random real simple rant on a Saturday morning . . .

November 18, 2017
I have subscribed to Real Simple mag for years.  I like the recipes, looking at the pretty interiors (though I am . . . allergic to doing any actual home decor of my own . . .), and even sometimes the memoir-type pieces.
It’s a peaceful mindless read, something to flip through while sipping coffee and watching your kids do puzzles on the floor.
But in the latest issue, there’s a piece in the back that is supposed to be humor.  But somehow . . . it didn’t feel funny; at least not to me.  The author, Raquel D’Apice, is a comedian with a young child, and she published a parenting/humor book last year.  There is so much to laugh at when it comes to raising kids — I get that.  But I felt oddly accosted by her jokes in the RS piece, entitled “I’m Letting This Magic 8 Ball Make All My Decisions”.  
I absolutely get that it’s tongue-in-cheek, silly, etc.  But I also feel like it needlessly reinforces the narratives that — in my opinion — have no place in today’s society.
Narratives like:
– It is simply the right thing to do to leave your career to be home with your babies.  Especially if you are female. 
– You should feel very very guilty about this.  Especially if you are female.
I am NOT NOT NOT knocking stay-at-home mothers, and I know many of you who read this blog fit this profile!  Staying home with kids IS hard work, and there are many great reasons to stay home.  To me, the most valid is that you want to, because you don’t want to miss out on the baby/toddler/young kid years, and you know you won’t get them back.  This I can get absolutely on board with.  And I have had those pangs myself.  But they are wistfulness pangs, not guilt pangs.  There is a huge difference.
Or, perhaps it just logistically doesn’t make sense to stay in the work force financially, or you were sick of your prior career anyway and welcome a fresh start in a few years.  Or maybe your baby is medically complex or has special needs that you aren’t confident could be met in childcare.   Stay home for those reasons, and I’m sure there are more.   
But please don’t stay home in the name of martyrdom.  Or guilt.  Or to avoid “paying a stranger”.
I NEVER leave comments like this, but could not help myself today . . .

Anyway.

Happy Saturday.  We have a family-filled weekend up ahead and I’m excited about it . . . and not the least bit guilty that my kids look forward to “Mommy Daddy” days — which are not every day, but certainly come frequently enough.

17 Comments

  • Reply Emily Garnett March 10, 2019 at 7:08 pm

    Mom guilt is real no matter what you do. I was talking with my oncologist about this last week, who also has young kids. She made a comment that she "always likes it when moms get to stay home with their kids". Which struck me as off, because she has kids close in age to my son. I’m an attorney, but was fortunate to have the option to leave the workforce to stay home with my son. I go back and forth about whether that was the "best" decision, but it worked for us at the time. However, I have tremendous guilt about not contributing financially to my family while I’m at home, and miss being able to use my brain the way I did when I was working. My doctor is amazing at what she does, and clearly she enjoys it, but also feels a lot of guilt for not being home, when she is working taking care of other women. Meanwhile, my internist is very vocal about the fact that she enjoys what she does tremendously, and needs a break from her kids. And that’s really OK and important – we aren’t robots! We need more dynamic women in the workforce, who love their jobs, look forward to their work, and find better balance being a working mother. I recommend you take a look at the Startup Pregnant podcast/website/facebook group, because there is a whole amazing conversation going on about this that I think you would really enjoy.

  • Reply Ashley March 10, 2019 at 7:08 pm

    Ugh why is stuff like that article still being published in 2017? Why haven”t we as a society gotten over the mommy guilt? I love having daycare for my child! The teachers there know all about child development! They do a different craft every day ! They feed her healthy meals and the menu changes daily! And those teachers are not strangers- my daughter looks up to them as trusted adults in her life.

    Not everyone can afford daycare and daycare is not the best decision for every child. But guilt is unhealthy, unproductive, and entirely a product of our socialization as women. I”m over articles like this Real Simple one that act like guilt should be celebrated as an integral part of motherhood.

  • Reply Solitary Diner March 10, 2019 at 7:08 pm

    I vote for making "dad guilt" a thing.

