I have been a working mother with three children for a long time. In that time, I have had lots of people ask me questions and give me their unsolicited opinions. While most people don’t intend be rude or judgmental, it’s always surprising to hear out loud, what some people should keep to themselves. Here is my list of the top 13 things you must never say to a working mom. And, just for fun, I have included my sarcastic responses (that I have managed to keep to myself):
1. “I saw your kid on the class trip today. She was crying. I think she missed you.” Thanks, I feel much better for the information. Anything else you would like to tell me, like about how you think she might not be meeting her milestones or that she will be emotionally damaged for life?
2. “I could never let someone else raise my kids.” Yes, I let others make all the decisions for my children. I have little to do with anything, like their parent teacher conferences, birthday parties, homework, doctor appointments, play dates or offering any sort of parental guidance. Heck, I don’t even hug and kiss them, cuddle them or have any part in tucking them into bed. I am never the first face they see in the morning and I never do anything fun with them like have picnics on our carpet or watch the same animated movie 100 times. And I never ask them about their day. Nope, I have nothing to do with my children.
3. “I don’t know how you do it. I’d feel too guilty.” We do feel guilty, but we can feel great, too. Buy my book, Guilt Be Gone! Become a Proud Working Mom in 12 Easy Steps. (That was a shameless plug, I know.)
4. “You trust your babysitter, right?” Oh no, I actually never considered her/his credentials. I just put out a job post on Craigslist and took the very first applicant based on price. But thanks for making me suspicious!
5. “Good for you for putting your career first!” Yes, every single day I get up and I think to myself, The most important thing in my life is my career. To hell with my family. That has nothing to do with why I work.
6. “I’d give anything to get away from my kids for an entire day.” If you really mean this, send me your resume and I can help you out. But remember, this “freedom” comes with its own issues. We are not getting away and going to the spa. It’s called “work” for a reason.
7. “I’d miss my child too much to be away from him all day.” Well, I have no idea how you feel because I am an impersonal and non-maternal mother. I have no feelings and I never miss my kids.
8. “I don’t know how you do it. It must be so hard.” It is. I don’t know how I do it. But I don’t think work is the problem because parenting is hard whether you stay at home or go to the office. I don’t know how any of us do it. It’s glorious and rewarding and full of love, and it’s the hardest thing I’ve ever done.
9. “You must be so organized to be able to balance everything.” I love this statement and hate it at the same time. I am organized and I do accomplish a lot during the week. But I also know I am one parent teacher conference away from a full melt down (like all moms working inside or outside the home). Last week, my son went to school and brought his toothbrush to show-and-tell. I have runs in my panty hose and I never write thank you cards for my children’s birthday presents. I don’t exercise as often as I should and everyday something slides. There really is no “balance,” just organized chaos. I am no different than anyone else.
10. “You look exhausted.” Wow, thanks! I feel even better now! Want to watch my kids this weekend so I can hit the spa, get a manicure and sleep in? No? Then please don’t say this to a working mom.
11. “There’s always time to work later, these early years are so precious.” Why, oh why, is this never said to fathers? I actually get many special moments with my kids. When my son climbs into my bed and tells me I am the best mommy in the whole world, or when my daughter smiles and says, “I love you,” those are special moments and I cherish them.
12. “Aren’t you concerned about not being there for your kids?” Just because I am at work does not mean I am not “there” for my kids. Please get some perspective.
13. “I’m surprised you went back to work. Your husband seems so successful.” Why would you assume that you know why I am working? Some women like to work outside the home and I’m sorry you are not one of them.
Here’s what we should say: The questions and words should not be filled with judgment but with support. After all, we are all mothers, we all adore our children, and we all want what’s best for them. We are all doing what we have to do for our families, and we are all different. So, let’s give each other support and understanding no matter if we stay home, work from home, work outside the home or somewhere in between.
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