Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Because Mom is NOT a Job

Without wanting to attack any particular blogger who wrote an article about just how important Stay At Home Mothers are, and because I'm not entirely in disagreement with him, I have been pondering why his post bothered me so much. I think I finally have the answer.

In his writing, Mr. Walsh is asked by two different people questions about his wife, in the vein of "When is she going back to work?" and "What does she do all day?".  His wife is a SAHM of two little children, and Mr. Walsh felt very offended and attacked by these questions regarding his wife.  He then went on a long defense about why being a SAHM mom is a ton of work, a hard choice, and one worthy of the highest praises.  This is where I agree.  

I was a SAHM full time until after my 3rd baby was born, and then only worked part-time (2 days a week) until my 4th baby went to school.  Staying at home with a lot of little people who are very needy and dependent and living in a society where you don't feel like your choice is valued is hard.  It's physically, emotionally, and mentally draining.  

But where I don't agree is that this is somehow only a SAHM's cross to bear.  Because taking care of all the needs of your children, and maintaining a somewhat orderly home and shopping for and preparing meals doesn't just apply to stay at home moms.  It applies to all moms.  And dads too. 

These things aren't "jobs" that one can pick or choose, it's part of the vocation of being a parent.  

Just because I have to (yes HAVE to) work outside the home does not mean my fridge fills itself with groceries, my sink magically cleans the dishes, the laundry takes care of itself, the kids are picked up from school and brought to practices by a chauffeur, and Mary Poppins comes in to meet my children's emotional needs, doling out hugs and kisses with her teaspoons of sugar.

I wish.

You may be thinking that being sole caregiver to your children is a more difficult choice than working at an office.  You may be right.  I remember thinking having a job outside the home would feel like a vacation.  Then I got a job outside the home, and now long for the day I can go back!  I really miss how much I was able to get accomplished in the house when I was at home, and my down-time every day during naps.  Do I get to have down-time at work now?  Yes, it's called a short lunch break, but I can't use it to run errands or clean my house or start dinner or exercise, or take my baby to a get the idea.  

When I go to work, I have to make sure each child is all set for the day (lunch packed, uniforms washed, sports clothes ready, homework done, etc), drop them off at their respective schools or daycare, and then work an 8 hour day in order to provide for these same wonderful children.  Then I leave work, start the picking up/dropping off process of said kids, run an errand, prepare dinner, clean the house, do laundry and dishes, pack lunches, check homework, put the kids to bed after prayers and snuggles, and finally have a minute to myself.  (Thankfully I do nothing without the help of my wonderful husband who is also fulfilling his vocation as a father.)

Sound familiar?  If you are a parent, it should.  Because no matter if you're home all day long or at work, we all still have the same duties to do simply because of our shared vocation.

Taking care of little children all day is hard.  
Working a job outside the home is hard.  
Homeschooling children is hard.  
Being a parent is easy....oh, no wait, it's hard.

Although I wish that all mothers could be at home with their children if that was what their heart desired, I don't think children that grow up with two working parents are destined for debauchery, and I don't think kids who have a stay at home mom are the only ones being raised for Sainthood.  I do think that being the most loving and generous and holy and inspiring parent you can will lead to kids who know right and wrong and have a sense of responsibility and will be blessings in our society.

So yes, our days and nights may look very different from one another, but we're all in this vocation together.  We are all (I believe and hope) doing what we feel is best for our children and family and God will fill in the gaps in our human weaknesses.  Let's stop putting down moms based on where they spend forty hours a week, and start encouraging one another in our shared vocation.


  1. Agreed. I try not to get bothered by posts like Mr. Walsh's. I get where he's coming from, but of course you and I both can write posts from this WOTHM point of view, too. Our society seems to think the only way to support those with like lifestyles is to denigrate the other side somehow. I don't get it...I see it with homeschooling vs. not homeschooling, Catholic school vs. public school, breastfeeding vs. formula could go on and on. And sometimes the tone really bothers me -- like, well...if you would just sacrifice more, you COULD do it such-and-such way. Puh-leeze.

    Good post. Thanks for writing it.

  2. I completely agree.Until after my second child was born I worked both full and part time. Now I am able to stay at home full time. It is tempting to think of a job as a vacation. I know better. Not only did I have two full time jobs to attend to, I had the added burden of having to leave my kids. Working is much tougher than staying at home.