  • Reply Ali March 10, 2019 at 7:08 pm

    I can only read the middle column of the article rather than it all, and I’m not sure I get the concern. I don’t love the "stranger" language, but it seems like the broader point is the author is maybe rethinking her decision to stay home or thinking back somewhat wistfully to going back to work (or at least look at the downsides of staying home.) I think the "stranger" part is over the top, but I don’t totally see that as a slam on working moms or encouragement of mom guilt. Personally, I work part time and love it *most* of the time. As I tell people, it is both the best and worst of both worlds. πŸ™‚ I don’t feel any guilt, but realize it’s a real thing. (To flip the situation, I am often guilty of saying I enjoy working and using my brain. I think that could maybe be construed as a criticism of stay at home parents–and is not how I ever intend the comment.) All that to say, probably a poor choice of words by the author but from what I see it doesn’t appear to be coming from a bad place.

  • Reply Young March 10, 2019 at 7:08 pm

    Oh man, yes… this guilt narrative really does need to DIE. Is this only in the U.S? Do other working moms in other countries go through this much unneeded angst? In a country that is so undeniably unsupportive of parents, moms in particular, no matter what choice you make, we do not need articles like this creating more tension in our already stressed- out psyche! It doesn”t matter— no matter what you do as a mom, it is wrong- i.e., work out regularly- then you are a selfish mom for spending time in the gym rather than being at home with your kids OR don”t work out regularly— then you are a sad pitiful woman who has given up and is letting herself go. We can”t win, either way, for many choices made as a mommy.

    • Reply OrganisingQueen March 10, 2019 at 7:09 pm

      I’m only speaking for myself and my focus group of about 15 friends but I don’t find any guilt about working over here, in South Africa πŸ™‚

      I do love Sarah’s nuance of wistfulness though. We all experience those and I suppose get over it.
      I have a pet peeve in that some mothers think everything has to be all or nothing. And yet, there are so many great ‘and’ situations, like Sarah’s 80% schedule, I work from home once a week which gives me a chance to experience some bits I don’t have the rest of the week, and just flexibility to go to an occasional school event when necessary.

  • Reply Morgan March 10, 2019 at 7:08 pm

    As a full time attorney and new Mom, IÔ∏è Couldn”t agree with you more.

  • Reply Erika March 10, 2019 at 7:08 pm

    Just had to say, “Mommy Daddy days” are definitely a thing at our house and I love that our kids look forward to them!

  • Reply Brittnie March 10, 2019 at 7:08 pm

    Good for you for speaking up!

    I love your idea of wistfulness pangs versus guilt pangs! I can say I feel that too, on the flip side. Do I have some wistfulness feelings about working outside the home, sure! But do I feel guilt about "only" being a stay-at-home mom? Not at all! Do I feel guilt over leaving my career after attending & completing a top Masters Program for my field? Not at all. I love my choice. As I think everyone should, regardless of what their choice happens to be! Is my job hard in ways that women who work full-time can’t fully relate to? Yes, because they aren’t in my shoes. Is working outside the home full-time hard in ways that I can’t fully relate to? Yes, because I’m not in their shoes. I think where we get into trouble is when either side plays the martyr card and the whole "my life is so much harder because . . . " (because I see both definitely play it). Life is life and it’s just hard in general. Anyways, I probably digressed from your point, ha, just my initial thoughts.

  • Reply Sara March 10, 2019 at 7:08 pm

    I think you hit this *spot on*. Thanks for speaking up! I also agree that the idea of wistfulness pangs is a much better description than "Mom guilt", which I am so, so, so tired of hearing. Everyone should feel empowered to make the best decisions that make sense for their family, but it’s important to make an effort to not make others feel badly about their decisions due to some silly notion of what a "good Mom" looks like. I think a lot of sentiment about what consititutes a good Mom boils down to insecurities about the choices they’ve made. The reality is that nearly all of us are just trying to do the best we can. It’s not a competition and the ideal family life looks different for everyone! Own your decisions and know that no decision is 100% perfect, but if there are enough things in your control so that you feel like things are pretty good 75-80% of the time, I think you should count yourself lucky. I know I do!

