Carolyn Hax: Friend suggests at-home moms are just ‘drinking coffee’

Adapted from an online discussion.

Dear Carolyn: I need guidance on how to recover from a perceived insult. I have a friend whom I met teaching years ago. We had kids around the same time, and she decided to stay home while I returned to teaching. We still hang out quite a bit, and I love our friendship.

I enrolled my kids in camp this summer and got a taste of her stay-at-home life. When we were hanging out the other day, I said I could never stay at home, because I would get tired of drinking coffee and hanging out at home all day. She said: “I don’t sit at home all day. I do more than that.” She abruptly got up and walked away.

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When I contacted her, she texted back saying that her feelings were hurt and that she’s feeling as if her husband doesn’t appreciate what she contributes at home. She also said she needs time to recover. What should I do? Should I continue this friendship? I do think she has it easier, because she has one kid and she has all that time when her daughter is at school to get things done.

Insulted a Friend: Omg. That wasn’t a “perceived” insult; that was a massive, quacking, wing-flapping, deck-befouling duck of an insult. My goodness.

You just told your friend that her life was an empty, caffeinated waste of time that was utterly beneath you. Your apology needs to be even bigger than the giant bird you just gave her, and absolutely abject. Like: “I don’t know what I was thinking. I can’t believe I insulted your life choices like that. Please forgive me.”

I’m curious. You say you’re a teacher. You haven’t noticed that the most productive learning partnership in schools tends to be between the teachers and the parents who have time to provide extra support — volunteering, fundraising, school-board lobbying, snack wrangling, chaperoning, plus the usual reading aloud, homework lassoing and pretty much everything outside the classroom that is seen as essential? The bulk of it done by at-home parents, largely still moms?

· Umm. What if someone said to you that, as a teacher, you get all those summers off and are done at 3 p.m., so you don’t really work as hard as others? It is insulting and massively rude and just wrong. Everyone (generally) works incredibly hard at what they do and how they live. We would be in better stead if we just supported each other’s choices and intervened only when they affected our lives directly.

· Too bad she didn’t say: “I could never be a stay-at-home mom, as I have just proved to myself that I would fall victim to my own inertia by drinking coffee and hanging out at home. I don’t know how you have the willpower and strength to do all you do.”

· So now you know absolutely everything about every aspect of her life? I don’t think you need to decide whether to “continue this friendship,” because I don’t think your stay-at-home mom friend will ever speak to you again. I know I wouldn’t.

· The friend acted like a genuine friend: named the insult, named its source (the husband, thus relieving “Insulted” of some of the burden of guilt) and asked for time to recover.

Friend put on a good-friend clinic. “Insulted” — not so much.

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