Monday, June 20, 2011

Must I be judged for being a mom who works outside?

It really hurts when you're judged as a mother, when the people judging you are your own -- friends you grew up with, spent the most beautiful years of your life with, and are fellow moms themselves.

Met up with college friends over the's s close-knit group of about eight. I took Sonny Boy to the meet since a friend had landed from the U.S. and hadn't seen him; every one wanted to see everyone else's kids. And we all hope that our kids, like us, will be friends too. Moreover three other kids were coming along. I didn't realise he would be the youngest and get bored...he did. The older kids left out this bachcha. So he got irritable and clingy.

My friends immediately started saying "It's ok, poor thing, it's probably because you are never there with him", "He rarely gets time with you, so obviously he'll cling to you", "All he wants is your attention when you ARE around"  and other variations of it! I mean, come on, he's not even three and the place was unfamiliar and so were most of the people... But my friends made it a point to tell me how it happens to kids of mums who're away at work.

I left the get together depressed and came home almost in tears. It's like you can never do anything right if you're a mom who goes to work. You must be made to feel guilty for it. One of them asked me "Looks like you're really enjoying your job," making it sound like an accusation. Like she almost wanted me to admit that I was working because I had to, not because I wanted...

On returning home, I put Sonny to sleep and spent the afternoon furiously digging mud, re-potting and doing some gardening simply to work off my anger and frustration in a constructive way. All the while, I sat wondering what it was about the noon that really pissed me off.

I love my friends. We've been in touch 12 bloody years, which is a difficult thing, and we do form a good supportive network for each other  -- whether it's during a divorce, death or birth in the family. They are people I look to for help/advise/fun.

What struck me later while I was thinking, as I sat breaking down hard mud was that all of the moms in our group are stay-at-home-mums. I have nothing against SAHMs or my friends who are SAHMs. But I thought it was unfair of them to kind of pity me and my child -- Sonny for not having mum around, and me, for not being around. I even considered their statements in the light that at least three of them had tried to kickstart their career after having children and hadn't really gotten far successfully for various reasons. I'm not trying to be mean here; I appreciate the efforts they have made, but were they holding it against me that I was working while they were not? Yeah, now I sound like the mean b****, but then that thought did occur, frankly.

They asked me why I fed him first and ate later; a bad idea, they pointed out. They asked me if I travel with him a lot and when I said no, they described how they were so often on the road with their kids, and how I shouldn't worry about food and such things etc. I guess they were trying to egg me on, encourage me, but somehow I ended up feeling belittled, I don't know why.

Like I didn't have enough people around me --  starting with old people in my apartment to random aunts who I meet at "family gatherings" -- who judge me for how my child behaves, eats, pulls up his t-shirt to reveal his tummy etc, now I had my friends looking at me with a magnifying glass.

I've never been so uncomfortable at a gathering with friends and never felt more like getting out of there fast as I did yesterday. Maybe I need to take some time to think deep about this, look at myself more objectively...maybe all that I'm saying here is an instant reaction to the whole incident. I don't know. But it's left me shaken and questioning myself.

I also had a mom who worked and I didn't turn out too bad. Ok, so I was and am an attention-seeking person, but maybe that's my personality type. I don't think I should blame my mum for it....I don't know...but damn! Being a mom is not easy.


Spicy Sweet said...

You just worded what was in my mind!
It is the same torture every working mother experience. Why we work is our choice? Who are they to decide whether it is right or wrong?

There are certain good attributes children learn from a working mom. This part of the world turns blind eye towards them.

Good post.

Uma said...

hey forever mother...firstly HUGS
you are doing a gr8 job managing sonny boy, home and work and please give yourself ample credit for this!

Please do not feel guilty for not being a SAHM...there is no right or wrong way to parenting and what works for you IS the best way. No one should or can judge you for how you bring up your kid.

Look around...are only SAHMs responsible for bringing up the most well-behaved/healthy/out-going kids or rather will being a SAHM ensure all of the above. I say is the upbringing irrespective of whether the parent is a SAHM or a working mom.

Most importantly, a happy mother translates into a happy child. All kids go through phases of tantrums, crying, clinginess and it has nothing to do with the working out of home part.

I am rambling here...but I hope you are convinced enough. DO not be harsh on yourself unnecessarily.

Anonymous said...

Yes, being a working Mom is difficult... My Mom worked, and I am working too, and therez all the benefits of being a working Mom, but we are ALWAYS plagued with the guilt that 'MAY BE', just 'MAY BE' we are not spending enough time with our kids. The words that hit you the most are the ones that you have been thinking of yourself. e.g. If someone tells you that you are terrible at something you KNOW you are GREAT at, you'd never believe it, you'd think therez something wrong with them, right ?

People are judgmental ALL THE TIME, and you become all the more vulnerable to their comments when you become a Mom, because you've never done it before. I know its hard when it comes from friends, but hey, you need another set of friends, working Moms :), to share your thoughts etc. Every friendship is special, so share your thoughts with some of your working friends :).

Shai said...

I like your way of expressing yourself. You simply convey what majority of working moms go through…but all this while keep faith in yourself and try not to overanalyse any situation and let it go

Forever mother said...

Dear Spicy Sweet, Uma, Anonymous and Shai,
Thanks for standing by me and adding your voice to my thoughts, and strengthening me.
Uma, agree with what you have argued out so well...
With all fingers pointing at you most of the times, I guess it's never really easy for any mom, but more so, us "working moms" -- yeah I know it's a non-acceptable phrase these days...
Shai, Thanks for your encouraging words and comments. Do send a link to your blog by email to me --couldn't find it on your profile. Would love to read what you're writing about...

Aparna said...

Come on Forever Mother,

You know better than to beat yourself up over something like this! People even if friends will be judgmental of someone different from them - like someone asking me if I don't think I'm wasting my education ?!!

In a lighter vein, my dear son can be very very clingy and he has me around at his beck and call all the time!! So does that mean I should be less available, and you more available to solve exactly the same issue? Like you said yourself, he's 3 years old - it's the age to be clingy and attached so just let him be and don't blame yourself or even try to justify his behaviour. He (just like your friends' older children) will grow out of it !! :).

Lots of love and hugs and admiration once again for the way you put your heart and soul and feelings into what you write!!

Anonymous said...

While it is good to read how a "Working Mom" reacts to certain comments and concerns, you'll be equally shocked that Moms who "work like slaves" get snubbed by working moms. Few comments like "You have all the time as your are NOT working." So the SAHMs have their talks about working moms.

There is a SILENT battle between working and non-working moms, parents who send their kids to private vs public/Gov schools systems.

During our parents generation women used to be sympathetic towards each other but these days there is a strange awkward feeling and divide between different groups.

Welcome to more EDUCATED and Less literate era. Sad but very true.

Anonymous said...

Hey does your kid pull up his t-shirts to reveal his tummy, that is interesting, my daughter does that a lot too ...she is 3 1/2 all over the world are the same ...working or non-working mum !! don't worry about what people say just take care that your kid is happy !!