Sunday, August 22, 2010

the great (and imagined) "divide"

In this corner, schlepping a briefcase, breastpump and sporting the newest in business attire, we have "the working mom!"  And in this corner, schlepping a baby and a toddler, several snacks and sporting dirty jeans and the newest in baby-wearing technology, is "the stay-at-home mom"!  

-And in between them, the great ideological DIVIDE!-

Certainly much has been made of this 'divide' business in the media, dubbed (ridiculously, I think) as the "mommy wars".  (Seriously - are you also picturing women with babes in one arm and AK47s in the other?  Give me a farking break).  Maybe it's just my own personal vantage point - that of a stay-at-home mama who is married to a work-outside-the-home mommy - but I think this divide business is a bit of bunk. 

Now, I know a lot of moms, mamas and mommies.  I even know some mothers.  Some of us work outside of the home.  All of us work inside of the home.  All of us work really really really damn hard.  And I don't actually know a single mom who thinks they are superior to another mom because they work outside, or do not work outside, of the esteemed home.  I don't.  Not a single one.  (And if I do, I hope they never see fit to tell me so). 

Most of the work-outside-the-home moms that I know (that work outside of the home because they chose to) look at my daily life and say " Um yeah - that's not for me. That's too hard.  I don't wanna do that."  And most of the work-inside-the-home mamas I know look at their working outside the home pals and think that same exact thing.  (This is not to say that both groups of people don't have days when they thought that ole grass might be greener on the other side, but that friends, is life).

BUT - I do think that all moms, regardless of the choices they make around paid and unpaid employment, experience a great deal of external pressure.  And the problem is, the pressure is on regardless of the choices we make.  Working moms (yes, all moms are working moms but I get tired of writing "outside the home" all the time, so just read it in, okay?) get bullshit-ty reactive crap flung at them like "I wouldn't want someone else to raise my kids", "You can't get this time back," and other Betty Crocker-circa-1950s-kinda-guilt-inducing-shite.   I'm gonna hazard a guess that it makes them want to reach out and strangle someone, well, because it makes me want to reach out and strangle someone.  

And as a stay-at-homer, I've gotten things like: "Well don't you want your kids to have a strong female role model?" or "I can't turn off my ambition just because I had children/I want my kids to see my strong work ethic" (Which of course makes me want to alternatively shrivel up and die/reach out and pop someone in the kisser).

I think this knee-jerkiness (emphasis on the latter part), even (and perhaps especially) when it does indeed come from other moms, stems from the tremendous cultural pressure on mothers (and NOT on fathers, by-the-by) to be everything.  All of the time.   I think these sentiments are so entrenched, and so common, that they get bandied about to in an attempt to make us feel better about our choices (which someone else ALWAYS thinks are wrong, because as I have already mentioned, perhaps ad nauseum, is that it is not possible for a female parent to make the "right" choice).   And they sometimes get bandied about without really thinking about the messages behind the sentiments. 

Mother-blaming. Mother-guilt. Mother-load.  These terms are not accidental.  This stuff didn't get made up by mothers.  And maybe the "mommy wars" aren't really about actual mommies, either.
Cause when we're busy feeling guilty, feeling blamed and feeling over-loaded than additionally and feeling like we have to expend precious energy constantly defending our parenting choices, we have far, far less energy taking those in control of our world to task for things that will make all of our lives better, like equal wages for equal pay, valuing women's unpaid domestic labour, safe, effective and affordable birth control, eroding reproductive rights, the ever-rising tide of violence against women, better paid parental leaves (hear that, Government of Alberta?!), universal daycare, improvements to public education, etc. etc. etc. and etc.)

So - let's start a new mama-movement.  Let's all agree to wave the white flag and end the silly 'motherwars' hype and hoopla, once and for all.  The next time someone leans in and either attacks your mothering choices, or conspiritorially attacks someone else's mothering choices - call it like you see it. 

Tell 'em it's a load of crappity-crap-crap. 

Tell 'em we have bigger (and far better) fish to fry than other mamas.

And then let's get to actually frying those damn fish.     

1 comment:

  1. It all comes down to choices. I wrote about it awhile back, too. It would have killed me to hand over infant Matt or infant Lyssa to someone else at six weeks, but that's ME... I can't put my trip on someone else. My life, my business. Their life... theirs.

    I don't dislike women who go back to work right away... I don't think they're doing wrong. I just know I couldn't do it unless I had to.

    of course now you can look for a star in the East if I get pg again...