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.
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.
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.
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.
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?