How kids really feel about the working mother debate

I love women. I really do. I’m one myself. Over half of my friends are women. My mom’s a woman. My daughter’s a woman. My doctor, veterinarian, hair stylist, dentist – all women. I see women as strong, powerful,compassionate, and loving, and I’m proud to be one. For the most part.

A caveat – women compare themselves to other women. This sometimes means that they have trouble supporting your decisions if they run contrary to their own. Even if they are tolerant of different opinions, there’s still that slight feeling that their decision is the better one, and they can back it up with solid reasons and justifications. Interestingly, men seem to have little concern for other men’s decisions about their lives. Women, however, have turned comparing into an art form, and it’s not pretty.

The biggie, when it comes to female divisiveness, involves working mothers. I won’t bore you with the arguments and justifications for both sides. We’ve heard them all, ad nauseum. Instead, I’ll tell you how teens feel about their mothers from the perspective of someone who has heard countless comments from teens over the years.

Moms, they love you.

If you stay at home, they love that you’re always there, just a phone call away. They love that you’re waiting when they get home from school, that you’re available to drive them anywhere they need to go, and that dinner is always on the table at the same time every night. They love the feeling that when they are home, you’re exactly where they left you, taking care of the family and giving all of your time to them.

Working moms, they love that you have a career that you navigate along with every other responsibility in your life. They love seeing you dressed for work and knowing that you have this cool, mysterious life that is separate from them. They love that hour or two after they get home from school when they can just “veg” and have some downtime before their parents descend on the house again and remind them of their homework.

While we women are arguing about what makes a better mom, our kids are going about their lives, knowing only what they’ve always known, and loving whatever kind of mom they have. Trust me, they’re not thinking about whether or not you work, any more than they’re thinking about your weight or your age. They just love you.

So women, let’s stop the debate and the judgment and the self-doubt. Let’s stop inserting “should” into our daily vocabulary and start accepting the fact that every family operates differently. Your kids love you just as you are.

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14 thoughts on “How kids really feel about the working mother debate

  1. Well said, Rebecca! Certainly, happy moms mean happy families, so if successfully balancing work and family makes a mom feel fulfilled, she ought to do it. Likewise, if staying home and being more readily available to tend to her families needs fills that space, awesome. Unfortunately, not all moms have the luxury of a choice. There are plenty who might opt to stay home but don’t have the financial freedom to do that and others who would prefer to work outside the home but might have higher demands, like a special needs child, that require constant care and attention. I feel very blessed to have been able to make that choice for myself and that my family is very happy and proud of the choice I made.

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    • Excellent point, Kim! Many of us forget that for a lot of women, this isn’t a choice, but a necessity. Why are we women so hard on each other, and on ourselves, when we’re all doing what we need to do to be the best moms we can?

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  2. So well written and so true. I had the advantage of both. I loved working, then had my girls, and when they went to school was able to go back to work part time which as they grew enabled me to work longer hours. They were happy and loved me either way.

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  3. I find this to be incredibly true. My mom was a “Stay-at-home-mom” for most of my childhood and went back to work soon before I left for college. It is very true, I love her regardless of the label. I can say that since she has gone back to work, I have a huge respect for her being able to balance the family and work like she has. I have always admired my mom, especially all that she has sacrificed.

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  4. I completely agree with this post and have to add that as long as the mom is happy doing whatever she is doing, the kids will be happy too. I loved my mom (a working mom) and never really cared whether she was working or not. However, I would not have been as happy if she had not enjoyed her own life. It is important that whatever you decide to do, you are happy with it.

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  5. I love the insight you have given about teenagers. They probably do not care as much as what we think. My wife worried about this, but I knew there was nothing to worry about.

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  6. As a mom who’s been a stay-at-home mom AND a working mom, I understand both sides well. The most important point made is that a happy mom is the best mom. There are comparisons made by other women no matter what you are doing or where you are, and again, if you are a happy woman, their opinions don’t matter. Love your writing, Rebecca.

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  7. Great topic! Again, you made me think. I loved reading everyone’s replies and I agree with the majority of responders who state that as long as the women’s decision to work is accepted and supported by her family, the children will be happy. However, the more pressing question I received from the original debate, and what really got me thinking, was as women, WHY do we compare ourselves to each other? Is it a biology-holdover from caveman days when a woman’s survival was directly dependant on a man; he hunted while she stayed in the cave with the children (cavebabies?)? If he were to leave her for a younger cavewoman, she would starve to death. So, is it a survival instinct? Not these days. How about fairy tales? Does “Mirror, Mirror on the wall, who’s the fairest of them all” ring a bell?? Are we really so competitive? Where’s the support? Encouragement? We should be banding together to create a stronger sex! If we did, could we actually change the fairy tales and in turn, our destiny?

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    • Wow! Excellent points! Seeing as we see very young girls comparing themselves, I believe it’s in our nature. However, some of us live for others’ approval, while some of us live our own lives without a second thought what others think, so I do think that life circumstances and parenting send women down different paths. It’s the quintessential nature vs. nurture argument, and I don’t think we’ll ever have the answer. But, like anything, if we’re aware we’re doing it, we can work to change it.

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