It's a half-a-century-old debate: working mothers vs. stay-at-home mothers. There are cases and causes fanning both sides of the spectrum. And, then, somewhere in the middle, kind of caught in the arguments from both sides, are Work-at-Home Moms.
WAHMs have to balance both worlds, and this brings a particular brand of joy and struggle. Because they are at home, they must juggle their space and time to include both their working world and their home life. And sometimes, they are getting comments or discouragement from both ends. Here is a list of eight things you should never say to a Work-at-Home Mother.
"Must Be Nice to…"
Never start any sentence with this, whether you are talking to working mothers outside the house, inside the house, or stay-at-home moms. Rarely, if ever, do sentences that begin with these four words end in a form of encouragement. More often than not, this phrase is used to start some form of observation that is shedding negative light on the person receiving it. "Must be nice to lay around in your pajamas all day with no real deadlines." "Must be nice to dump the kids off at daycare and not have your house lived in while you are away at work." The "must-be-nice" statements are usually geared toward tearing someone down, making critical observations or implying an insult, rather than lifting someone up. Steer clear of them.
"I could NEVER do that."
This is not coming from a place of encouragement. If you are trying to imply that you admire a work-at-home mom for what she does, simply SAY THAT. When you say statements like, "I could NEVER do that," you are implying that it's crazy to try, that the mom you are speaking to shouldn't either, or that you are judging what she does and how she does it. Remember the old phrase your grandma taught you about if you don't have something nice to say, don't say anything at all? Follow it.
"Do you ignore your kids all day?"
If you would like insight into how a work-at-home mom manages her day, balances her priorities, and sets boundaries, this is not the way to ask it. All moms struggle with keeping things balanced all the time and we should be looking out for each other as moms, not asking rude questions about the way we run our homes or spend our family time. If you have a genuine curiosity about how a mom carves out space for work and home when they are in a combined environment, ask, but never like this.
"How can you get anything done?"
This of course is implying that it is impossible to get anything done as a work-at-home mom. Not only is this grossly untrue, it also isn't encouraging. Even if balancing a schedule between work and home is something that a work-at-home mom is struggling with, ask yourself if this question is an encouraging one, or a discouraging one. People need to stop themselves more often before saying the first thing that pops into their heads, and take into consideration the challenges others face.
"That's not a 'real' job."
Ouch. Stay-at-home moms get this one, too, unfortunately. And it's all a bunch of baloney. If you are ever on the receiving end of this, please never hesitate to respond with, "according to who?" All our work, time, resources and energy is valid, valuable, and REAL, no matter where we are or what we do. Going outside the home, even getting compensation, does not define what a job is. Even volunteer work is real work. Society is misguided if it fuels the notion that a person's worth is in their work, or that who someone is, is directly valued by what they do.
"I would rather…"
What is the deal with people taking it upon themselves to start their own game of "Would you rather?" without being asked? If you are going to announce to a work-at-home mom that you would rather work outside the house, or that you would rather be a housewife; first ask yourself, if someone asked. Otherwise, it's a safe assumption that you are already doing what you would rather be doing, and vice-versa. Unless you are ending this sentence with "…be a work-at-home mom, like you," there is no reason to share it.
"You Have it so Easy!"
What a ridiculous thing to say. To any mom. Since when is being a mother easy? If you have a vocation outside of motherhood or not; every mom has it hard. No mom 'has it so easy.' If you envision a lifestyle that is Easy-Street compared to the struggles you handle, but ignore the different kinds of struggles and challenges faced by WAHMs, you aren't living in reality.
"I figured you could babysit!"
Don't assume a work at home mom can automatically babysit. It's simply not true that a work at home mom has the ability, time and space to tackle the workload of others and more kids. In fact, work-at-home moms are just as overworked and short on time as other moms. It is insulting to assume otherwise.
The most important thing to remember is to offer encouragement and praise for any and all moms, because they are all trying to do the best they can, with what they've got. We need to reach across life choices to connect, unite and uplift, not work to divide and discourage. Support work-at-home moms and all mothers by speaking in kindness, and learning with grace.