Can We Stop Pretending Being a Working Mom Is So Great?

Lauren Gordon

Lauren works from home
Lauren Gordon

A super popular opinion floating around the mommy-sphere is that being a stay-at-home-mom is much, much harder than being a working one. After all, stay-at-home moms sacrifice a lot in order to take care of their kids. I've seen (and edited) countless essays extolling the hardships of SAH motherhood, where moms remind working mothers that they don't have countless hours to get housework done, cook dinner, and can wrangle kids into preplanned playdates. And of course, they are right -- if maternity leave taught me anything, it's that being home with baby 24/7 is hard work. But just because I get a "break" from my kid doesn't mean I have it easier. 

  • Being a working mom doesn't excuse me from all of my motherly duties. 

    My son attends daycare three times a week (goodbye money), and two days a week I work from home with him. My days begin at 4:30 in the morning so I can either get him ready to send off to "school" or sneak in a few hours of work before he wakes up and takes over a majority of the day. I work roughly one and-a-half hours away from home, so I am placing my kid in the daycare's hands from 6:30 a.m. to roughly 6 p.m., while panicking about making trains so I can arrive to all my respective places on time. By the time I get home, I still have to make dinner, get him settled, hopefully spend some time with him before he passes out, and when/if he does, I'm left tending to all of the other responsibilities that don't disappear because I have a job. 

    And this all happens with the help of an incredible supportive (and also working) partner -- I can't imagine what it is like for working mothers without support systems. 

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  • And while I DO love my job, it still in fact is work. 

    I have to do what a SAHM does AND excel in my career. I'm incredibly fortunate that I have a job I don't hate and am passionate about, but that doesn't mean it's not work. There are deadlines and performance pressures, and a lot of back-bending on my part to maintain balance.

  • More importantly, my job is what I do, not who I am. 

    I think there is a huge misconception that because I work while being a mother, maintaining my identity is easier. I work to live, to help provide my family with the comforts I can -- it isn't as if I am sitting in my office or frantically typing between feedings for my entertainment. Being an editor is incredibly creative and personal, but for many working mothers, their jobs are a means to an end. Getting to interact with other adults, using our brains in a different way -- it's a welcome reprieve but it isn't necessarily ticking off the fulfillment box either. 

    Squeezing in time for passion projects such as artwork or gardening or even reading a book is next to impossible.

  • Also, I really, really, really miss my kid. 

    Dropping off my son at daycare the first time was like watching my heart walk out of my chest. For hours I cried realizing I am probably going to miss a lot of first-time milestones. I may not be the first to hear him talk or see him walk, and the reality of that is heartbreaking. Stay-at-home moms are afforded that opportunity more than working ones, and it's one I'm admittedly jealous of. 

    I'm not saying I want to be with him every second of every day, but I'd really love to spend some time with him without the nagging pressure of "getting back to it" swirling in the back of my head. When he wails or fusses while I'm trying to work, I sheepishly admit I resent him a little. And keeping my eyes open with him at night after spending a day in the office some days feels like an olympic feat -- all of it makes it challenging to be present and really enjoy him. 

  • I'm not saying that being a working mom is harder than being a stay-at-home one. 

    But I'm also not saying that SAHMs have it "worse" either. The truth is there are struggles no matter what our working status is. There is no award or benefits given to either. No matter what we do, it's a thankless task we're grateful to perform every day. 

    Instead of racking up the struggling points, perhaps we can just acknowledge it is all reall f*cking hard, and we're all doing our best.