How The Fairy Conquered The Troll (Tales From The Mommy Wars)

You can be childlike without being childish. ~ Christopher Meloni

Here I go again.

Another rant about “The Mommy Wars”.

See, I was on Facebook today (surprise, surprise, right? When am I not on Facebook?) when I saw a post by Scary Mommy. She does a rather wonderful bit on her blog called From The Confessional, where people can anonymously post their bad parenting moments, awful marriage issues, secret desires … really, whatever they want. Sort of like Post Secret, only without the pictures.

Like this, only online and with fewer priests. (Photo by sgarbe84)

Every so often, Scary Mommy posts one of these confessions on her Facebook fan page. They often generate a lot of discussion, and today’s was no exception.

The confession was: “There needs to be a law giving SAHM’s a couple of sick days a year. A professional childcare provider would show up at your house and send you off to bed.”

Most of the comments were supportive, commiserating over how difficult it is to catch a break when you’re sick and can’t find anyone to fill in with your kids for a while. But then this one happened:

“Oh yes, let’s give sick days to SAHMs who could at least stay home or in their jammies if necessary. Working FT, I earned one sick day last year. ONE. And I spent it staying home for my kid, who was sick, taking her to the doctor. As a single mom, I still went in to work when I was sick more often than not. Please don’t think working mamas have it easy….”

Now, maybe it’s just me. Maybe I’m being oversensitive, or reading into the tone and the words more than I should. But this sounds very much like, and forgive my paraphrase, “You whiners are full of it. Get a job and you’ll see who actually has the harder life. You don’t deserve to complain, when you have it so damn easy.”

Great. We have a Mommy Wars combatant on the comment thread.

It’s a troll! (Photo by kfawcett)

And this is where my position as a citizen of Mommy Switzerland gets difficult. See, I’m human. I’m a stay at home mom, and I’m not always so very confident in myself and my choices, just like every other human. And when I feel that my lifestyle — my JOB — and thus myself, is under attack, I get defensive. I want to justify my choice to stay at home, I want to argue at length about how difficult I find it to be, even though I know that the person who posted this comment won’t want to hear it. She won’t be swayed by pleas of feeling isolated, of feeling that all the responsibility of raising this child healthy and happy is squarely on my shoulders and that to hand him off even for a few hours indicates some sort of failure on my part. She won’t soften her position if I speak of my jealousy when I hear about “working” moms (meaning those who work outside the home — ALL moms work) who eat lunch without anyone screaming for their attention, who go to the bathroom with the door closed, who’ve showered within the last five days. All she will do is tell me that I have no right to complain, that I don’t know how difficult working moms have it, and so I should just shut up.*

And that makes me mad.

Angry cat is angry. (Photo by grngobstpr)

It took me a really, REALLY long time to own my own pain. I’ve struggled with depression for all of my adult life, and for much of my adolescent life as well. And through a lot of it, I felt that I didn’t have the right to hurt, because other people had it worse than me. It took years of therapy for me to admit that my pain was real, and that whatever the causes, I have the right to feel it and to expect support from my loved ones. To have people suggest that I don’t deserve my pain hits a very sensitive nerve.

But here’s where I’m proud of myself. When I feel attacked, when my personal demons start riffing off the words of a random, bitter woman on the internet, I don’t attack back. I don’t hide in my shell. Not this time, not anymore. I take a deep breath and attempt to, calmly and rationally, call her on her lack of sympathy while refusing to escalate the situation or to make it personal.

Here’s my response to her: “This was not an attack on working mothers. This was just a cry of frustration from a SAHM. We all have difficulties as moms, and they’re all legitimate. If we can all be sympathetic towards one another, maybe we can come up with some solutions, or at the very least we can offer emotional support.”

BAM. Done. I didn’t vent my frustration at her tone, or my hurt at feeling attacked. And I’m so, so proud of myself for that. Am I bragging? Absolutely. Where ten years ago I would have allowed myself to become defensive and possibly irrational, saying things that I didn’t really mean or that I would later regret, I kept my cool. Yeah, this is just a Facebook comment thread. But I feel like it is an indication of a greater pattern in my life, and that it shows how I’ve grown as a person. It shows that I’ve attained a certain level of emotional maturity. Maybe I’m even a grown-up now.

Maybe. If by “grown-up” you mean someone who really, really loves a good fart joke. And who doesn’t mind one little bit when she’s covered in glitter, because it makes her feel like a fairy.

It’s a fairy! (Photo by cheeki)

Well, either way. A fairy is better than a troll.

