Working Mom or Stay-at-Home Mom: It’s Personal

Ashley Venable, a labor and delivery nurse at Saint Francis Hospital and mother of two boys, Keegan, 9, and Colton, 4, recently posted author Jennifer Barbin’s “13 Things You Should Never Say to a Working Mom” on her Facebook page. The list includes such comments as: “I saw your kid on the class trip today. She was crying – I think she missed you,” and “I don’t know how you do it. I’d feel too guilty.”

In addition to Barbin’s “13 Things,” Ashley posted her own sentiments: “Each mother does what she has to for her family. I love my job and my kids. So if you are lucky enough to be at home with your babies—that’s amazing; or if you have to work, good for you. My boys know I love them and that’s all that matters.”

I was curious what prompted Ashley’s impassioned post and gave her a call.

“I was raised with both my parents working full time. It was ingrained in me that I would go to college, and earn a degree and have a career,” said Ashley, whose husband Shawn Venable works as a full-time track coach at Oral Roberts University (ORU). “My mom is awesome,” said Ashley about Denise Geuder, vice president of patient care services/chief nursing officer at Cancer Treatment Centers of America. “She made it a priority to get her work done, so she could be with my sister and me. She showed how it is manageable to have a career and be a great mom. I think that even if financially I could stay home, I would want to work part-time to keep my skills up and have adult interaction. But I would never impose my beliefs on others.”

Ashley says that some people who post on Facebook aren’t so open-minded. “I do have friends who think, ‘The way I do things is the right way,’” she said. “I’ve seen a couple of Facebook posts from working moms saying things like, ‘You don’t have a real job’ to moms who stay at home. I’ve also seen people get on to moms who work saying they don’t spend enough time with their kids.” Additionally, she said someone at her son’s school once said to her, “Keegan talks about how you work all the time. I think he misses you being home.”

Ashley’s story took me back to my child-rearing years. My friends and I had the same questions about whether it would be best for our families if we worked or stayed home. We all ended up going down different paths: some stayed home, some went back to college and then worked, some worked part-time and some had high-powered careers. The two things we all had in common was that we were crazy about our kids, and we were committed to being the best parents we could be.

Now that our children are grown, I can tell you, in my experience, it doesn’t matter.

I wasn’t surprised to see my personal experience backed by the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP). The AAP book Caring For Your Baby and Child: Birth to Age 5 states “…there is no scientific evidence that says children are harmed when their mothers work…A child who is emotionally well-adjusted, well-loved and well cared for will thrive regardless of whether the mother works outside the home.”

So, as we start the New Year, lose the guilt. Do what you need to do for yourself and your family. If you choose to stay home, stop feeling guilty for abandoning your career. Embrace the opportunity you have been given to be home and enjoy your kids. If you choose to work, or if you must work, stop feeling as though you are abandoning your children. You aren’t. Embrace the fact that you are in the working world and enjoy your kids.

Now, put all that guilt energy into what really matters: being a good parent.

To start 2014, here are my top 14 characteristics of good parents — working, or not:

  1. Listen more than you talk
  2. Be firm
  3. Set boundaries
  4. Eat together
  5. Live your values
  6. Play and laugh a lot
  7. Make your kids do chores
  8. Don’t yell
  9. Don’t do for them what they can do for themselves
  10. Don’t rescue: let them experience consequences
  11. Tell them when they are doing things right, not just when they are messing up
  12. Read to them
  13. Have a comforting bedtime routine (even if you think they are too old for it!)
  14. Say “I love you!” a lot

And, finally, as Ashley concluded on her Facebook post, “I hope all the moms out there will be supportive of each other, regardless of occupation.”

Categories: Parenting