I was a stay-at-home mom for seven years. Then I became a full-time working mom with an unemployed husband and two children at home (and I continue to work full-time now as a single mother). Having experienced motherhood from both sides, I understand the challenges each set of circumstances presents. Neither situation is easy, and insensitive comments can make things even harder. So, here it is: my personal list of seven things not to say to working moms.
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1. I love my kids too much to let someone else raise them.
This jab is a sure-fire way to break a working mother’s heart. To imply you love your children more than I love mine is incredibly unfair and simply not true. And to suggest that I am not “raising” my children because I am not with them 24/7 is treading on dangerous ground. I do everything I can to make sure my children are well-cared for while I am at work. Maybe the circumstances aren’t ideal, but I’m doing the best I can.
2. We gave up the luxuries in life so I could stay home with the kids.
Then are you suggesting I’m living in the lap of luxury? I’m sure there are women out there who are working to maintain a lifestyle that their families really can’t afford. However, most of us are not working so we can buy a sports car or a condo on the beach. We are trying to help pay for heat and food and health insurance.
3. I could only get to the gym three times this week!
I wish! After getting up at the crack of dawn to get kids ready for school, fighting traffic during the hour-long commute, putting in a long day at the office, and then coming home to help children with homework and keep the household running smoothly, getting to the gym for a yoga class or a good weight-training session seems next to impossible. Sometimes there just isn’t time in the day.
4. You look exhausted.
Yes, I’m exhausted. Thanks for noticing the dark circles under my eyes (that I’m very much aware of, by the way). Unless you are offering to bring me dinner or watch the kids while I take a nap, it’s better for you not to point out my less-than-perfect appearance.
5. I’m surprised you went back to work. Your husband seems so successful.
The reasons why I am working are probably much more complicated than you imagine, and it may have nothing to do with money. Maybe my husband is anticipating a layoff. Maybe we are on the brink of divorce, and I am trying to find a way to support myself. I might even enjoy working. Or, maybe you’re right, and we are already in financial trouble. If we are, then I don’t need to hear you speculating about it.
6. I’d give anything to have a break from my kids all day!
Not all working moms are lucky enough to have a job they enjoy. Even if they are (like I am), it is certainly not a “break” by any stretch of the imagination. I am merely facing a different set of demands and challenges. And just because I am not at home doesn’t mean I stop being a mother. Don’t talk to me about wanting to be away from your kids when I am agonizing over the fact that I am away from mine.
7. Don’t you feel guilty for missing all those special moments?
Yes, I do. Thanks for reminding me that I couldn’t make it to the Halloween parade or Christmas concert that took place on a Tuesday at 1:30 p.m. while I was in a mandatory meeting. But please know I also do my best to create special moments when I am with my kids. Sometimes they are special outings, but more often than not, special moments happen unexpectedly when we are eating dinner together or reading a bedtime story. Whether I am a stay-at home or working mother, I am a mother, and those moments with my children are what carry me through the hard times and make everything I do worthwhile.