Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Quality vs Quanity

Almost sixteen years ago I was assigned to write a paper in college that argued two opposing views, I was then supposed to bring it together and make a conclusion. Of course sixteen years ago, I had no children of my own, but nonetheless, my interests must have hovered somewhere in the motherhood realm. I chose to write my paper on "Working Mothers versus Stay at Home Mothers." I cringe now at that term 'working mothers' because truly, EVERY mother works. (I addressed that fact here, if you remember!)

Regardless of whatever terms I used, I wrote a whole paper based on all sorts of research, studies, and articles. (By the way NONE of which were found 'online.' They were all found the old fashioned way--in periodicals and journals at the Marriott Library... Do college students even go to libraries anymore?) The findings of my studies surprised me sixteen years ago. The conclusion I reached based on the research I did, was that more often than not 'working mothers' had much more QUALITY time with their children than 'stay at home mothers' did. Although clearly, 'stay at home mothers' had far more QUANTITY time with their children.

And really,what matters most? I'm not going to get into that. Clearly, further arguments and studies can delve into all sorts of research based on one or the other and it is more than obvious that there are all types of mothers that will be exceptions to the rule. My point is, and I think the reason I recently remembered my college paper, is because sometimes by virtue of a mother's 'subtitle' ('employed somewhere' or 'stay at home') we are given all sorts of judgments, excuses, and expectations.

A couple of things that make me crazy when people blur the lines between...

** If you are a 'stay at home' mother, it seems people expect you to have a completely flexible schedule and should be able to accommodate the 'working' mothers. Case in point--my friend's PTA who holds the meetings after school because some 'have to work.' Yet, the ones who then have to 'find a babysitter' or adjust extra-curricular activities to have the after school meeting, are given no consideration.

** Men or women who make the comment that allude to the fact that stay-at home mothers have nothing to do, or get bored. Case in point--a mother who works part-to-full time once mentioned to me that she would get bored and have nothing to do if she stayed home all day with her children. I wonder what exactly she thinks someone like ME does all day.

Granted. Today while my recently mopped floor was drying, I did lay on the couch and work on a crossword puzzle while I waited for it to dry. But bored? I can't even remember the last time I was bored at home.

Recently, I sat at a park with two very top notch ladies. We were having a Power of Moms business meeting of sorts. Nine children clamored among us (thank heaven five children were not even there!) as I listened to these two women, who while clearly are very passionate about their job as a mother, talk about their involvement in a lot of really wonderful organizations. And though one may be considered, 'stay-at-home' and the other a 'working mother' neither fit the stereotypical title. I can't quite remember where the conversation was at, when my friend Saren asked, "Really, is any mother truly a stay-at-home mother?"

I've thought about that a lot lately. I can't think of a single mother who simply stays home. Every mother I know, whether earning a paycheck or not, is doing more than 'staying home.' Whether they are training for a triathalon, serving neighbors and friends, writing a book, home-schooling children, working a photo shoot, sewing some bedding, keeping their body fit and healthy, baking home-made cookies, or painting bedroom walls, stay at home mothers are doing plenty of things besides simply staying home.

Which brings me back to that whole paper conclusion I came to, it doesn't matter if you are a stay at home mother or a working mother, it is about the quality of time spent mothering with our children. We all get too hung up on the stereotypes of 'working' mothers versus 'stay-at-home' mothers. There should be no difference. We need to cut each other some slack.

Just last week, I had a deadline on a project I was working on. Despite the crying, fighting, and throwing toys in the next room, I spent the better part of an hour telling my children, in essence, to go away. When really, what I probably should have done was find a babysitter that my two boys could have gone to, and finished my project in peace. But, I'm a 'stay at home mom' and therefore I should have been able to 'babysit' my own kids, right?

Wrong.
Where was the quality time with my children? What message did I send to them? It doesn't matter that I am a stay-at-home mom, I went to bed that night wondering if I'd even spent a single quality moment with a couple of my kids. (My daily priority/goal to spend at least some time with every single child one-on-one is (obviously) not something I have completely mastered yet.)

My hat goes off to mothers who have to leave their children and go to a working job each day. Some of the working moms I know, are some of the best. They've got the quality versus quantity thing figured out pretty darn well.

As for me, I guess I've got plenty of time 'at-home' to figure it out still.

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