It Takes a Village

Nothing gets the internet in an uproar quite like an article about stay at home moms or working moms.

In the past week, I’ve come across 3 different articles about stay-at-home mothers. I know better than to click on these but I couldn’t help it. I fell right for the “click-bait” (which I’m learning is a real word). In all three, I felt compelled to read to the end (and skim the comments which I also know better not to do). Maybe it’s because I’m teetering on the edge of working outside the home or maybe I’m just exactly the kind of sucker the internet gods love to torture.

The first one was “5 Things You Should Never Say to a SAHM.” The second was “Being a SAHM is not a ‘luxury’. The third was “Being a SAHM is not a job.” Many people took offense to at least a few points (or many points) in each of the articles and commented on the offensive points. Others defended the authors and reiterated the main points of the article.

My first reaction, was please, please, please, for the love of all that is good and holy, please stop writing these types of articles. We can’t handle it. They make otherwise sweet, rational adults spit venom at one another. They are the fuel for the “mommy wars” I try so hard to ignore/deny. They are unproductive. Despite the genuine or disingenuous belief that they are in fact, not judging, most of the time, these types of articles are perceived by most people as judgmental (hence the nasty comments).

But then I reconsidered. These articles get hundreds of comments. Clearly, they start conversation.  Conversation, discussion and debate are healthy. Maybe these types of articles are useful.

However, when detailing the decisions you and your families have made about how to run your houses and how to parent, you run a great risk in offending others who have not made the same choices or are have vastly different circumstances. In trying to sound supportive of all parents and the choices they may or may not have, these types of articles make parents in different situations feel unsupported.

Parenting is challenging and rewarding. As with many endeavors, but particularly parenting, we won’t really know the effect our choices and decisions on our children for years (if ever). This makes the majority of us worry, second guess and feel defensive when questioned about our choices.  Most of us want validation that we are doing the best thing because we can’t really get it, in any definitive way, from our kids (yet). Most of us worry if we’re doing it right. Most of us worry that we’re doing it wrong. Some of us worry that maybe we’re overconfident. Others are worried but refuse to acknowledge it.

Instead of talking about how we’re not sure if staying home with the kids is best or working outside the home is best — instead of discussing our insecurities — we sometimes dig in our heels and start listing all the reasons we made the choices we did. It often sounds as if we are trying to convince ourselves that we’ve made the right choice. This inherently puts those who have not made the same choices on the defensive. And the defending gets ugly.

There is no such thing as a parenting expert. Because the choices one family makes aren’t the best for another, one person or group can’t be deemed “the best.” There are far too many variables affecting each family for parenting to be a competition.

We don’t live in villages but we still need the support of the village. When we read one parent’s assertion that staying home with the children is better for their development and self-esteem, it’s the same as hearing that working parents are hindering their child’s development and their self-esteem will suffer. When read about the sacrifices parents make to stay home, it belittles the sacrifices working parents also make. The village breaks down, divides in two, some are left unsupported and everyone suffers.

This virtual village is far and wide – populated by parents all over the world, with all kinds of circumstances. We have the opportunity like never before to learn and share and adjust and improve…if only we could stop burning it down in pieces.

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