The Ugly Thoughts of a WAHM (Part 1)

It’s not a secret that moms have to work hard to not openly judge other moms. You see a parent disciplining a child in a way that you’re not comfortable with and immediately you’re thinking about that technique and what sort of mother would do such a thing and how you would never in your lifetime even consider….etc…. Judging is insanely easy to do, and I’ll be the first to admit that it’s happened to me just like any other mother, although normally I never express the random thoughts.

In fact, if you’re thinking that YOU’VE never judged another mother, I’m incredibly proud of you although I’d ask you to look a little deeper to be sure – nothing pops to mind when you hear of a mother spanking her child? One opting to feed formula? A mother choosing circumcision? A mom pulling a child out of school to homeschool? Or letting their child run around a restaurant while she has another glass of wine? A mother handing fries to a toddler? It happens. Admit it.

How we parent our children isn’t really the topic here, but the judging is. I’ve read more forums with moms chatting and comments from mothers than I can remember, and the judging is rampart – especially when moms don’t realize its happening. And - shock of all shocks – work-at-home moms are just as judgmental as the rest of them. Let me give you a sampling of some things I’ve heard and maybe even a few that have passed through my own mind.

“Yeah, but she has older children. It’s so much easier to work and parent older kids!”

Lies! I teach older kids. I have classrooms full of teenagers who have serious issues at home and even the great teenagers I’ve worked with over the years have some tough times. Parenting older kids is just as tough as parenting babies, although less labor intensive I would think. Personally I haven’t parented a teenager yet, but I’ve seen first-hand what they are capable of. The myth of the baby playing happily by your feet grows up into the myth of the teenager who comes right how to do homework quietly at the kitchen table. It happens – just never to you!

While it might be nice to have some time when your kids are in school to work without worrying about childcare, the evenings and weekends that I enjoy using at least are already filling up with later bedtimes, more school activities and more wrestling matches that need to be broken up. There’s never an easy time to be a work-at-home parent. Although I’m holding out hope that there are easier times!

“Hah! What does she know – she only has one baby!”

Think about your pregnancy – did you ever feel a bit superior to those around you who “just didn’t know what it was like to be pregnant?” And when that baby arrived, you were taken aback for a minute and then realized “nobody but a mother can understand how challenging having a baby can be!” Guess what? Nobody but a mother of more than one child can understand how much MORE challenging that can be. When it comes to work-at-home moms, there is a marked difference between how a mother of one operates and a mother of more than one operates.

The mother of one can split her attention from time to time between baby and work – perhaps working while the baby plays contentedly on the floor for a few minutes or pops healthy freshly prepared snacks into her mouth. The mother of two or more already has her attention split – and then some. If a mother of two or three little ones manages to do more than read an email or two at a mealtime or while the kids are “playing”/attacking each other/stealing toys from each other/shouting for mom/spilling each other’s milk/whining/trying to coax each other into climbing into the fireplace/whatever, she is definitely my personal hero. Older kids – maybe – but give me a household of boys who will let you work in peace and quiet, and I’ll be suitably impressed.

Of course this isn’t all of the nasty things we say in our mind about each other. In the next installment we’ll tackle one of the ugliest things other work-at-home moms think and say to each other. You may have already guessed it – your childcare choices.

Profile image for Rebecca Garland
Rebecca is a full-time everything. She teaches English and reading to her much loved, if challenging, high school students during the day and is a freelance education writer in the evenings. With almost ten years in the classroom and advanced degrees in business and information science, Rebecca specializes in materials that inform, educate and entertain. Rebecca indulges herself by pretending to have spare time and writing about the ups and downs of being a freelancing mama whenever she gets a chance.

27 thoughts on “The Ugly Thoughts of a WAHM (Part 1)”

  1. Just a heads up first – I don’t mean this to sound sexist and apologies in advance, as no doubt it will do.

    Do you think that the judgment is more apparent amongst Work At Home Mom’s rather than Work At Home Dad’s?

    Although not groups of WAHM/Ds, I’ve worked in offices full of women and offices full of men and generally speaking, the female office was the more judgmental one.

