Dear Moms, Here’s Why I Don’t Defend My Choices


Dear MomsDear Moms,

Recently, I read two blog posts shared by the Huffington Post: (1) “Dear Daughter, Here’s Why I Work” and (2) a responsive piece, “Dear Daughter, Here’s Why I Don’t Work.” The posts were exactly what you would expect based on the titles. And the comments. Oh, the comments. Let’s just say that if the authors sought to create a divide between working moms and stay-at-home moms, then they certainly succeeded.

I am the mother of two beautiful children. I am also a lawyer. I spend three weekdays in the office, and two weekdays at home with my kids. So I get it. All of it. I understand the pressures, the joys, the worries, the guilt, and the criticism that come along with both roles. So, please, think of me as Switzerland while I dole out some advice that applies equally to both camps.


“What?” you say. “Why shouldn’t I defend myself? I just want to be understood.”

If only it were that simple! For those who are fortunate enough to have a choice in the matter, there is a clear dichotomy between the decision to work and the decision to stay at home. Either a mom believes it is important to work outside of the home or she believes it is important not to work outside of the home. There really is no middle ground. That makes it impossible to defend one choice without criticizing the other.

Seriously, try it. Try thinking of one justification for working or for staying at home that does not cast even a little bit of shade on moms who make the other choice . . . .

Don’t worry. I couldn’t either.

If we can’t explain ourselves without offending a huge sect of the mom population—and, undoubtedly, many of our own friends, family, and acquaintances—why do we do it? Well, I can’t speak for anyone else, but every attempt I’ve ever made to defend my choice has been rooted in insecurity.

Until recently, I worked full time. I started in 2010 and, after my son’s birth in 2012, I continued full speed ahead. For a while, it worked very well. I was happy at home and at work, and (with the help of a very supportive husband and workplace) I was able to devote quality time to both. When well-meaning friends and family members would call me Superwoman or ask how I could stand to be away from my child for so many hours, I would bristle but generally had no trouble brushing it off.

Something shifted when I became pregnant with my daughter. Out of nowhere, I became a vocal defender of working moms and (I’m ashamed to admit) a critic of those who stayed home. I was not self-aware enough at the time to realize it, but I even began to push away some of my dearest friends. I felt exasperated at the slightest hint that they did not “understand” my situation. Of course, I can’t make a 6:00 p.m. reservation. Do you think I don’t want to see my son today? As the months passed, and my daughter’s due date grew nearer, things only got worse. Comments that once seemed harmless suddenly felt like direct, personal attacks.

I decided to channel my resentment into something productive by writing a letter to my children. I called it—you guessed it!—”Why I Work.”

I never made it past the lead-in. Reading over my self-proclaimed “not defensive” words and trying to articulate the reasons for my decision to work full time, it finally hit me. I would not feel compelled to defend my decision if I had confidence that it was the right decision for me. I didn’t. So I talked the situation over with my husband, mustered all of my courage, and did something about it.

My new arrangement has been an adjustment in many respects, but I can say with 100 percent confidence that it is right for me and for my family. And that is all that I ever plan to say about it.

Now, whenever I start to doubt one of my parenting decisions, I recite a motto that I learned from Amy Poehler’s brilliant book, Yes Please. According to Ms. Poehler, this motto is one that “all women should constantly repeat over and over again.”

Good for her! Not for me.”

I urge all of you to try it. If you can say those words and really believe them, then you’re confident in your decision, and there’s no reason for you to explain yourself to anyone. If the words are hard to stomach, for whatever reason, then it may be time to consider a change.

Either way, GOOD FOR YOU!


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