By K Hernan • November 17, 2010•Balancing Private and Professional Life
I've been fascinated on a sociological and professional level with the issue of the so-called "Mommy Wars" for a long while. I've written about the guilt of the working moms that are fighting the Mommy Wars here. The questions of the "Opt Out Revolution" have been well documented. However, the recent post on this site by jlwallace is the inspiration for this post. I'd like to talk about the current tactic by working mothers to try to make stay at home moms feel guilty about wasted education or setting bad examples for their daughters -- a phenomenon that bothers me more than a little bit.
It is my impression that the Mommy Wars have been traditionally fought on a predictable battlefield where the Stay At Home Moms (SAHMs) fault the Working Moms (WMs) for being selfish, bad mothers and for not sacrificing enough for their families and the WMs fault the SAHMs for not much more than being lazy and maybe look down at the SAHMs as inferior women that aren't able to manage family and career. On the guilt scale, I've always thought that this was one weapon in the arsenal of the SAHMs that was unavailable to the WMs -- considered it a tactical advantage (like night vision is for the US and her allies) that the SAHMs would never share with those fighting on the WM side of the battlefield. In addition, the weapon of calling into question one's fitness as a mother has also been primarily in the possession of the SAHMs and something only employed by the WMs on a case-by-case basis. Afterall, what sort of argument would the WMs have that the SAHMs, as a group, weren't good mothers? -- they've dedicated themselves to that job full time and are, the conventional thinking goes, by definition good mothers.
Or, are they? Not to be undone, the WMs have found a way to use turn things around on the SAHMs and now claim that the SAHM side is selfish one and have found a way to make them feel guilty. Ah ha, perhaps the war is not as one-sided as some of us thought. This is how the new tactics (employed by WMs broadly these days) go:
- SAHMs are selfish because they aren't concerned about the impact of their career decisions on the greater good, the plight of all women, if you will. WMs are now attempting to make SAHMs bear the burden, each individually, for the continued under-representation of women in fields like the law.
- SAHMs are bad mothers because: (A) They are setting a bad example for their daughters [and sons] by leaving the work force. They are teaching their daughters that it is okay to not be professionally ambitious in complete disregard to the strides other women are making to send the opposite message; and (B) They are leaving themselves and, in turn, their children at risk of being abandoned in divorce or otherwise with no way to provide for herself/them.
- Finally, SAHMs should feel guilty because they aren't making their career decisions with the entire gender in mind and women that choose to abandon their career for their family are selfishly not taking into consideration the implications for all of us.
Well, I'm not buying it. I am no fan of the guilt associated with being a working mom. (Truthfully, I'm getting over it as my kids get older.) I will not, however, resort to the tactics laid out above to "win" the so-called Mommy Wars. It isn't worth it. Frankly, it isn't a war worth winning if it means that one side truly has to lose. I agree with this comment -- let's even the playing field so that the men are in it with us and so that there aren't winners and losers. Most importantly, can't we just focus our energy on being happy with our own decisions instead of attacking the decisions of others. I know... easier said than done.