Caught in the Middle

Katlyn Stechschulte head shot

The National Bureau of Labor Statistics reports that in 2014 “the labor force participation rate of mothers with infants under a year old was 57.1 percent” and that “there was little difference in the participation rates of married mothers and those with other marital statuses.” This means that in 2014 slightly more than half of all mothers of infants participated in the labor force, and slightly less than half stayed at home.

My husband and I are expecting our first child in March and I have spent the last six months trying to decide if I will join the slightly more than half or slightly less than half.

The past few years I have been pursuing my master’s degree and working full-time in healthcare marketing. I love the work I do, I love my office, and when I try to imagine myself not doing what I am—I can’t.

Over the past months I have watched my belly grow, felt my baby move inside of me, and made preparations to welcome this little boy to the world, and when I try to imagine handing him over to someone else for the majority of every week—I can’t.

Prior to moving to Dayton, some of my friends at the previous organization I worked for decided to work outside of the home after having children. They all hold professional positions and I have heard all of them make jabs at stay-at-home moms. It was never the sole topic of a conversation, but if it came up, a snarky remark was laced in. These statements were typically all of the same nature:

  • -I would be so bored if I stayed at home all day. I need to be challenged and intellectually stimulated.
  • -Well you know, she is just a stay-at-home mom so she has plenty of free-time.
  • -I want to be a contributing and productive member of society and I want to teach my child to become one too.

I was raised by a stay-at-home mom and both of my grandmothers were stay-at-home moms. All three are intelligent, educated, and had careers before deciding to stay at home. They also recognized being a stay-at-home mom as a privilege and appreciated the opportunity. Through the women in my family I have heard the opposing mom contingent’s comments as well:

  • -You can always get another job, but you only get one chance to spend time with your children.
  • -I couldn’t put my children in daycare for ten hours and not know what kind of care they are receiving.
  • -How could you miss seeing your child’s first steps? How could you not be the one to take care of them when they’re not feeling well?

Between the comments of my female colleagues and the comments of my female family members I have found myself caught in the middle of the Mommy Wars, without even having a child yet. As a woman in the workforce I have felt like I have never been able to say that I am considering being a stay-at-home mom. As a product of 3+ generations of stay-at-home moms, I have felt like I’ve never been able to say I’m considering staying in the workforce. Since I have yet to have a child and make my choice, up until this point I have quietly listened to each side air their laundry lists of convictions and grievances and all the while—intentional or not—make disrespectful and accusatory comments about women who chose differently than they did.

The misconception about the Mommy Wars is that it is a battle between two opposing sides. The reality of the Mommy Wars is that both sides are seeking the same thing: reassurance that they made the right decision.

As a working professional and future mom, I am grateful to have a choice of stay-at-home mom vs. work-out-of-the-home mom, but I have also been overwhelmed by this choice. As I carefully weigh pros and cons I know there are three truths at the core of this issue:

  1. The decision a parent makes when their child is six weeks old should not dictate the remainder of the parent’s professional or personal life.
  2. There are no sides when it comes to parenting. All parents want the same thing: what is best for their family and their children.
  3. Everyone should have the freedom to choose their own professional and personal paths, without societal or familial pressures influencing their decisions, or feeling like they have to explain their choices.

While it is possible that the Mommy Wars may never see an end, we all can take a part in changing what it will look like for generations to come. We can break the pattern of making condescending remarks—direct and indirect—about those whose day-to-day looks different than ours. We can shift from outwardly defending our personal decisions and patronizing others’,  to looking inward and doing what is right for our own family, and leaving other families to do what is right for them.

 About Katlyn Stechschulte:

Born and raised a Buckeye,I graduated with a degree in marketing from the Ohio State University Fisher College of Business in 2011. During my time at OSU I met my husband and we got a black Labrador Retriever named Gunner. Since graduating, my husband,Gunner, and I have made six moves across four states, most recently returning to Ohio and settling in Dayton. Across the miles I have worked in marketing at a graphic communications firm, as a full-time cake decorator in a bakery, and I have spent the past few years working in healthcare marketing and pursuing a master’s degree in writing. We are looking forward to holding the same address for an extended period of time, especially since we bought a house and are expecting our first child in March 2016. I have a love for books, dogs, donuts, running, going places I have never been, and attempting to find balance in everyday life.

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