I recently read an article written by a brave woman who chose to put her career on hold after having a child. In the piece she outlined frequent criticisms she receives as a result of that choice. Having been the recipient of judgement on the opposite side, I wanted to hear what she was saying and support her in doing what was right for her family.
I was completely hung up, however, and admittedly offended, by one recurring phrase in the article: “full-time mom.”
I wrestled with my reaction. I felt desperate to encourage this mother, and my heart ached as I learned how she had been judged. But I was unable to separate my desire to hear her from the way it felt to read “full-time mom” as the descriptor.
I went back to work with both my girls, but I am undoubtedly a full-time mom in every sense of the word. Even on my most-productive days in the office, I am consumed by thoughts of how my actions affect my kids, when to tour new schools, what to pack in tomorrow’s lunch, when to schedule well checks and how to nurture them through each day’s unique struggle – and then I wonder how the hell I will do it all again tomorrow on so little sleep. Even in the moments when I am not facilitating – I am all in.
So as I read on, I tried to replace “full-time mom” with a marker that applied only to mothers who stay home with their kids, but nothing felt adequate or did the task justice. After all, raising children is impossibly hard and deserving of praise.
Then I finally identified the real issue: we do not have the verbiage we need to truly identify and support one another, because who we are as mothers is more significant than any label could ever articulate.
Without question, mothers with careers are full-time moms; and without question, mothers who put their careers on hold or choose to leave their careers permanently are working moms. We are all full-time, and we are all working – constantly.
While I do not have an appropriate descriptor for moms on either side of this impossible decision, I do know this: we are all mothers. There is nothing simple about that truth and absolutely no need to measure our parental fitness based on whether or not we are actively pursuing careers.
Regardless of where or how we spend our days, in any given moment we can feel energized while also feeling tired; we can feel grateful while also feeling defeated; we can feel overjoyed while also feeling overwhelmed; and we can feel loved while also feeling judged.
By default, mothers never stop working to care for our children. From the moment we step into this role, we begin to think in terms of how the family will respond to the choices we make. No parenting decision is simple; and deciding whether to stay home or further a career is, in itself, an act of work. We are all motivated differently, have different financial realities and likely struggle with this decision at some point.
Through it all, the support we crave and deserve starts with us – mothers loving, and I mean really loving, one another. In motherhood we have so much in common that only we understand, and I believe this gift is by design and intended to lift each other up. Whatever we do, we must do it well for the sake of our children and not out of fear that we will be ridiculed if we do not do it a certain way. We are all working, full-time moms doing the best we can for our families. Let us identify as mothers and know that our joys and struggles are real based on that alone.