    But now I’m writing this and I’m thinking about my parents, my Dad is actually probably the more judgmental of other people’s parenting styles than my Mum is.

    I guess I’m just wondering whether it’s a gender thing or a parent thing (or a mixture of both)?

  2. Hm. I speak primarily for the WAHMs out there because that’s who I encounter most often. My husband didn’t have a dad around and doesn’t really seem to even notice what other dads are doing. He’s been a WAHD off and on for years and doesn’t ever seem to notice anything about other parents. He also never seems to remember the things he’s supposed to tell me about special school events for the boys, so he might not be the best example.

    I have yet to find a mother out there who wasn’t taking detailed mental notes about what the other moms are doing around her, even if she isn’t really judging, just noting. Judging the negative that can come from watching other moms and noting behaviors, but it’s also the same way to learn from other mothers who are doing a great job.

    Sexist or not, I think women are more interested in what other women are doing than men are interested in other men. I’ve worked with primarily women in a school setting and while men seem to love gossip as much as women do, they don’t get down and dirty in judgments the way women can – speaking in general terms, of course.

    • Thanks Rebecca. Outside of the whole freelance writing work, I have a bit of an interest in the differences between genders and how we react to different situations.

      The last paragraph was kind of my train of thought exactly. I’ve seen men in environment’s dominated by women get involved in the whole gossip ‘she-said-he-said’ thing, but not actually act much / judge on what they hear.

      I also didn’t consider WAHDs being judgmental of other WAHDs and was initially thinking that they would be looking at WAHMs. Interesting 🙂

      • If you have kids and are interested in the gender stuff – check out Why Gender Matters. It’s an interesting look at the science of the brain and how it affects children. It’s written for both teachers and parents so it’s definitely interesting and applicable in my little neck of the woods.

      • I don’t even have kids and I’m judgmental. I don’t act on it and I don’t form a cemented opinion about the parents, but I sure do judge. As far as gender differences, it seems to me like men and women are equally judgmental (meaning that they each form opinions about stuff other people do) but that women seem to define themselves more by those differences so they form an almost emotional attachment to them. Does that makes sense?

        But then, both genders seem to suffer from preconceived notions of acceptable gender-related roles. When hubby had the heart attack and we decided he should just take early retirement, there were a lot of “get a job” comments from people that I knew. We weren’t suffering financially from the decision but people just couldn’t handle the idea of a wife supporting her husband, also, they assumed he ate bon-bons and watched Jerry Springer all day (not that it’s any of their business if he was). If I were the one with a health problem and stayed home, no one would have batted an eyelash.

        Great topic Rebecca and great addition Dan 🙂

  3. I’ve seen a whole gammut of comments to and from moms who work from home. Every situation is different. I have one child-one with special needs. Is my situation worse than others? No. It’s just different. Period. I don’t judge other people’s situation and I expect the same respect from others, but, of course, I don’t always get it.

    The Dads who work from home sometimes are seen as the ‘lazy provider’. I’ve seen comments that they should, “stop being being lazy and get a real job”(this was referring to his working from a home office). The Dad referred to was a Web Developer or a Web Designer(I don’t remember which). Personally, I don’t see the difference of whether they do it in an office or do it from their home, but some people can be quick to judge and can be cutthroat nasty.

    • I absolutely agree. Every situation is different and we all react differently to our situations. My point with the post is that even when we never act on them, a few judgmental thoughts certainly can trickle across anyone’s mind when they look at others.

      Btw – I work with special needs children as a teacher, and while I’m not a parent of a child with special needs, I have a gist of the challenges that can be involved. I have tremendous respect for the parents of children with special needs, and you’re right. It’s not worse, but there are certainly elements that would be different and potentially more stressful.

      I once saw a terrific piece about the difference between France and Holland in regards to children. You board a plane for France and find yourself in Holland. If you spend time wishing you’d gotten France as most parents do, you’d never be able to fully enjoy your special trip to Holland.

