Thursday, April 15, 2004

Mommy Wars and Other Voices in My Head

Maureen Ryan of the Chicago Tribune (also, occasionally blogger Eric Zorn's evil twin) wrote an excellent opinion piece on the Mommy Wars and all the recent literature devoted to the subject.

She wrote that the latest literature from the Mommy Myth to the Time Magazine article are just creating guilt and unhappiness and conflict in mothers.

Are stay at home mothers and paid work mothers really at each other's throats? Is there a Mommy War?

Like Maureen, I haven't witnessed it other than in some of the hate filled books that have been published lately. Maybe I just know the right people, but for the most part both groups of women are pretty understanding of each other's position. We know how tough it is whatever decision is made (or made for you).

Outside the latest books, the only Mommy War that I've encountered exists in my own head. Sometimes I feel like a grade A sucker for taking a break from my career to be home with my kids. Surely, I've flushed any hope of a tenured academic position down the toilet by taking off these years. Maybe my kids would be okay in full time daycare. Sometimes I'm guilty for working part time. I'm reading books while watching the kids and jumping up from a game of CandyLand to dash out a sentence on the computer. The kids don't always have my undivided attention. Sometimes I'm quite pleased at how I've worked things out. But feelings of guilt and suckerdom do swirl around in my subconscious.

I'm glad that Maureen feels good about how she's dividing her life between work and family. Nobody wants to fuck up our well adjusted sisters, but there are many who are less well adjusted, evidenced by the explosion of mommy support groups nationwide.

Then Maureen writes,

Isn't the point that, as a society, we could do a lot more to acknowledge that women's work patterns are often different from men's? That women need to move in and out of the work force more flexibly--sometimes they want to work part time, sometimes they're able to work full time, and sometimes they want (or need) to quit? Can we even bring up the fact that good child care is hard to find and expensive? And that we need social and financial safeguards that ensure that all women aren't penalized for making various life choices?

I find these proposals fascinating (I'm writing a paper on mothers' organizations and their demands for change). As a political scientist, I'm more interested in policies than in our psychic well being. But I think we have to admit to a problem. Otherwise why do we need solutions?

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