  • Reply Meghan March 10, 2019 at 7:08 pm

    I wanted to thank you for using your blog and podcast to facilitate a dialog to oppose this stereotype, and for providing a positive picture of working moms. I have three kids (3 is great!) between almost 5 and 5 months. I worked full time for my oldest’s first year, and had such a hard time (though I realize now it would have been easier if I liked our childcare and had some changes in my position), so I left and I’ve been consulting for 16-20 hours/week for almost 4 years. I am feeling ready to return full time, and your voices are really helping me feel confident with my decision and also helping me visualize what life will look like then. So, thank you!

  • Reply Gillian March 10, 2019 at 7:08 pm

    YES! Thank you! I read this too and hated it. I LOVE my job and I LOVE my kids. I worked hard to achieve professional success (23 years of school and 5 years of residency and fellowship) and it is an important part of who I am. I am glad that I work a bit of a flexible schedule so I get to be home after school a couple of days per week, but I also know that my kids know they are loved and they are well cared for. I also hope I am setting a good example for them–you can be a good mother and have a fulfilling career, and you can have a marriage where the father has a fulfilling career and takes an equal role in parenting and running a household. Ok, I will get off the soapbox now.

  • Reply Ana March 10, 2019 at 7:08 pm

    Ugh, it just seems so trite and unfunny and overdone, in addition to annoying & borderline offensive. What is the point of continuing to publish stuff like this? I just re-suscribed to RS after a few hours off in protest at the lack of "reality" and "simplicity" because I just love flipping through pretty magazines, its calming for me in a unique way. I have this issue sitting on my coffee table, but I’ll skip that article.

  • Reply Arden March 10, 2019 at 7:08 pm

    A thousand times yes SHU.

    You rock so hard. Thank you for posting that comment.

    #downwithmommyguilt

  • Reply sarahkbowen March 10, 2019 at 7:08 pm

    You have articulated this very well. I also wanted to say that I am spending the year in Sweden (I am an academic, on sabbatical) and NO, IT IS NOT LIKE THIS EVERYWHERE. Almost all women work (75%, compared to about 80% of men, which is a much smaller gap than in other countries). They seem very invested in parenting but there is no assumption that being a good mother means not working. Also, because men are more involved in parenting (search "Swedish dads" – it’s a thing!), parenting norms apply to men, not just women. I think that the other thing that helps is that they have a lot of paid leave (most kids don’t start daycare until 15-16 months, and you have the right to reduce your work time to part-time – 80% I think, until child is 8 years old). So decisions to leave the workforce are not made during the crisis of infancy (i.e., everything is so overwhelming when mother is forced to return to work at 8 weeks or 12 weeks – or less – that she decides she has to quit). Anyway, mostly posting to say that it doesn’t have to be this way, and it isn’t everywhere.

  • Reply Emily March 10, 2019 at 7:08 pm

    Cannot thank you enough for this post! You absolutely hit the nail on the head with your description of "wistfulness pangs". That is exactly how I feel! I am also a working mom of almost 3, and my job is intense and demanding, but I am proud of my work and proud of my family. I currently have two daughters, and I often pray that our society will have progressed at least a little more by the time they are having children of their own. I love your podcast too – we need more voices like yours and Laura’s in the world!

  • Reply Rachel March 10, 2019 at 7:08 pm

    Your comments, and all the others here, are so interesting to me! I paged through this issue a couple weeks ago, and this piece stood out to me as bracing and surprising — edgier than usual for Real Simple — but I liked it! It made me laugh a little at myself, and to feel some comforting solidarity in the idea that, yeah, we all get too wrapped up in perfecting and analyzing our lives sometimes, and sometimes what passes for sage advice is actually pretty random. I can see how others would respond differently, but my take was that the writer was more or less on the same page as you in her (healthy) outlook!

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