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Jane Roper is the author of the memoir Double Time: How I Survived–and Mostly Thrived–Through the First Three Years of Mothering Twins and blogger at JaneRoper.com. Her writing has appeared on Babble, Salon, The Huffington Post, The Rumpus, and the upcoming anthology The Push: Birth Stories for the 21st Century. Jane lives in the Boston area with her husband and twin daughters.

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The Missing Voices in The Mommy Wars

By Jane Roper |

I’ve just about had it with the “Mommy Wars,” pitting working moms against stay at home moms.

I’ve had it with the high-profile, un-nuanced discussions being had on the airwaves and even the more thoughtful discussions being had on other major media — including The New York Times discussion on attachment parenting vs. feminism and even right here on Babble Voices. (Although, to be fair, that discussion is more about why the debate has become such a big freakin’ deal in the first place. And I suspect many of those bloggers — whom I love! — would agree with what I’m about to say.)

The reason I’m fed up? It’s probably not what you think.

It’s not just because the discussion feels like a war on women and their choices rather than anything else. Or because, for God’s sake, can’t we just agree that every woman and every family has the right to make their own choices based on what works for them — and what their economic and personal needs dictate — and let it go? And, for double God’s sake, parenting is hard work REGARDLESS OF WHETHER YOU WORK OUTSIDE THE HOME OR STAY HOME. Argggh!

No. That’s not what really makes me angry. What truly pisses me off is that this discussion is pretty much exclusively the domain of educated, relatively well-off (and mostly white, while we’re at it) women.

There’s a voice — an important one — being completely overlooked and excluded from the conversation: that of disadvantaged women — including disadvantaged (corrected for clarity) single moms — who HAVE to work, and who are getting next to NO support when it comes to things like nursing, nutritional education, child-rearing information, healthcare, daycare, and other things that we more privileged and savvy moms (and I include myself) take for granted.

Alastair and I were in contact, on and off, with a student he worked with and mentored back when he was an after-school teacher at an innercity school. She was a smart kid, but had a rough upbringing — single mom with drug problems, foster homes, then living with her elderly grandmother in a dangerous neighborhood. She managed to do well in school and was mentored by a couple of her teachers. But she was effectively abandoned by the system once she was 18. She went from low-wage job to low-wage job, while various family issues roiled in the background.

She made some dumb choices along the way, probably. And she was also loathe to accept the help that well-meaning, more well-off people offered. We actually offered to let her stay with us until she got housing and be a part-time nanny to the girls while she looked for a job after her latest layoff. But she didn’t want to do that. Probably in part because our world was so foreign to her.

And then she got (unexpectedly and unintentionally, probably) pregnant. By this point, she was basically homeless — on a wait list for subsidized housing — and sleeping on the couches of friends and family.We had her over for meals, and I talked with her about pregnancy and nursing. I gave her baby gear and clothes, my copy of What to Expect, and urged her to nurse instead of using formula, if she could swing it. We went to her baby shower at her sister’s apartment (it was squalid and reeking of cigarette smoke and pot).

Shortly after her baby was born, we met with her for lunch near her step-sister’s house. We met her adorable baby boy; he smelled unwashed. We talked about some of the challenges she was facing — including nursing. I answered her questions and told her about LaLeche and how they could give her free nursing advice. (I later gave her the number of the local chapter. But I doubt she ever called.)

Then, she asked if I would come to the bathroom with her; she had a “woman-to-woman” question. She lifted up her shirt and showed me her breasts: They were covered in plastic wrap, to catch the leaking. And when she took off the wrap, I could see that her nipples were swollen and cracked and clearly infected. I told her she needed to see a doctor; I was pretty sure she had mastitis. Her doctor was all the way on the other side of Boston; I said I’d give her a ride if she needed it. But she never called.

And then we lost contact. She didn’t reply to our emails or return our calls. Next we heard from her, she was living in a shelter — in a single room, with her baby — awaiting a subsidized apartment. She’d given up on nursing — she was going to job interviews on the bus with her baby in tow, and navigating paperwork and visits with her case worker; she also knew she’d probably end up working in a big chain store with no facilities or support for nursing on the job. It was just too hard. WIC paid for formula (not a breast pump), so that’s what she used. And once she got a job (which would, most likely, be a minimum-wage one), she’d qualify for subsidized daycare, too.

Stay at home with her baby because it was the “right” thing to do?

HA!! HA HA HA!!

Look, this is an extreme case. And whether or not the system failed her or she failed herself or both is a whole debate in itself. But when I think of women like her, and then I listen to a bunch of women who have, by contrast, all the choices in the world, bickering about who’s the better mom because she wears her baby in a sling and nurses or because she is a self-actualized career woman who has the means to provide her kids with the best possible education and has the emotional reserves to be a more engaged parent, I want to scream: What about this homeless girl with Saran wrap on her infected breasts because in spite of all odds, she’s trying to nurse?? This girl with NO CHOICES at all?

Seriously, I want to scream. (I have, at Alastair, a couple of times in talking about all this. He looks at me blankly and says, “What mommy wars? This is an actual conversation people are having?”)

But I also want to scream when I think about the more average working mom in this country. The one whose husband is working a job that doesn’t pay enough for the family to pay for daycare, but not so much that they can go without the mom working too — not, that is, if they want to save for retirement, afford health insurance, or pay off their college debt. (Let alone pay for soccer uniforms for their kids. Help their elderly parents out. Insure their car and pay for new tires or repairs.) And what if one of them gets laid off?

Honestly. Can we please all take a step back from this debate and look at the bigger picture? Think about people besides our educated, advantaged selves? Stop talking to ourselves about organic baby food and co-sleeping and nannies and high-powered corporate jobs and who is more feminist than whom long enough to pause and think about all the women who AREN’T part of the discussion? Because it’s completely out of touch with their lives? And because — most likely — they don’t even know it’s going on?

While the mom-erati and talk show radio hosts chatter on, I’m going to keep donating to organizations that help poor women get their lives on track and keep doing pro-bono writing for organizations like this that help families in need. (And I’m putting my vote where my mouth is, too.)

