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Business & Finance
The Health Scene
Working mothers: gift or guilt
Tova J. Kreps, LCSW
Tuesday, May 15, 2012
There is a lot to be said about whether a mother should join the workforce or stay at home to maintain her home and raise her children, ...
but one thing is certain: it is a myth that any mother can do it all. When moms accept this fact, they are then free to make good choices they can live with comfortably.
Remember, the ideal mom is just that — an ideal that all mothers desire to attain — not a reality. But reality needs to be respected as well. For a mother to be at peace in whichever role she chooses, it requires her to be deliberate with her time and values, to enjoy the good aspects of her choices, to accept the accompanying losses — and to ignore outside criticism.
In some family settings, having a career or the money it provides the family is very important. Sometimes it is a necessity for mom to work and many times her worth is determined by her job or the financial help it provides. A working mom is not only a mom, or a wife, she is also by title, a career persona and a wage earner.
In other family cultures, the working mom is looked down upon for the perceived negligence of her role as a mother and the mother who stays at home to raise her children and maintain her home is highly valued.
It is important that each mother, in whatever family system she lives, determine what she values most and consciously accept the consequences of those choices.
Enjoy the perks of the life you choose and let go of the envy and losses for the life you chose not to have; after all, the grass isn’t greener on the other side of the fence — it’s just different grass.
Stay-at-home moms envy the working moms’ perks. Among other things, the working mother has more reward and recognition for her labor. She has more freedom and independence from her spouse. She may have more money or feel less guilt about spending money or time on herself, since she contributes to the family income. And she has legitimate reasons to take breaks from the, at times, tiring role of raising children.
Working moms envy the stay-at-home moms’ perks. Among other things, she has a greater quantity of time that is hers to organize and control. She gets to be more involved in her child’s school life and daily activities. She may have less stress. She has opportunities to be creative and fun with her children without a clock as her taskmaster. She has many more opportunities to enjoy the process of raising her children.
Whichever role they choose, women may be tempted by their own guilt to criticize or envy other mothers’ working role choices. Wouldn’t it be great if mothers on both sides of the fence would accept their personal gains and losses in their chosen roles and allow all other mothers to do the same?
Taking care of mom
Because of love and her conscientious concern for the details of her family’s lives, a mom can shortchange herself as a person. At some point, however, a woman who does not take care of herself in the process of living, shortchanges her family as well.
Women who are mothers need to know they count too, not more and not less than everyone else in their family. If a woman is not taking care of her body and her levels of stress, eventually her body will rebel. If she does not attend to her emotional needs, eventually anger or depression will erupt.
Families need moms who are healthy, happy — and sane.
Knowing the big picture
A mother does not have to be at every event in her child’s life in order to be a “good mom.” Children do need to know, however, that they and their lives are valuable to their moms. The way a mom handles the details of a child’s life is more revealing to a child about whether he or she is loved than the details themselves. This is true regardless of the child’s complaints. As a matter of fact, many children who feel devalued stop complaining at all. Neither the complaints of a child nor the criticisms of observers should determine a mothers’ sense of guilt as a parent. But an honest “big picture” assessment as to whether everyone in the family feels loved, valued, attended to, and respected should be made. In healthy families, over time, there is an equitable sharing among family members (regardless of age or gender) of resources, time, attention, and respect.
I am a working mom, writing this article, while sitting at the beach. It took huge amounts of effort to create this tiny bit of space for myself to enjoy the process of writing this article here — instead of at midnight. Last week, I considered sending in a blank article with the statement: “Article missing because working mom author had family needs which were greater priority this week.” Somehow however, once again, details have worked themselves out into a “good enough” status, and I am here working in my creation therapy office, watching the clock for school pick up time.
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