    The kicker is that parenting is not easy--it's a vocation. But doing it without also working outside the home makes for a much saner pace and schedule--unless you overschedule yourself.

  3. Yup and yup. Three weeks into this SAHM thing, I think I have a very different perspective (like you). I have worked full time with a child, part time with two children and now as a full time sahm. All of them are hard in different ways. But being a working mom is INSANITY ;) Just the other day, I was cleaning the bathroom or something, and I thought to myself (for real), 'It is so hard to be a working mom, because your house still has to get clean, but it can't be a part of your 'work day' to do it'. I liked Mr. Walsh's article- I posted it on the ol' husband's wall (because he teases me all the time about my cushioned life now)...but there were def. a few significant flaws.

  4. Thank you, Colleen. Thank you.

  5. Love this post. I'm a SAHM now... but I feel like I am not cut out for it. But the thought of going back to work really scares me and I feel the guilt already. (I have to go back to work someday...)

  6. I agree with endless strength above--I refuse to get into debates or agree that one way of doing things is better than another. That being said, the thing I think is better in a wm's situation vs a sahm's is that OTHER people give you validation for your efforts everyday. While at home, your infants and toddlers don't say--why, thank-you for changing my diapers! that part is hard for me..i would really like to be recognized as a worthwhile person daily...the older kids do, but little ones don't.

    My mom worked all my life as a teacher and everyone appreciated her, she got gifts, she was esteemed, everyone thought she was so smart, she won awards etc...that would be nice.

    But, I do not think one is better than the other or holier etc...I would think it harder to be expected to do everything a mom does and work outside the home on top of that.

  7. Oh gosh, this was a good one. Thanks for putting in so much time to write it so eloquently, too. And when did you have time write it? I have no idea. Maybe in between cleaning the dinner dishes and vacuuming (haha, I know it's your favorite). You amaze me!!!

  8. I feel lucky that I am staying home with my 9 month old daughter. Somedays I yearn to go to work, which is kind of crazy because I didn't exactly spend the last 10 years skipping to my office job in the morning. However it is nice to get of the house and be part of something. I think that is what I miss. I understand where Mr. Walsh is coming from in the sense that so many people ask me when I am going back to work. My own mother thinks I should be careful about not working. I got married when I was 31 and have wanted kids for so long. Now my husband and I are in the position where we can get by with some sacrifice on his income. We are fortunate to be able to do that. I do admit to getting my back up about people's ( mostly women's interestingly enough) constant questioning about it. It isn't the norm. Hopefully we will be able to have a big family ( god willing) and who knows what the future holds. Maybe I will find myself back in the work force sooner then I think. We do what we have to do. I admire working moms because parenting is really a full time job!

  9. Great post, Colleen. I enjoy reading what you write.

  10. I don't see where you got the idea that Walsh thinks mothering is only a cross for SAHMS. He specifically addresses that he's not writing against moms who work- just defending SAHMS in the face of thoughtless remarks and a society that doesn't generally value motherhood. Since motherhood isn't valued, it's easy for SAHMS to feel marginalized. After all, they spend their whole day mothering and keeping house, without the validation that having an outside job can bring. Our society does value career success and money, two things SAHMS can never hope to obtain. So, all Walsh is doing is defending against those who would make SAHMS feel silly/stupid/lazy/devalued/whatever about their decision to stay home.

    "... not all women can be at home full time. It’s one thing to acknowledge that; it’s quite another to paint it as the ideal. To call it the ideal, is to claim that children IDEALLY would spend LESS time around their mothers. This is madness. Pure madness. It isn’t ideal, and it isn’t neutral. The more time a mother can spend raising her kids, the better. The better for them, the better for their souls, the better for the community, the better for humanity. Period."

    1. The problem with Walsh's article is in his defense of SAHM's he glorifies motherhood. This is a good thing. But he makes it sound like only SAHMs have those qualities. He doesn't acknowledge that the wonderful things he lists off are qualities that every mother has. He says,

      "Yes, my wife is JUST a mother. JUST. She JUST brings forth life into the universe, and she JUST shapes and molds and raises those lives. She JUST manages, directs and maintains the workings of the household, while caring for children who JUST rely on her for everything. She JUST teaches our twins how to be human beings, and, as they grow, she will JUST train them in all things, from morals, to manners, to the ABC’s, to hygiene, etc. She is JUST my spiritual foundation and the rock on which our family is built. She is JUST everything to everyone. And society would JUST fall apart at the seams if she, and her fellow moms, failed in any of the tasks I outlined."

