Skippy or Jif. Whatever.

Charlotte's first day of school. Ever. Obviously miserable. 

Napping at school. Obviously distressed. 

Playing with a friend and obviously exhibiting poor, violent social skills. And a teacher who obviously can't stand her. 

My obviously maladjusted, unhappy, poorly raised child.

That was irony in those captions, for those who tend to be too literal.

A weird day today, for myriad reasons (Monday, but I shall post on Tuesday so as to not disrupt Ask5for5). One weird thing? Freaking Facebook.
Apologies for the length of this post. A lot of cutting and pasting occurred.
A Facebook friend posted an article that had an obvious agenda (title: “The Dark Side of Preschool”) that cited a study that suggested kids attending daycare/preschool more than 4 hours per day have poorer social skills and more maladjustment than children in "maternal care." Comments started rolling in, as some folks were quite pleased by this article.
Awesome. Another strike against working moms. I posted my opinion, as follows:
Many studies support that high-quality daycare improves social skills and cognitive skills. I only have one kid, but she’s ridiculously happy and well-adjusted. She doesn’t have tantrums. She can cope without getting what she wants. Her day is comfortingly structured and she’s deeply loved by her teachers. Her class ratio is 1:3, with a class total of 6. She watches no TV during the week. She loves circle time, her buddies, craft projects, and the playground. She can survive without me, knows Mommy always comes back, can transition to new activities, and is flexible. Charlotte goes RUNNING into her classroom in the morning because she’s so excited to get there. Is daycare/preschool the only option? Of course not. Is it the best option? For some kids, probably. For others, probably not. But vilifying daycare and the teachers who devote their careers to providing outstanding, loving care to young children is wrong.

The article is another bullet aimed at working moms. I mean, really?  The “dark side” of preschool? Come on. But you know what? It’s hard and even lonely being a full-time working mom. She has few allies, has many stressors and demands, and not a soul acknowledges the sheer amount of WORK it takes to keep everything moving smoothly, for the sake of the family. In short, the working mom gets undermined by all sorts of folks who simply don’t like the idea of women having babies AND jobs—and especially not (gasp!) careers. The idea that we place our children in “outside” care at great risk is false and detrimental to working moms, and insulting to early childhood teachers. Well, it’s insulting to working moms too, but then again, we’re used to it.
Someone “took issue” with me saying that being a working mom is hard. I was told feminism (the word used with great disdain) took care of that, and now the world “caters” to working moms. Well, now I had to write another post to clarify:
“If society really catered to the working (outside the home) mom, the post office and banks would have better hours, mother’s ministry groups wouldn’t meet at 10:00 a.m. on Thursday mornings, child care would be tax deductible (more than the current pittance that hasn’t been altered since the early 80s), maternity leave would be paid, all offices/warehouses/factories would have rooms with locks, an outlet, and a refrigerator for nursing moms, onsite childcare would be more common, flex time would be better, and so on. Things are better now than they were for my mom’s generation, thanks to that f-word, feminism, and I can’t get fired for getting pregnant. I consider that a positive.

And absolutely, affordable child care is crucial and would be greatly improved by tax credits or at least a worthwhile deduction. Beyond that, I don’t have much of a solution. It’s a major problem, and keeping quality child care out of reach for so many undoubtedly contributes to some moms staying home when they otherwise wouldn’t, or moms stuck between a rock and a hard place who must put their kids in less than stellar centers.

The “hard” I was talking about, however, is the desire to be a good mom as well as a good employee in a job or career you value. The wish for more hours in the day. The desire to be able to speak freely and admit “this is really hard!” without feminism thrown back in your face. The difficulty of leaving your baby at school for the very first time, in somebody else’s arms, wondering if you’re doing the right thing. The suggestion from others that you most certainly have NOT done the right thing. The idea pushed that the only way to be a good Christian mother is to give up the career you’ve worked so hard for. Continuing to breastfeed while working. The fact that everybody understands how hard stay-at-home moms work (and they do), but working moms are portrayed as having martini lunches every day while somebody else “raises” their child. And oh my goodness, having important deadlines at work and getting a call that your kid is sick and needs to be picked up right away and balancing a sick kid and work for the rest of the week. Yeah, as a matter of fact, THAT’S HARD. Would I trade it in to stay home? No, not at this point, for various reasons. Maybe I will with #2, maybe not. I dunno.

