Why I don’t envy stay-at-home moms

There’s a lot of contention in the mommy community. Breast-feeders vs bottle-feeders. C-sectioners vs natural-birthers. But perhaps the biggest chasm, and the one we tend to get tense about, is: working mommies vs stay-at-home mommies.

This is a letter to a stay-at-home mom, from me, a working mom. And I’m going to say something that isn’t said often enough – certainly not in public:

Dear Home Mommy,

I couldn’t do what you do.

You have my respect. I know people say, tritely, that motherhood is the hardest job of all. Blah blah. It’s always people who a) don’t have kids and are trying to make you feel better about the Jungle Oats on your sunglasses or b) were parents so long ago that their sanctimony isn’t helpful. I’m neither of those. I’m a mommy who loves her kid to distraction – and values our precious two hours together morning and evening during the week – but I still couldn’t be an 8am-5pm largely-solo mommy.


1. Motherhood can be BORING

The repetitiveness of it. Wake, change, feed, dress, change, feed, nap, change, feed, nap, change, feed, bath, sleep. Yes, there’s playing, cuddling, fun and activities in between, but yikes. It’s the same every day. Even on Sundays. At work, I do different stuff every day. Different people irritate me. And on weekends, there’s a different, kiddie-led routine. The only constant is the coffee.

2. Motherhood can be LONELY

I have a friend who spends all day with her daughter. The little girl is clever, pretty and full of personality. But she’s ONE. There are limits to the conversations you can have with a one-year-old. Especially when you need advice. Or change for parking. Or someone to take a flipping message. At work, I talk to (mostly) interesting and intelligent grown-ups. Yes, there’s social media for support if you’re at home, but at work you don’t even have to try.

3. Motherhood is NON-STOP

The relentlessness of it. There are no breaks. Nap-time doesn’t count. (Because that’s when you wee. Answer emails. Brush your teeth.) At work, even when I’m heading for a deadline and you can’t see my pretty nail-polish for the blur, I’ll stop every few hours for a snack, a coffee, a chat, or a trawl through Pinterest. When I feel like it.

4. Motherhood is MISUNDERSTOOD

South African stay-at-home moms have (at least some) help. It’s not like Europe or the States – I don’t know how those brave souls have any kids at all – so you’re seldom obliged to become passionately intimate with the vacuum cleaner.

But that doesn’t make full-time mothering less demanding, especially when people treat you like you’re constantly ‘on holiday’/‘free all day’, like you’re too stupid or lazy to work, or like your husband’s so obscenely wealthy that you don’t have to.

Bottom line? I work because I love it, because very few families can live comfortably on one salary these days, and because I simply don’t have what it takes to be a stay-at-home mom. In that order. My hat’s off to you.


Working Mommy

P.S. This letter requires a Part II. Look out for the next installment: a letter of congratulation from me, a work-from-home mommy, to a corporate mommy.

*This post originally appeared on zaparents.com.