There's just one reason the working mom vs. stay at home mom war exists. Really. Just one. Any guesses? It's because none of us wants to wake up at 60 and say, "I sucked as a mom." So even those of us who try to say, "Oh, to each his own" sit there on the inside telling ourselves, "But, of course, my way is better."
This is why we need science. Because every once in awhile the experts who have nothing vested in our little snotface throw us a bone. Like the sort of studies that put both the working moms and the SAHMs on an even playing field.
Yup, it happened. Scientists have decided working moms are not screwing up their kids. Can we get a Hallelujah?
The newest confirmation that all moms are just moms showed up late last year in the Psychological Bulletin, a journal of the American Psychological Association, and it's quite thorough. The scientists looked at families from 1960 up to 2010 to determine the psychological health of kids based on their mothers' jobs. Their conclusion has the rare effect of not pitting one side against the other:
Children whose mothers return to work before their offspring turn 3 are no more likely to have academic or behavioral problems than kids whose mothers stay at home.
See that? They didn't just say these kids turn out OK, but that they turn out the same as kids whose moms were home. That's equality. Although I dare say it's a bit better for the working moms -- it means we can stop beating ourselves up for what many stay at home moms take for granted every day.
As a mom who has always walked a line between the two -- I cut back to part-time after my daughter was born, working a portion of my days from home to reduce our daycare costs and to actually be able to spend time with her (my desire, not my judgment) -- these studies take a bigger load off my shoulders than even I realized I was carrying. I have never been able to shake the feeling that no matter which choice I made, it was the wrong one.
I wanted to spend more time with her, but I couldn't -- largely for financial reasons but also for that self preservation that comes with identifying oneself as part of the workforce. When I don't work, I feel cut off from myself. Working motherhood was right for us.
And yet, the years when my husband became our primary breadwinner firmly renewed my faith in stay at home motherhood. I enjoyed my time with my child, and what's more, I knew it was important. If nothing else, the amount of money I would have had to pay my daycare provider each day proved my financial value. And each word that came out of her mouth that I taught her, each time little fists wrapped round my neck proved my physical value. Stay at home motherhood was right for us too.
Of all the sticking points in the mommy wars -- spank vs. time out, circumcise or no circumcise, organic vs. whatever's on sale -- this is the one that's easiest to solve. We're both right. You'll feel better at 60 if you just let go and admit it.
Image via taberandrew/Flickr