Modern Mom Code
by Eileen Wacker
Modern Moms are Stressed
I face so many challenges as a married mom of four, trying to build a company. We just never have a drama-free week. Forgotten meds, wrong shirt on field trip day, wrong clothes/shoes for after school sports. And then several times a year planning, traveling and handling the aftermath of family trips or an occasional weekend away with my husband. It’s a constant game of cat and mouse.
When my phone rings and certain numbers crop up, I cringe. But I have to answer because I am a Mom. This week I was gone for 48 hours at a conference and my house did not run smoothly. There are too many “little catches” I make that cannot be explained in an instruction letter to the wonderful babysitter. I am not a creature of habit – I am a “catcher” by habit. I catch everyone’s problems and stresses. I am the absorber of stress. And when I answer the phone, there is always an issue requiring immediate attention.
We need a “Modern Mom Code”
I’ve heard of a “man code” many times. Okay I get it, there are some unwritten rules that should be adhered to if you are a stand-up guy. I, for one, am a stressed-out working mom and I believe a “Mom’s code” could help us all. I sent a survey to 40 women and got lots of great responses.
An important issue surfaced: working moms versus stay-at-home moms and could “the code” apply to both. I was a stay-at-home mom for 6 years. I left the work force when my oldest, at the time three and a half, needed open heart surgery. Then we ended up moving to Seoul, South Korea when we had four children, aged three months to five years old. So I was a stay-at-home wife and mom and did not know if I would ever go back to the workforce. I was wildly busy trying to keep a sane life, living a foreign country. Now, back in the US for the past several years I have been trying to establish a business and I work non-stop as it is just getting off the ground.
Dispelling a few myths.
When I was a stay-at-home mom, these were some of the things I worried about:
All anyone asks about are my kids – how they are, camps, activities etc.. I ceased to be an individual on my own merits with interests and opinions.
I felt others expected me to help more at school as I didn’t have a job and the working moms had more important things to do.
My kids are far from perfect and since I was “at home” and this is my only job, I must not be a very good mom.
As a working mom, I worry:
I have one of those “naughty children” despite very active parenting and I imagine the other moms saying, “maybe if she was home more, he would behave.”
I don’t have the time or ingredients to bake for the class. Sometimes I even buy cakes from the store, cut it into little pieces, add a berry and put in different packaging.
I get so caught up with work sometimes I forget things like parent-teacher conferences and field trips so I lay awake endlessly running to-do lists through my head.
When I was a stay-at-home mom, I worried working moms did not really respect me. Now that I am a working mom, I worry stay-at-home moms don’t respect me. But here is the truth -each side is just a little intimidated by the other.
As a stay-at-home mom I wore a ponytail most days because I could squeeze in a rinse off shower but blow-drying took too much time. But I was in better shape because I got to work out. Working moms really struggle with making enough time to work out so they are constantly trying to shed that extra few pounds. Stay-at-home moms have to shed a few pounds because we eat our kids’ food. I didn’t eat Kraft macaroni and cheese for 15 years and I swore I would never feed it to my kids but they love it so I make it (a lot) and end up eating too much!
Moms’ stress shows up as bitten and chipped fingernails and roots that need to be touched up. I guess the bottom line is stay-at-home and working moms are stressed out and largely about the same things, so we can all agree to one code?
Proposed Modern “Mom Code”:
Lose some of the “judgy-ness”. No putting down a working mom or a stay-at-home mom. Everyone is where they are because of a journey. If you don’t know someone’s story, don’t put her down. And, let’s have a little more openness about what being a “good mom” is – people have gone overboard making other moms feel bad about choices such as organic versus not, or watching tv or playing video games and using electronics. And, limit the Mama Drama and handle issues as close to the source as possible so people don’t have to take sides – mommy wars are the worst. The drama makes us look bad as moms and women. It’s okay and sometimes fun to talk about people but let’s have some limits.
