I’m A Conscientious Objector in the Mommy Wars

Credit: Google Images

Credit: Google Images

I’ve never been want to participate in the “mommy wars.” I’ve just never seen any point in trying to justify my parenting choices by attacking the decisions of other women. At least not to your face anyway. 🙂

But then, something funny happened the other day. Not funny, haha. But funny in that a random comment from another mom actually got my dander up. It’s not what she said that truly bothered me. It was my reaction, the more than a minute I’ve spent pondering this woman’s words and my temptation to respond in a way that I’m glad I didn’t.

The interaction went something like this–I was playing tennis. A doubles match against two women I’d never met before. Part of my tennis strategy is always to chat up my opponents, ask about their kids, smile and joke around between points. I’m not a particularly strong player, so my kill ‘em with kindness tactic is always in the hopes that it’ll be distracting enough to smooth out any killer instinct edges on the other side of the net. Plus, getting all pissy over a ladies league tennis match seems almost as ridiculous as the privilege of spending an afternoon playing in a ladies league tennis match.

So, I was playing tennis. Conversation ensued. The other women talked about their kids. I talked about mine. My partner and I win the match. Who won isn’t relevant to this story. But I feel you should know. We won. 🙂

Me and my partner ready to take it to the court!

My regular partner and I prepare to take it to the court! (Summer 2014)

Okay so, during all the youth sports and summer programming jibber jabber, I also mentioned my job as editor of a local lifestyle magazine and freelance writer. I said how I mostly work from home, have a flexible work schedule that accommodates my kid’s school and activities schedule and also allows me to play some daytime tennis. A great gig. Truly. I love my job.

Anyway, one of the women said something that stuck with me like a barnacle I can’t quite scrap off. She said, “Well, I guess if you have to work, it’s good you like your job.” Or something like that. Only the first eight words stuck in my brain. “Well, I guess if you have to work…”

I didn’t respond. I think I nodded or blinked five or six times. I may have had a small stroke. Maybe it was the summer heat or the adrenaline fueled joy of winning. (Did I mention I won?) Anyway, it wasn’t until I said a pleasant “goodbye” and “nice to meet you”, changed my shoes, paid my court fee and walked to the parking lot that I noticed the crusty barnacle of her words stuck to my psyche and how I wondered if I should have said, “I don’t have to work.” Oh good Lord in heaven, I’m so glad I didn’t say that. I would have hated myself for saying that even if it is true.

It’s true that the hubs earns more than me. His income pays the life sustaining bills. If he bailed, my income would likely qualify for food stamps. True enough. But our arrangement is something we’d planned long ago. When I once said–before we had children–that I wanted to hire a nanny and travel the country as some high-powered exec, he said, “then I’ll stay home with the kids.” Wait. What? No. No. No. For me, letting the hubs have the joys of full-time parenting triggered some serious jealousy in my slowly softening maternal heart. If (I say if because this was yet to be a fully formed option in my mind) one of us was going to do the full-time parent thing, it was going to be me.

After I burned through all of my disability income while on bed-rest pregnant for our first-born and thus, lacking much maternity leave, I was summoned by my employer to a meeting in Boston. This was shortly after our premature, neo-natal intensive care unit baby was beginning to sleep without his heart rate dropping through the floor and setting off hospital alarm bells. That’s when I officially quit my job.

I felt no compulsion to defend my decision. Even when my boss offered me more responsibility and a larger territory as enticement to stay. (Duh, think about it dude. Maybe offer parents a little less responsibility and you’re tracking with a new mom who wants to be with her kid.)

Anyway, when carrots didn’t work, he tried a stick. He said to me, “What are you going to do? Hang out at a country club all day playing tennis?” I rolled my eyes at his comment and skipped off into a land of sleepless nights and tear-filled days with my precious newborn.

Despite the serious irony of my old boss’s comment, I didn’t step onto any tennis court for 12 years. (An actual country club membership never was and still isn’t part of our one income family financial plan. I pay to play once a week and that’s that.) But around the time I started playing a little tennis, I also started easing back into paid employment. And I love my job. It’s no corporate ladder climbing affair. But I love what I do, the people I work with, and that the gig offers the flexibility to still parent my kids in the way our family has become accustomed.

I don’t have to work. But, for the first time, I felt a pang of what working moms the world over must feel when another woman passive aggressively lobs a mommy war salvo into her lap. Maybe this woman didn’t intend to be malevolent. Maybe she simply spoke an altruism, that if anyone has to work, it’s nice to love your job.

I’m just really glad I didn’t respond. That I just got in my car and drove away. Hopefully, by better appreciating the challenges of working women, this sticky bad vibe barnacle will eventually fall off all on its own.

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9 thoughts on “I’m A Conscientious Objector in the Mommy Wars

  1. Donna Trump says:

    I think it’s always best to give people the benefit of the doubt, but what was she thinking? “Well, if you have to work…”–really?

    • I know. Right? I think that’s why it stuck in my brain. Such an odd thing to say. Oh well.
      I read a great book recently by a female pastor who says her daily prayer is, “please don’t let me say something assholey.” HA! I’m adopting that as my daily prayer. Amen. 🙂

  2. Nancy says:

    I am SO like you Angela- I often respond and then say “did I just say that out loud!??” I have to pray often about this and obviously I am forgetting to many times as I am finding my foot lodged in my mouth! BUT, I think you SHOULD have responded that you don’t HAVE to work, but you choose to, although it would have not stopped with that I suppose. Well done friend for holding your comment. I too chose to work part time when raising my children, foregoing the ladder climbing and any hope of a nice income BUT will never regret the decision. We all know how fast those 18 years of childhood go and it was SO worth the sacrifice. It was just really hard then after my kids were on their own to try and find a substantial career that paid what I felt my time was worth, and be enjoyable. I thank God every day for my Preschool teaching years that allowed me to be done by 3pm and work 3 days a week. Along the way, I discovered my gift of teaching, my passion for it and was blessed by the families in countless ways. Other than parenting, it has been the most fulfilling thing I have ever done (regardless of the pay or lack of status). I miss those “Miss Nancy” moments but now I am “Nana” and am loving it and using my teaching skills again with the best pay ever- hugs and cuddles 🙂

    • Thanks for your thoughts Nancy. But at the end of the day, I’m glad I said nothing. Because what if I did “have” to work? I don’t think I should have to justify why I work or why I chose not to work. It’s just such a personal decision for each family and saying anything at all seems like it would have been defensive and unnecessary. Probably true in many circumstances. 😉

  3. Nancy says:

    oops- I meant to say “you chose NOT to” – Please feel free to edit 🙂 “to many times” shoud be “too …

  4. Nancy says:

    It is very personal and you are right- NO one should have to justify their choices- too bad that woman had to even comment. It’s a good reminder to not worry about defending our choices or take the challenge on when presented. Best to keep the challenge on the court only 🙂 Thanks for sharing this. I NEEDED the reminder for sure- now if I could only keep my words from shooting out of my mouth at the wrong time 🙂

  5. This is a great post. I think in this case, you highlight a form of invisible mommy privilege I see a lot. It’s not blatant attack like the typical mommy war battles. I remember finally realizing how my flippant comments about getting pregnant unexpectedly the second time were daggers to my friend struggling with infertility. It wasn’t intentional or even meant as a judgement, but rather lined with some inherent assumptions available to a certain people. The worst part about having privilege is that often that person doesn’t even realize they have it. It takes honest and sometimes tough conversations. And a willingness to wave a white flag from time to time.

  6. Pingback: Your “Passion” Might be Bigger than Your Job Title | Words by Angela

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