Aside from the seven weeks I took for maternity leave, I have never been a true stay-at-home mom. I've always worked, be it part-time, freelance, or now full-time. I love my job. It fulfills me in ways that I couldn't begin to describe. But if there's one battle in the mommy wars that baffles me the most, it's the one waged between working moms and stay-at-home moms (SAHMs). In fact, I'm going to come out with a confession that more than a few of my fellow working moms are probably keeping close to the vest: I'm intensely jealous of SAHMs.
If I'm honest with myself, I've felt this way for years, but the realization really hit me in the chest this week as I read an essay on Salon from mom Jessica Stolzberg who feels like she's being bullied for being the stay-at-home mom at her kids' bus stop.
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Stolzberg's "bully" asks her snide questions such as "What do you do all day," and the mother of two kids, ages 8 and 11, offers a long list of activities that keep her on her toes, from house cleaning to dog walking, volunteering in her kids' school to appointments with the children.
I know SAHMs are busy people, and the list is everything I'd expect from a mom who doesn't work outside the home.
It is exhausting.
And for me, the working mom, it's more than a little depressing.
I don't get to volunteer at my daughter's school, much as I'd like to, and my dog doesn't get walked. I open the door to our (fenced in) yard, and she goes outside by herself. Taking my daughter to her doctor's appointments involves such a juggle of my work/personal days that I haven't actually been to my own OB/GYN in longer than I'd like to admit.
As for cleaning?
I'd laugh at the question if I wasn't so close to tears.
Growing up my bedroom was the neatest place in my parents' house, but you wouldn't know it from the pile of dishes currently sitting my sink, the mail piled on my counter, or the folded laundry still sitting in a basket in my living room.
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I try to dedicate time every night and weekend to cleaning, but then nights and weekends are also supposed to be time to spend with my husband (who also works) and our school-aged daughter. And when push comes to shove, if it's spending a day at the LEGOLand Discovery Center with the two of them or cleaning decaying mushrooms out of the bottom of the vegetable crisper drawer, I know which one I'm going to choose.
I don't think -- as many, many, many people seem to -- that stay-at-home moms are either lazy or prone to eating bon bons all day long. Nor do I think they live an idyllic existence. There is little bliss to be found in scrubbing your toilet or wiping a toddler's dirty butt.
I waffle between the reality of knowing that stay-at-home-motherhood is a tough gig and the romantic notion that my life could be different, cleaner.
There is much I yearn for that only stay-at-home-motherhood could give me.
Floors that gleam.
Time to pop into my daughter's classroom and see how her teacher operates, how the kids interact with her and and with one another.
Flexibility to go to my own doctor when necessary.
The problem, as we all know, is that the grass is always greener on the other side. I know there are benefits to stay-at-home motherhood that I will never enjoy as a working mom. But I have to remind myself that stay-at-home moms don't always get what I have either.
I get to write for a living, the very thing I told my school guidance counselor I wanted to do way back in the sixth grade. I receive a paycheck that is absolutely necessary to keep our family afloat. I love working, and it's what works for MY family (not someone else's ... mine).
But every one in awhile, the green-eyed monster comes out. And when she does, watch out!
Which side of the coin are you on? What makes you jealous of the other side?
Image by Jeanne Sager