Today I woke up super grumpy. Despite multiple attempts to “re-set” my mood and re-focus on the positive, its like there is a little grumpy cat sitting on my shoulder saying “wah” all day long.
Anyway, its those grumpiest of grumpy moods that are extremely incompatible with parenting. Kids can feel it, and it starts seeping in to their day and pretty soon that means tantrums and whining and toddlers being infected with grumpy-cat-on-the-shoulder-itis as well. Thankfully today is Sunday, and my husband was able to take over a chunk of the grumpy morning/afternoon so I could just be with my grumpy self.
On one of these grump breaks, I was scrolling Facebook when I came across a post by Dr. Psych Mom, a blogger I follow. She wrote a little post on her Facebook page about why she thinks being a SAHM is more difficult than working. She did a great job discussing why this isn’t a universal truth, that many, many variables go into the equation of determining if working or staying home with kids is more difficult, and that these variables vary from person to person. I loved it and the comments that followed of women who had done both and felt that staying home was much more difficult. It made my personal experience feel validated.
I started to share this post to my personal blog Facebook page when suddenly something didn’t feel right. For me, her post was true. I am a work at home mom, and can safely say that the working parts of my day are almost like a vacation compared to the time I spend one-on-one with my daughter. For me, mental stimulation is pleasant, I enjoy the research and writing and reading and critical thinking and attention to detail that my job requires. But turn my brain to entertaining a 2.5-year-old and I suddenly turn into a struggling student, feeling like I might pass the day with a D grade, maybe a C if I’m lucky. As a straight A student, this does not feel acceptable to me.
Yes for me, staying home is by far and away the hardest thing I have ever done. It is also something I feel incredibly lucky and blessed to do, and something I have never regretted for a single second, something I would be absolutely devastated to have to give up. But for me, it feels much harder than working. Much, much, much harder.
But here is where my lightbulb went off: so what?
Why am I so interested in proving staying home is harder for me? Why is anyone interested in this?
Do I think I’m going to win a prize, earn a medal, be gifted a 2-week-all-expense-paid-vacay because I chose to follow a path that is more difficult for me?
Why is there even a conversation happening debating which type of parenting is “harder?”
I remember one of my friends recounting her labor experience and how her doctor told her “you don’t get a medal for doing it without an epidural”. When she shared that story it rubbed me the wrong way. I wasn’t even pregnant yet but I was pretty sure nobody chose not to get an epidural for a medal. When I later had my daughter medication free, I definitely at times felt people assumed I did it for bragging rights, which was certainly not even close to the case. I sat through a couple stories where I felt the woman across from me was attempting to validate that her experience was just as hard as mine even if she had medication. Which felt weird to me, but I get it.
If you are going epidural free for the sole sake of being able to say you did it the hardest way, well, you do you sister, but I’m afraid you may have a little bit of a martyr complex.
But it’s a weird little thing we do, competing for honors of “hardest”. Why should “hardest” even matter? Why do we even want this word associated with our life experiences?
My friend’s OB saying “you don’t get a medal for not having an epidural” is the truth. You also don’t get a medal for being a SAHM or a working mom. So why are we wasting any time debating it? Why are there 50 million blog posts setting out to “prove” how hard it is to be a SAHM or a working mom?
Why are we all clawing each other and ourselves to reach the title of “hardest job”? Why is that an honor any of us want?
Shouldn’t we be celebrating when we make a choice that is in harmony with our personal or family values and priorities? Shouldn’t we celebrate when our roles make us feel good, when we feel “filled up”, when we derive joy from an experience, no matter how difficult it is, no matter if other people do it differently? Doesn’t that make more sense to fight for, the fight to be happy and fulfilled however that looks for our specific situation, rather than the fight over who is most depleted and exhausted by the end of the day?
The truth is, both roles are hard. Both have the exhausting and horrible parts. Both have the fulfilling and joyous parts. Some have more of one thing than the other, but sometimes the few goods outweigh the numerous bads, and vice versa. Yes, staying home with my daughter is the hardest thing I’ve ever done. It feels validating for others to echo that sentiment. It makes the tough days a little easier knowing others struggle as much as I do. But I think I will skip out on listing the reasons, on cataloging why my life is harder than a mother who works away from home. I don’t know that’s a productive way to spend my energy, and I don’t know what I hope to accomplish from doing so, other than validating my own choices to myself.
My daughter is currently screaming “Frosty the Snowman” at max volume rather than napping, so I think I’ll take this as my cue to get back to my hardest job rather than debate whether it is, indeed, the hardest of them all. I’m going to need all the energy I can get.