      All of that is SO VERY TRUE. But is all of that what makes SAHMs great? Nope. It's what makes MOTHERS great - working ones and stay at home ones.

      People worry about how SAHMs don't get the validation they need. And I agree with that. However, no one is handing out much validation for the working moms either. Sure, they get validation at work (possibly), but no one tells them that they are being a good mother either. At least, no more than a SAHM is getting. If anything, a working mom often feels like she is downright being a BAD mother because she isn't home with the kids and raising them.

      The point is we need to value motherhood. Not stay at home motherhood or working motherhood but motherhood (parenthood for that matter). We also all need to stop thinking that the cleanliness of our house determines whether or not we are good wives or mothers.

    2. I'm not responding to his claim that the ideal is for mothers to spend more time with their children. Of course that would be best. I agree completely. Which is why I start this post by saying that I didn't entirely disagree with what he wrote.

      But since a large part of his article was pointing out that his wife is busy working in the home all day, it comes across that those moms who work outside the home do not have all the same duties to fulfill.

      My point is that due to the fact that we all share a vocation of motherhood, we all still have the same tasks to accomplish. So it's not just SAHMs who are busy with parenting and housekeeping, those things still have to get done no matter who is home or not home.

      Look, I don't want to argue. Being a parent is hard, and all the choices that come along with it are hard too. I applaud those parents who can make it work with one working outside the home and the other working in it. Maybe the real issue I should be tackling is why Catholic school teachers aren't paid enough to afford a large family with a wife that can stay at home ;) That would really open up a can of worms...

    3. I totally think you should blog about why Catholic schools don't pay their teachers enough. My husband really wanted to teach Catholic school (well, now he wants to be. a lawyer, but before he want to law school and graduated he did ). He did his first 3 years of teaching at a Catholic school and taught at public schools after that because of the better pay and benefits. Which is really unfortunate, because I think the Catholic schools lose out on some really good Catholic teachers with the exception of religion/theology teachers who obviously need to teach in Catholic schools.

    4. "But since a large part of his article was pointing out that his wife is busy working in the home all day, it comes across that those moms who work outside the home do not have all the same duties to fulfill."

      I guess I just interpreted his article differently than you. I saw that he was defending ALL moms in a society that devalues motherhood. I think we can defend at home mamas without making it a case against working mamas, yeah? I didn't at all feel that Walsh was denigrating working moms, just defending against people who don't understand the scope of at-home mothering. (I imagine all mothering is emotionally draining, but especially at home because there is no escaping the tiny tyrants!)

      I didn't mean my comment as argument, just my two cents for how I read the article. Btw, my mom always worked full time and I always thought she was supermom working 60 hour weeks, cooking dinner, and keeping the house clean :) I have NO idea how working moms do it!

  11. Colleen, I'm curious about something. Is there less housekeeping to do because you guys are all gone during the day or do things still even out? Like instead of washing dishes from lunch you're washing lunchboxes. Is that how it works?

    1. Good question! It's funny, because we (and I mostly mean Phil who took on the task) hate making lunches at night, like it was an extra chore. But then I realized I used to make lunches during the day, at lunch time, so it wasn't an extra chore, just the timing switches.

      So while I think the majority of the chores stay the same (same amount of laundry, same meal prep, same bathrooms need to get scrubbed) the nice part is that if you leave the house clean, you come home to a clean house. Whereas if we were all home all day (homeschooling) it would be a constant state of mess, clean up, repeat. And maybe the wear and tear on the house is less from less use?

    2. haha, Coleen, you make it sound like it is even possible to leave for the day with the house clean on a regular basis!! I think the state of cleanliness has correlated to the ages of kids I that my youngest is over the age of 2, I expect a little more out of myself and my family. And of course, having a 12, 10 and almost-8--year old --I pretty much expect them to keep their rooms tidy and their bathrooms at least presentable.