* * *

Check out DOUBLE TIME, my memoir of parenting twins, battling depression and chasing that ever-elusive work/home balance.

Hey baby, let’s keep in touch. Facebook RSS FeedTwitter / Pinterest

More from Jane on Baby Squared

12 Great Tips for New Parents of Twins

Mommy, What does “Gay” mean?

Can I keep my daughters from becoming “Thinspired”?

 

Photo: Skeddy in NYC (Flickr)

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About Jane Roper

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Jane Roper

Jane Roper is the author of the memoir Double Time: How I Survived–and Mostly Thrived–Through the First Three Years of Mothering Twins and blogger at JaneRoper.com. Jane lives in the Boston area with her husband and twin daughters.

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95 thoughts on “The Missing Voices in The Mommy Wars

  1. Rachel says:

    Hear, hear!

  2. There’s only ONE reason this so-called “war” keeps rearing it’s head — it sells. It sells books. It sells magazines and newspapers. Why? Because our society loves it when women fight with each other and pick each other apart (even if we really aren’t). A woman at a recent book signing event I had for Mothers of Intention almost cried when she asked me why we still see all this nonsense in the media. She told me her vast array of mom friends who have all different kinds of experiences don’t judge one another.

    And the reason the media doesn’t talk about this whole “choice” issue with women other than mostly well-off white women? Because those other women don’t have the time or money to promote such nonsense.

  3. [...] The Missing Voices in The Mommy Wars I&#39ve just about had it with the “Mommy Wars,” pitting functioning moms in opposition to stay at house moms. I&#39ve had it with the substantial-profile, un-nuanced discussions being had on the airwaves and even the much more thoughtful discussions becoming had on other significant media … Study much more on Babble (blog) [...]

  4. Rose says:

    Holy… This was a real wake up call for me, Jane. Thank you for writing this.

  5. Shouting AMEN to this. You know what? Black women don’t engage in the mommy wars. Not the Black mothers I know. Nor the Latina ones. We’re all too busy raising our children to give a damn.

    It’s a privilege to even HAVE this damn conversation.

  6. Skulander says:

    Great post! However (*insert irony here*) it’s a lot more fun bitching at feminism (especially in the wake of Badinter’s extraordinary book The Conflict) and how it has brought the downfall of the family and is the cause of pretty much everything that’s wrong in society than ACTUALLY do something to help out needy women. Helping out would require work and empathy from those Republicans who value “life” from conception until birth and who have no desire to actually help out once the child is born. That is seen in their opposition to practically every measure that brings a positive change in women’s lives.

    Feminism is not the problem. The problem is patriarchal oppression that STILL goes on, especially in American society, in 2012.

  7. Danielle says:

    bravo!

  8. Deb says:

    You are spot on, Jane. Keep up the fantastic work.

  9. Gena Marshall says:

    Thanks for reminder and the call to action, Jane. The big picture is too easy to forget.

  10. jenn/hippygoth says:

    this is really good & really powerful, Jane. i think the best thing that has come up from all this, at least on the sites i read (which i admit skew heavily left & feminist) is bringing up the issue of privelege, and starting a discussion and reminder on that.

    the topic of breastfeeding is one that is FRAUGHT with the language of privelege. when i was in school (Hampshire College, natch) i really had my eyes opened to the situation in Brazil, and the problems with advertising, formula, water quality, etc. i had this dream of being a IBCLC consultant and learning Portuguese and traveling the slums of Brazil. (i realize how that sounds now, but hey, i was 18). a decade later i worked for a small company that sold clothes for nursing women, but beyond the selling clothes side of things, they were passionate in breastfeeding advocacy. passionate, yes, but practical? $39 nursing tee-shirts? the message was the same, but the disconnect was HUGE.

    again, this is really good stuff, Jane. you got me thinking. nice way to start Thursday morning. thinking & articulating.

  11. Michele says:

    Great post Jane!

  12. Jane Roper says:

    Joanne, you make an EXCELLENT point. I suppose if I wanted to be really radical about this whole thing, I wouldn’t even deign to participate! You’re totally right that it’s media hype. (And by “media” I include the blogosphere.)

    Kelly — Damn right. Most women (and there are plenty of white ones, too) are too busy living their lives and taking care of their kids and trying to do the best they can to give a flying fuck about this non-debate.

  13. Rachel says:

    Amen! Amen times a million.

  14. Sarah Buttenwieser says:

    This is exactly why one of the only things I write about (& ask for donations) on my blog is the National Network of Abortion Funds. It’s an organization that provides funds (that’s access, that’s actual CHOICE) to women who can’t afford an abortion but want to get one or need to get one. Choice is finally theoretical, to determine what to do with a pregnancy, to stay home or to work — if there isn’t support to make it. Important point — GO Jane!

  15. Shannon Brisson says:

    Bravo, Jane. You hit many a bullseye in this post.

  16. Elizabeth says:

    A thousand times YES! As a privileged woman who has the luxury of participating in this conversation–and as someone who has worked with low-income women for most of my social work career–I will just agree that the “mommy wars” bullshit makes me CRAZY. Let’s think about all the moms who don’t have choices and do what we can to HELP and SUPPORT them. And stop navel-gazing for a freakin’ minute. Thank you Jane!!! You rule.

  17. Christi says:

    YES!! I have been thinking this forever but you worded it much more eloquently than I could have. All these big name Moms need to remember that there is a world outside of Williamsburg or the Upper West Side or wherever the heck they live, and that in this world of flyover states that they can’t relate to, most of us are just trying to get by. Most moms aren’t worried about how their decision to feed their child affects the feminist cause. They are just trying to feed their child! I find the whole Mommy War thing insulting and ridiculous. You nailed it.

