (indoor plumbing is step one, not having to sleep with a hat on is step two). My point is that it is HOT here and my computer is in a room with a giant window facing west. It is damn hot and yet I am blogging anyway. This is the level of dedication I have to this column and to my dear friend Megan.

While I wait for pa to finish the chores, I want to share with you some of the feedback we've been getting:
Love this idea and the 2 of you!
You two must write a book or get yourselves a newspaper column.
Hilarious. You could do a farm-oriented radio show similar to Click & Clack.

We better enjoy the accolades while we can, because there is no way to make people happy answering our newest reader question from a real, actual reader. Let the Mommy Wars begin!

Reader Question: So, I am a new Mommy and a working FT Mommy. What is your advice for me to stay balanced in both areas? (Oh and to not feel guilted by people for not staying at home)

Megan: I can't really provide advice on work-home balance. I left a corporate job and college-level teaching position three years ago to stay home with my three- and two-year-old boys. And I've never actually experienced the Mommy Wars. I've read about it and I've heard plenty of stay-at-home moms (SAHM) talk about how hard it is to be a full-time mom and how "women who work outside the home" think it's all snicker doodles, play dates and craft projects. The thing is, I've never actually heard a working mom say that. And I've never heard a SAHM say that a working mom doesn't love or care for her kids just because she works. Instead, I hear women using the mythical Mommy Wars as a catalyst to tell their own story -- to defend their circumstances or vent about the struggles they have in their lives.

I'd venture to say if a mom is the target of negative comments about the choices they've made -- for themselves, their children and their families -- it's less about the mom and more about the person making the judgment. To that I say, screw 'em. Don't waste a moment's thought on what they have to say. Your energy is best spent demonstrating every day to your kids that you are being the best person you can be -- whether that be by providing financial support to your family, excelling at something you love, and/or taking on the day-to-day tasks of home and family.

I can't wait to read what you have to say about all of this. Maybe I'm just sheltered and there really are Mommy Wars being fought in every cubicle, play group and weekend soccer game. Anyway, I know you'll be an excellent person to ask about work-home balance. I am always amazed at what you are able to accomplish after working all day. You and your husband are among my most favorite and respected parents I know.

Holly: When my first son was born, I stayed home with him as long as possible (the full FMLA 12 weeks, some without pay) and I enjoyed every minute. But one reason I enjoyed it so much is that I knew it was a temporary break and that I had a job to return to. I enjoyed it in the same way a vacation to the islands is enjoyable and you think you want to stay forever, but you find out quickly that living there all the time means giant bugs, mildew in your closets and $8 a gallon milk.

I'm glad I was honest enough with myself to know that being a working Mom, while tough, would be the best choice for me. My advice to you on staying balanced is to be fully present in the role you're in at the moment. So when you get home from work spend a few moments with your baby--who, no doubt, will be wiggling all over in excitement to see you. Those were some of the best moments of the day with my babies.

When you are at work--be at work. Besides lining up good childcare, line up a back-up plan for sick days and then come up with a contingency plan beyond that. If you need to work late or come in early, have a plan for that too that you can activate with a quick phone call. The time and expense you may to incur to make these plans will be well worth it. Even if your employer is very family-friendly, being able to pitch in on short notice is always respected.

As for people who may try to "guilt" you about not staying home with your kids. I think every working Mom feels that. Fortunately, we live in a more enlightened time when working Moms are the norm. I feel for the Moms of the 80s who had to deal with school conferences scheduled during the day, dance practices at four in the afternoon, and company policies that forced women to fake illnesses themselves to stay home with sick kids.

Megan has a point that the Mommy Wars are largely self-induced by working Moms who are secretly jealous of SAH Moms spending afternoons as the community pool--not actually for the time they spend with children but for the perceived easiness of their lives. BUT also SAH Moms who are secretly jealous of working Moms with their non-yoga pants wardrobes, business trips, including hotel rooms where they SLEEP ALL NIGHT, and the income they have.

If you think historically, isn't it interesting how staying home with the children was something poor women did (have you looked at the plot of Mary Poppins?) versus now when staying home with the children and raising them yourself (home schooling if you really want a place in Mommy heaven), is for families who can afford it.

Women haven't changed but somehow society has. Some of us will find our life's fulfillment from a career and family, while others will see 365 days of raising their children as just another wonderful day at the beach.

Megan: Hey, I love my yoga pants. What you forgot to mention was my envy of your daily access to adults and grown-up conversations. Of course that's why I do this blogging thing. Reader comments quench my thirst for adult interaction, so please, Holly might not need the feedback, but I do. Be my cool, tall glass of water and leave a comment or question below for us to address in a future column.

Don't forget to read our previous Round the Block columns on Soy Boy Mama, plus here and here.

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