The mommy wars have created a harsh dichotomy between stay-at-home moms and working mothers. Way back in the 1960s, Betty Friedan trumpeted the idea that women can choose to work outside the home -- and immediately, the catfight between the two groups began.
For a great many women, however, neither classification applied. With an increasing number of work-from-home opportunities (can you say direct sales?) and flexible schedules, they are members of both castes. These women deserve their own moniker and from now on, should be referred to as stay-at-home-working mothers (SAHWM). Here's how you know if you are a SAHWM (Pronounced saw-hum).
1. You have two jobs. There's no rest for the SAHWM. First, there's the job for which you receive monetary compensation. This job generally has deadlines and work product requirements. And there is often a pesky boss who checks on your work from time to time. The other job is the one of raising kids. This job requires cooking, cleaning, chauffeuring, scheduling and bathing (the kids, not necessarily yourself). SAHWMs are constantly balancing finishing a quarterly report with planning a Spider-man birthday extravaganza. They supervise play dates while prepping for dinner, all while on a conference call. They have all the responsibility for pick up, doctors' appointments and the PTA. But SAHWMs also plan work retreats and have meetings. For SAHWMs, working does not negate the need to food shop, schedule after-school activities, do laundry, clean the house and make the dreaded school lunches. If you work these two jobs, you are a SAHWM.
2. You are confused by the mommy wars. The mommy war implies an us-vs.-them mentality. You don't know which camp you are in. The stereotype of a stay-at-home mom is a mom who does the housework and minds the kids -- but also goes to the gym and meets her friends at Starbucks for skim iced chai tea lattes. Stay-at-homes don't contribute to the finances of the household, so some feel badly spending money on personal items. This isn't you. You don't feel badly about taking from family budget because you are the family budget. And you almost never get to the gym (you tell yourself you'll get there when the kids go off to college). So, you must be a working mommy. Well, the stereotype of the working mother is that she isn't there to raise her children. She misses the class trips to Legoland. And she cares more about her career advancement than her children's milestones. Ouch. Also, not you. That's the thing about the SAHWM. You do Legoland, and pick up afterschool. So you must be a SAHWM.
3. You feel stressed all the time. SAHWMs burn the candle at both ends. They eat the ice cream cone from the top and bottom. They walk a tight rope across Niagara Falls. SAHWMs try to give their all to their kids and their work. Yet, too often, both sides feel compromised. If it seems as if you are never caught up, always have more work to do and you look forward to being alone in the supermarket, well, you're probably a SAHWM.
4. You are really two people. SAHWMs gauge their audience all the time. If they are at a birthday party they become the mom who can talk about teachers or the latest bully on the block (stay away from little Johnny). If they are at work, they learn to minimize mommy talk to avoid losing cred with the higher-ups and their peers. A SAHWM wouldn't think of mentioning the kids vacation schedule at work, and she wouldn't dare talk about how hard work is at the birthday party. If you are constantly shuffling back and forth between these two women, you are a SAHWM.
5. You take efficiency to a new level. SAHWMs don't have time for a wasted minute. They need to be all things to all people. When at school, they want to get in and get out. They nearly crawl out of their skin when the PTA devotes an hour and 20 gosh darn minutes to debate which type of swing would be best for the new playground (Your answer: Who cares?). When SAHWMs are working, they get eight hours of work done in five. SAHWMs don't like committees or group projects. Scratch that -- they loathe any project of any kind. If a memo comes home from school that a diorama of the water cycle will be due next week, the SAHWM wants to lead the coup to overthrow the administration. If you make lists obsessively and follow schedules like your life depended on it, you are a SAHWM.
A version of this blog previously appeared at The Family Coach.