Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Working Mom Wednesday: Self-Doubt

Working Mom WednesdayLast week, I asked you to weigh in on your biggest concerns as a work-outside-the-home mom. As a blog poll (one with relatively low turn-out at that), this questionaire was in no way scientific, but gave me some idea of what I should write about for future Working Mom Wednesdays.

"Time for myself" and "time with my spouse" were the top picks (and maybe I'll write about those soon), but close behind were "guilt/self-doubt" and "pressure/criticism."

With around 70 percent of moms with young kids working outside the home (including 50-something percent of moms with babies under one year) it is shocking that the "mommy wars" still rage. We're all trying to do the best we can, but emotions can still run high as we're all wondering "is my best good enough?" or "am I really doing the right thing?"

Some of those feelings come from within (guilt/self-doubt) and some from outside (pressure/criticism) but I think those are really quite intertwined. I feel pretty confident that my career is overall a good thing for me and my family. But if someone criticizes that choice, I am likely to not only feel defensive, but start to doubt myself and the choices I've made. The cycle can work the other way too, when moms who doubt their own choices justify themselves by criticizing others.

A big question for moms dealing with guilt of self-doubt might be, "Where is this feeling originating?" Does it come from the disapproval of family members, acquaintances, or even strangers? Does it come from reasonable concerns like the cost of child care outweighing your income or a child that needs more personal attention than a day care can provide? Does it come from discontentment with your job and a real preference for or longing to be a stay-at-home mom? Does it come from a religious or cultural belief that mothers should be homemakers? Does it come from insecurity or envy?

I'm certainly not qualified to say which of these reasons is valid or not, but simply asking the questions may shed light on those feelings and open the door for some important discussions between you and your spouse.

PS: If you are new to The Parsonage Family, here are quick links to a few older "working motherhood" posts you might find most useful...
concerns about going back to work
benefits of day care
making time for yourself and your spouse
letting the housework go


Kerri said...

I'm not a mom so I can't really weigh in on the conversation. But I am a teacher so I see the kids at school and have experience that way. Some day care is good for kids. It is good for kids to be away from mom some so that when they enter school, it isn't such a shock. A lot of times, those kids are more independent and better able to adjust to a new situation than those who have never been in day care.

SpeasHill said...

Jessica, thanks for this post. As you alluded, the issues of self-doubt are applicable on both sides of the job/no job equation, and the pressure and criticism flow both ways. Seems crazy when you think about it...why can't we just go with our decision(s) and help our sisters out by actually encouraging one another?

I was going to identify myself as a stay-at-home mom and realized that my impulse was to justify that by indicating that my child is one who needs more attention than daycare can provide because of her special I had to explain myself to the working moms reading this post. Where is that impulse coming from? Self-doubt, of course. But where does that come from? Great questions to ponder - thanks for posing them.

I recently noticed that I get really excited when another mother I've just met says that she stays home with her kids, too, and it occurs to me that this excitement (and the lack thereof when talking to working moms) could be interpreted as approval (and disapproval of the working moms) and thus be feeding the Mommy Wars. In reality, I'm just THRILLED to find another mom close by who can help fill the huge void of adult interaction when I'm taking care of a small child all day everyday. It usually has nothing to do with approval or disapproval - more like survival! :)

Interesting, all of it. Thanks for making me think - also somewhat rare in my mundane daily work!


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