10 Myths from the Mommy Wars
If you're not Mom enough to stand the heat, you better get out of the kitchen.
May 13, 2012 - 4:00 am
Just when you thought it was safe to search Pinterest for a sexy apron, a new skirmish in the Mommy Wars erupts in time for Mother’s Day and — purely by coincidence, I’m sure — a new election cycle.
When Democratic strategist Hilary Rosen accused Ann Romney (a mother of five) of having “never worked a day in her life,” both working moms and stay-at-home moms alike drew new battle lines. However, I can’t help but notice that the theater has changed.
The old feminist guard has grown as obsolete as their eight-tracks. A new generation of moms views power and choice in ways that surprise many feminists.
One such feminist, Wendy S. Goffe, wrote a guest post at Forbes.com (“A Working Mom Defends the Lululemon Stay at Home Mother“) and inadvertently stumbled across a tripwire, setting off a firestorm of criticism that pelted her with “emotional” comments. In response, Goffe wrote another post titled “Who Started the Mommy Wars?” where she writes,
In short, my effort to bridge what I saw as the mommy gap seemed to just accentuate what turned out to be the Mommy Wars.
For Mother’s Day, let’s declare a truce on the Mommy Wars. Instead of bashing one another, let’s communicate amongst ourselves about what we need and what we can offer each other–a sort of free flowing Craigslist.
I understood what she tried to say. She sincerely tried to get women to see past a perceived social status and outward appearance so, as she put it, “We can lead happier, more fulfilling and less guilty lives as parents.”
Before there can be a ceasefire in the Mommy Wars, and the communication lines can freely flow, we need to stop believing the Mommy Myths. Here are 10 of the worst.
Myth #10: She’s Only Home Because She’s Unemployable.
Upon learning of my pregnancy with my fifth child, this one scared me the most. It didn’t matter that at the time I owned and ran a successful business. In the back of my mind, I worried that people (read strangers) would think I had five kids solely because I was too stupid to do anything else.
We often decry stereotyping and profiling, yet women do it to one another all the time. Over the last half-century we have diluted motherhood to simple tasks such as packing lunches and changing diapers. It has become the lowest rung on the social chain — something an educated and prudent woman would simply outsource.
Today’s mothers know better than to confuse the nurturing aspects of motherhood with the responsibilities of raising children and the tasks of housework.
(Just in case you were wondering, that is not my picture. I wouldn’t be caught dead in red pants.)
Myth #9: Women Are Valued as Mothers by What We Do in the World, Not By Being a Mom.
We remember some women for what they contributed to the world aside from motherhood. But unless you’re the Queen Mother, most of us won’t get that pass.
It’s not wrong to want to make a difference in the world or better the lives of our children by providing a good education, health insurance, or dental care. Nor is it evil to pursue our passions aside from motherhood.No one’s arguing that we don’t need to be strong role models for our daughters.
Both working moms and stay-at-home moms can agree that all the above are good things. Nevertheless, they are not the basis on which to build personal relationships with anyone, let alone your children.
Our work is not the total of our worth as individuals. This is where our noble endeavors get tangled up in a jumbled wad of emotions and false security — when we believe our worth as people is derived from our talents and titles.
This includes the title of mother. We may consider it an occupation, but our children only know a relationship. The relationship we want to build with them is one that will grow richer as our lives evolve.
Like any investment, we can’t put all our resources in one place and expect returns to come in from another.
Myth #8: A Family Is a Blessing not a Job.
Only under the most dysfunctional conditions would anyone argue that a family is anything but a blessing.
It’s in the definition of “job” or “work” that we get hung up. When Rosen accused Ann Romney of having “never worked a day in her life,” the word “worked” became one of the Left’s beloved projections.
Rosen, being a Democratic strategist, makes it hard for me to believe that she didn’t intend to use a word that would be interpreted differently by women on both sides of the political spectrum. It’s clearly a divisive tactic that worked well.
Most employment takes effort of varying degrees– we “work” at a job to provide for our home.
Taking care of a home and caring for children also take effort — we “work” at home to care for our family.
“The homemaker has the ultimate career. All other careers exist for one purpose only — and that is to support the ultimate career.”