  4. Okay, I have children. I don’t admit this to clients, but I’m a WAHM (it’s the only time you’ll hear me cop to that plea). My youngest is 21. That’s right – 21. No big deal, right? HA! Today’s agenda includes getting her an eye appointment and helping her fill out student loan papers. Then it was “Come talk to me, Mommy.” (she calls me mommy when she wants to guilt me, which works like a charm) Then it was “Can we go to the shore Saturday? I want to go to the shore.”

    How is that different from a four-year-old? Oh, I know. It’s not. You didn’t have to sell me on how having kids at ANY stage is a challenge – I’m there, sister.

    • Wait! You were supposed to reassure those of us with two kids under 5 that things are so tremendously better when they reach a certain age! You’re supposed to tell me that when the kids get older they just play quietly in thier rooms while also matching up thier own socks and then willingly taking the dogs for long walks while I work in pure serenity wearing my pearls and three-inch heels. Are you telling me this isn’t so? Noooooooooo!

  5. I have two cats and it’s like having 2-year-old kids 🙂 They want to sit on my lap when I’m trying to write. They fight with each other. They let me know when they want attention by meowing. Oy!

    I think ALL human beings are judgmental, some are more judgmental than others. If you find yourself judging another, you may want to take a step back because you’re really judging yourself. It’s your “shadow” side popping up to say “Hi, I need some attention.” Good luck!

    • Hahaha–I’m so glad someone else here feels like their cats are kids. I know most parents roll their eyes at that (and I TOTALLY understand why) but when you haven’t had kids to compare it to, it really can feel as burdensome. My best friend has two boys (1 and 4) and she always allows me to talk about my cats as though they are children without giving me grief. She “gets” it. Also, she was thinking about giving one of her kids away if it turned out he was allergic to her cat…. but I’m pretty sure she was just kidding…. 😀

    • I’m sat on the bed at the moment with the laptop and I have to kids, I mean cats, fast asleep at my feet. Lovely at the moment, in 10 minutes time I’m going to have one either side of me nudging me until I get up and feed them!

      Re taking a step back about being judgmental, do you think sometimes it’s actually good to judge people?

      I remember on holiday once I was sat by the pool and there was a family sat near the bar with a little girl – she can’t have been more than 3. Initially, I thought they were all having a good time as a family, but the more I watched the more I realised that they weren’t having a good time as a family and it was just “the grown ups”.

      Thankfully, I kept an eye on the little girl for a while as she was getting pushed out, because five minutes later the she walked over to the edge of the swimming pool and started to bend down, without any arm bands on. I don’t think I’ve moved so fast in my life.

      Thankfully, her Mum spotted her at the last second, got up and told her off (as if it were her fault). But I sometimes think that if I hadn’t of judged the parents as being – well, a little careless – the girl could have easily fell into the swimming pool.

      Maybe that’s not being judgmental. Maybe it’s being vigilant or just caring. I don’t know. I just wonder if sometimes it’s OK – or worthwhile – being judgmental?

      • Absolutely. I think it’s one of our natural self-defense mechanisms. I think the problems come in when you start to base your own self worth on those judgments. Because then you are slower to correct them since your own self interests will then be hurt. I also think that when our judgments are formed without knowing the whole story and on supposition rather than actions we could run into problems–but it doesn’t always mean we are wrong. It’s wrong of me to judge the guy with a tire iron and ski mask as a dangerous person since I haven’t actually witnessed him doing anything dangerous, but it would also be wrong for me to ignore his ensemble and accessory…. so you keep an open mind but act accordingly to protect yourself.

      • Judging others come from watching others. We’re about 1 chromosome away from being a pack and keeping an eye on each other seems very normal to me – especially your impulse to protect the young of a pack. It’s an unfortunate fact that there are many parents who simply don’t know how to best care for their child or (even sadder) don’t want to. Saving a girl from drowning isn’t judging. Thinking to yourself, “These parents are totally worthless!” would be, but then, (I’m SO not saying this) it might actually be the case from time to time.

  6. argh, you got me on some of those judgmental statements. On the other hand, I do think it’s easier to work (at least freelance) with older kids, having done this since my kids were youngish…. I’ve seen in my career now and then….

  7. Frankly, I think the judgmental statements stem from the whole work-at-home community. Those who choose to work from their home are lumped into this whole different culture. It’s almost like a cult, when you think about it. You can meet someone and casually ask what they do for a living and you get a reply, “I work from home!” Yes, as if it were an actual job.