I’m sorry this comment is so long, but I feel like SAHMs get a lot of friendly support for the daily challenge of raising babies, but working moms are either entirely overlooked or vilified as selfish, power-hungry career girls. And deliberately portraying the “majority” of childcare/preschools as BAD feeds that bias.
This is ALL I wrote on this thread that comprised 23 comments. I swear.
This led to the next post, written by someone else but directed at lucky me: “Having seen "the village" [I assume this is some sort of daycare center in WA state] I wouldn't allow them to raise my child/children (which is happening when the majority of the child's awake hours are being spent with someone other than Mom or Dad)! You kid yourself if you think that the teachers love your kid as much as you do...NOT even close! Most of them treat the best...mediocre. I worked in childcare and preschools before having kids...some teachers are abusive with a smile on their face. Favoritism happens...A LOT!!!! Those children are NOT smarter, happier, or better adjusted.

Also, you are kidding yourself if you think the world caters to stay-at-home Moms. NOT even close!!! We are constantly being told by others to get a job. Your "feminism" has made our "job" something others look down upon. Sorry, but daycares, preschools, public schools, etc can NOT replace real parenting...and real parenting doesn't just happen between 5pm and 9pm!!!
Then: “I don't see how it is possible when both parents work to meet the needs of 1 child...let alone more than 1. And I am not talking about just clothing and food...but their need for love, attention, understanding, etc. In the teen years, they NEED someone at home...watching out for them, helping them through the hormones, etc. Honestly, being a one income home with 8...soon to be 9 children, I don't see why 2 parents NEED to work...unless they are just more interested in the new car, expensive purse or shoes, etc. than in their children. I dunno...maybe its just what I see when I see the "working women"! I'll just stick with my paid off 12 passenger van, $30 chicken purse, flip flops, and raising my children. :)
And then, toward a different unfortunate poster who suggested that MAYBE mothers could have a job and not raise a serial murderer, this same poster said: “So [unfortunate poster’s name], you think it is possible to send your child to school/childcare for 8-10 hours per day (the majority of their awake hours) and be a spouse and be a friend and be a daughter and be a sister...and you really think your child is getting what they need from you? You really think you are making a bigger impact on them than the daycare teacher and daycare kids? REALLY??!!??

Sorry, but you feminists have been fed a line of bull. You CAN'T have it all! Sorry!

BTW, [original poster’s name] don't let the feminists bully you into taking this down! It just hurts for them to hear the truth...but honestly, it may help someone that is "on the fence"!”
Then, from the original poster: “This article is mainly for married couples where both parents work and are using daycare/childcare all of the time. Yes I fully understand that single parents need help but i wonder at the many working women who complain complain complain about not having a "good enough" daycare. Do they NEED to work? Or are they just working to pay for that fancy school? Why is their child really in that program? Is it for the child or the mom? Is the mom/dad depending on that program to raise their child for them? Sadly I have met many who do expect just that. A teacher can only do so much, they are trained to educate for certain subjects not be the morality or manners police.”
At this point the mean mommies started hyper-clicking “LIKE” on everything that insulted moi, my mom, and hundreds of thousands of other working moms. Why, I could just feel the Christian love flowing.
Next poster: “WHO is your child's teacher? Who does he/she spend most of his waking hours with? A LOT of two income families could choose to make the sacrifices necessary to keep their children at home with the mother. We make it on one income just fine. A lot of times it really comes down to priorities. I hear woman all of the time say they just couldn't handle staying home with their children. Well it's a good thing they didn't live in Bible times. That is THE MOST RIDICULOUS excuse I have ever heard. It is the flesh that doesn't want to do it. We have bought into the lies of Satan hook, line & sinker. He is stealing women's God given role as wife & helpmeet by tempting us with our own fleshly desires & selfishness. We are now involved in a real life wife swap in our culture where a man's wife goes to work for another man to help him be successful & that woman sends her children to a differnet man's wife to be taken care's nutty!!!”

