Both Sides Now

both sides now

Last month I read a post from fellow Yeah Write blogger Outlaw Mama called Overheard in the Carpool Line. Her post was about the things moms say to each other about other moms.  I commented because the stuff she talked about, happened to me. I was the mom they were talking about.

I’m a working mom. I was back at my desk 2 weeks after I got home from the hospital. Even though I was married, I needed to work to help us pay our bills. But since I worked from home, I also got to do stay-at-home mom (SAHM) stuff like to go to playdates and join in on the weekly Mommy-and-Me classes. I straddled the line every week with my roles as a mom.

I never heard anyone say anything directly to my face but I suspect I was a topic of discussion as I frequently had conversations like this:

SAHM: My daughter takes karate lessons on Tuesday and Gymboree every Thursday. Where does Jake go?

ME: He goes to daycare on those days.


ME: I have work to do and its easier when he’s not there.

SAHM: Are you working on something in your house like adding a new playroom?

ME: No, um, I have to do some work for a client. (which I said like an unsure teenager with my voice going up at the end like every sentence is a question)


And these conversations with working moms:

Working Mom: When can you get this over to me?

ME: I can get to it during naptime. If you need something else, I can throw in a couple of Blue’s Clues episode and get myself an extra hour.

Working Mom: OH

There was that word again – OH. Just a one syllable sound would come out of their mouths.

I never said anything either but I was thinking, “Just say what you really want to say. You SAHM, I know you want to ask me how I can put my kid in daycare and miss all those first moments. And you, Working Mom, I’m sure you want me to explain to you why I can’t meet my deadline so I can go to a playdate.”

The first three years of Jake’s life, I was a mom living in both worlds. I felt lonely and kept to myself at the playdates. I felt those playdates were important for Jake so he could be with other kids and get some fresh air instead of sitting in front of the TV waiting for mommy to finish her next project.

The Working Moms didn’t get me either. They took their kids into daycare everyday and they wanted uninterrupted work time with me. They didn’t want to hear me telling Jake put that down or don’t eat that. Their kids were in daycare, why did I have to bring my son to our meetings?

By the time I got my divorce, the SAHM’s stopped calling and inviting me over. Maybe I took one too many work-related phone calls when I was at their house. Or maybe they got busy with their music classes and teaching their kids Mandarin. I don’t really know what happened. I just know that until Jake hit kindergarten, I felt like an outsider.

Maybe it’s more like that Woody Allen quote from Annie Hall:  … it’s usually attributed to Groucho Marx and it goes “I would never want to belong to any club that would have someone like me for a member.”


Photo credit: Sky Symphony

39 thoughts on “Both Sides Now

    • I never had the money or the time to do all that stuff with my son. Kinda makes me wonder if all those kids whose moms took them to all these classes, are they really doing better in school than my son who spent our free time in the park?

  1. Clowns to the left of me, jokers to the right. Here I am stuck in the middle with you.

    Anyway, why did it change in kindergarten?
    Also, I think my wife would really appreciate this post. I can also hear you and recognize that whatever you do, some people just dont get it if it is not what they do or think is best.

    • That song reminds me of the time I worked in the corporate world 🙂

      It seems like things changed when the kids went to kindergarten because then everyone’s kids where gone for the day. So unless a mom homeschooled her kids, it seemed that the things leveled out as the conversation of staying vs going to daycare didn’t come up anymore.

      And I’d be curious what your wife thinks. Let me know what she says if she gets a chance to read this post.

  2. I can relate to the feeling of not fitting in. I worked in an office, too and felt judged by the SAHMs in our neighborhood. Of course, I don’t know how much of it was me feeling guilty because I wasn’t home with my kids, and how much of it came from not being included in play dates (why couldn’t they ever do this on weekends?!) Now, I work at home most days, but both kids are in school. At least they aren’t coming home to an empty house 🙂

    • Its such an interesting convsrsation with moms – the whole staying at home vs working. Here I was doing both and I was still judged by everyone. I think sometimes we all feel guilty over our choices but in the end, we all have to do what works for our families.

      I work from home too and I do like the flexible hours so I can pick him up right after school on some days where other days, my son goes to afterschool care. I was one of those latchkey kids so it does feel good to be home when my son comes home from school.

  3. I’m in that middle space, and I hear you. It’s hard on either side, and perhaps even especially so when straddling both worlds — with both pulls and pushes.

    However, I also think it’s a two-way street. I know that once I started getting really busy and rushed because of projects to do, *I* stopped making as much of an effort and playdates all but ground to a halt. And I know that I don’t give off a “I want to chat!” vibe anymore. Basically, what I mean is, I think we all go through different phases…only one of which is our work-life. Nobody has it easy – and everyone has baggage and personality traits and money troubles and arguments with partners and kids with issues…we just all shift the pieces around once in a while.

