Thursday, December 15, 2011

The Green-Eyed Momster

Jealousy. Envy. Dirty looks. No, I'm not talking about last week's episode of The Real Housewives of Beverly Hills. I'm talking about the classic epic as Sparta vs. Athens, Yankees vs. Red Sox, Me vs. My Hair...the Working Moms VS. Stay-At-Home-Moms (SAHM's...see?? They even get a cute acronym!!)

From my snarky remark, you can most probably guess which side I am on. For the past five years, I have been a working mom. There have been good days, bad days, and days when I feel like swimming across the Nile River or being Charlie Sheen's agent would be a treat compared to the mental/physical/emotional rut I was in.

Now, I should say, that I kinda play both sides of this game. Yes, I am a working mom (WM? nah, just doesn't have the same ring...), but I'm certainly not the workingest mom on the block. I teach middle school, which means although my day starts early, I am home by 3:00 most days. Some working mamas are just grabbing their afternoon pick-me-up espressos on their way to their fifth meeting of the day at that time.

Being a teacher also means I have snow days, holiday breaks throughout the school year, and of course, that coveted 10 week summer vacation. I know I have the best of both worlds, and to top it off? I heart my job. Like if you covered it with bacon and whipped cream and it was delivered to my front door by Matt Damon, I couldn't love it anymore. I work in a great building, with amazing colleagues, who happen to also be some of my best friends, and I truly enjoy teaching and interacting with my gaggle of sixth-graders every day.

I also have another advantage, in that my mom (who actually used to also work at my school), retired from her position when Bella was born so she could babysit for us while I worked. I know how blessed I am to have this advantage...I've never had to leave a crying baby at daycare, or a teething toddler at a sitter's house. (Honestly, I'm pretty sure that my kids are in better hands with Grammy, than they are with me. My mom, a veteran SAHM herself, raised four productive members of society. Me? I've raised two insane pups who take a daily dosage of anti-anxiety medication, and some really brown house plants.)

At the risk of sounding like a spoiled brat, despite all of these amazing accomodations, being a working mommy still bites. Missing the first day of school, class parties, first steps, and all of those milestones sucks monkey toes. And what's worse than missing those sweet moments? THE GUILT. MOMMY GUILT is the worst variety of guilt available. If it was possible to bottle the insane amount of guilt that me and my fellow working mamas feel on a daily basis, I could market it to the US Government as a weapon of mass destruction. The A-bomb has nothing on us.

What's almost as bad as 'the guilt', is the perpetual feeling of playing catch-up. As my mommy partner-in-crime always puts it, it's like we are constantly treading water, just trying not to drown in the ocean of tasks that all have to be done like, NOW. Or even worse, 5 minutes ago. Multi-tasking doesn't even start to describe the day...grading spelling tests, while breading chicken cutlets, nursing your six month old and helping your Kindergartner with her homework is an EASY afternoon.

OK. Enough woe-is-me. There is a bright side. Like I said, I do love my job, for which I am so grateful. I have the benefit playing dress-up everyday, wearing heels, baubles and cute sweater dresses for an entire 8 hours without the threat of having smashed banana smeared across my boobs, or sitting in a puddle of apple juice. I get to bring home da bacon and live very comfortably in a two-salary household. Eating lunch and having a half hour of uninterrupted adult conversation each day is also a major perk. To most SAHM's, that probably seems as unattainable as scampering up Mount Everest or watching an entire episode of Jersey Shore without seeing Snookie's hoo-haa at least three times.

Back to the aforementioned war...over the past five years I have been a resident of the nervous hospital United Nations of Mommyland, I have encountered "the look" many times. It started when my mommy accomplice and I spent the 12 weeks of our maternity leave at a New Moms support group, and Mommy and Me yoga classes. Here we are, all new to the neighborhood of stretch marks and sleep deprivation, and we were front and center in the Mommy Court, being judged. "Oh, you're going back to work? Ooohhhh." "Who's going to watch your baby?" Well, we were thinking that the dogs were old enough to babysit- Mugsy is 7? That's 49 in dog years! He's more than qualified.

And I won't claim innocence. Us working madres are pretty judgemental when it comes to the SAHM crowd too. We expect them to be Martha Stewart/Gwyneth/Donna Reed hybrids, with sparkling clean houses, organic meals and crafty projects done each day. They have allll day, don't they?? Yes, they have all day, unless your darling two year old decides that he is NOT getting dressed in anything except rubber rain boots and a tiara today. They have all day, until your 18 month old decides to fingerpaint your leather couches with mac and cheese. They have all the time in the world unless your 4 year old stomps a BJ's size bag of Pirate's Booty into your brand new living room area rug. SAHM's need to multi-task as much or even more than the working mamas do...and they have to do it for longer periods of time, each day, with no breaks or relief in sight. Like I said, I get to be a SAHM every summer, and it is both wonderful and exhausting, and usually by 3:00 in the afternoon, I am counting the seconds to when my husband is going to walk through the front door.

There are no winners in this war, no right or wrong. You always want what you can't have, and the most destructive thing we can do is to judge another mom, because 99.9% of us are doing the best we can, with what we have. The most important thing is that our babies grow up to be happy, well-adjusted little people, who won't have to invest too much of their future salaries in psychotherapy.

My New Year's resolution this year is to be a 'half glass full' kinda gal (as long as that glass is mine, and it's half full of Pinot) and appreciate what I have. Green isn't my color anyway...


  1. I think you summed it up in that last paragraph with that "99%" sentence. I'm a SAHM and I'm nowhere close to being organic or even Donna Reed like.....I just do what I can and say a silent prayer that my child rearing doesn't put them in

  2. From the comment here and on FB, sounds like the jury has reached a verdict. SAHM or Working Mom ?? Neither seem to be the perfect job and both seem to be the perfect job. Quite a complex blog with lots to think about. As they say, "The grass is always greener on the other side..." You and I have had the pleasure to experience both roles, and I have to say, after 17 years at it, I still can not answer the question which one is the better of the TWO!