If I had a dollar for every time someone has asked me that question in the last three years since I went back to work post maternity leave, no one would need to ask that question any more. Because I would have been rich enough to quit this working mom gig and live off said money. However, such windfall being unlikely to come my way, it’s likely I will have to suffer this question many times over till the day I retire or the child becomes a self-sufficient adult.
Just in case that introduction didn’t make it clear enough, I am less than thrilled when these words are addressed to me. Because these seemingly innocuous words are loaded with judgment (mostly of the negative sort) on my choice to be a working mother.
Let’s start with figuring out what might be a valid, genuine reason for asking this question. It could be that the person asking the question really wants to get some advice on how to balance motherhood with a career. But then how does one explain the fact that this question almost always comes from a SAHM, usually one with no intention of getting back to work anywhere in the near future…
Or could it be an indirect way to express admiration for my excellent management skills. Now I might buy this but for the fact that this question is typically followed by one, more or all of the following questions:
- Does your mother-in-law stay with you?
- No? How about your mom?
- So you son is with the maid the whole day?
- And then, it is very often followed up by a heart-breaking (not!) story of how the question asker could not bring herself to go back to work after her child was born or how she did go back to work but felt that the child was not ‘developing well’ with the maid and so quit her job.
Or maybe it’s their attempt at polite conversation… but then wouldn’t a little more tact and diplomacy be called for so that the conversation can actually be classified as polite? I can say for sure that if it is intended as an ice-breaker, it has the exact opposite effect as far as I am concerned. I know I shouldn’t care but this question always gets my goat and puts me at my irritable and defensive best. Am I over-reacting? Quite possibly so…