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Working Mom vs. Stay-At-Home Mom: We’re All Doing The Best We Can

I dislike when anyone holds an extreme view, as in politics. And it’s the same way for parenting. People who believe their particular set of parenting standards are the only way and the best way cause an incredible amount of unnecessary friction among other moms and dads.

One argument that gets deep under my skin is the working mom vs. stay-at-home mom. The fact that the battle still wages on blows my mind. I don’t care what studies say, whether daycare is better for kids or being home gives them more love and attention—I would rather know that children are being raised in the best possible situation.

The Grass is Greener

When I was a young, freshly divorced mom, daycare was the one and only solution. My entire family lives out-of-state, so that wasn’t an option. Therefore, I did my due diligence and researched my heart out to find loving, nurturing home daycares. I struck gold every time but once (and that particular situation still makes me uneasy).

When I was doing the home-to-daycare-to-work shuffle every morning, I would catch my insides judging the outsides of others. I’d sit at a stoplight in my little car as a monster SUV chugged next to me. Mom looked wealthy. She was calmly running errands as I was gunning it to get to work on time. I’d see Mom in the pediatrician’s office, making daytime playdates with other kids’ moms and I would cringe with jealousy.

I wanted to be home with my boys, building Legos and creating kingdoms out of Play-Doh.

I fought that battle for years—wanting someone else’s lifestyle.

Reframing the Question

I’m not sure why I turned the corner, but I finally learned that when you line-item your life against another person’s life, you discover that you don’t have it better and they don’t have it worse.

We all have challenges, joys, lucky breaks and dark days. For me, the question moved from “stay-at-home vs. working mom” to, “How do you use the time you have with your kids?” Are we forever frazzled and constantly checking our phones? Taking so many Instagram pictures of our children we miss the most mundane and powerfully important average moments that never return?

Whatever your situation, make it a good one. Vow to be present. Promise yourself you will stop comparing your life with others. Work very hard to see the gifts that surrounded you and make it a practice to be thankful for it all.

And next time you see the “other” Mom at a stoplight, let go of mom envy and give her a big smile and a thumbs up. I’m sure she could use it.

Renee Brown lives in Minneapolis with her two tall sons—Sam, 20, and Zachary, 18—and three obstinate felines. She is a senior account executive working in advertising and an avid reader, wine drinker, creative writer, and yoga enthusiast.

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