Welcome to my digital writing journal, or mydigitalclutter. What started as a family blog almost two years ago has morphed into my writing therapy. This is where I do a lot of free writing, mostly about my life with my family and the things that catch my interest. While nowhere even close to perfect, in each post I like to see how my writing is changing with time and practice. Most posts are left unedited for this reason, so if you don't mind, take the journey with me.

Monday, April 20, 2009

The Same Team

I can't turn my head off at night when I go to bed. Thoughts, images, conversations, to-do lists, run rampant through my mind. Sometimes I have stellar thoughts that make it into my Moleskine, but other times they just keep my awake and annoy the heck out of me. Last night was one of those times that kept me tossing and turning for a quite some time, and then continued through the morning today; what is the whole "Stay at Home" and "Work Outside the Home" debate and why is it even pertinent????

A couple of months ago, I had a conversation with my visiting teachers. One is a stay at home mom that teaches piano out of her home and the other has all her children grown and works full-time. Both have had experiences, as I have had, on both sides of the fence of this issue and debate. We were talking about the The Family, a Proclamation to the World, and how rearing children is primarily a women's responsibility, when it hit me; Why do women seem to attack each other in regards to their choice/decision to work or stay home? We are all daughters of the same God, with the same responsibilities for these small spirits entrusted to us, so why aren't we working together to make it?

Speaking only from my own experiences, I can't say why all mothers choose or have to work outside their homes. I don't know what everyone's personal situation is, but I do know why I have done so. To stay sane.

I know that my decision to work was not an easy one. It was met on my knees, along with my husband supporting me in anyway he could. I still feel guilty every single day, that I'm not there for some of the things my kids are doing on a daily basis. I don't always get to attend class field trips or be the room mother that everyone loves. I don't get to volunteer in my son's classroom and read to the children, or pop in my daughters class to see if I can help out in anyway. I assuage my guilt by buying the boxes of Kleenex and markers that are the wish list every fall. It doesn't completely eradicate the guilt of presence, but it is something I'm able to do.

I don't kid myself that my kids would have a terrible time with me as a "work at home" mom. In fact I did it for a while, and my poor husband bore the brunt of it. I was physically and emotionally incapable of doing what my family needed from me. It was one of the worst depressions that I have ever been in. I couldn't see past being Abbie's mom, and into anything beyond. There were some external factors that I won't get into right now, but when Daniel suggested me going back to work, I was ready by then.

Years later now, and I am still trying to cope with this decision. Is there a perfect situation for me? I suppose if I could say that I have one right now, it would be it. I'm at work while my children are at school and home with them when they are done. Not everyone is so blessed to have that flexibility or ability. Are there days that I long to be at home? Yes. Are there days that I look at my surroundings and can't wait to get to work? Yes. There is no magic middle ground. I wish that there was a strip of grass for those of us that want to straddle the fence, so we can have one foot on each side of the debate. I would love to be at home...and perhaps someday I do all my work at home, but for now, that isn't an option.

So why does it turn into a bloody brawl whenever this topic is brought up in Relief Society and Sunday school? Why is is so black and white? The prophets have never said that sanity is not a reason for working outside the home. I'm sure the Lord prefers sane mothers that can give their children a whole lot more quality than ones that can't function. Why can't those of use that have experienced the joy of both, support all those around us? After all, isn't it a decision between the Lord, the mother, and her family. We aren't included in that equation! All we can do is show love and support and not judge! It's okay for a women with an advanced degree to stay at home and love her children and nurture them there. It's okay for someone who needs to provide for their family to work. Can't we all just get along!?!?

6 Lovely Scribbles to Me:

jt_mama said...

Teri.
We should live closer.
You are my long-lost LDS sister.
I have shed so many tears over this issue, and have lived totally exhausted.
I do not know what the perfect anser is, except that I think this answer is differnt things at different times.
I think that working at home while being a mom and wife is an impossible situation for me. I work outside the home, but pick my sons up as early (most of the time) as I can. I work early, work late, stress less stress more.
*sigh*
What I have decided is that there are gener speciafic roles that the make and female tend to be better at (for most).
Other than that, I am still trying to figure it out, and my husband is still trying to figure me out.

Teri said...

Melissa, I have missed you!

I think that no matter what stage you are in life, whatever your belief system is, and whatever you do, there is guilt. I agree with you that the answer is different given different times in our lives. I struggle at times in being "different" than most I know. I have this intrinsic need to be productive and intellectually stimulated by problem solving that just isn't fulfilled by doing diaper duty and cleaning toilets. That being said, I would give anything to have the best of both worlds and none of the down sides.

Oh well. It is the endless struggle of woman. :)

Tonee + Brennan said...

Hey Ter! I loved this entry. We had a sunday school lesson a few weeks ago and the teacher was talking about this and I thought being highly controversial and even maybe offensive to women in the audience that work. I told Brennan later than I was surprised that she spoke so boldly on the issue. I totally support you. I am kind of on the other end of the spectrum (at least for the moment), where I love being home and not having to be too intellectual about things and just look at and love my baby all day. But I think you have a good point here . . .maybe you should teach a darn class and give another perspective! Love, Tonee

Terresa said...

I think part-time work outside the home is the ticket for me. but it's different for everyone. I did it for 5 yrs when my kids were babies, but once our 4th baby was born, I was tired and ready for something else. So I quit.

Also, my husband got a great job w/higher pay which made me working outside the home a joke (unless I'm a best selling author)

Honestly, I'm way too busy w/little kids for me to work outside the home right now. But if it kept me sane, I'd do it in a heart beat.

Whatever the choice, it's a personal decision.

Very personal.

Much like the choice each couple makes between them & the Lord on how many kids to have. There's no black & white answer sometimes.

And, it's OK to tell other women in your ward, etc., that "It's a personal choice." and end the discussion there.

Be strong with what works for you, and let other people know it, too. Hugs & good luck!

Mrs. B. Roth said...

Hey, just found your blog. Wanted to add my thoughts.

I have to say, just getting back to sanity after a mini-SAHM-break-down, I get what your saying about working for the good of your own sanity.

Part of me wants to agree with you, respect a mother's choice to work or stay home ...

I still disagree though. I think mom (or dad) home with kids is best for the family. I need to do things that will keep me sane (like 5K training and blogging), but I need to be here at home at least until my babies are first graders. It's just five or six little years ... they change so fast. I admit, it is partly selfish, but I'm just not willing to give away this unique time with new little people discovering the world.

Lose my mind a bit, if I must, but no one can love a baby like mommy.

I'm utterly convinced that kids turn out just perfectly fine either way - it's hard to REALLY mess them up, but I want to be the one in their memories, in their hearts. When I'm 50 or 60 or 100, I want to have these memories of hard days and simple life. And no guilt that maybe if I'd just been there more.

And that's how I choose to live my life.

Bonnie said...

I just found your blog. I love it. You write so well and your posts are very entertaining.

This topic is almost impossible not to comment on, isn't it?
I have to say I understand the going insane part. I struggled so much after my first born. But I guess what let's me decide if to work or not is that I don't feel guilty or bad for staying home but I do when I even think about not being home with my kids. It's not something I even think about anymore but when I did that's how I felt. That was how I made my decision.

I was raised by a single mom who worked two jobs, at least. I am just fine and totally happy. I knew she loved me and that she tried really hard. So there isn't just one way to raise children. People have got to get with it.

Keep up the great writing.

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