Your kids will not be “less-than;” they’ll probably be amazing.
I’ve been a working mom for almost 24 years.
My oldest was born in December 1996, and I returned to work in March 1997. At the time, staying home simply wasn’t an option. We were a newly married couple just starting out with bills to pay.
We had recently bought a small home that we had been renting and between house payments, car payments, and the cost of living, two incomes were a must.
Back then, there was still a good percentage of moms that stayed home for a few years after their kids were born. I worked in retail banking, so the option to telework (which really wasn’t a “thing” in those days), didn’t exist.
This was during the infancy of the internet (Yes, I just aged myself) and social media was still 10-plus years away. I didn’t have many friends outside of my co-workers, our neighbors were older (or didn’t have kids), and my family lived outside of the area.
My work schedule changed periodically and I would have the occasional weekday off when I was slated to work a weekend shift at the bank. On those days, I would pack up Jake and his stroller (which I rarely used, since I was working most days) and head to the mall or a park to try and get some mom/kid bonding time.
The Intro to Working Mom Shame
On one bright, cheery day, I was wandering through a toy store at the mall when I noticed a fellow mom with a stroller (let’s call her a FMWS) and a baby who looked to be around the same age as my then-4 month old.
Being the social-type I am, I said something about how cute her baby was (I believe it was a girl with a headband-bow combo, which always sucked me in with adorableness), and we began to chat about random baby-stuff.
She was about my age, appeared normal, and as I had been starved for social interaction – especially with a FMWS – I continued to chat with her as we sat down on a bench outside the store.
We talked about fascinating topics like diapers, infant carriers, starting cereals, who our pediatricians were, and how many teeth our respective babies had.
She seemed cool, and I truly felt I had found a kindred spirit.
I was contemplating asking if we could exchange phone numbers without sounding weird when I reached into the diaper bag and pulled out Jake’s bottle for a mid-day snack.
As I squeezed the air out the bottle (I swore by the Playtex disposables for both kids), she noticed that his name was written in permanent marker on the side of the bottle casing.
“Oh!,” she said in a horrified voice. “He goes to a day care?“
From her tone, one would think I was sending my infant to a hard labor camp instead of a cozy childcare center.
I confirmed that yes, my son went to child care, that I worked in a bank, my husband worked as well and we had no family close by.
FMWS gave me an empathetic look and proceeded to pepper me with questions:
How did I leave him with strangers every day?
Didn’t I miss him while I’m at work?
What if she could show me a way to earn money AND be able to stay home with him every day?
For the first time, I was on the receiving end of Working Mom Shame.
At age 25, I was a new mom and still pretty naive, but not naive enough to realize that she was, (1) Trying to recruit me for whatever MLM company she was hawking and, (2) Her friendliness was bullshit layered with a heaping-dose of mom-shaming.
After giving a vague response to her invite to a “fun meeting of open-minded people” the following week, I provided her with a fake phone number and left the mall in tears, cloaked in self-doubt, and internally beating myself up.
Was I wrong for putting my baby in child care?
Was I wrong for knowing that I wanted to be working and not at home?
Was I a Bad Mom?
Here’s The Truth
As I write this almost a quarter-century after that fateful conversation at FAO Schwartz in the Arden Fair Mall, I realize the answer to all those questions is no.
I’m a proud career mom. It’s part of who I am.
I’m happier, more fulfilled, more confident, less anxious when I’m working.
I truly feel that being a career mom allows me to give the best of myself to my kids.
You may feel otherwise, and that’s okay. Each to their own.
We can respectfully agree to disagree.
But to the FMWS’s and all the other people in the world who still (even in 2020) think it’s okay to look down upon those moms for having (and enjoying!) a career while raising kids – I really encourage you to mind your own business.
We (and our kids) are doing just fine.
Thoughts? Experiences? Have you ever been exposed to a FMWS or other Mom-Shamer?
Jodi Truscott is a career mom of two, blogger, and freelance writer. She blogs about navigating the ups-and-downs of being a working parent and provide, tips, strategies, and cautionary tales at www.amodernworkingmom.com.