I am a working mother. No, it’s not an oxymoron. Yes, I know that all mothers work. I happen to be one of those mothers who has another job in addition to being a mother and homemaker. I have worked pretty much my entire life.
When I was 11, I started babysitting for neighbors and church families. By 13, I was an entrepreneur with a lucrative business making macramé pot hangers (yes, I am a child of the 70s). I also worked as a private swim instructor, ran a summer day camp/mother’s day out program and then finally got my first “real” job working in a local market.
After college, and after our first child was born, I worked part-time for a while as a textbook editor and when that dried up, I landed in insurance. Not exactly what I planned, but it paid well and a regular weekday schedule meant I could be home when my husband was home so we could have family time, something that was very important to us. I wasn’t thrilled with a full-time schedule, but it was the right decision for our family at the time. We were blessed with an amazing caretaker named Betty for our daughter and then later our son. She took care of our children with probably more patience than I had at that time in my life.
All was well in the world of motherhood and work--almost. My husband and I felt comfortable with our decision. Since I needed to help provide for the family, I was happy to be able to put my college education to work and secure a well-paying job. I was happy with our children’s care arrangements, they were happy to spend their days with Betty and I never worried about them while I worked.
There was just one little problem. Many of the women from church seemed exceptionally bothered by my lack of “mother guilt.” When I worked as a textbook editor, I would attend Relief Society board meetings where the main topic of discussion was my apparent lack of commitment to motherhood. I remember coming home from one such meeting in tears, wondering if there wasn’t something wrong with me because I DIDN’T feel guilty about working.
When I later needed to work full-time (primarily because of the lack of part-time work that paid more than minimum wage), I was chided for choosing a career when I “could have chosen something part-time or worked nights and weekends so [my] children wouldn’t have to be in daycare.”
The thing that made working so hard for me wasn’t being away from home. It wasn’t the crazy things that being a working mom did to my schedule, trying to squeeze in family and homemaking and church callings and a relationship with my husband around that 40+ hours/week. It wasn’t even leaving my children with another mother every morning (she was a working mom, too). It was the lack of support and the censure from my fellow mothers, some of whom were working moms themselves.
As women, we need to support one another, not tear one another down. We are all in this together. Every woman needs to be prepared to help support her family financially, whether by working from home or working away from home, should the need arise.
Instead of looking down on those who are working, would we not do better to help one another build critical skills, to support one another in finding creative ways to earn and to help our sisters who do work by easing their guilt instead of adding to it?
We never know what life will bring or what our circumstances will be. Someday you may find yourself on the other side, being the mother in a position you never imagined being in. How much easier would life be if you knew your sisters had your back and would be there whether you were at home or away? Let us support our sisters in their journey, wherever it may lead.