  18. Jill says:

    I agree a hundred percent! I feel like the “mommy wars” are taking time and meaning away from what moms should really be doing. Raising your children well and actually CARING about it, not just to prove to the other side that you are a “SUPER” mom. Do it because you LOVE your child and actually CARE about them how they are brought up! I also don’t think a lot of moms involved in this argument realize just how many different types of stay at home/working/privileged/underprivileged women there are out there. It’s not just rich white stay at home moms or extremely educated career driven moms or White or Black or Latino or Asian moms. Every woman has a different upbringing and different past and different story no matter their class or race and that needs to be respected. Great blog Jane!

  19. Donna says:

    100 percent correct. We need to get over our own privilege and see what is going on around us. Choice — in all its guises — is a luxury that many simply do not have. Jane, your friend’s story made me cry. If anyone on here needs help (in the Boston area), Jane’s link to Rosie’s Place is a great one, also ReVision Family Home (http://www.vpi.org/NewVPI/ReVisionHouse.html) has staff who really care about families, and can help find services even if they are full. Finally, CAAS (www.caasomerville.org) has some emergency assistance funds available for a short time for people who are at risk of homelessness because they are in arrears with rent or utilities, and live in the Somerville/Medford area. These organizations (and others like them) help women (and men) without the luxury of choice all the time, and they need all the support they can get.

  20. Lauren says:

    I may have just hollered AMEN at the reception desk at work. Thank you for this Jane!!! AMEN.

  21. Mary G. says:

    Woo hoo!!! Yay Jane! Awesome post! I agree a 1000% with everything you said, and I really hope lots of people read this post and start thinking and caring more about the women who don’t have the luxury of taking part in (or even being aware of) the “Mommy War” debates.

  22. Korinthia Klein says:

    Best post you’ve ever written, Jane. Nice work.
    /
    http://the-quiet-corner.blogspot.com/

  23. Stacia says:

    Thank you. This was excellent.

  24. Laurie Krieger says:

    Love you!

  25. ML@My3LittleBirds says:

    Thanks for this excellent post, Jane. I agree with you and have met so many people like the woman you describe in your “extreme” example. It’s really not all that extreme where I live in West Virginia.
    I think another important reason we don’t see the economically disadvantaged on the battle fields of the “Mommy Wars” is that our culture likes to keep its distance from them.By bringing them into the discussion we’re pointing to our own flaws as a society.

  26. Jackie says:

    Your story, Jane, is very touching. I also whole-heartedly agree with the comment about the middle ground. My family falls in that spot. Unfortunately, there are many folks that seem to assume that that middle ground still falls pretty close to poverty. Not necessarily.

    My husband and I together make a six figure salary. And yet…we barely break even at the end of each month (assuming we haven’t had any unexpected expenses!). We are still paying off my husband’s student loans and our crushingly heavy infertility expenses (and will be for many, many years). But even with the IF expenses out of the picture, it wouldn’t be enough for me to quit my job. We’re both upper-level, non-management professionals. My monthly take home pay is about 2.5 times that of what we spend on child care and my husband’s is close to twice the child care bill. But neither of us alone makes enough for the other to stay home (though we did consider having my husband do just that when he suffered a layoff while I was pregnant). We do not live extravagantly. We take vacations once a year – only those that we can drive to and stay in a relative’s time share. We drive two older cars (we live in an area where a car for each working person is an absolute necessity given the complete lack of public transportation). We almost never go out to eat unless a family member is taking us out. And our children primarily wear hand-me-downs or gifts.
    Even given the necessity, do I get judged for working full time (in a corporate environment that affords me sparingly little flexibility)? Oh, you bet! Regularly. It is NOT just media hype. It usually comes in the form of hand-wringing of all the things that my kids are missing by me not being home. I KNOW all the things they (and I) are missing. And almost even worse, having the schools ASSUME that all moms MUST be stay at home moms and plan their schedules accordingly just inflames the debate. Because then, when the working moms can’t show up at yet another 9:15 am event, the “pity” from the stay at home moms begins. And the schools guilt us by telling our children to tell their mommies that they absolutely MUST come to their classroom fish naming ceremony (I am not making this up!).

    No answers. Just a fervent wish that our economy (and society) changes such that our own children are not forced to make the same crappy decisions that we face.

  27. Tracy Hahn-Burkett says:

    Yes, yes and yes!! Fantastic post, Jane. Yet one more–and maybe the best–reason why “The Mommy Wars” is the wrong war.

    So why do we keep fighting it? I DO run into this in daily life, and it’s ridiculous. It’s not helping anyone, and it’s keeping us from focusing on the real things that need to change in order to help real women and families and with real problems. Well, maybe that’s just it. It’s easier to gripe at each other than it is to work out issues of poverty, inadequate childcare or a culture that doesn’t recognize that parents ought to be able to raise their kids AND work, isn’t it?

    Thanks, Jane, for drawing attention to what really matters.

    http://UnchartedParent.com

  28. April says:

    I have a hard time identifying or sympathizing personally with mothers who get knocked up by accident and decide to raise the baby when they know they have no money, support, home, job, etc. It is just not a choice I would make. Since I also went through infertility and lost babies in miscarriage and know countless other women who suffered the same or worse, it makes me a little mad that people have kids and keep them when they can’t take care of them. Then you have so many women who are infertile who have lovely homes and jobs and money and family and support who can’t have kids. It just seems ass backwards and it upsets me. I can’t really think too much about it because it makes me really mad at God.

    I do support children’s charities because the children deserve better. I wish our society encouraged adoption more. I am sure this will piss some people off, but it is how I see it. I lived it.

  29. jenny m says:

    Thank you for this! It was brilliant, powerful, and moved me to tears.

  30. Oz says:

    Yes. Thanks, Jane, for this.

