FOR MAY 2007 (MOTHER’S DAY)
In honor of Mother’s Day, this I believe: Working and stay-at-home mothers are divided only in portrayals by the media, politicians and television shows. In reality, all moms slide back and forth on a spectrum of hours worked inside the home vs. in an office, store, factory or field. Today’s “working mom” could be at home next year and vice versa. Far too many women don’t have real choices about how many hours we work or who cares for our children when we’re away. Likewise, women don’t have a strong enough voice in whether government and employers respect our efforts to be good moms and good employees at the same time.
This I believe: we moms need each other, and we need to come together and let the powerful, primal forces of motherhood unite us.
Moms in America are bombarded by contradictory pressures to nurture children, men and aging parents, while also providing economic stability for our families. The inability of our country to accept that over 70% of moms with children under age 18 need to work provides the real fuel inflaming the mommy wars. Feeling good about yourself as a mother, whether you’re working in or outside your house, is a pathetically difficult task in America today.
On a personal level I’ve found the worst mommy war is the one raging inside my head. Our culture’s pervasive images of the patient, smiling, unconflicted mama stroking a sick child’s brow means I am capable of outright paranoia when a teacher asks if I’m picking my child up after school. Is my child being damaged by having a babysitter? Then a stay-at-home mom on the playground compliments my new business jacket. Is she insinuating I’m a bad mom because I am clearly going to work instead of heading home? Once at my office, I see my boss, who also has three kids, glance at me as I rush in. Did she notice I was late again? And my co-worker who doesn’t have kids: Is it true that she resents my leaving early (despite the pay cut I take for that privilege) and feels she’s stuck picking up the slack?
No one in America is in the business of making moms – real moms, not the apple pie, Mother’s Day card version — feel good about the completely original approach we bring to motherhood. When was the last time you heard someone say “You’re a good mom”? When was the last time you said it?
We moms need each other – whether we work for pay or not. This country needs us, too — and the children we are raising. Ending the cultural mommy wars against women is easier than we think; ditto for ending the inner mommy war we wage against ourselves. We’d all be better off with a permanent truce.
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