Some days, I see the mothers of the world living together in harmony, supporting each other as they go about their daily lives of raising their children. Some get involved in their local communities, others forge ahead at their place of work and some do a bit of both.
Then there are the darker days when harmony does not exist. There is discord, angst, jealousy and helplessness. I see it in the school parking lots where the regular "pick up after school" moms complain that they get stuck every year with the baking and planning for the classroom parties and shopping for the teacher gifts.
"Why can't they do it? I haven't seen them all year," says one of the regulars.
"They" refers to the others, the work-outside-of-the-house mothers who have lists of complaints and questions of their own:
"What do they do all day? Why are they always emailing me about the fundraisers? Aren't they bored."? Ouch -- the dreaded bored question. That one hits below the belt. These comments run deep and cut hard.
Somewhere in the middle live the part-time working moms -- the double agents who exist somewhere in between, but often feel they have no place at all. They spend some time with the stay-at-home moms helping out with carpools and email chains while also existing in the world of the working moms amongst conference calls and Power Point presentations. For now, I am one of them -- a part-timer.
I sometimes imagine a West Side Story scene with a schoolyard face-off between the two main groups -- the Yoga Pants and the Pant Suits. We all may be better off if these rival mom gangs had it out once and for all. Maybe that would eliminate the trash-talking and whispers that regularly occur behind the scenes in these two worlds that I've managed to infiltrate?
Or maybe we just need one smart and strong-willed mom willing to bridge the divide, a mom mediator of sorts. She would raise her proverbial megaphone in school parking lots across the country and get the attention of the stay-at-homers, the working moms and the part-timers.
"Look ladies," she would say to the stay-at-homers. "Most women do not have a choice. The majority of moms work outside of the house to put food on the table and pay the mortgage. And for those working moms who did make the choice to go back to work, be glad they did. Support them. Every day, they are raising the glass ceiling at work, fighting for equal pay and serving as role models for their children as well as yours. Their staying in the work force helps to make sure that one day, you can rejoin if you choose and your daughters can, too."
The mom mediator would clear her voice, take a step back and turn towards the working moms.
"Whether working out of the house was a choice for you or not, please remember that for many of the stay-at-home moms, staying at home was less of a choice than you might think. Some felt they had to stay at home because of a special needs child or a traveling spouse. Living on one income may seem like a luxury from where you stand, but so many of these stay-at-home moms make significant financial sacrifices. Their houses may be smaller and their children may have limited extracurricular activities, unlike yours. Regardless, you too should be happy for what they are doing: planning fundraisers for you children's school, driving the carpools and organizing those class gifts."
The lady with the megaphone would take a long pause, and just when the moms thinks she is finished, she adds on one last piece of information.
"For those of you out there today who look to the part-timers as having best of both worlds, understand that they often get the short end of the stick. They get paid for 50% or sometimes 60% of their old salary, but ended up putting in 100% of the time, and certainly the effort. When they are at work, they are thinking about home, and when at home, thinking about work. No man's land can be exciting, but also very unnerving. Try to be happy that they have found some kind of balance in both worlds. They make it work for them, and maybe you will one day too."
"So what do you want us to do about it?" asks one mom in the crowd.
"Start by talking to each other and not about each other or at each other," says the mom mediator. "Don't take yourselves so seriously, either. Haven't you ever laughed at yourself to avoid breaking down in tears? Maybe it was the time you showed up to work with remnants of your child's spit-up on your shirt? Or what about the time you were so tired that you used salt instead of sugar for the birthday cake?"
"When you start to talk, to laugh... to communicate, you will see that you really are not that different from the mom who stands on the other side of the schoolyard. Maybe the working mom can help the stay-at-home mom with new ideas for the same old fundraisers. Perhaps the stay-at-home mom can give the part-timer tricks for multi-tasking in a pinch."
I would hope that some of the moms would listen to the mediator. They could find some common ground, work together and perhaps make their lives a little bit easier. Think about all the time they'd save without the whispering and false accusations.
What would they even do with that time? I know what I'd do... take a nap.