      Sometimes the one thing I wish I could be a stay-at-home mom for is to clean my house!!! haha, but then...I never think about the fact that there would be kids in it all day so maybe it wouldn't be possible.

    3. I wonder this too... my kid is home half the day though, so if I leave my house clean in the morning, he was there for a few hours to destroy it. ;) That is a very valid point though! The spills from lunch are in someone else's kitchen and there are fewer toys strewn about. That's about it though!

  12. I don't have time to read all the comments right now (I'll come back later--I'm running to Noon Mass with 1/2 the kids) BUT I have to say that I agree 100%. I hate the articles that pin one against the other. I totally agree that any ---I repeat, ANY MOTHER has a hard, tiring, job. And ANY mother does it for LOVE.

    I also want to add( cuz I saw one of the comments) that our homeschooling homes are clean from bedtime til wake up time!! It's nice to wake up to a clean house...Really, that is the time I should invite people over. 7am, my house!!

    I actually saw that article linked by several people several times over the past week and did NOT read it for these reasons...Why cant' we just respect each other and not compare?

    Love you Colleen!

  13. Great post. I totally agree...mothering is hard no matter if you work outside the home or not. I've only worked outside the home for 2 months as a mother (and then I took my baby with me, so I had that responsiblity too) and it was hard. Super hard. Probably harder than staying home and homeschooling because when I'm home, I have no one to answer to but myself. Yes, I have responsibilities, but I can let things slide temporarily if I need to...and I can't be fired. ;) LOL And, generally I really only have to deal with people I "want" I can choose what friends to hang out with at the playground, I'm not forced to deal with people I'd rather not on a daily basis (except my kids....ha, ha..kidding, kidding).

  14. I read Walsh's post and I did agree with the same parts that you did. I don't think I took as much offense to it though because, obviously, he is praising my vocation.

    I realize that it is a result of Rob's job, but I am the one who takes the kids to 99% of every practice, appointment, shopping excursion, school function, etc. I make every single meal - no exceptions unless we are not eating at home, which rarely happens - I clean the house alone (except for indentured child servitude). I think I left the house completely alone a total of 4 times last month. I often joke that I need a wife.

    Of course, the flip side of Rob's dreadful work schedule is that I get to stay home with my kids, which is really what I want to do.

    In my experience, SAHM moms envy the time that employed moms get to be "adults" in an adult world. Meaning, you pee alone during the day (hopefully, ha!), you eat a lunch that is not grabbed off your plate, you at some point are driving in the car where you are alone, you are not getting pooped or vomited on during your work day (again, hopefully!) Because this is all the stuff that grinds a SAHM down to the bone.

    And employed moms want that time with kids. They want to see all the funny expression and mispronunciations and they want to tuck them in for naps and they want to go to library story time and they want to just sniff their heads and love on them.

    I agree that having a SAHM mom does not guarantee a happy, holy life, just as having working parents means you will be an axe murderer.
    I came from a home where both parents worked and my siblings and I are good, faithful people. Rob grew up with his SAHM and he and his siblings are good people.

    But I have to put it out there: I really hate both of those e-cards you put in the post. I love snarkiness and I like to think I have a great sense of humor, but I've seen both of them all over the internet and I still dislike them as much now as I did when I first saw them.

    The first one about the SAHM devalues the employed mom in this way: "Well, I put it all out there for my kids and did everything for them today, while you got to go do whatever you wanted. So there." It's easy to see how a mom who works away from one would feel guilty about being away. Obviously the SAHM is just as busy as her, but she is doing what's really important, right? That's definitely not right.

    And that second one just plain makes me feel like crap. I realize that this is my hang-up and the result of having been on the receiving end of nasty comments. I'm just being honest and putting it out there: I feel badly when I read that because I interpret it as: "I can do your job AND still have a meaningful job out side the home, so what's your malfunction?"
    Again, I realize that reaction is probably just from years of snide remarks, but there it is.

    You said it yourself: "So yes, our days and nights may look very different from one another, but we're all in this vocation together." We absolutely are and I think this is the key: we are not SAHM versus employed moms. WE ARE MOMS. We are on the same team, ladies! You never know what life will bring: maybe the SAHM today will experience a tragedy and need to become an employed mom. And maybe that mom slogging through her workday in an office will be able to stay home at some point in the future.