  31. Jesica says:

    April, I know what you mean. It’s hard to see people make decisions that, from our distance, are clearly wrong. And I’m going to go ahead and say it: her choice to carry that baby to term and try to raise it on her own was wrong. But I also think it’s really dangerous to place the blame on her (which I don’t think you do – this comment is saying “yes, and…” to you). Like Jane talked about in this awesome post, a lack of education is the slipperiest slope of all. We don’t know what sort of role models this girl grew up with or what sort of “normal” she saw around her, but we can make a safe bet they weren’t sending the same decision-making messages that you or I or Jane have been surrounded with. Which is why Skulander is right on the money: we have to vote with our consciences. The Republican platform is taking gross advantage of women. It is sickly manipulative and dangerous to our well-being. If Jane’s friend had been taught that a safe, legal, affordable abortion was accessible to her, and that looking after her own health and career now so that she’s able to bring children into a stable home in the future was admirable, maybe things would’ve been different.

  32. Nancy says:

    Thank you so much for posting this. This just reminded me of a conversation my husband and I had last night. He asked me what a “push present” was, so I told him. Keep in mind, I’m the only one working right now – he’s in law school currently (and my salary is nothing substantial either). He told me that a bunch of people asked him what he was getting me for a push present and he didn’t know what to do. I told him obviously that wasn’t necessary – many of the people he goes to school with are just out of undergrad and/or are still supported by their parents (or substantial student loans), so they don’t know what it is like to really have expenses. My heart broke because he looked so sad that he couldn’t do this thing that is now considered “expected”. Anything for someone to make a couple of extra dollars….

  33. JA says:

    Can you hear my deafening applause? Bravo!!!!! Thank you, thank you, thank you!

  34. Blue says:

    Amen. This post is much better and more relevant than any of the vapid “analysis” on the recent NYTimes “Room for Debate” on this topic. Some people really need to be reminded about how very much the deck is stacked against other people.

  35. wendy says:

    I am exactly with you. It’s one thing to talk about organic baby food, non-chlorine diapers, baby wearing, piano lessons and private preschools. Most of the world is far outside those conversations. Great post on this.

  36. April says:

    I am with you on the mommy wars part too.

    I have mom friends who work part-time, full time or not at all. They are all amazing in their own way. I don’t think things like work status is going to make you a failure as a mom. We all have our mommy failure moments and it is okay to admit them. I do it with humor. My friends and I can laugh about it.

    I admit I have judged other moms, but I keep it to myself and it is not usually about trivial things like what kind of diapers they use but something more important. I also know I deserve some judgement now and again. We all slip up or make mistakes. We just have to do the best we can and try to enjoy our lives and give our kids what they need.

    I don’t know. I feel like the mommy wars has kinda phased out now that the mommy humor is the popular thing. We all like to joke about our mommy meltdowns and mistakes.

    I am a former Republican that no longer wants to refer to myself that way. I am now saying Independent. I am tired of Republicans attacking women’s reproductive rights including infertile women. I am tired of them attacking homosexuals. Focus on something that actually matters like the economy and government staying out of our business. I am disgusted enough with all politics I don’t think I am going to vote at all anymore unless I am 80% happy with their platform. I am hard to please.

  37. The Mommy Psychologist says:

    I am a bit surprised everyone is giving you the thumbs up on this article. While I’m happy to see that you finally mentioned single moms, you did so in a way that is a insulting and a bit disgusting. Just so you know, not all single moms are “disadvantaged” and being a single mom does not mean you are poor as you continually implied throughout. I know scores of women, myself included, who are professionals who chose to have children on their own without any partner. You clearly demonstrate the classist thinking that is so central to this argument. You can’t even separate your privileged self from it when arguing against it.

    http://www.themommypsychologist.com/2012/04/12/mommy-wars-whose-job-is-more-difficult/

  38. Polly says:

    Well done!

  39. Jane Roper says:

    @Mommy Psychologist, I’m not sure what you’re talking about. My argument is about disadvantaged women, including, as it happens, the subset of disadvantaged single moms. Not all single moms. I can see from that one sentence up top (“Disadvantaged moms — including single moms –”) how you might have misinterpreted my meaning. (I will make a correction). But I’m not sure what you think I “implied throughout.” Because I gave the example of a disadvantaged woman who happened to be a single mom you think that implies that I think all single moms are underprivileged? Seems like you’re projecting some assumptions and prejudices onto me that simply aren’t there.

  40. April says:

    I read it as Jane said meaning disadvantaged moms who typically are usually single moms. She corrected it. So no harm, no foul.

    I don’t care how a kid is cared for just as long as they are cared for.

  41. nicole says:

    THANK YOU SOOOO MUCH! I have struggled and struggled with the mommy wars for so long. I’m 18, so is my husband, I attempted breast feeding, but as a waitress, you don’t have time to pump while waiting tables, you don’t get breaks if your over 18, it’s not a law. We can’t afford for me to stay home. I cannot tell you how depressed I’ve I’ve gotten before because I cannot be the ‘perfect’ mom because we cannot afford it. Thank you. STOP THE MOMMY WARS.

  42. Jill says:

    Lol! I’m just laughing because the only comment against your blog comes from someone labeled “mommy psychologist” who seems like maybe someone that wants to keep the “mommy wars” going. I’m just making an assumption, but then again so was she. Rock on Jane!

  43. Ally says:

    Thank you for this post!
    While I don’t know of any disadvantaged moms with such extreme problems as the one you used as an example, it seems that so much of it is around me. Women who work because their husbands don’t make enough to pay all of their bills, women who have mental illness that make parenting more difficult for them than it should be (but still not too difficult to manage, mind you), and women who simply don’t have the support they need. Many of these women are the ones that don’t seem to be disadvantaged at first meeting, they seem to have it all together and might look like they simply “made their choices”. (Not that any of the choices are “right” or “wrong” as long as the child is being cared for and not harmed.) I am no exception to being one of those women. I do my best with what I’m able to do at the time, and I’m thankful every moment of every day that I’m not in the shoes of much more disadvantaged mothers.

  44. Aunt Heidi says:

    Mommy Psychologist needs to see one of her own… No implication like the one she mentioned was anywhere in the article and she clearly is, as you said, projecting her own “assumptions and prejudices”. You’ll always get at least one person who clearly is too blind to read something and understand it. I think your article was wonderful and you should ignore her comment, she clearly has no idea what she is talking about.

