"They think stay-at-home moms are lazy. They are always tired. They think they are better moms. They don't understand why some women must work full-time when they have children."
Here is a glimpse at what stay-at-home and working moms say about each other when asked what's the most annoying thing about the other group.
In an attempt to uncover the roots of the tension between these two mom groups, "More" magazine and Women & Co., Citi's personal finance resource for women, surveyed more than 500 parents who presumably have a choice about whether they go back to work or stay home (those surveyed had household incomes of $75,000 or higher) to learn how financial issues and gender roles factor into the equation.
The Motivation for Working
While some women simply want to work and engage in the intellectual stimulation that a career provides, that's not the motivation most working women have. The survey showed that nearly half work mainly for the income, with 91 percent of working mothers reporting that their families rely on their salaries. And 47 percent of working moms wish they could stay at home with their families, or work fewer hours.
Unexpected Stress at School Pickup
What's interesting is that both sides feel the resentment from the other: 54 percent of working mothers have been made to feel bad about being busy and too short on time to participate in school activities by stay-at-home mothers, while 47 percent of stay-at-home moms feel looked down upon by women who go to work each day and find professional satisfaction in doing so.
What the Men Say
The survey also included men's input, to see what they thought of their wives working or not. In general, the men surveyed thought that stay-at-home mothers were better parents, were happier and had better-behaved children.
On the other side, men thought that working moms earned more respect and worked harder. So there's some confusion about what these men want and think fueling the insecurities that many women already have about their life choices.
Which is Right for You?
If you're facing the decision of whether to work or stay home as a parent, consider what's most important to you. Is income important enough to keep you working, or do you have the luxury of being able to be a single-income household? Would you get enough satisfaction and mental stimulation in staying home with your children for several years, or do you crave the creativity and challenges that come with your job?
This is clearly a decision partners must make together, and a dialogue to have openly. In the survey, many women said they felt resentful that their husbands didn't make enough income so that they could stay at home, while others said they resented that their husbands worked while they stayed home.
Also consider hybrid options: working part time or freelancing can bring you the professional fulfillment you crave, while giving you the flexibility and time to spend with your children.
The Peace Accords
The decision to continue working while raising children—especially young ones—or to stay home to raise them is incredibly personal, and you should never be made to feel bad for the path you've chosen. There's no one-size-fits-all solution, so determine what works best for your family and let the guilt go.
"No problem goes away unless you talk about it, and unless you dig in and find the reasons for its existence," says Lesley Jane Seymour, "More" editor-in-chief, about the survey results. And the results reveal that money, men and our own insecurities are the fuel for this long-standing feud between women.
Seymour suggests the following will help guide women toward peace with each other:
1. Drop the judging. Sometimes as parents we don't want to share the painful parts or admit things aren't perfect. Always remember you could end up on the other side, too. Everyone is trying to do the best they can.
2. Reach out and get to know someone on the other side to the fence. Building a friendship with those on the "other side" will help you see the challenges we all face. We're all in this together.
3. Let go of the guilt. The basis of these disagreements all come from our guilt and insecurities. The guilt makes us defensive and letting go of it will help us move on.
4. Share your expertise. Use your expertise and talents to help other moms and get involved with the children.
5. Enlist your partner. Raising a family is a hard job for everyone, whether you're working or staying home. Share responsibilities with your partner and find what works best for your family.
Lindsay Olson is a founding partner and public relations recruiter with Paradigm Staffing and Hoojobs.com, a niche job board for public relations, communications, and social media jobs. She blogs at LindsayOlson.com, where she discusses recruiting and job search issues.