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As mothers we’ve all, at some point, been a part of, a witness to or even a casualty of the mommy war. What is the mommy war?

It’s the battle that pits working moms against stay-at-home moms in the crusade to decide whose choice is right. It is a war in which many women choose not to fight but unfortunately are drafted—forced to choose a side.

I cannot say on which side I stand for I have the rare privilege of being on both. I am a mother of two young sons and I am also a writer. My husband and I both work from home; we co-parent and rotate workdays, which allows me to cross the battle lines. As infiltrator to both sides, I’ve learned something about both choices and about myself.

For many years, I worked as an assistant editor. I remember well what it was like to get up early and work an eight-hour day. I remember crazy co-workers, tyrannical bosses, office politics and water cooler gossip. I remember the stress of deadlines and the pressure of performance as well as the disappointments and the rewards. 

After a few unsatisfactory years of doing what I didn’t love, I decided to do what I did love—write. For the next couple of years, I stayed planted in front of my computer until I’d written and published my first novel.

Soon after, I had my first child. Abandoning my writing, I immersed myself in him. So I know what it is like to wear more spit-up than perfume, to function on four hours of sleep, to not shower until the end of the day, and to feel strangely attracted to the Wiggle in the blue shirt.

Now, I do both. I have a career and I feel the challenges of self-motivation, self-doubt and little money. I have children and I feel the challenges of exhaustion, self-doubt and no money. So who am I?

Am I a stay-at-home mom or a working mom? It shouldn’t matter, right? But it does. Since I have been able to stealthily be both let me tell you what I have learned about the one while being the other.

As a working mom, you feel guilty, especially when your child, eyes big and round, asks you if you’re working again. You feel selfish because you enjoy your work. You feel the quick passage of time and wonder what you’ve missed. You constantly question if you made the right choice.

As a stay-at-home mom, you feel guilty, especially when you feel as though you can never be or do enough. You feel selfish when you wonder whether not starting or putting your career on hold was the right choice. You feel the quick passage of time and wonder what you’ve missed. You constantly question if you made the right choice.

And what did I learn about me? I learned that I am damned lucky to be able to do both. I learned that it doesn’t matter on which side I stand or any other woman for that matter because we all question our choice. We all want our children to be healthy and happy and our careers to be a success. We want a good life.

Most importantly, I learned that in life you must find your voice and learn how to use it. For me, I discovered my voice when I heard my son’s for the first time and realized that I am more than the label in which some wants to contain me. I am a working mom, I am a stay-at-home mom, I am a mother, and I am a writer. Most importantly, I am a woman, like so many others, who just tries to do her best every day.

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Sherry Parnell

A full-time writer, personal trainer, and professor, I am the author of Let the Willows Weep and Daughter of the Mountain. An alumnus of Dickinson College and West Chester University, I live with my husband and sons in Glenmoore, Pennsylvania. I am currently working on my third novel entitled The Secrets Mother Told.

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