  45. Shannon Lell says:

    I am one of those privileged moms and I certainly feel grateful to be. I wrote a post today about Elisabeth Badinter’s new book on modern motherhood and as far as I can tell, the most useful part is about how the French society supports mothers and their efforts to make choices. It is my hope that the conversation can steer in that direction as opposed to a more divisive one because I think we can all agree that supporting children and families is a good idea. http://shannonlell.com/2012/05/03/the-conflict-how-modern-motherhood-undermines-the-status-of-women/

  46. Mommy of Three says:

    I have not seen “Mommy Wars”, as it seems to be very well viewed…at least until you’ve had enough. Though my knowledge on “Mommy Wars” is not great, this article really struck a cord for myself & my family. As an almost 30 year old, with a bachelor’s degree, a stable, comfortable, not so well paid job for 4 years, three beautiful children (all under the age of 5), & a wonderful supporting husband, we recently decided to commit to my being a Stay At Home Mommy. I say we, because this was not an easy nor single minded decision. This took every bit of late night conversations, prayers, tears, back-and-forth decision making efforts on both my husband and myself. It basically came down to what I’ve read here on previous posts, that the pros of staying at home SOO outweighed the the pros of that of a job/career. My job, I thought one day would turn out to be my career, with hard work, late & early hours for that matter, innovation, project completions, after project completions, I thought for sure this IS what is expected of an honest, committed, hard working, employee looking to advance. After 4 years of this, not even breaking 30k, with 3 young children, expenses such as daycare eating away our earnings, it seemed like we were the “Working Poor”. As Jane mentioned in her article – which I loved, many families have to weigh what is important, and most important. So although saving for retirement, my children’s college education and vacations may be out of the picture financially, staying at home beats working just to pay for daycare, and I get to spend the days with my children, while they’re still young, adventurous, and full of life. I get to be their teacher, friend, and parent. This is my career, this is what I’ve chosen, this what my husband has supported, this is what God has created me for. God bless everyone out there who has or is going through the same.

  47. Rosstwinmom says:

    Well done Jane. Very well reasoned and communicated. I hope this helps remind me to focus on the real issues in the world around me. I hope we can learn to care for our fellow humans without judgement.

  48. Rosstwinmom says:

    @mommypsychologist
    I read your post from 4/12, and I think you are saying the exact same thing Jane is stating here. I’m sorry you felt like she was making an assumption about single mothers and poverty, but I really think you two are having the same response to this Mommy Wars crap.

  49. Leslie says:

    Wonderful! While I never looked at this issue from the “Mommy Wars” standpoint, I have for years been making fun of all the parenting magazines’ vision of reality. I lived for years in a neighborhood where little kids walked alone to school, rode their bikes on city streets without helmets, and engaged in various other pursuits that according to all the magazines are relics of a time gone by. Where mothers formula feed from birth and start baby food a few weeks in because grandma said the baby would sleep through the night. Where babies ride in strollers or are carried in buckets and people look at you like you are a curiosity when you use a sling. The mothers and fathers in that neighborhood were too busy trying to survive to helicopter. They couldn’t afford magazines and wouldn’t have had time to read them anyway. You call the girl in your story an extreme case but I think the overprivileged white women with time to burn arguing on blogs are rarer, just louder.

  50. Lesuco says:

    Like Kelly Wickam , Ally, and my3birds, I am glad the discussion of diversity (cognitive, cultural, and economic) is woven into this article. I do hear Mommypsychologists point, however, and I am glad Jane was willing to further clarify her subculture.
    In the narrative of a “single mother,” there are already stereotypical implications of “bad choices,” when for some single mothers, single status came from a brave choice to leave a marriage that was harmful to her children and herself. This is a choice that some countries today don’t even allow, and women and children are forced to stay in abusive situations. My point, and I believe the point of several engaged in this discussion, is that judgement of one another’s mothering choices, judgement that separates us as “Mothers,” is harmful.
    Even women who don’t have children could be engaged in this discussion. Tapping into the collective ideas of motherhood and making connections across approaches to mothering seem like positive moves for women and children.
    Thank you for bringing this discussion to the table.

  51. [...] I read this amazing post by Jane Roper, right here on Babble, about the “missing voices” in the (stupid, tiresome, dear God [...]

  52. Mira says:

    You know I’m a huge fan of your blog, right? Because I leave these random comments all the time, though we’ve never met?

    Well this is my favorite post you’ve ever written, by far. Thank you.

    (Though I did really love the “Prayer for my daughters” one too.)

  53. Dee says:

    When my first child was born I chose (for many personal reasons) not to breastfeed. The nurses treated me harshly, my “friends” judged me – one even asked me how could it be that I didn’t love my child enough to breastfeed. I vowed then and there to make a conscious effort to never judge another mother’s choices. If I catch myself slipping, and I do slip when I need to feel better about myself, I think back to how it felt to be judged. We should be supporting each others choices, not slamming them. And we should absolutely offer help to those who don’t have any choices.

  54. Samantha says:

    I’m not sure this girl needed you to ‘urge her to nurse instead of using formula’. Breast feeding is very difficult and time consuming for a lot of people that don’t have the challenges and struggles that this girl had. She didn’t need you to imply that she would somehow be failing her child if she chose to use formula.
    When I found out we were having twins I wanted to breastfeed in order to do what I thought was best for my daughters. I also wanted to do it because it was a lot less expensive than buying formula for two babies for an entire year. Unfortunately breastfeeding didn’t work out for me and when I saw my OBGYN at my 6 week appt she saw how stressed and upset I was about it and told me that my girls would be just fine if I gave them formula. Once she said that I felt like a huge weight had been lifted and I never looked back.
    When that girl showed you her mastiitis, you could have just told her that breastfeeding doesn’t work for everyone and that she needed to see a doctor but that her baby would be fine on formula and that she just needed to love him – that’s much more important than breastfeeding. That might have been more helpful to her than giving her the number to the local LaLeche.

