Sticks and Stones May Break My Bones, But Words Sting a Little

September 17, 2012 by karenmcelhinny
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Greetings.  Karen here, aka Brad McElhinny’s “my wife, let’s call her Karen” aka mom of Isabelle and Katie and chief cook and bottle washer at the McElhinny household.  I have been a fan of the Mommyhood blogs for sometime.

I felt moved to write this column after having a conversation about a  colleague who decided to quit her job to, “stay home and be a full-time mom.”  This comment got under my skin because I just happen to be a mom who, in addition to mothering two adorable, active girls, also holds down a full-time job as a lawyer.  Despite this fact, I have never, ever considered myself to be a “part-time mom.”

Indeed, is the mommy bird any less a mommy bird because she leaves the nest to get her babies a worm?  Is there any dad who you would call himself a full-time or a part-time dad?

So first I got mad, and then I got to thinking.  What does it say about us as moms (not to mention women) that we feel the need to label ourselves in such a way that, at least implicitly, puts down other moms?

I have been guilty, from time to time, of referring to myself as a “working mom.”  Gosh, I’ve even read Working Mother magazine at the gym without hiding the title.  I never really thought about it, but that label probably implicitly puts down those moms who are home (or volunteering at the elementary school, or carpooling to dance class) working their derrieres off but not getting paid for it.  And, let’s face it, THOSE kind of moms, regardless of what you call them, are probably working a good bit harder than I am at my paid workplace.  I rarely have any vomit on me or have to wipe anyone’s bottom (at least not literally!) at my lawyer gig.

But you have not felt pain until you have had to squeeze your postpartum body into a business suit and leave your six-week old newborn behind while you go away for eight (or more) hours to practice law.  And you do not know true heartbreak until you hear a little girl’s voice on the other end of a long-distance line saying, “Mommy, I miss you” when you are on a business trip.  And you do not know exhaustion until you are up all night with a sick kid and then have to go try a case the next day.

Or maybe you do.  Because, frankly, sisters (and brothers) I don’t really know what it is like to be a mom who does not work outside the home.

I suspect that we all work pretty darn hard and have a lot of difficult days.

So why, WHY, do we fell the need to put each other down?  I think it may have a little something to do with our doubts about our own choices.  We have all had those moments when we question the choices we have made, and I think it is human nature to argue our cases, with phrases like “full-time mom” and “working mom.”  Even when no one is questioning our choices.

Can’t we all just get along?

Let’s find a new language of motherhood.  Let’s recognize that all moms (and dads) work pretty darn hard and do the best they can under sometimes next to impossible circumstances.

No one really know what goes on at 3 am in someone else’s nursery.  And know one really knows what kinds of sacrifices another woman has made for her babies.

Let’s love our kids and ourselves.  And recognize that we are all are full-time working moms.

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2 Responses to “Sticks and Stones May Break My Bones, But Words Sting a Little”

  1. Lisa TravisNo Gravatar says:

    As a Full-time Working in an Office Mom that recently went to a Full-time Working in the Home and Not Being Paid Mom, I completely understand.

    Just a few days ago I was at a party and was asked, “What do you do for a living?”. My immediate response was “nothing” because I knew her question meant where do you work and earn a paycheck. We all laughed and I didn’t take offense. I also didn’t give the ridiculous answer about how I now take care of my children at home because “I’m a better person.” That’s bunk. I cared for my kids when I was in the corporate world just as I do now.

    We all know I “work” even though I’m at home. We all know that working full-time is really hard when you are trying to juggle the office and your children’s lives. We all know that we care for our children whether we earn a paycheck or not.

    I say let’s all relax and support each other. My friends can call me to pick up their children in the car pool line if they are at a meeting. And they can feel free to invite me out to a “business” lunch so I can get dressed in something other than sweats.

    In my humble opinion, a few laughs and the understanding that we all sacrifice for our children would do us all a world of good.

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