This morning on my Facebook page, a dear friend posted a link of a letter a working mom wrote to her daughter (and to the world) in response to her daughter’s question: “do you love work more than you love my brother and me?” What a gut-wrenching question for a mom to answer. Of course, the mom answered that she loved her kids more than work, but her reasoning just adds some fuel to the working mom/stay at home mom battles.
Just so you know my bias: I am a mom that straddles the working mom/SAHM fence – I work part time, but I view my primary job as being a mother.
Sasha Emmoms, the mom and writer of this letter, talks about her passion for writing and how it feeds her soul. She talks about how after her children were born that she was torn about returning to work, but also grateful for a semblance of normalcy after the chaos a baby brings. She compares her love of writing to her daughter’s love of art and how happy it makes her feel.
Then she returns her daughter’s question with one of her own: what if I made you choose between your art and me? Hmm, potentially a great question – maybe not one for her 8 year old to answer, but still. She goes on to say to her daughter that she hopes “your love of creating doesn’t get sacrificed for the people you love, whether you make money from it or not.” As a writer and as a mom, I understand the need to create, and both aspects of my life demand it of me. The part “whether you make money from it or not” is interesting to me. Is she talking about a paid career creating, or just the fear of having to sacrifice your ability to be creative because you had children. Writers, in general, are a poorly paid lot. Writing feeds my soul far more than it feeds my children.
Then Emmoms goes through a list of reasons why she works, prefacing the list by saying that this is HER list and not any other’s list. A couple really resonated with me as they are also reasons I choose to work and a couple made me shake my head and think that she maybe she just doesn’t get stay at home moms at all.
“I work because I love it… I work because scratching the itch to create makes me happy, and that happiness bleeds over into every other area, including how patient and engaged and creative mother I am.”
- These two reasons I completely can embrace. I’m fortunate enough to have the choice to work and I choose to do it because it makes me happy and a better person.
“I work because this nice house and those gymnastics lessons and those sneakers you need to have are all made possible by two incomes.”
- Notice the part about how it is her child’s “need” for gymnastic lessons and sneakers that are part of the answer to her child’s question. Given that reason, maybe a better question Emmoms should have asked her daughter is this, “If you had to choose between gymnastic classes and nice sneakers or me at home, which would you choose?”
“I work because even at your young age you’ve absorbed the subtle message that women’s work is less important and valuable—and that the moms who really love their kids don’t do it. “
- I understand the context in which she places this statement: you don’t ask your father this question so why is his career more important than mine? However, I suspect that context is her own and not her daughter’s.
- What I think is interesting about this reason she gives is that she is essentially minimizing the powerful and different role mothers have in their children’s lives – the mere fact that for the majority of kids, the first person they ever bonded with, during pregnancy and post partum, was their mother. The biological difference between mothers and fathers is probably why her daughter asks that question of her and not her husband. We are their first nurturers and it starts before our children are even born. There is a reason that when injured in war soldiers often cry out for their mothers and not their fathers.
- How she used women’s work is also disturbing to some, myself included. Are my day-to-day parenting tasks also not “women’s work”? I’m not talking about gender norms here, but the fact that part of THIS woman’s work is full-time parenting. I wonder if she isn’t subtly giving her daughter the message that those women who’s job is to be a SAHM aren’t as important and valuable as her career as a writer.
I’m grateful that my friend posted this letter despite not agreeing with a good chunk of it. Perhaps I’m a bit envious of this woman who is trying to have it all, I don’t know. There is a tiny bit of me who is also a sad for her daughter too that she is asking this question – that she feels the need to make sure her mother loves her more than her job.
Image 1 via Flickr
Image 2 via Flickr