Let’s get out and have fun. Make time for a girls’ night with a fun group at least every other month. There will always be a business trip or fever causing someone to cancel but make it as often as you can. We need to share a glass of wine and some stories. Carpooling and taking taxis are a good idea for Moms night out if people are drinking. The wine can disappear as the stories unfold.
Let’s Save her. Schedule glitches happen all the time and it may be one of the biggest stresses moms face. Put yourself out to help a mom when she misses something and is trying to recover- take a picture of her kid at the event, pick up one of her kids and take them to your house, stay with her child if she is late picking up from practice. See it as paying it forward and don’t keep score.
Rejoice in her small successes and lessen her pain. When a proud mom talks about one of her kids’ accomplishments, respond with at least 1 statement acknowledging how wonderful her child is before you jump in with a proud story about one of yours. On the other hand, when a mom shares an awful story about one of her child’s misbehaviors and/or bad decisions respond immediately with an equally horrifying story about one of yours.
Make her feel like a good Mom. If you see her child in a game, piano recital, anything… acknowledge her child. Just a “nice job” or “wow looking good” goes a long way and the Mom is endlessly grateful. None of our children are perfect. Have a group of friends you trust and really talk to. Share information about camps, school activities, volunteer information, doctors, etc.. Many activities or events are word of mouth and working moms may get left off the list.
Let’s establish a non-competition clause. Build each other up instead of one-upping. Everyone has something they are good at and it is different for everyone – good athlete, good listener, good at her job, great with kids, etc.. Ask stay-at-home mom about her interests, social media participation, past jobs etc. Make the stay-at-home mom feel like more than Ethan’s Mom or Rich’s wife. She has opinions, interests and insights. Maybe share a weakness (my child won’t practice or always forgets the right shoes). We all share more issues than we think.
Let’s all get a little more wired as Moms. Join the social media world even if you don’t want to – because your kids live there now. Staying safe on-line is becoming a bigger part of our parenting jobs and it is here to stay. Tech-savvy moms, get your friends up to speed.
Just say no to pets at the wrong time. Family pets are great but they add a whole new level of drama to the house. They have allergies, ear infections, ticks and fleas, accidents, etc. It’s expensive in both time and money. If you do not want a dog right now, don’t get strong-armed by child begging for the puppy because yes, you will be taking care of 95% of the stuff associated with its care.
Involve the husbands. Okay let’s talk a little about husbands… I love mine– a lot in fact, but they are not usually the big helpers they think they are (but as part of the code, let’s not tell them). Nonetheless, we need more date nights. Our mates help us remember the women we are, and, romance is the ultimate stress reducer. Also remember, not all of us have husbands… include the single mom (for girls night out, not the date). She needs a night out and a friend more than anyone.
Let’s band together against Mom tormentors. A few I can think of – coaches with no empathy, teachers who do not like children, customer service reps that don’t like people, apathetic government personnel who are supposed to help but instead torment us (TSA). Also when an airline passenger is giving a mother with small children the stink eye, give it right back to that person and help the overwhelmed Mom.
It s not always as it appears. I have one of those “naughty children” but I am not a bad parent. Be empathetic and try to get to know her child and notice something nice about him/her. This mom frets every day about this child so your saying something nice actually gives her hope this child might be okay. If the mom is truly a bad parent, well… that is a different story. Go ahead and talk about her but be nice to her children.
Stand by your girlfriends when they experience momentary weakness. Every once in a while, everyone feels like they’ve been tossed in the gutter with her undone roots exposed to the world. She needs to vent and feel like someone understands her stress and angst. This does not count for drama-creating queens but for your friends in a bad moment. We all go through cycles – bad times are inevitable and everyone needs a reliable shoulder once in a while. And if your friend’s husband puts her down at a group event, come to her defense in a cheerful way. Or compliment her to remind him how lucky he is to have her.
We share 90% of the same issues but in different degrees. So let’s unite. Plan your girl’s night out. And if your husband says, “okay I’ll babysit,” just smile and store it away as another great story