The other day I took my car in to get it fixed. It was 10 a.m. and I had all the kids with me — because it’s summer, my husband is deployed, my family lives in another state and “all the kids with me” is what I have 24/7.
The guy behind the counter looked from me to my children and said, “So you’re like a housewife or something?”
And, rather than try to explain that I stay at home (ahem, not “housewife”) with my kids and that I work from home, I just nodded and said, “Yep.”
What did I care if this random stranger understood the ins and outs of my days?
“That’s good,” he said. “That’s how it should be. If more women did what you are doing, the world would be a much better place.”
This mechanic — let’s just call him Mike — also told me that he didn’t have a wife or kids when I asked if his wife also stays home with children.
So, of course, I used that opportunity to school Mike, to rage against the patriarchy, to tell him exactly what I thought of his outdated, outmoded, unfounded, illogical, sexist opinions.
At that moment my three-year-old was standing on one of the waiting room chairs, about to go full WWE on her sister, who was lying on the (filthy) floor pretending to make snow angels.
My son was the only one of my children actually sitting in a chair — and he was trying to make a paper airline out of the cover of a three-month-old copy of US Weekly, presumably so that he could throw it at his sisters.
I could see that I was in no position to lecture anyone on parenting, so I smiled at Mike and just said “thanks.” Besides, I really do think he was trying to pay me a compliment.
Mostly, though, I just didn’t care.
I didn’t need to get into a parenting and gender roles discussion with Mike. I’ve got a whole internet full of moms and dads I can debate that stuff with — and all of them have the one thing that makes their opinions more valid than Mike’s: children.
We’ve all spent decades with these “mommy wars” (and now “daddy wars”) — first as children ourselves and now as parents. Most of us have come to see the wars for what they really are: transparent attempts to tear down others’ choices in order to make us feel better about our own.
Scarcely does a week go by that we don’t hear about some new study or book that says that whatever we’re currently doing is either all wrong or all right, and that whatever someone else is doing is just the opposite.
I grew up as a “latchkey kid” — with all the pity and parent-tsking that came with that — and now there are studies that say I’m better off for having had that experience. But I know plenty of adults who grew up with in-your-face, suffocating, mothers, and they turned out to be perfectly fine, independent adults, too.
I have no doubt that my children would benefit from living in a household where parenting duties were more equally shared and where I was less likely to be completely frazzled at the end of every day. Some people even deign to tell me as much.
I also know that my family’s choices are the ones that work best for us in the stage of life that we’re in right now.
I know that there are things that I’m doing wrong, perhaps even things that my children will tell their therapists about one day. But I also know that my children know and feel loved and wanted by both of their parents. If only all children could feel that way.
What I’m saying is, no parent hits all their targets. We can absolutely #NailedIt in one area, and simultaneously #Fail in another.
So, to the Mikes of this world, intent on imposing their parenting philosophies on others, I offer these words of wisdom from that other Mike and his Mechanics:
Every generation Blames the one before And all of their frustrations Come beating on your door … … Say it loud, say it clear You can listen as well as you hear It's too late when we die To admit we don't see eye to eye.