Wednesday, April 21, 2010

End the Mommy Wars! Support the troops!

I recently read an article that brought up some very provoking thoughts. The basic premise of the article was to promote the joining together of women. You know, women. Women that work and women that don’t work. Because, you know, there are only two different teams of women- the workers and the non-workers. Oops, I mean the women that work outside of the home and the women that work inside the home. Oh, wait, I mean the women that work inside and outside of the home, and the women that work inside the home and inside the schools as volunteers.

This article was written from the perspective of a woman that worked inside the home and volunteered inside the schools. She was feeling frustrated. Her frustration was about the way certain women that work outside of the home, condescend and demean the real efforts of women that work inside the home and inside the schools. The author stated, "Women that work, don’t appreciate all the time (her and her counterparts) put in year after year to better the schools--work for which they receive no pay or material reward.” She felt it wasn’t fair. She tugged at the heartstrings, reminding us that our daughters are watching and need to know there are various choices for women, one not being better than the other.

That was it for me. That just got to something raw. I've decided not to include the name of the article or the authors name. I feel that we have been launching these attacks from both sides for too long and this article was just one more of too many. I don’t remember when the dividing line was drawn and I certainly didn’t have any say in choosing the side of the “Mommy War” I wanted to be on. My own troop of children have survived the battle from both sides of the battlefield. I have chosen to work outside the home, I have chosen flex time, job sharing, time off from work, and once it was chosen for me when a contract expired and I wasn't prepared or interested in pursuing that particular type of work again.

Quite honestly, I see problems on both sides, but I see benefits as well. Taking cheap shots to inflate our own agendas doesn’t help anyone. I hope that most women don’t see their roles as mothers, forcibly being fit into one of two options. These arguments seem to perpetuate the notion that women must continue to feel the burden of motherhood as something they are doing "right" or "wrong" depending on the judgment of other mothers. Believe you me, I have needed all the strength I can muster at various times of mothering, and have not appreciated any attacks or judgments real or imagined because I didn't do it as well as Professor Mommy Pants, that know-it-all mother lurking at every turn.

Have we not come far enough along that we need to continue this particular dialogue? Must we continue to resort to this “Mommy War” divisiveness? The very idea that women have these 2 choices is inaccurate and seriously limiting. It perpetuates stereotypes, as well. Especially the stereotype of women being catty and not able to work together. The choice of jobs and careers for women has grown in leaps and bounds over the past 30 years. The role of motherhood and fortunately, parenthood has also changed. Do we really need to believe that mothering is a one size fits all program? Most of us continue to fall short because the ideal is unrealistic.

Choices and the idea of exposing children to choices is an important and significant goal. The issue for me is when only one so-called “choice” is promoted by default. Working parents are not available during school hours and therefore the particular choice to work is not fairly represented. This undoubtedly skews the concept of choice for women in the eyes of the daughters, as well as the sons, that are watching.

What choices do our sons have? Do they grow up wondering if they want to stay home with their children or provide an income? When men do choose to stay home, is it because circumstances allow the opportunity or is it because they had this option all along? The problem here is exposing our sons and daughters to the concept that the choices for women are dependent on what men can provide. Not all women have or want this choice. Not all men are interested in providing this as a choice.

What is the purpose in justifying being a working mother versus a stay at home mother? Statistics have shown that happiness is the real key. Women that stay home but would rather be working, as well as mothers that work but would rather be home had greater stress that negatively impacted their parenting than mothers that worked happily or stayed at home happily. When there is no choice, it would be much more appreciative for mother’s et al to be a bit more understanding and supportive.

While I appreciate the efforts of volunteers in the schools, I am uncertain why it isn’t more common for all parents to be invited to serve or volunteer their time. I repeat, their time, on their time. Schools that respect the diversity of parents and families and dare I say, the diversity of women beyond simplistic choices can help a great deal by providing varied opportunities to help or be involved beyond the regular school/work day. Yet, the issue of school volunteerism has very little to do with the credibility of motherhood or parenting.

I have worked hard to expose my sons and daughter to choices. I hope they are able to achieve whatever dreams and goals they set for themselves. I would like to think when, and if, each decides to make the choice to become a parent, they will have healthcare and employers that understand the demands of parenting. I hope that they will have child-care that is above standard, available and accessible if they so choose. I hope they will be able to choose living arrangements that are affordable. I hope they will be able to spend time with their children and nurture them. I hope they will have all that they need, and some of what they want. I hope their choices will be made in a manner that best meets the needs of their families. Not mine. Not someone else’s. I hope they have the choice to be involved in their child’s education in a way that is meaningful to their situations.

Most of all I hope we can continue to support our troops, each other, and ourselves. End the Mommy War once and for all!

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