A topic that comes up over and over in blogging and just in life is the decision for a mom to work or to stay at home. CM wrote about it a while back and called for an end to the infighting. Being in the interesting position of having been a working mom and then leaving it behind has opened a window to all sorts of opinions and reactions from people. I think this subject is up there with religion and politics in peoples' hearts - it is intertwined so closely with very personal values and how you feel about family, money, and your time. Everyone is just trying to defend their own family's position and validate the difficult choices they have made. Because whether you decide to work or to stay at home, you are sacrificing something on the other side.
Last week Anna and I stopped for a quick dinner at a restaurant after playing at the park. Two older women were dining together and then one of them left. The remaining woman was friendly and started chatting with us a little. Her kids were grown but she had chosen to raise them herself at home. It became clear through our conversation that she was still trying to justify her choice after all these years. She talked about a friend she had who had worked - she said her friend didn't really want the career but "the lifestyle". She said that being a stay at home mom is the hardest job because at work you can have a coffee break whenever you want and at home your schedule is dictated by your children. She was going on and on about this and it had clearly been years since it happened for her. I wondered if she might be in a precarious situation financially and in some way regretted the choices she made because it made her later years more difficult. I had overheard her telling her friend earlier that she was worried about losing her house if her son didn't get a job.
Then there are my male coworkers - the ones I left behind. You would think they would have no opinion at all about how I choose to spend my days, but my choice to leave work was kind of touchy with a few of them. Even my boss told me that his wife admitted she had been bored by staying home with the children and was happy now that she was working again. (Might have made a difference that she has a staff - nanny, driver, housekeeper, assistant, etc... I rarely find myself with idle hands.) I felt that some coworkers wished they could provide a stay at home lifestyle for their own wives. I think it can be kind of a "thing" for a guy to be able to solely provide for his family. Also, the fact that I could just walk away from it all when I had worked so closely with them for years - there were just a lot of feelings tied up with it.
I noticed that when I quit work, some of my blog friends wrote a bit about their choices to work or stay home. When a friend changes things up, of course it causes you to reflect about your own life. Just like it's hard for our friends who haven't had children - I know they often get an earful from the rest of us breeders. A lot of it comes from a place of knowing - "you're not getting younger!" "it won't get easier"... but some of it comes from wanting your friends to be going through the same thing as you. My mom said that she really enjoyed living in the suburban tract we grew up in because there was so much similarity between everyone. The houses were all new and cost about the same, most people had kids and did activities like soccer, music, etc. It's easy to be friends with people who approach life the same way that you do. I remember when I first had Anna it was difficult for me to talk to some of my friends who had different parenting ideas than I did. In that first year I was so consumed by it all and took it all so personally. It's funny to me now because my own parenting style has changed so much. You have to adapt to your kid. Also, I don't give a hoot how others choose to raise their kids.
So of course everyone I talk to asks me how it's going. Someone even asked me how I'm liking "being a mommy" - as if I wasn't one before. For me, it's great. It's the best thing that's ever happened to me. But you know - it seems like lots of people are uncomfortable with my brazen happiness (for once) and peace with my choice. The response I get 99% of the time? "Just wait until you have two." It's the little jab... the "so there!" that so often has to accompany a conversation. That little insinuation that I don't know any better, that I chose unwisely.
Because of course by shooting me down, a person can validate their own choices. It all comes back to that.