    Let's just root for each other and love each other and exult in the things that make our lives better and pray for each other the way we would liked to be prayed for.

    And holy moly, I really did not mean to write a book, Colleen! My lack of blogging time has lead to too many pent-up thoughts! I'm done, promise. Peace out. :)

    1. Love you Aimee!

      Yes, both of those ecards are totally funny, but mean-spirited. I was trying to equally balance out the frustrations of SAHMs and Working Moms by using both, because I have felt that way in each position when attacked. But it's not how I normally feel living out my vocation. I'll go look for nicer ones :)

    2. Love you, too. :)

      And thanks, although I do realize what a weirdo I am. I knew why you put them up there as an illustration of the fruits of mean-spirited thinking.

      I also feel that way about e-cards that talk about husbands like an extra child/overgrown baby.

    3. Aimee, you described it so well - that ecard (which I've seen before) ABSOLUTELY makes me think I have a "malfunction" because I can't keep up with things at home AND work outside the house as well. And then, trying to rationalize that away, I think "oh I must be doing this whole home front better than working moms" which is definitely not helpful nor charitable - not to mention, not true!

      Once I calmed down about that, I realized that I absolutely agree with you, Colleen - that no matter what, loving people in the way that motherhood requires is very hard and a work status does not change that. I think it's the underlying insecurities (that play themselves out in the ecards) that allow us to lose focus and tear each other down. Your words ring so much more true with the updated picture. Love it :)

    4. Oooh, so glad I changed it!

  15. I totally agree with your post. Everybody is doing their damn best to raise their children. My kids go to public school. Like you said, HAVING to work. Some of us do not have the choices that others do.

    my house is always a mess. I hate cleaning. Would rather be outside or reading.

    I always wonder how working moms get their kids to all their dentist and dr. appts.??!!

    1. Ha! We just make all appts for the afternoon/early evening hours. Luckily, Phil is done working at 2:45 and I'm done at 3:15 so we still have afternoon time for things like that. And our jobs are very understanding that sometimes you need to come in late for a sick baby appt. etc.

    2. awesome! Those hours are perfect.

  16. I honestly think society, the way we live,( with all the extras cable, smart phones, internet on this and that, satellite radio, latest cars) and the way EVERYTHING is so darn expensive makes it HARD for a one income family and this is why so many families have a two incomes...I always say I loved the way it was in the 60s and 70s Mother stayed home she cleaned, payed bills , took care of her family and the father worked came home at 5 and helped his wife with the dishes. there was only one car .. I am blessed right now that I don't have to work and my husband and I do without a lot of extras our debt is low and we drive 2 used cars.. now that we are adopting a baby all of a sudden there is so much more think about.. college, clothing, schools etc.. for a min I was thinking of maybe getting a part time job, but after much thought I decided that the best thing to do for us is to stay home. I really don't know how working mothers do it? My sister is a lawyer working full time and she is also a widow she has 3 kids and her heels don't come off until everyone is put in bed! from the moment she comes in though the garage is pulls out a pan and begins dinner while cooking she is checking homework, and putting in a load or two in the washer .. Bless her heart!!! She says there is no time to fall apart her kids need her..So, I praise all those working mothers that really do need to work! I just wish things were not so expensive that most families need to people in the work force..
    great post Colleen~

  17. Great post!! I agree with everything. As a working mom who would love to be at home....instead of feeling that society does not value me, I feel guilty all the time about leaving my kids. There is no easy parenting solution.


  18. I wanted to respond because as a SAHM, I really LOVED the Matt Walsh post. And I also agree with you that we should all be supporting each other in our vocation as parents and not taking sides. That being said, I re-read Matt's post just to be sure and I think that your take on it is a little incorrect. He specifically states in there that he's NOT casting aspersions on mother's who work outside the home, because they are single, because their family HAS to have the income (in your case), or because they choose to do so because it makes them a better person. I think the point of the article was that people should stop bashing SAHMs and assuming that they do nothing around the house all day. Since you've been on both sides of the fence with your family, I think you get that! Parenting is hard work, regardless of how your family chooses to operate, especially if we are viewing it as a vocation. I just loved that he addressed the issue of the two women who spoke negatively to him about his wife staying home, and THAT is what I think the point of the article was. I'll finish by saying that I loved what Aimee said above - we're all in this mothering thing together, regardless of our circumstances and we need to just be Moms.

