What Not to Say to a Stay-At-Home or a Working Mum
There is so so so much pressure and judgement on parents these days - from everyone as ridiculous as your accountant's ex-girlfriend, to the old lady frowning from across the café, to the people we really love, like our family and friends. And for some reason, the biggest judgements can seem to come from other parents who feel as frustrated as you do about the way they are being judged. Sometimes we don't even know we are doing it to other parents.
Generally though we can spot criticisms when someone is trying to defend their own actions as a parent (whether consciously or subconsciously).
Why is it that we feel we can only be right if someone else is wrong? Maybe, just maybe, different parenting choices can both be right, and good, and still completely different from each other.
So let's name and shame those hurtful comments and leave them unsaid forevermore.
Here's what not to say to a stay-at-home mum (SAHM).
"I'd be too bored to stay home full time."
This implies we are dumb. You're basically saying you need more mental, emotional and physical stimulation than us, and therefore, we're dumber than you. Being at home requires so much creativity, resourcefulness, problem solving skills, early childhood development skills and more.
"Do your kids go to a playgroup to get social interaction?"
No, I want my kid to grow up socially awkward and I want to be his/her very best and only friend and I want to spend every second of every day alone at home with him/her. Thanks for checking in on my ability to take care of my children. Here's a secret only SAHMs know - playgroups are really for the parents, not the kids!
"If we could afford it, I'd stay home too."
This implies being a SAHM is a luxury for rich families. Actually, many SAHMs feel they would consider paid work if they could afford childcare! And for us SAHMs, we are living on a single income which often means our families earn much less than working parents. We are actually brilliant budgeters and thrifty shoppers and have learned to be endlessly resourceful. We don't stay home because we're cashed up, we stay home and learn to live within the means we have.
"When are you going to go back to work?"
This is work for me, it's my full-time job. I'm just underpaid. If you're asking when I'll get a pay-rise, well, I'd like to know the same thing!
"It'd be so nice to be a SAHM."
Yes it is, but it's not just nice. It's also extremely hard work - physically, mentally and emotionally - and in many ways far more demanding than a traditional job. We would give anything to be able to call in sick for a morning. So yes, it's nice, but it's not easy.
"You should put your kid/s in care at least one day a week, just so you can have some 'you time'.
On one hand, that's a fantastic idea and I'll dream about it on my bad days. On the other, WTF is wrong with our society that that's even a thing?
The biggest thing to realise about stay-at-home mums is that they are doing it because of their values - not because they necessarily love being at home. It really is hard work, not boring work. It's tiring and we need more energy than many traditional jobs because we don't get to slack off when the boss isn't looking or when there are no customers in the shop.
At some point, most SAHMs struggle with boredom and loneliness, fears and insecurities about their professional abilities, and ensuring they're providing a great upbringing for their children. We should praise the SAHMs in our communities for working tirelessly to raise their kids according to their values.
Things Not to Say to a Working (Paid) Mum
"I'd love to go back to work but I couldn't put my kids in daycare."
Because your kids are more valuable than mine? These days childcare options are utterly amazing and our children are in great hands. Obviously we wouldn't send them somewhere they weren't going to be safe or cared for. Your kid is not a magical unicorn that can't be taken care of by someone else. Also, not all of us have a choice, and having a choice really would be a luxury for some.
"It must be nice getting a break from being a mum."
A break would be lovely - preferably with cocktails and beaches and no children in sight. Just kidding. But seriously, when I go to work I don't get to stop being a mum. I'm still on call, I'm still planning and thinking and caring about that kid who holds my heart on the other side of town.
"Someone else is raising your kids for you."
First of all, so what - my kids' carers are far more qualified and experienced to raise kids than I am! But secondly, that's such a stupid thing to say. Any mother knows that parenting is far more than the few hours of the day spent in care. Even putting my kid in care is a parenting choice I am making every time I say goodbye.
"I bet that kid goes to daycare."
And I bet that kid doesn't. There are pros and cons for everything, including for kids who have a parent at home all the time, and I'm happy with the advantages and disadvantages I've accepted for my child.
"I'd love to put my kid in childcare if I could afford it."
I'd love it to be cheaper too, but I've learned to budget and live within my means. The cost of care is much more frustrating for me, who pays it, then for you, who doesn't - trust me.
"I could never put my kids in daycare because I don't want them to get sick."
"Yes well I really do want my kids to get sick. I hate my kids, that's why I send them to daycare." - Said no mum ever.
The biggest thing to realise about working mums is they are doing it because of their values - not because they don't like being with their kids. It is hard work managing both a professional and personal life, but we believe it is worth it.
At some point, most working mums struggle with doubts and fears about their choices, loneliness alongside constant busyness, and ensuring they're providing a great upbringing for their children.
In the end, all us mums are trying to do what we believe is the best we can at any given time.
There is no need to imply that others' paths are worse to make ourselves feel better. Let's be comfortable with our own insecurities and start supporting each others' choices, instead of competing. We are all mums living with fears, doubts, hopes, dreams, and demanding little people who take our over hearts, homes and lifestyles. We are in this together.