    I’ve seen statements where people are also saying something like, “I chose to become a writer, because I get to work from home!” I’ve been around blogs and forums, that are dedicated to topics of working from home, for quite some time. A good majority of the people I meet there are desperate to find work from home jobs. And, there are those who have these jobs that don’t want anyone new coming in taking the jobs they want.

    This is where the hostility and judgmental comments tend to come in. I don’t think that being a parent or gender has anything really to do with it. The hostility spans through tons of different areas in that community; not just the parenting issues. Which is why I don’t like the WAHM or WAHD labels. They don’t need to be there.

    • I don’t think the labels started in the working communities. I think they started among the many parenting communities. When I was pregnant with my first, I spent a lot of time on one of the largest parenting websites as part of the pregnancy boards. The WAHD and WAHD terms were used there for YEARS before I ever saw them among the webmaster/web writing community. Of course I just might not have seen them around.

      I do think the WAH community is a bit cult-like. It’s almost like high school cliques – there are the posers, and the preps, and the goths, and the etc…and all the factions pick at each other from time to time for not understanding how the other half lives.

      I also think though that mothers are some of the most “tuned-in” people out there as far as what others are doing. It comes from security issues as parents and frankl trying to figure out what the hell you’re doing as a parent. When you consider that the working moms out there fall into a vast spectrum, it’s easy to see where some can easily judge the others. Personally, the fact that so many moms who want to be taken seriously in thier career try to hide the fact that they work at home with kids in the first place is a pretty sad statement about how the world values different stereotypes.

      Of course, if you’re then sitting with a group of mothers who don’t work at home, you play up the part about working at home rather than away from home to show that you’re still “a good mother.” It’s a twisted world we live in for sure. 🙂

      • This happens a lot in the work at home community. The internet holds enough negative emotion. You get a community like this, where emotions and frustrations run high and wars are inevitable. It’s easy for someone to see someone else’s comment as the gauntlet being thrown, when actually it was a perfectly innocent comment. Some people are also in such a hurry that they don’t even read an entire post. Only the first couple of sentences. If you don’t state your point right away, then be prepared to fight back or they’ll attempt to swallow you up.

        I agree parenting is a huge issue in that community, and that moms are most often involved, but unfortunately, it goes further than that. They’re have been some nasty battles over whether or not you should have a dog in your home, what types of jobs a newbie can take and if you make the mistake of asking a SIMPLE question- Look out! Judgments pop up all the time, depending on the moods of the instigators and the situations of everyone’s day.

  8. I was one of those judgmental childless people who couldn’t believe moms were whining about how much they had to do just because they were staying home with a child. I mean how hard could it be? I told EVERYONE I would easily be able to continue my hectic work schedule (from home) while taking care of a newborn. After all, I went to school full-time to get my MBA while continuing my business while pregnant. Taking care of a baby while working would be a piece of cake!

    *you can all stop laughing now*

    When August 7th rolled around and my son entered the world, my perspective forever changed. It is definitely a challenge to get work done of ANY kind with him here with me. Not to mention the guilt that ensues when I’m working and letting him playing on his own. I’ll take your word for it that two is harder than one and will stop right where I am! 🙂

    • One child is definitely a shock to the system. Two is a lot easier in many ways and a lot harder in others. I like having two because they are truly best friends and bring out the best in each other. But then there are times that they bring out the worst in each other (and in me). 🙂

  9. Oh, wow, you’re going to tackle the issue of WAHMs and childcare? I’ve seen this debate get ugly on a couple of writer forums. You’re a brave woman.

    The WAHM community definitely has pockets of cliques everywhere from forums to social media. I stopped participating on one site because certain members were so nasty when experienced newcomers posted information to help others. This was also one of the forums where the childcare rumble went down.

    • I’ve quit parenting forums, too – not because of the bickering, which is often amusing from the outside perspective, but because of some people sharing too much.

      Let’s cross our fingers that the group of pros we keep around here can handle themselves diplomatically – we’ve managed to so far!


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