*I just want to note here that it’s true, I don’t know what it is to be a mother who works at a job outside the home. But if you are one, and you need to vent, let me assure you that you can always find a shoulder to cry on and a person to commiserate with in me. I won’t ever, EVER try to make you feel bad for feeling bad. We’re all in this together, right?

38 responses to “How The Fairy Conquered The Troll (Tales From The Mommy Wars)

  1. I think your response was perfect.

    I have worked at home as a SAHM, and I have worked outside of the home as a working mom. Both were equally challenging, and both had their advantages. I’m glad I had the chance to do both. 🙂

    • I suspect that at some point I’ll go back to work, whether because I need to or because I want to. And I’m sure that it will be challenging, and that when I’m doing it I’ll long for my carefree days as a SAHM. But the grass is always greener, you know? And moms attacking or belittling each other doesn’t help anybody.

  2. Nice one Kath. I have been back to work for 2 years after being home for 12. My kids are teenagers so it’s not that tough. It’s easier to work. I’m glad I stayed home with my girls but that’s tough and I think I had some undiagnosed post partum depression that wasn’t pleasant. You have grown b/c I wouldn’t have been as patient as you were in your reply. I remember years ago, the whole family got the stomach flu. I got to be sick for about 6 hours and then it was up and at ’em. I can’t imagine being a single, working mom without a support system but that woman really came across as the winer….I mean whiner. I’m a winer.

    • Thank you for your kind words! It’s all difficult, no matter whether you work outside the home or not. And I have a lot of sympathy for single moms — I was raised by one. I just ask that I be extended some sympathy in return, or at least that people refrain from trying to bring me down. (PS: Winers are winners!)

  3. Good for you. Do what’s right for YOUR family.

  4. I get so tired of people, but moms specifically, trying to out-hard each other. If any parent EVER claimed that they felt parenting was 100% easy, they’re either delusional or lying. Both SAH moms and moms in the workplace have their own special set of challenges but neither have it easier than the other. Your response to the lady who posted that was awesome, so measured and realistic. Way to be the better person! I would have just lambasted her, which accomplishes nothing.

    • Well, I may have sounded like the better person there, but then I went and crowed about it on my blog, so I think it balances out. She was clearly frustrated with her situation, but it was inappropriate to dump that frustration all over a bunch of people who are just trying to laugh about a difficult situation.

  5. Kathy, this was such a great post. I don’t have children but one of my sisters is a SAHM and from her, I understand how you must feel at times. I so identify with you on this post, so much, despite the fact that I don’t have children. I think you handled yourself wonderfully and said it just right. Perfect. Congratulate yourself and your sweet awesomeness. You are definitely a fairy and you’re glittering here. :).

    • Thanks, Brigitte! It’s been a hard struggle for me to reach a point where I can handle a situation like that at all. Years ago I would either have fumed and made myself sick (an extreme overreaction) or I would have lashed out (also an extreme overreaction). Maybe I can be a grown-up fairy?

  6. I think we all need to vent about our tough times and my hope is that venting is not taken as a complaint that everyone else in the ‘other’ situation has it easy. Clearly we are all very sensitive about our work-ness and/or stay at home-ness.

    I have a nice enough job that when I get sick, I can go home all by myself and be sick (unless the kids are home sick on the same days). I’ve often thought of this as one of the benefits of working outside the home.

    I’ve often thought it would be nice to have an on-call nanny nurse for when either working out or working in moms get sick, or when kids get sick. Then none of us has to deal with children while sick.

  7. Look at you all growing up! Well done you for changing your usual pattern – be the change you want to see in the world and all that :). I always try and remember the quote “Let the refining and improving of your own life keep you so busy that you have little time to criticize others” It helps when the rage is building and you just want to yell abuse!

    • That’s a great quote! Thank you! I just want to make sure that if I do yell, it’s at the right people and for the right reasons. I’m a big girl now!

  8. What ammuses me here is that obviously the SAHM didn’t really expect someone to come in and do this for her. She was venting her frustration about being sick and having to keep pressing on. Anyone who has to do that, in any situation, gets a little frustrated at times. Yes working outside of the home has its challenges, but why do so many women want to act like being a SAHM is somehow a lite job? I understand your frustration, and good for you for not saying everything you probably wanted to.

