A sad truism I’ve noticed over the years is that males tend to be less judgmental than females when it comes to juggling work and parenting.
I don’t know why women tend to judge each other super harshly. From journalist Rachel Smalley’s jaw dropping on air revelations about NZ women being “heifers” and “lardos” to cutting remarks from other Mums, it appears the sisterhood is pretty quick to put the knife in. And if you’re already feeling fragile about leaving your wee ones to help support them financially, that can be difficult to take.
Everyone’s situation is different. We all make choices based on individual circumstances. If you have to spend time away from your children in their preschool years to make ends meet, that doesn’t make you a lesser person. It means you’ve made personal sacrifices to provide for your family. Similarly, I know lots of stay at home Mums who have made plenty of sacrifices to take time out of paid employment and be at home with their children. Either way, don’t apologise for your choices (or feel the need to justify them.) Be proud.
Several ago, my husband became a stay at home Dad while I worked full time. He happily went along to Plunket Playgroups and Music and Movement with our youngest. It was a really special time for them. When a fellow playgroup member confided years later she felt sorry for him “being the only Dad there” I was initially hurt then bemused. Sorry for him? And here was me feeling sad that I couldn’t go!
Similarly, a former workplace manager once opined that young people were less resilient these days due to a generation of working Mums over compensating at home due to overriding guilt. Interesting theory from a person who chose to focus on a career instead of raising children – a choice I wouldn’t dream of passing judgement on but when you’re a Mum (and a working Mum at that), everyone’s an expert.
We should just respect each other’s choices and get on with it! Men don’t feel the need to pass judgement ( although I’m not naive enough to dismiss the existence of institutionalised sexism) so why don’t women back the truck up sometimes?
My advice? Choose your friends carefully – if you’re working hard to provide for your family, you don’t need people around making remarks such as, “I couldn’t be the sort of mother I want to be if I worked full-time.” Especially when they know you work full time. Seriously – not your friend.
At the end of the day, it doesn’t matter what other people think they know. I’ve learned to let those comments go. Surround yourself with like-minded people and don’t angst over comments from those who will never walk in your shoes. Life’s too short.