Monday, October 19, 2009

Mommy Wars

I was watching a episode of Dr Phil (yes, I admit it - I watch him) covering the debate on stay-at-home moms versus working moms. I'm sure you all can figure out which side I am on.

I found it really interesting to hear from a SAH mom who was very outspoken about her belief that women who have children and work are selfish. She stated that "if you don't have time for children, then maybe you shouldn't be having them". I would actually agree with that statement but not in the context in which she made it. She's implying that any woman who works, couldn't possibly have time to spend with her children. That a woman who works could not contribute to the health and well-being of a child. That a woman who works couldn't possibly raise a wonderful human being.

Yes, this lady was really opinionated. In fact another SAH mom stood up and said that "she does not speak for all of us!".

In general, it seemed that the SAH moms were more likely to be judgemental about working moms. I did not hear any judgements made towards women who choose to stay home. I understand that SAH moms are often undervalued. Working in the home is a career like any other. But I wonder where that defensiveness comes from. Perhaps SAH moms have had to spend so much time justifying their choice, they opt to criticize those who made a different choice.

Dr Phil mentioned some interesting statistics that over a lifetime working moms will spend 80% of the time that SAH moms do with their children. He also mentioned that children who had working moms and were in quality daycare (quality being a key word) were more likely to score higher on school readiness tests, have higher vocab, social skills, etc.

Women raising children are very likely to raise children in their values and traditions. Some women value their children above all else, including themselves. The SAH moms seem to feel that raising their children is the most important thing in their life. I can respect that.

But it's not the most important thing in my life. It's one of the most important things in my life. But my life as a woman and a human being does not begin and end with my children. I had a life before they arrived and I will continue to have a life after they grow up and move on to their own lives. I am not the type of woman who can give up myself for my children. Maybe that does make me selfish in some eyes. I like to think it makes me a better person for my children, my husband, and those around me. Because I could not be a happy person as a SAH mom. I would go insane and might take that out on my family! I love my job and am very passionate about it. Do I feel guilty at times? Sure I do. Being a midwife isn't always an easy career when you have children. But I contribute to society in a very valuable way. I also think that I contribute to my children's health and well-being. I am raising my daughters especially to be strong, beautiful women who can do whatever they want in life.

I also like to think of the women who were working moms who made huge changes throughout our history. What would one say to some of these women? You should have stayed home with your kids instead of fighting for civil rights, for freedom, for healthcare, etc. The world would be a better place had you done that. Yeah, not so much!

I really do have respect for women who choose to stay at home and make child-rearing their top priority. Not all of us can afford or choose that though. We women need to stick together and hold motherhood up, in all its forms, as a tough job and one to be greatly valued.


Anonymous said...


Also, this "ideal" of full-time 24/7 parenting is a fairly recent invention, and somewhat artificial. A hundred years ago, say, the rich paid someone else to look after their children much of the time (a nanny, boarding school); the poor had to work and older relatives stepped in; etc. In the developing world, mothers are working much of the day in getting water, preparing food, etc. and aren't spending "quality time" with their children.

Joy said...

I missed that episode and as a SAHM I agree--- that woman does not speak for all of us! I heard, through the grapevine, that she was completely judgmental and haughty.

So on behalf of normal, sweet SAHMs, I apologize about that!

Beetus said...

I agree with your perspective on this so much! Right on girlfriend!

Adrienne Rich wrote the most powerful analysis I know on the subject of motherhood..."Of Woman Born." It changed my life in my twenties because it freed me from my illusions about what motherhood was going to be like.

She once wrote "to be a female human being trying to fulfill traditional female functions in a traditional way is in direct conflict with the subversive function of the imagination."

Traditional roles were born from religious and legal constraints on women. It can't feel great to participate in that. It can't feel great to subdue one's own imagination. Wondering how that might contribute to the defensiveness and attacks of the SAHer.

AtYourCervix said...

Thank you so much for posting this and including your thoughts and opinions. I have been going through a tough time lately - guilt about putting myself first at times, ahead of my children. I work FT, working toward my CNM degree PT/almost FT, plus trying to squeeze in "me" time to relax. Oh, and plus be a good mom to my 6 yr old and 17 yr old!! It's almost too much responsibility to balance it all sometimes. I'm so relieved to see that it's not only ok, but also normal, to want to put your own desires/needs first before your children. My children are not the be-all and end-all of my existence. One day, they will be out of the house, and on their own. I am not only their mother, but also a nurse, a soon-to-be nurse midwife and a woman with my own needs and wants.

And here I was feeling selfish for having occasional "me" time away from it all. Thank you. xoxo

Anonymous said...

I agree with your assessments! I am currently a SAHM, with a 16 month old and another on the way. Just because I make this choice, does not make me a better, more attentive, more loving mother. I know SAHMs who are some of the worst parents I have known and some working mothers that are some of the best parents. Honestly, I think what you said about not giving up yourself is key to being a better parent (not selfish). If you can stay at home and finding meaning and purpose and reward in that, you might make a wonderful SAHM, but if you can't you will go crazy and be resentful. Some women have great careers that they love that actually cause them to be better mothers, because they are not looking to their children for their identity. Sometimes, absence does make the heart grow fonder- meaning the time they spend with their children may be much "higher quality" bonding time.
I personally am able to find meaning and purpose in conjunction with staying at home at this point in my life, but one day I may enjoy returning to my teaching career in special education. Either way, I am eternally thankful that not all mothers make the choice to stay home! Who would deliver my babies if there were no midwives out there :)? Where would most any field be without the influence of the many mothers who chose to give of themselves in other ways? Any SAHM who criticizes working mothers should be ashamed.
This is not the only "mommy war" out there and I think the majority of them are mean spirited wastes of time- we are mothers, of course we are all doing what we believe is best for OUR children and OUR families, can we not focus on that instead of picking each other apart for ways we are different?

Lct4j said...

It's amazing to me as I've endeavored to home school my 6 kids that so many new areas of interest open up to me. I am an SAHM and my best ob/gyn was not. I love and respect her. I'm amazed at how women can work and have a family. I'm not that smart, talented, creative, whatever you want to call it. My children don't define who I am, though, and this season of my life will end. It's a misnomer that SAHM's don't have interests outside of their home or a career in the future when those kids are school-age or leave home. The debate continues, but I think, "To each her own."

Reality Rounds said...

I am a working mom, and I freely confess that I do not think I am capable of being a SAHM. As my sister puts it " I am not a good enough mom to be a stay at home mom!" I respect both choices mom's make. No need for judgments. Great post.