Being a mum is hard yakka. It's harder than I ever imagined it would be. Of course the good outweighs the bad and I know I'm incredibly lucky to have two beautiful children. But that doesn't change the fact that, at times, it's hard.
What makes things even more difficult is that everyone who has given birth, and even those who haven't, has an opinion on how kids should be raised. The sidelong glances, the quips said through fake smiles speak volumes. I don't understand how mums can be so judgmental of other mums. Is it to justify our own decisions? Don't we know, from our own experience, what the other mother may be going through?
The reason for this rant is because of a recent trip to the park with my girls. While the older one was busy with a friend, and I was pushing the younger one on the swing, I took out my phone and checked my emails. Then I heard it. Within earshot one mum commented to another on how she couldn't understand why some people find it too difficult to turn off their electronics and spend some quality time with their children.
At first I felt guilty because, I'll let you in on a little secret, mothers feel guilty all the time. Then I felt indignant - how dare this woman judge me? She doesn't know that my kids have had my undivided attention for most of the day, or that I was waiting for an update from my mother on my grandfather who had recently been admitted to hospital. Wouldn't it be great if, as mums, we could support rather than judge each other?
So here are five reasons not to judge a stay-at-home mum:
1. Stay-at-home mums' workdays never end - there are no coffee breaks, lunch breaks or even restroom breaks. It's demanding, relentless and often thankless work. Organising the household is a massive task. Stay-at-home mums are negotiators, chefs, bookkeepers, housekeepers, motivational experts, teachers, researchers, therapists and nurses. They do not lounge around drinking coffee all day.
2. The challenges are endless - toilet training, routines, tantrums, meal-time battles. And there isn't an office of associates you can call on for help or a brainstorming session.
3. Stay-at-home mums may have put their careers on hold to focus on their children. This is a big sacrifice that is so often overlooked.
4. There are no rewards such as pay rises, promotions or bonuses to keep you motivated and enthusiastic.
5. Most of the time stay-at-home mums already judge themselves too harshly. Perhaps they feel bad for not contributing to the finances, or are annoyed they are misunderstood by their partners or those who work. Stay-at-home mums do an exceptional job at providing love and stability to their children - this should be applauded.
Here are five reasons not to judge a working mum:
1. Working mums are unable to give their absolute all to their career or their family. There are always compromises and weighing up the pros and cons of these never ends.
2. Working mums can feel they have to work twice as hard at work to prove they are doing their share. They then start the next shift when they arrive home.
3. Working mums seldom have any time to themselves. Any time off is usually spent with the family to counter the hours they spend at work.
4. Working mums are always rushing, and on a very regimented schedule. There are school and kindy drop-offs, traffic, meetings, boardrooms, decisions, pick-ups, extra-curricular activities, shopping, and more. One spanner in the works, like a sick child or an accident on the motorway, and the carefully stacked house-of-cards comes tumbling down. Mum then has to then pick up the pieces.
5. Most of the time working mums already judge themselves too harshly. Perhaps they feel guilty for missing a school assembly, or an important business meeting. They may feel annoyed they are misunderstood by those who stay at home. Working mums do an exceptional job at providing love and stability to their children - this should be applauded.
While writing this list, I was reminded of a post I saw earlier in the year doing the rounds on social media. It's called Dear Mom on the iPhone: You're Doing Fine and it's in response to another blog, Dear Mom on the iPhone, posted in November 2012. Both worth a read.
Rhonwyn is a working mum of two young children. She also has experience as a stay-at-home mum.