After a great day at work, I was on a very crowded bus on the way to pick up my daughter from my parents’ house (they help us out by taking care of her during the day). As I sat in the only available seat, the woman next to me began chatting and asked if I was coming back from work. Naturally, my answer was “yes ma’am.” She followed up by asking if I had a long way back home (which I did). Then, she asked if I had any children. Immediately my face lit up, and I said, “Yes, I have an 8-month little one waiting for me.” And then I received the face.
Other working moms might be familiar with the face. It’s a mix of shock and awe, like how did I dare work instead of being home with my kid and cleaning my house. And, yes, she really asked about the cleaning your house part. As I’d learned from our conversation, she’d been a stay-at-home mom herself and had two grown kids. And while I respected her decision to stay home and raise a family, she was clearly shocked that I hadn’t taken the same path that she had chosen.
In my eyes, there’s no right or wrong way to raise a family. Every family’s situation is different, so every family needs to function differently. For example, it’s not always easy to rely on a single income to pay the bills, so sometimes both parents need to work to make ends meet. Sometimes, both parents really like their work, so can’t imagine giving it up. And some parents can’t imagine leaving their child every morning. The thing is, there’s nothing wrong with any of these choices! And my conversation on the bus that day put this into stark reality for me.
The face made me realize that I was truly lucky. My husband is an amazing guy – he told me it was OK if I decided to stay home after my maternity leave. But he reminded me that even though being a parent is the greatest job I’ll ever have, a paying job in a career I enjoyed was going to make me happy – and that happiness was going to be transferred to my family. And he supported me in either decision. I know not every family has the same choice I did, so I’m so grateful that I could decide what made the most sense for me. And explaining this all to that lady on the bus really reminded me that I love my family, just like I love my job, and I’m so lucky that I get to have both.
Looking back, the bus situation was a reminder to me that we shouldn’t be judgmental. I find that as women and mothers, we can be so quick to judge someone who doesn’t tick the boxes we determine as the benchmark for “the perfect mom.” In reality, there’s no such a thing as perfect! We’re all doing our best. What matters the most to me is that all moms are allowed to be happy and do the things that make them happy, without the judgment of others getting in their way. So if you are a proud working mama, or a proud stay-at-home mama, have fun and enjoy it! You deserve all the happiness that comes from your choice and so does your family.