  55. Jane Roper says:

    @Samantha — Thanks for your thoughts. She and I actually did talk quite a bit about nursing and formula, and the different implications, and I definitely made it clear that both were great; it depended on what she wanted and needed.

    I suggested she try nursing mostly because it would save her money and be more convenient given her transitory housing situation. (Hard to carry, wash and sterilize bottles when you’re going from place to place or in a shelter without easily accessible kitchen facilities.) And when she showed me her infection we did talk about whether or not she should continue nursing. She wanted to keep trying, which is why I gave her the number of LaLeche. And why I think it was frustrating that her decision to stop was dictated by circumstance, not necessarily by what she wanted. (Although she may have changed her mind; I don’t know.)

    It is, of course, impossible to convey all the subtleties of the story in a blog post, but I totally understand where you’re coming from.

  56. Melissa says:

    I read this and cried and felt ashamed for every time I have felt unhappy in the life I am leading. This life of mine is not perfect, but this piece gave me a much needed perspective that I am so, so lucky and so, so foolish for taking the blessings I have for granted. Thank you.

  57. Desiree Graham says:

    Yes, thank you for your post. There are so many of us other mothers that are left out in this discusion of the “mommy wars.” I lost my job when I asked for FMLA(unpaid time I could not afford to begin with) when my son was diagnosed with autism and another medical condition that causes tumors on his nervous system. Daycare for a child with moderate autism? Please. Summer camp alone is $300 dollars a week, due to him needing specialized therapists with him at all times. I am married and my husband works very hard as a 911 dispatcher to pay our rent. We live in a 2 bedroom apartment with my mother so that we can afford to eat and pay our car payments. I am not complaining, you do what you have to do, and I am in nursing school fulltime so that I never again have to be in a position over losing my job in order to take care of my child. I don’t have time for the “mommy wars” I am living my life.

  58. Lily-Kay says:

    Great post, there is very little support out there for us moms who have very little money. I am a SAHM, at first by choice and now by necessity. Both my children were unplanned, but utterly loved, I did have to leave art school to start my new life though. Unfortunately the way the economy is I can’t find work in my field (I am an artist and just can’t compete with my competition who has all day to draw and paint while I have an hour a night at most). My husband works retail and while he loves his job he doesn’t make much (he has applied for and still looks for higher paying jobs with no luck). I have tried to get work for his days off (any job, anywhere) but no one wants to hire me for just 2 days a week. Our parents are all too old to handle the kids for more then an hour or so and they very rarely have time (I’m lucky if my parents make time to see the kids twice a month and we live in the same town). Any retail job I could find wouldn’t even begin to cover childcare for 2 kids and we make just the tiniest bit too much to qualify for any assistance, yet just on food, rent (we live with my mother-in-law but still have to pay her almost 1/2 hubby’s paycheck which is way less then anything else in the area) and other necessities (diapers, wipes, cleaning supplies) we are always at $0 before the next paycheck comes in. Its a very hard life, I share a car with hubby so I’m often stuck at home all week, we can only afford the zoo or aquarium once or maybe twice a year, we only have a date night when our parents gift one to us on my birthday/hubby’s birthday and maybe for the holidays, fish/seafood and any kind of prepared meal is out of the picture and forget takeout or even the occasional coffee out. It is very tiring and really chips away at you, I just hope that one day we can be making enough to be living on our own with enough for the necessities and a few “extras” here and there.

  59. Stephanie says:

    MommyofThree, I can definitely relate to your circumstance! If I were to work full time at $10-15 an hour, I would be paying to work. I would be in the negative for childcare for three children 4 and under and it wouldn’t be a financially sound decision- so really the only decision was for me to stay home with the kids, because it’s what made the most sense to us. We make ends meet (barely) and do the best we can. If you want to talk about options- we have really none. We make too much for childcare assistance but too little to afford child care. The only choice is for one of us to stay home- and that has to be the one who would make less money in the workforce.
    http://www.practicingparenting.net/

  60. sylvia says:

    Thank you so much for posting this! So many people are unthankful for what they have. There are so many single mom’s like my self that don’t have choices. It’s really sad that these mom’s are so out of touch with reality.

  61. Any Body says:

    Backlash of feminism that those of us just reaching mommy hood inherited whether we wanted to or not

  62. Alicia says:

    I really liked this article until I reached the bottom and was instantly faced with a self-promotion. It’s great you wrote a book, and I understand the desire to get the word out to sell copies, but it makes this whole article seen like a farce in order to draw readers in to see the big promotion at the end for your book. How much of this is really how you feel, and how much is simply a way to gain book buyers? It seems a tad backwards to talk about priviledge then ask people to give you money. Ugh. No thanks.

  63. Jane Roper says:

    @Alicia, that’s my signature on all of my blog posts. Because I blog for Babble, not a personal blog, I put additional information in my posts, the same way any blogger would have a sidebar advertising their books or products. And why on Earth is it backward to talk about privilege and then tell people about something else I wrote? Are people who write about privilege somehow not entitled to make a living? Ridiculous.
    /
    I’ve been blogging here for 5 years, and always speak my mind and present my opinions with honesty and integrity. To suggest that I would write an entire blog post like this– with obvious passion, not to mention a statement of my commitment to helping others by donating money and volunteering my time — just to sell books is insulting beyond words.

  64. Areader says:

    @alicia: As someone who has read this blog from the beginning- both for the sharp writing and the honest perspective on motherhood ( I am a writer considering becoming a single Mom) I was disappointed to see you tin a rich conversation about motherhood and privilege – jump started by Roper- into a personal attack. Turning on one another as women- rather than focusing together on changing systems that make it hard for many mothers and women in general, is a waste of time. Here is a blogger who is- yes, a writer. That is why we read her blog. That is why many of us who read her blog want to buy her book- because we want to keep listening to her. We want to see the world through this writer who somehow manages to support her family as a working mother ( do you have twins?) and write books. In this case, a book that will help many of us who suffer from depression, much less challenges of fertility troubles or motherhood.
    Also, if you have been a reader I her blog, you would know that one, being in dialogue with writings about motherhood is part of her purpose here. The mommy wars debate is everywhere- and I am relieves to see someone call out the class
    Assumptions beneath its preciousness. And two, if you rea her blog, you know that this honest and compassionate questioning of the world has been there since the beginning. Since before her readers started asking her to consider making this a book we could share with our friends.
    Stop throwing stones. Why not ou that criticism toward
    Systems of oppression rather than a working mother of twins? Jane- thanks for the thoughtful conversation starter.

