Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Oh, good, I'm healthy.

I guess it figures that on a day that I stay at home with Michael and Sophie (due to Sophie being sick), a study like this would be making the rounds.  It concluded that working moms are typically "healthier" than stay-at-home moms, but moms who work part-time are the big winners.


Although I admittedly turn a jealous shade of green around moms who have part-time and/or work-from-home arrangements, I shake my head at this study not out of bitterness.  I feel contempt because to work or not to work (like to breastfeed or not to breastfeed, disposable diapers or cloth, minivan or crossover, public or private) is a choice that ultimately comes down to what is best for your specific family in your particular circumstances.

For some moms the to-work or not-to-work choice is a no-brainer, but for many others including myself it just isn't. After a year and a half as a full-time teacher and mom, the choice I made to work still sends me spinning now and then.  Ultimately the ride winds down as I land on the belief that I'm giving Sophie and Michael the best upbringing I can with my family's arrangement.

I sort of feel the need to explain this further with our daily/weekly/yearly routines and a glimpse into our finances.  I'm going to resist that.  Those details are specific to us and probably wouldn't really offer much insight for anyone reading this. 

The fact is that this decision is a complex one.  It's not a matter of choosing to be either a stereotypically warm and nurturing stay-at-home-mom or an equally cartoonish cold and distant working one.  Nor is it between being a healthy and fulfilled working mom or a depressed stay-at-home one with heart disease. 

The conclusion of my own study conducted over 33 years of living in this world is this:  there are both stay-at-home moms and working moms who suck at parenting.  Both can also be amazing.  Generalizations do absolutely no good.  The last thing any well-intentioned family needs as they weigh the many options along the parenting journey is judgemental commentary.

I do appreciate that the study and USA Today article emphasized that part-time work for moms is healthy for everyone involved and that this option is not a realistic one for many when health insurance, career advancement, and other benefits are typically limited for part-time employees. I would love it if that was what our culture took from this research, and employers and others with the power to make this a more workable option for families would attempt to do so.

But the local news story I saw on this study didn't empasize that messsage, and neither did the people who commented on the online article.  My gut reaction to this study, the contempt, frustration, and overall annoyance is really about the divisiveness. 

It seems our society has a hard time looking at the full complexity of issues like this, and that, along with health insurance and a savings account, leads me to kiss my kids good-bye in the morning and head back to my classroom.

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