Let’s take a break. OBVIOUSLY I was wrong when I suggested that working moms face a bit of a dearth of support when it comes to, well, being working moms. I mean, the world loves us. LOVES US!
This whole thing had started for me when I made the incredibly huge mistake of tinkering with Facebook during my lunch hour instead of reading my book club book. Then I read some of the responses that Facebook so thoughtfully emailed me. I had an actual physical reaction—a person, who doesn’t even know me, suggested TO ME that I was “kidding myself” to think my child was happy and well-adjusted, which is how I read it as my vision literally clouded as I literally thought I was going to throw up in the literally puny garbage can by my desk.
 “Your turn!” chirped my co-worker as she walked past my office, indicating that my boss was ready to do my performance evaluation.
“Um, okay,” I managed to say, trying to switch gears. And not cry.
I would not cry. I would not cry. I would not cry.
I entered her office, sat in the chair, and was told how awesome I was. No joke, the word “spectacular” was actually used. That was nice.
“Charlotte’s really lucky you’re her mom,” my boss said. (Don’t ask how we got from my job performance to Charlotte. We just did.)
I said nothing.
I would not burst into tears during my performance review. I would not burst into tears during my performance review. I would not burst into tears during my performance review.
I’m happy to report that I did NOT burst into tears during my performance review.
“Thanks,” I said, eventually. “Some stranger just suggested that Charlotte’s teachers are mediocre at best, daycare is child abuse with a smile, and she’s doomed to maladjustment. And unhappiness.”
“Has she met Charlotte?”
“Obviously not.”
I’m glad my review took place today. It was nice to have that reality check of, “Hey! Here's an opinion that actually matters!” It’s nice to do a good job, be told you did a good job, and then have it on record in HR. It’s especially nice when mean-spirited people suggest you absolutely suck at the job you value most: mommy.
I’ve used this word before, but I can’t seem to get it to resonate outside my head: It’s LONELY being a working mom. It seems that stay-at-home mommies have their clubs and support networks and play dates and a whole cadre of people who support their choice to stay home and they help each other out to get through the crappy parts. Working moms? I’m not super close to any working moms, short of my own mom. And, well, her kids are grown and gone.
It’s isolating. And having people tell you point-blank that it’s NOT isolating is cruel. It seems that nobody stands up for working moms.
When I try, I’m mocked, misunderstood, and called a “feminist” (like it’s a bad thing) because I had the gall to make decisions for my family that differ from someone else’s.
Obviously, most stay-at-home moms do NOT have these smug, self-righteous attitudes. They probably recoiled just as much as moi when reading the above comments. They are probably shaking their heads and rolling their eyes. They really just don’t care whether I work or not, just like I really don’t care whether they work outside the home or not. I mean, really! Who the heck CARES? 
I respect stay-at-home moms. How can I not? Being a parent is the most important job a parent will ever have. Maybe one day I’ll be a stay-at-home mom. Maybe I won’t. Regardless of my employment status, nobody has the right to tell me that I’m not a “real” parent because I work outside the home.
Nobody has the right to suggest that I don’t take being a mommy seriously.
When I was about 7 years old or so, I was home sick from school, so my mom (who worked full-time) and I watched Oprah (this was the fantastic 80s Oprah who still milled around the audience with a microphone) while Mums ironed a massive pile of clothes.
The argument was about staying home or working. One woman passionately said, “If a mom chooses to work instead of staying home, then her child knows that he or she is not loved.”
My mom hit mute. She set down the iron. She faced me. “What that woman said is not true.”
I looked at her. She didn’t have to tell me. Sure, I knew some moms worked outside the home, others didn’t. Mine did.
And it never, EVER crossed my mind that she didn’t love me. The woman sewed my Halloween costume during her lunch hours, cut my peanut butter and jelly sandwiches into flower shapes, snuggled with me, read zillions of books to me, and always, always made me feel deeply, astoundingly loved by her.
The fact she wore bright yellow high heels and suits with ugly 80s shoulder pads seemed totally irrelevant. I trust that Charlotte will find the difference totally irrelevant as well.
As I got back to my desk after my performance review, I had an e-mail waiting from me from a very good friend, a stay-at-home mom no less, who apparently had been watching this bizarre mommy war on Facebook unfold.
I opened it. “You are wonderful and fantastic!! . . . .Someday women will stop bashing other women over each other's choices... Stay at home or not, Skippy or Jif, etc etc.  What works for each family is for them to decide.”
And at that point, I went ahead and let myself cry. Why can’t all moms be like this?
Now, I was going to end my post there, but I think it needs to be reiterated that the nasty comments are not the views of most stay-at-home moms, even the very religiously conservative. I think a bad batch of ignorance met up with some insecurity, and voila.
And, I like the support SAHMs give each other, and I’d like to see similar support among working moms. Sometimes we hide out, afraid to admit that some days are really crappy, some days we want to throw in the towel, and some days we pull off something amazing at work and get a nice little high out of it. Why can’t we talk about that?
As my friend said, Skippy or Jif. Whatever. Makes no difference. Both make pretty darn good peanut butter.


  1. Aw-w-w-w Ashley, you are truly wonderful, and I am so completely touched by this story. Thank you, thank you, thank you, a dozen times over for sharing it with us! I think your comment having to do with Christian charity and kindness (not your words, but mine) was so close to the mark. What has become of us? One doesn't have to be "religious" to follow in the steps of Jesus Christ. I'm extremely proud to know you and to have had a small hand in the forming of such a spectacular young woman! Congratulations also to your fabulous Mother. I love you honey, always have, always will!

  2. Universal law of blogging: the accuracy of inflammatory online comments is inversely related to the number of multiple exclamation marks contained therein.

    You are spectacular, indeed!


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