Have we talked yet about the gap between working moms and stay-at-home moms? No, not the glaring, controversial pay gap. It’s the gap that exists between friendships that widens with each baby and each career sent to the back burner while another thrives. It’s borne from choosing two different yet similar paths. As a stay-at-home mom, here’s what I wish I could say to my best friend, a working mom, in this stage of our lives.
To my working mom friend, from your stay-at-home mom friend:
We’re both mothers, both well aware of what it’s like to have our hearts stretch and grow with a new baby, then another. But our days look so different right now. You don’t know what it’s like to spend one long afternoon after another entertaining these tiny humans with a craft or well-intended scavenger hunt or half-eaten bin of chalk—at least right now. And I have no idea what it’s like to relentlessly pursue my career ambition, to talk to other adults about something other than my kids’ sleep schedule, and to pee alone—at least right now.
But that other piece of my heart, the one from before we were mothers, it belonged to you. It was borne of countless sleepovers and braces and broken hearts, tipsy nights out, and one blissful summer spent on a remote island, testing out the waters of adulthood.
We call, but it’s the wrong time. We commiserate, but our complaints don’t match—too much time with our babies or not enough. My eyes glaze over when you talk about the issue you have at work because I’m so tired and have laundry to do and activities to assemble. I’m wondering if the baby is still sleeping. Is that crying I hear? But I care. I do. I just can’t remember what it was like to be a person who gets to get dressed every day, a person who doesn’t have tiny hands stretch the neck of every shirt or wipe grape jelly on every single pair of black yoga pants. Our friendship is stuck in that space between.
I value my friendships with other stay-at-home moms
With other stay-at-home moms, our relationship exists between parenting moments: while the kids are having lunch and finally quiet or while I’m ferrying them to their activities or playdates. If I hear an “oh, crap” and the line disconnects, I know someone probably fell off a stool or closed their fingers in a drawer, and I check in later. With those moms, who live in the world of school and nap schedules like I do, I don’t call at 3 p.m. when the bus drops off or at dinner time. I know not to because this is the hardest part of my day, so it also is hers.
But I still miss “us”
But all the times you’re free, I’m not. Whenever you have a second, I’m knee-deep in dirty laundry or bath time or wiping bottoms. I try not to be mad when my kids scream in the background when you call. And when we connect, finally, I hear your voice, not in a voicemail. And I’m able to gauge if you’re happy or having a sad moment, if you’ve had one glass of wine or two after a dreadful day, and if it was your husband’s turn to put the baby down or if you had to fight him for an hour. I know all of this just from your hello. I guess that’s what nearly three decades of friendship earn you.
But it’s always a lengthy call, full of “oh my goodness”es and “you didn’t tell me that”s and genuinely delighting in the events of your life, one that seems so radically different from mine. But sometimes, I don’t have the headspace to do a lengthy catch-up, however much joy it brings. So I’ll hit decline, and later, my heart will ache.
Sometimes, I don’t have the headspace to do a lengthy catch-up, however much joy it brings. So I’ll hit decline, and later, my heart will ache.
But I’m not giving up on us. I know that one day, in the not-too-distant future, that gap will grow smaller. One day, we’ll take that girls’ trip or go to brunch without our kids or talk without interruption. One day, there will be space for us again.