I had the exciting opportunity to interview two men, each of whom survived his childhood being raised by a Connecticut Working Mom. Find out what mattered to them and what did not, whether they were scathed or unscathed, and how all the things we all worry about constantly regarding our kids and their growing up experiences are viewed through the eyes of these adult survivors!
D is a 34-year-old systems administrator at a Connecticut company. He is married and has one child, with one more on the way. A is a 29-year-old manufacturing engineer who lives in Rhode Island with his wife, who is expecting their first child.
Me: Thank you for giving moms your perspective on what it was like to have a mother who worked outside the home while she was raising you. This is an important service you are providing, because there is so much angst among the moms I know about whether they are doing the right thing, no matter what it is they are doing! Here are my questions:
- What made you first realize that your mother had to go to work (instead of staying home with you)?
A: Since I can’t really remember all the way back from when she went from staying home with me to going to work, it just became the norm.
D: I need help remembering this. I think my mom was working part time when I was going to day care. I do remember going to kindergarten in the morning, then day care in the afternoon some days and going home with my mother to play other days. I guess the answer at this point is, I still haven’t realized my mom was a working mom.
- Did you ever feel sad that your mother worked (instead of staying home with you)?
A: I don’t think I was ever specifically sad but I think I would have always preferred my mother to be home with me instead.
D: I remember having lots of fun on the days I spent the afternoon with my mom, and I did have trouble adjusting at day care. I don’t recall making the connection that “If my mom didn’t work, things would be better.” I guess I would say I did feel sad, but indirectly if that makes sense.
- Did you ever have to miss out on something you wanted to do because your mother worked?
A: I can’t think of anything specific.
D: I don’t think so! I remember my mom working extra hard to make sure I could do what I wanted — from driving me in the snow to get the new Offspring album to buying hair dye last minute because I wanted green and gold hair for the football game on a whim.
- How did you feel about home-cooked meals: were they important to you, or did you not care, or did you prefer chicken nuggets or McDonalds?
A: When I think back I feel that I would have preferred to have more family dinners.
D: Didn’t matter. Chicken nuggets, mac & cheese, & McDonalds were what I was used to. Though I wonder now if I’d have an easier time with cooking as an adult had I been taught as a child.
5. What is your happiest childhood memory involving your mother?
A: I think I will always think back to when she went to bat for me when it came to my education. I think of those fights (against the schools) as a big step toward where I am now.
D: One of the times we were together after kindergarten, I remember my mom set up an elaborate game where she ran string all over the sun room and threaded Cheerios on the string. And I had to follow the string and find them all.
- Can you think of any fun traditions or customs you really enjoyed with your mother? It’s ok if you can’t.
A: I always remember and still use to this day, her special rule about being able to buy snacks and drinks on a trip (instead of packing them) and I will make sure I use that with my kids.
D: Playing Passover and acting out the Ten Plagues with my parents.
- What was the worst part about having a working mother?
A: I think the worst part was how tired my mom would be and how much work she had to do at home. I remember being excited for her to be home but she told me that she needed some time to unwind before I could tell her about my day.
D: I remember that time in middle school when a kid in my class killed himself. I was so upset by this that my mom had to come to school and pick me up, but she still had to work, so we went back to her office. That was rough, I really just wanted to go home.
- Did you ever feel lonely or hurt because your mother worked?
A: I wouldn’t say this was me being hurt but I remember being upset when I wanted to talk to her but she was working at home and had her “Work Light” on, which meant I couldn’t interrupt her.
D: I’m sure I must have, but I can’t think of an occasion. I’m a person who really likes his alone time, so being a latchkey kid didn’t bother me much.
- Could you tell if your mother was upset by work or too tired because of work?
A: I remember her being stressed. This may be a combination of working and the financial situation we were in at the time.
D: I don’t think so. I don’t think the communication between my mother and me was that good back then, so I’m not sure if she voiced that she was upset/tired because of work as opposed to something else. Also, at that age I assumed everything was my fault, so I usually walked on eggshells so my mother wouldn’t get any madder at me (even though I wasn’t who she was really mad at.)
- Were you jealous of kids who had moms who didn’t work?
A: I don’t think I ever really realized that other mothers didn’t work. Because my mother worked, it became my norm.
D: I’m not sure I knew any. I wasn’t very social so I didn’t have a wide circle of friends. I don’t remember ever thinking, “Jimmy’s mom is home all day? That sounds awesome!”
Any other comments about having a working mother?
A: My working mother was better than any other stay at home mother because she was able to raise successful kids all while supporting them by herself and making sure they had everything they needed.
D: I think having a working mom just becomes normal for the kid(s) growing up, since it’s all they’ve ever known. I don’t think there’s a lot of pining going on by the children. I also think having kids in childcare helps them develop important social skills. At a certain point, you have to weigh the cost of one lifestyle over the other.
So there you have it, straight from the source. These young men appear to be unharmed by their experience! Their mothers were unavailable for comment, but clearly each of them was raised by a remarkable woman.