  65. Areader says:

    Sorry for all of the typos there. I am writing furiously on an iPhone in an airport! Even writers can have awkward thumb typing skills!:)

  66. Ellen says:

    @Alicia: if you were following this blog, you would know that Jane’s been blogging for the past five years and that people have been coming back here because what Jane has to say speaks to them; because they trust her; because they like her humor (in some posts) and her seriousness (in others); because she’s one of the few bloggers/mothers who have written about mothering while fighting depression. And yes, now her book is coming out — and many of us, her readers, are excited about it — so I can’t think of a better place to announce the book’s publication.

  67. Jami says:

    @Alicia: I couldn’t agree more with Ellen and AReader. Jane isn’t tricking you with this blog post to buy her book. It’s not like she wrote: “To find out more about the Mommy Wars, buy my book…” Jane has a ton of fans who look forward to reading her blog posts *every week* because they respect her opinion and value her insight on a *range* of topic. So of course Jane going to have her book as part of her signature! Writers don’t write books so no one reads them. Writers write books because they *want* people to read them. And as Ellen states, I can’t think of a better place to announce the book’s publication either.

  68. JM says:

    @Alicia: I check in twice a week to read Jane’s blog, and it has never occurred to me to question her writer bio/byline at the bottom of the blog posts. A lot of writers put book credits in their bios. Just seems like the industry norm. And why wouldn’t a writer tell a reader where she can read more of her work? Jane has never been afraid to take on sensitive topics–this post is a great example–and I always walk away with something to think about, so I’m looking forward to her book’s publication.

  69. Alicia says:

    I simply shared my opinion, people. It honestly turned me off after reading what I thought at first was a good article to see a book plug thrown in right after. Maybe if it had been somewhere further down the page or something it wouldn’t have struck me the way it did, but that wasn’t the case.
    If my post offended, so be it. I didn’t come on here as a troll to berate and insult for no reason. I posted my honest thoughts on how the end of article and how other things were laid out and how it triggered the skeptic in me. Yes, when I read an article like the above that seems very passionate yet it’s about something controversial and then I immediately see a self-promotion at the end, I am skeptical as to the intentions of the writer. I don’t know the writer personally, I don’t know what her true intentions are. All I have is what is presented to me, and what was presented to me changed the tone of the article.
    I’m just one of probably hundreds, if not thousands, of people who will come across this article. Does my one opinion really matter? If so, is it because it’s so far the only negative one in the list? Sorry, but this is a very public website. Negative comments will happen. And my comments, though negative, were nowhere near as personal or nasty as I’ve seen others posted on the web. If only positive and supportive comments are wanted, take the blog to a private site. Or don’t allow any.
    Like I said before, it’s great you have a book being published. I’m fully aware of how much work and time goes into that, *but* be aware of the presentation of your articles, at least to a brand new reader who happened to stumble upon this particular article. It does seems strange to go through an article talking about being aware of privilege and aware of those without it, then immediately ask for people to give you money.
    Again, though, I’m just one person in a world of 7 billion. Ignore me if it makes you feel better.
    PS – to whomever asked, no, I don’t have twins, but what does that have to do with anything? I’m a mom of one with bipolar II. Does that change anything?

  70. Jane Roper says:

    @Alicia. Right, because it’s so easy to ignore someone who questions your motives and insults your integrity.
    /
    Meanwhile, why don’t you just ignore my reply as well as those of the commenters who criticized you, if it makes you feel better?
    /
    Not that it matters, but I have bipolar II also, and I write about those experiences in my book, if you feel like “giving” me some money to read it. Ooops!! I did it again!! I’m such a scam artist.

  71. grandmommy says:

    @Alicia – I really don’t understand where you are coming from in your opinion that this writer is wanting people to ‘give’ her money. She is not asking for a ‘free handout’ – she is asking people to spend money on a book she wrote that would be of interest to them – so they get something they want and she makes her living – what is wrong that????

  72. jenn/hippygoth says:

    @alicia it seems weird to me that you would lash out so hard about the author’s bio/byline at the bottom. it’s a standard practice, a signature line, to let you know about the author. would you find it less jarring if it was in a sidebar? the way it is on all other sites? in this case, the formatting of the Babble Voice’s blogs just doesn’t work like that. i find it hard to believe that a good post with many good points would be “ruined” by more information about the author.

  73. C A Wohlmut says:

    And to you I simply say, “Thank You.”

  74. Jeff says:

    I don’t think the example you cite is an extreme example at all. I think it’s far too common and far too typical of low-income, inner city communities. I worked at a school in the Bronx for several years, and this type of thing happened ALL. THE. TIME.

    Just an example … I had a student come in and ask if she could reschedule a test she had to take. I asked why, though the answer should have been obvious. She said because she was scheduled to give birth the day of the exam (the student was 19 and already had one kid, I found out shortly thereafter). I then asked if she was going to need to take semester leave, if we needed to talk about options, etc. Nope. She’d be back in the next week. Her grandmother was going to help for a couple of days (she was luckier than most that she had someone to help), then the baby would be going to childcare facility, a perk of public assistance, and she’d be available to take the test the following week.

    She looked at me funny when I asked if the father would be at the birth and if the father would help raise the child. The funny look wasn’t because, duh, obviously he would be. But because, duh, obviously he won’t be.

    This was not a student who was particularly strong, not particularly responsible. She was one of dozens and dozens that I saw this happen to every semester. Her child would not be well cared for, according to the standards most who read this blog would consider reasonable.