    • I totally agree! I tried for awhile to make plans with the SAHM after my divorce but becauss I had to work more (by then I was the sole income provider for my house), my time became limited. And I think things changed. Of course, there’s no telling what was happening in these moms worlds but it did seem strange to me that they didn’t keep in touch after my divorce.

      I still feel the push-pull of both directions. I think as a single mom, I’ll always be dealing with some these emotions. Or at least until my son graduates high school 🙂

      • Sorry! It’ll continue far after that. Learn to love the dichotomy.

        Since piling on projects, I’ve been intensely aware of my shortcomings in keeping in touch. And then I realize that few people are ringing (texting? emailing?) me up either. I figure we’re even. The people I WANT to keep in touch with hear from me once every month or so…and we only manage to make plans a few times a year. OR on the fly.

        I think our personal bubbles are so encompassing that it’s hard to see through the opaqueness.

        Loved this post for the honesty and ability to make me remember all that. Thank you.

      • Some of my closest friends are like that. We call it ‘mean well’ friends. We never fight or have problems but we don’t get together enough … we mean well 🙂

      • Darn it. I think it’s actually “opacity.” (Checking*) Oh no, you can use either. Although “opacity” rolls off the tongue better.

        * I think I’m starting to see why I don’t have more time. SQUIRREL!

  4. Oh my goodness, you so hit the nail on the head! I didn’t have the option of staying home with my son when he was younger, I had to take him to daycare. I always felt like a failure when talking to other moms… but it was right for us at the time; however, I hated that feeling of not fitting in! I wanted to be “that mom” (whatever that means!), but couldn’t. All I could be was me!

    And right now, I’m just so grateful that we only have another couple years of school left and then I won’t have that feeling of inadequacy!

  5. The only thing positive I can add is that I’m probably a bit older. I remember this kind of chatter when I was in my 30s betwixt the mums. But the older I get and the more of life I see and how all of us have our struggles. Honestly, I think we all get easier on each other. Or maybe I’m not hanging out with them anymore. Good luck. I know you are doing an awesome job. Hang in there on those tough days.

    • I do think it dies off the older we get because our kids get older. There’s this weird pressure when your kids are younger like we’re all going to be Supermom. I think it bothered these women that I lived in both worlds. Like I was suppose to pick a side and stay there.

      Thanks for the support and words of advice 🙂

  6. I’ve been WOHM, SAHM, WAHM & unemployed mom and honestly I’ve always felt a bit out of place in each of those roles at different times. If ppl haven’t walked a mile in your shoes they just don’t GET you. It’s not their fault they just have no experience or point of reference. A SAHM friend asked e the other day “now that your kids are in school all day what do you do ALL day? I mean I know you work and all but what else do you do? WTH? Umm I do everything you do (clean house, fold laundry, cook, clean, grocery shop & I hold down a full time job!”

    • So you really do get this! Thats funny that the SAHM asked you that. Like we’re all just watching tv and hanging out all day. I get this one from working moms – I bet you do laundry, clean the kitchen and make a hot dinner everynight. Wouldn’t that be nice. I’m working just like you are during the day and I’m lucky if I can remember to throw in a load of laundry.

  7. My heart aches for the loneliness and isolation so much of us feel. I’m sure it doesn’t have to be like that. I’ve done a mix of it all too and I always felt uneasy. it’s my nature.

  8. This is something I never thought of before. Now that I am of the age where I’m starting to think about children, I usually think in terms of dichotomy – either I’ll work, or I won’t (and I definitely will, for economic reasons). You’ve opened up a whole new perspective to me.
    Why can’t we all stop judging each other and just support each other in the world’s most difficult job? *sigh*

    • Its certainly an option and it creates more flexibilty so you can be both kinds of moms. But its so hard to balance both worlds!
      But I really love my work and I hope that I’m showing my son that women can have their own biz and be successful. Its showing him that not all moms have to stay at home or work full time while he’s in daycare. I like that this shows him that we all have choices.m

  9. Yep. WAHM here about to explode this week from work, broken dryer, emergency vet visits, two school days off, IEP meetings, and work? Did I mention work? And taekwondo? And eye appointments and flu shots and OMG I’m the flexible one so food ought to be served to people at some time too, huh? I hear you. I see you. I am you.

    • Yep, that’s about right over here too except for the broken dryer and we have baseball instead of the karate. It brings me a weird comfort knowing that there are others out there about to lose their shiz like me 🙂

  10. Pingback: What’s your problem? | Bizigal's Blog

  11. Why are women so hard on each other? Men do not go around making snide remarks about other men…they could care less. Being judged by your peers really should have a cut off age. The care line in the hub of gossip. It’s like the headquarters for judgement & rumors. I actually began to HATE picking my kids up.

    • Its it interesting how men don’t seem to care as much as what others think of them. I think the whole moms working vs staying at home makes women uncomfortable so we do what we do best to eliminate the unconfortable, we talk about each other. Thats why I really loved that whole conversation with the CEO from Facebook and her book called Lean In.

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