― C.S. Lewis
One of the best measures of immaturity is the inability to understand delayed gratification — wanting it all right now.
We want instant satisfaction in most areas of our lives. The idea that we must achieve our life ambitions and build a family all before we are “too old” — 40! — would be plausible if we only lived to 39. Thankfully this isn’t the case.
When you consider the time span of childhood within a lifetime, both yours and your child’s, there is a lot of life left to live.
Don’t believe me? Ask your mom how fast your childhood went.
Myth #6. Choosing to Stay Home Is a “Luxury.”
“And once Michelle and I had our girls, she gave it her all to balance raising a family and pursuing a career. And something that, could be very difficult on her, because I was gone a lot. Once I was in the state legislature, I was teaching, I was practicing law, I’d be traveling. And we didn’t have the luxury for her not to work.” — President Obama
For most of us, our “luxuries” are earned.
Many families make great sacrifices in order to live on one income. To label staying at home a mere luxury is nothing more than another tactic that fuels the animosity and creates artificial classes and envy.
Don’t buy it.
Myth #5: The Choice to Stay Home Is Bad for Individual Women.
The amount of truth found here all depends on how you measure your life and marriage. There are no guarantees in either.
The argument usually revolves around the fact that stay-at-home moms aren’t earning Social Security benefits and waste valuable time that could be spent climbing the corporate ladder.
There are just some things in life that can’t be measured in the amounts of benefits received. Taking care of children is just one. There are many, many more.
Myth #4. Working Moms Are Selfish.
There are selfish working moms just like there are selfish stay-at-home moms. Neither corners the market on self-centeredness. That is just part of the human condition.
The root of this myth is envy. Good mothers make sacrifices for their families everyday. When you’ve poured out all you have, it’s too tempting to look at someone’s else’s life and only see what you don’t have.
The working mom may long to wear yoga pants, while the stay-at-home mom might jump at the chance to get dressed up.
Truth is, it’s all shallow. We all have gains and losses; it’s foolish to try to envy someone else’s gain, without taking into account the price they paid.
Myth #3. Stay-at-Home Moms Are Selfish.
The grass isn’t always greener on the other side, it just looks that way when you close your eyes and dream about it.
Myth #2: “The New Glass Ceiling is The Roof Over your head.”
“Justice requires that it[house-keeping and child rearing] not be assigned to women on the basis of their gender and at the sacrifice of their access to money, power, and honor.
“When she sounded the blast that revived the feminist movement 40 years after women received the vote, Betty Friedan spoke of lives of purpose and meaning, better lives and worse lives, and feminism went a long way toward shattering the glass ceilings that limited their prospects outside the home. Now the glass ceiling begins at home. Although it is harder to shatter a ceiling that is also the roof over your head, there is no other choice.” Linda R. Hirshman (Emphasis mine)
Who started the Mommy Wars? I can’t tell you who fired the first shot. But I think it’s pretty obvious what fuels it.
It’s not a war between moms. We all want the same thing. We want what’s best for our families. The war is on traditional gender roles. Those perpetuating the Mommy Myths are doing so for larger goals: money, power, and what they perceive as honor.
Apparently for some, shattering the corporate ceiling wasn’t enough; they want to blow apart yours.
Myth #1: Don’t Waste Your Education on Child-Rearing.
“The tasks of housekeeping and child-rearing, are not worthy of the full time and talents of intelligent and educated human beings.” Linda R. Hirshman
In a world where a degree is required for almost any position — including daycare! — this statement reeks of condescending ignorance.
Volumes can — and have been — written on the importance of childhood development. So let’s keep this simple.
Who better to raise an educated, talented, intelligent human being than an educated, talented, intelligent human being?
Correct me if I’m wrong, but wouldn’t you hire an educated, talented, intelligent and compassionate human being to create habitats for zoo animals?
It’s one thing to say that you can raise a child without an education. It’s an entirely different thing to say an education is wasted on your children.
What do you say we quit picking at each other, and on this Mother’s Day we get back to what’s really important — our own unique families.
See Rhonda’s previous parenting column: 5 Insane Fads New Parents Swallow