I had a networking function I had to attend after work today. These things are always hit or miss. They can be either super boring or actually fun. What makes if fun for me is when there’s good food and interesting conversation. Tonight I lucked out with both.
As I was sampling the lamb chops, one of the many scrumptious hor d’oeuvres that were passed around, I happened to overhear a conversation between two women (Woman #1 runs a PR company, and Woman #2 is a journalist). The comment that peaked my interest was: “Being a mom is not for everyone.” And in response, Woman #2 said: “I totally agree.” Once I heard this, there was no way that I could not join the conversation. I was actually talking to them earlier but stepped away briefly to talk to someone else, so I didn’t feel awkward when I re-inserted myself into their conversation.
I immediately said: “Why do you say that?” Woman #1, who is around 40 years old, proceeded to tell me the story of helping raise her 13 year old sister and how she is a handful. She said that because she is around her a majority of the time, she sees how hard it is to actually raise children and is glad when she gets to send her back home to her mom. She’s glad that she doesn’t have any children of her own, has no desire to have any children, and doesn’t think she will ever regret not having any. Woman #2 is in her late 40s, married, with a 9 year old son. Her husband is a stay-at-home dad. She proceeded to tell me that although she loves her son, she doesn’t enjoy the daily duties of being a mom and she enjoys going to work much more. She said that her husband handles the weekly duties of raising their son, and she gets “weekend time”. I thought this was such an odd thing to say. Why become a mom if you don’t want to partake in mommy duties? Was it that she really didn’t enjoy being a mom, or did she just enjoy work much more than being a mom? I had to delve deeper…
As we continued our conversation I asked her how did she and her husband decide that he was going to take on the main parenting role and be a stay-at-home dad. She told me that it wasn’t something that was planned — it kind of just happened. When she got pregnant she actually thought she wanted to be a stay-at-home mom, and when it was time for her to go out on maternity leave, she actually gave notice to her job that she wouldn’t be returning. It just so happened that her husband had gotten laid off from work shortly after she gave notice, so they were both going to be stay-at-home parents until her husband found another job. However, she quickly realized after the baby was born that full-time mommy duty wasn’t for her. She actually missed working and was sad that she wasn’t working. She enjoyed her job and she missed the daily interaction with adults. For 8 months, she stayed at home all the while itching to go back to work. So she was very happy when her former employer called her out of the blue and asked her if she wanted her old job back — and she had no hesitation in saying yes. The irony of the situation is that her husband really enjoys being a stay-at-home dad and has absolutely no desire to look for a job outside of the home, while she enjoys “being a mom on the weekends”.
I looked at these two women, with two completely different experiences, and was conflicted. It’s hard for me to think of a woman not wanting to be a mom. My desire to become a mom is so innate, it just feels natural. I don’t question it and think I would enjoy every aspect of being a mom. Don’t get me wrong, I KNOW it’s going to be hard and it’s not always “glamorous”. But there isn’t one aspect of being a mom that I shy away from (ok, maybe the thought of getting up early on Saturday morning to actually cook breakfast for someone else because now I can sleep late or wait until lunch to eat — lol). I’ve actually always pictured being a stay-at-home mom and had to come to terms with the fact that in this situation I won’t be able to do that. So it was hard for me to understand why a woman would only want to be a “part-time” mom, or not a mom at all.
But after giving it some thought I could understand where these women were coming from. Oftentimes parenthood is romanticized and no one really gets an idea of what it’s like to be a parent until they actually become one. Both of these women have had some experience, so they know what they like from what they don’t like. Their desire to be a mom does not outweigh their desire to do other things in their life. And I firmly believe to be a great parent, you actually need the desire to parent. Children need parents who are present (both mentally and physically), and who enjoy being around them. Being a mom is a job, and everyone is not suited for every job. And it’s a job that once you have it, you can’t just quit it. As my own journey has taught me, things aren’t always black and white and everyone has to create the right situations for themselves.