  9. “We all have difficulties as moms, and they’re all legitimate. If we can all be sympathetic towards one another, maybe we can come up with some solutions, or at the very least we can offer emotional support.”
    this sums it up all so beautifully. It can be applied to the damn fight going on over state of feminism as well. Damned if you and damned if you don’t. I’ve worked full time the entire 20 years of my marraige. I work because I have to. For 14 years My husband and I worked opposite shifts so that one of us would always be home with our daughters. Me 3rd shift and him 1st. I had the best of both worlds– home all day and work at night. Working Moms get to carve their own space– their own identity outside the home– something that feeds a different part of thier being.Stay at home Moms have it alot tougher– I think. Either choice is hard work. (underscore CHOICE) Anyways I am rambling here– I applaud your sense of maturity and not ranting. You are a strong woman.
    I wish we could all just stop pressuring each other–

    • I think the divisions among feminists are reflected in this battle as well. I consider myself a feminist; but honestly, I rather resent when someone accuses me of undermining the cause by staying home with my child and relying on my husband financially. But you hit the nail on the head when you said the word “choice” — feminists have worked for decades to ensure that women have choices, not to force us into a different set of prescribed roles. I made this choice, and yes, I’m finding it very difficult for a lot of reasons. But I think that, no matter what choice I or any other woman makes, we all deserve respect and understanding. Sympathy, even. And if not … well, if you can’t say anything nice, don’t say anything at all.

      • unfetteredbs

        that is the golden rule– don’t say anything at all!
        Choices we make are difficult. I love that you are choosing to stay home. It is an admirable and by far the hardest profession– being a mom. It is the greatest gift I have ever been given in life.
        The business world is waiting with bated breath for Yahoo’s CEO to falter
        the whole debate makes me sick. It will never stop.

      • It really is awful — she’s damned if she does and damned if she doesn’t. There really isn’t a single thing that she can do or say that won’t piss off a large percentage of the populace. Ugh.

  10. Hey, when my kids where younger, sometimes going to work was a big break for me. I love my kids with all my heart but work was my salvation. I have been a SAHM too and know we work just as hard at home as in a workplace. My kiddos are pretty much all grown-up and can take care of themselves (and I do miss that) but the memories of being a mommy are still fresh. Kuddos to ALL moms who press on! We all suffer together! Great comeback Kathy!

  11. Teresa Cleveland Wendel

    I’m with you on moms not battling or belittling each other. As you said, we’re all in this together. I’m glad you spoke up in such a rational way.

  12. That was impressively mature. Her comment raised my ire. I’ve done both and both are hard, but it is a personal pet peeve of mine when people can’t see past their own difficulties to have sympathy for anyone else. But then I reminded myself that in times of extreme stress and depression, it’s hard to see past your own problems. Sometimes it’s hard to see, period. And then I reminded myself that it’s almost time to have a beer. And then I felt incredible love in my heart for all mothers, even those who point fingers.

  13. I am way late to the game, but I love this post! I also struggled with being a SAHM and hate that both “working” moms and at home moms feel the need to compete over who has it harder. It’s all hard, just in different ways. Everyone has the same goal of making a happy family, how is it productive to snipe at someone else?
    Also, good for you for taking the high road, because I would have taken that bitch down (just kidding).

    • I wanted to take her down. But the nice thing about the internet is the ability to take a deep breath and a couple of moments to center myself before responding. It makes me look a lot more mature than I actually am.

  14. Pingback: Reggie Reader Profile #10 (A MOTHER OF A CAPTION Contest Winner!) | Sweet Mother

  15. This is a lovely post. Came here from Sweet Mother’s reggie profile! My mom always worked, and she managed two kids and a crotchety father-in-law while shouldering heavy responsibility at work. But she knows, and so do I, that some sacrifices had to be made. Having a SAHM helps kids a lot, and while they become independent really quickly by having a working mom, they don’t always get the extra support that some kids need. I feel that having a SAHM—or a working mom with fewer responsibilities—would have helped me, but you can’t change the past. And I’m not doing too bad anyway.
    It is not fair for us to expect a SAHM to keep mum about her frustrations just because someone else’s life is more obviously hectic. People need space to vent, and peeing all over their parade by saying that someone somewhere has it worse is foolish. It means that everyone with a complaint has to wait in line.
    And your points about eating undisturbed or having a quiet poop to yourself with the door closed are well-taken. SAHMs have a lot to deal with, and contrary to society’s oversimplification, many SAHMs are quite occupied for most of the day.

    • It’s just a different kind of hectic. Today I took a shower for the first time since Monday. It’s just hard to justify taking the time for yourself when there’s a little person who wants your attention, food to cook, a house to clean, and no adults around who can alleviate the pressure even simply by commiserating. I know that working moms have it rough — my mom was a single, working mother. I’m not trying to compete, I’m just trying to vent and maybe get some sympathy. It makes a difference, just feeling heard.

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