A few weeks ago, I explained that it’s hard to write about my life right now because everything is changing too quickly to commit to putting anything down publicly. That’s only half the story, though. The other big reason for my silence (aside from the fact that time to myself now comes in 10-15 minute intervals that I prefer to fill with naps and chores) is that I don’t want to contribute in any way to the working mom/stay-at-home mom debate. It’s hard for me to avoid the subject outright because the decision to be a working parent is the thing that has consumed my mind for the last several years, as I started my career, started thinking about having kids, got pregnant, and especially now that my maternity leave is drawing to a close (sort of — I have 5.5 weeks left, not that I’m counting). I expect it will be on my mind quite a bit as I go back to work and try to find my new groove. I read all the articles and blog posts about opting out and work-life balance and having it all. Sometimes I nod in agreement and other times I draft indignant rebuttals in my head. I internalize all of it. I think it’s an interesting discussion, because it’s so pertinent to my life right now. But I think the more interesting question is why these conversations are almost always about women, and almost never about men, even though men also have jobs and children and, increasingly, seek the kind of work-life balance that has for so long been cast as a “women’s issue.”
Which brings me to my next point. I hate that the imaginary working mom/stay-at-home mom war figures so largely in conversations about feminism. Certainly women in the workplace and women at home and parenting raise all sorts of feminist issues, and I am generally delighted to explore these issues in private conversations. But conversations about these issues in print and online always end up pitting women against each other. None of this is new to you, but I am pointing it out anyway, because it’s the reason I am wary about participating, even if I think it’s a worthwhile subject that is relevant to my life right now.
I do think that it is possible to discuss the decision to work in a productive way. I just don’t trust myself to do it. As a new mom, I am naturally insecure, and therefore defensive about my decisions. As a Mormon breaking cultural norms, I am naturally insecure, and therefore defensive about my decisions. I know that other women (not all, but many) are insecure and defensive about their decisions. I would hate to waste everybody’s time by engaging in a debate that has been hashed and rehashed for decades, that detracts from other, more pressing feminist concerns, and that I don’t even want to have anyway, because it’s stupid. If you’ve considered whether to work or stay at home with any thoughtfulness, or spoken to a mom who has, you know that the vast majority of people make the decision that is best for them and their families. The debate only springs up when people then seek to justify those decisions. I don’t want to waste your time or mine justifying why I will continue working.
This is not to say I won’t write about my decision to go back to work. I probably will. I think it’s valuable to write publicly about parenting and household structures that are still stigmatized in Mormon communities. I think it’s valuable to write honestly about the tough parts and also the good parts of being a working parent, because I think empathy is the key to ending the debate. I will do my best not to be defensive or preachy or judgmental. Please call me on it if I am, and then forgive me, because I am doing my best.