I have no idea how I have been reading mom blogs for so long (the past 19 months counts as “so long” since it’s my little guy’s whole life) and haven’t before come across Mom-101. One of my new favorites! Awesome discussion over there of “doing it all” which prompted many comments, all fascinating and thoughtful.
It got me thinking again about one of the many false dichotomies in this parenting world – working moms and stay-at-home moms.
First, I think I have to untangle two issues if I’m going to make any sense to myself. The first is whether there is or should be a war between these two groups (I’m going out on a limb and saying no). Backing up, I do not personally believe there is much of a war between individual women, but people who want to sell newspapers and books want us to think there is. My evidence – the 12 million results that come up in .9 seconds when you type “mommy wars” into Google. More evidence that the war is not between individuals but is invented to sell books – even the author of the book “Mommy Wars” doesn’t fall neatly into one of the two categories (from her website: “the truth is I feel like a hybrid–neither working mom nor true stay-at-home mom.”). Of course this did not stop her from sub-titling her book “Stay-at-home and career moms face off…” Nuance, though tasty when paired with fine wine, does not sell books.
The competitive part of me wants to get a new team signed up for the league and start kicking ass!! I even found an article suggesting that moms who work part time are a new “dominant power” in the “war between stay-at-home moms and full-time working moms.” Heck yeah! Where do I order my team shirt?! We got next!
But even if we’re not doing battle (and really there are so many other awesome things to battle over), I think it’s also important to ask whether these two categories are even useful as descriptors – whether they tell us anything about people’s day to day lives (I’m becoming increasingly convinced that they don’t).
I realize that this point – that trying to force all moms into one of two categories fails to capture the breadth of the mom experience – is not revolutionary. And I am certainly not against using categories, per se. But these particular categories are used so much (insert ten day long link to all the articles on this issue) that it does seem it’s worth paying attention to whether we are getting our money’s worth from them.
The huge range of experiences of the people commenting on the Mom-101 post further convinced me that this is not a very useful way to break things down. Arguably there is more difference between a mom who works 80 hours at a law firm/med student job (Mom A – not for type, but OK in some cases maybe a little for type), and a mom who works 30 hours a week, and sees her baby every lunch break (Mom B – not for grade, or cup size, or type of movie) than there is between Mom B and a mom who doesn’t work, but has a kid in preschool for a half day every day (Mom C). Mom B and C might have a much more similar experience, yet Mom A and B would be lumped into “working moms” and Mom C would be a “stay at home” mom. My own experience does not fit neatly into any category. I was home for five months, then have been back at work part time (sneaking out to breastfeed my hardcore bottle refuser for the first few months back). The comments also highlighted for me how these categories are not permanent traits for so many of us – so many of us go from one category to another (and then back again). Makes trying to take sides in the “mommy wars” something like being a Brett Favre fan from 2007-2009. You end up buying a lot of different jerseys and is it really worth the price.
Reading another Mom-101 post on this very issue made me also realize that probably a large part of why this “battle” rages on, is because it’s something we feel within ourselves. We have some stake in watching the sides duke it out, hoping it will reveal some clues as to whether our particular combination of work and time with our children is the “right” one. The sooner we stop judging ourselves, the sooner we can stop judging each other. Free from the “wars” and the confines of the two made-up sides, perhaps then we can have real conversations about the challenges and decisions we all face.