    1. People should stop bashing SAHMs. People should also stop bashing WOTHMs.

      I think Kate said it best in her comment above when she explained why his post sort of hurts the hearts of working moms. He praises all his wife does as a mom during her time at home, and makes those of us moms that don't stay home feel like we are not doing those things. But we are.

      Anyway, if I was still a SAHM, I probably would have loved his article too, but now being on the other side, I think I'm more sensitive to whose feelings could be hurt. If I read an article defending and empowering working moms, I would probably feel like the author was patting me one the back for a job well done, but I hope I could also see the other side, ya know?

    2. "Anyway, if I was still a SAHM, I probably would have loved his article too, but now being on the other side, I think I'm more sensitive to whose feelings could be hurt. If I read an article defending and empowering working moms, I would probably feel like the author was patting me one the back for a job well done, but I hope I could also see the other side, ya know?"

      See, never having been a working mom I think I read Walsh's article TOTALLY differently than you did. And I'm sorry for that, because I do see now how a working mama's heart might be extra open to hearing things as criticism. :(

      I think everyone's right that being a mother is difficult and it's foolish, not to mention hurtful, to play the "my lot is MORE difficult" game.

  19. I read your post the other day and came back to reread. I had to read it twice because I really liked Matt Walsh's blog post. I consider myself a sahm even though I recently picked up a part time evening job. And I often feel that society as a whole does not value being a sahm. I read constantly that I am hurting my retirement, and taking years off of my career field and how much money I am never going to earn all because I made the "horrible" decision to stay at home. I was told that I am wasting my college degree. I also once read that I am hurting feminism by not following my career path. I thought feminism was about being able to choose my path in life, but then again I am just a silly old stay at home mom.

    So when I read an article praising sahms, well I loved it.

    I did not see him bashing working moms, I read it a few times and it didn't stand out to me.

    I read your blog, along with a few other working mom blogs. I see all the hard work you do. All moms work hard. I really don't see that Matt was hitting at working moms, he was praising his wife for what she does.

    It seems that if I talk about being a stay at home mom and why I love it, working moms feel I am talking badly about their choice. And when working moms talk about their careers it seems like they are hitting at stay at home moms (see the above comments I wrote about). I felt like the post Matt Walsh wrote and then the one you wrote managed to talk without hitting at "the other side."

    As I say to my children (far too often it seems) "Why can't we all just get along?!!?"

  20. Thanks for this. I've been meaning to write something for your working mom link up (I know it's been forever ago), but every time I sit down to do it, I'm just not ready for all the emotions it brings up. I feel a lot of guilt not being home with my kids, but like you, I don't have a choice right now. Thanks for defending us working moms.

  21. I think one reason this topic incites so many comments is because almost all moms have to give up something, and none of us like having our sacrifices denigrated. There are a few women out there who have no career aspirations at all and who are married to men who make enough money to comfortably support their families, and for the most part I find those women to be thankful for their blessings. The rest of us have to give up something. We can choose to work to provide materially for our families and sacrifice the time with our kids or we can choose to stay home and sacrifice materially,and perhaps by giving up careers we enjoyed.

    1. I completely agree with this assessment. The most defensive SAHMs are those who married young and never really worked after college. Those of us who married later or had a job we enjoyed are more conflicted about our sacrifices.

      I gave up my dream job to stay at home with my first born. I would have kept that job if the hours were more predictable and I had a trustworthy, flexible sitter. But, it didn't work out that way. Five years at home and I still second guess our choice to have me home.

      I still plan to work part-time once our youngest child is in pre-school.

  22. This was a great post, Colleen! While I enjoyed Matt Walsh's article, I saw it more as a validation of the hard work all moms do.

    I'd like to add that St. Gianna Molla was a working mother (doctor), as was St. Therese of Lisieux's mom Zelie Martin (lace-maker) and in a way even the Blessed Virgin herself (while the concept of working mom vs. SAHM didn't exist in her day, she obviously was amazing at "jobs" like weaving—as evidenced by the seamless cloak she made Jesus that is mentioned in the Bible—and after St. Joseph died she no doubt had to work extra hard to provide for herself and her son). So I think the Church is very supportive of the vocation of working mothers, as well as that of SAHMs.


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