    That this happens so frequently is completely devastating on every social and economic level. DEVASTATING.

    And that could very much be among the reasons why the “Mommy Wars” are so important to so many white, affluent mothers. It’s much, much easier and more real to have that fight, then to have a discussion that involves the socioeconomic structure of our country. Smarter and easier to pick a fight you have a chance to win, isn’t it? I so get that. Who wants to talk about grand, fundamental social change when you can talk about things that you live with and deal with on an daily basis? The New York Times loves these debates and loves presenting them because its readership is that demographic. Those stories are often among the most e-mailed, aren’t they? Policy stories on welfare debate, teen pregnancy, inner city dropout rates and urban reform generally are not.

    And by the way, I say this coming from a position of extreme weakness and defeat. I worked in those circumstances for four years. Then I changed jobs and changed careers. I couldn’t handle it and I knew there was nothing I could do about it. Even the occasional glimmer of hope that one kid was being helped wasn’t enough. Not nearly enough. Seeing this type of thing every day beat me down. I escaped into a career bubble, and I haven’t looked back. I’d much rather talk about Mommy War issues.

  75. Janice Schacter says:

    I am not sure when it became a crime to be a stay-at-home mother. Before any women makes the decision to leave their career, they should find out what the law is in their state if they get divorced. Giving up your financial independence is a huge mistake. In NYC, Judges appear to have made it a crime if you gave up your career to raise your children even when your child has a disability. It is now used against you. Sometimes, the laws change and its irrelevant what the law was when you gave up your career. My advice to anyone is never take your hand out of your work b/c if you lose your financial independence, you may be stuck in a horrible situation such as domestic violence b/c you can’t leave….

  76. Meg-a-mom says:

    Great post, Jane!
    Also loved your handling of @Alicia. I can’t wait to read Double Time.

  77. Can Mom says:

    Amazing reality check. Thank you and I hope others take this to heart (like I did).

  78. kerry says:

    thank you for finally posting something for the moms that CANT stay home. i know as a single mom i was given 3 months off when my second was born. it was never thought of as a choice to stay home. would i have wanted it to be me instead of the daycare to see her first steps or hear her first words ….dam straight i did but no it wasnt something that was possible . there is nothing worse than a advantaged mom who makes you feel like you are ruining your kids because you HAVE to work. we have enough we beat ourselves up about we dont need society and other moms giving it to us as well.

  79. Pauline Gaines says:

    I couldn’t agree with you more. The whole “Mommy Wars” conversation has incensed me. As you astutely point out, we are wasting time debating the merits of privileged choices while completely ignoring the need to give invisible women more choices. I work with kids like the woman you mentored. Yesterday I begged a 13-year-old to go back on birth control. I think many girls and young women in her position get pregnant because it’s one of the few choices they do have. I also agree with Janice’s comment — unless women are independently wealthy, they really need to keep working. Marriages and career “windows” can turn on a dime.

  80. Heather says:

    Yes it is very hard to be a single mom and get next to nothing in child support. You work to just make to sure that your kids feel like they at least fit in. You want a roof over there heads and clothes on there backs. When you do work the state then tells you that you make to much to get state assistant. So if you don’t work you qualify, but if you just need that little bit of extra help they can’t. Then you deal with the visitation of the father and have to worry weather he is going to take them or not. So it is not like you can get another job to try and help make some extra money. I wish I had the priveledge of being able to choose weather I could be a stay at home mom or not, but my choice was made for me.

  81. alexa says:

    well this girl is from boston right? well from my knowledge i live in rhode island about 45 mins away and they have a way better welfare system then here.
    i know a girl that lives in mass that just a had a baby and they give her 500 in food stamps and 600 a month in cash. thats enough to have an apartment for the only 2 year waiting list for housing. not only that they pay for u to go to school for two years.. that may not seem like a lot for some people but me i’m living with my mom right now waiting for section 8 which ive been on since my son was born and hes 2 now. i get 440 in child support dont qualify for cash assistance. also i get 367 in food stamps which so that is less than this girl makes. can’t afford to go back to school which i would like to and i wouldnt be able to pay for child care either. i also take the bus looking for jobs and everything else that needs to be done with my son in tow and think about how 2 year old boys are and waiting for buses and what not. thats not too fun at all. i think there is other people that are worse off than me because my mom helps me out im sure. but i believe this girl has a lot more options…

  82. mei says:

    this brought tears to my eyes, really. great enlightening post.

  83. Natalie says:

    Thank you.

  84. sara says:

    Yes yes yes a thousand times yes!!! I am a stay at home mom because I’m lucky enough to have a family that will support my son and I while I finish school (slowly I’ve had to cut back to only one or two classes a semester). Had I not been as lucky as I am I would have been in the same situation as this girl. I’m lucky to be able to stay home with my son and I’m even more lucky that I’ve Been able to sucessfully breastfeed for 8 months now. The mommy wars about sahm vs working mom and breast vs formula feeding and even arguments about cosleeping and sleep training infuriate me to no end. These are the very definition of first world rich white lady problems. What makes me even more upset is when those same rich white ladies hold the opinion that unless you can provide all of those rich white lady advantages to your child then you do not deserve to be a mother or that you don’t love your children enough. Every woman deserves to be a mother if she so chooses. The fact that situations like this girl’s are all but commonplace is the result of a flawed social services system and that there is so little real support and real help offered to those disadvantaged mothers and children. If we could provide that support and education to the poor that has been achieved by the rich white ladies of the country then we could afford to waste time on the mommy wars.

  85. Hotly Spiced says:

    What a sad story. It’s like watching a car crash in slow motion – you just know things are getting worse and worse. And now there’s an innocent child involved. Some kids get the roughest start in life. So tragic.

  86. Rosana says:

    I thought that I was not going to like this post but I actually love it. Way to speak up for the mothers that have no choices. However, I cannot help to feel worse for their babies, those that might end up having limited oportunities like their parents.

  87. Jen says:

    I always thought “Mommy Wars” was a marketing hype thing. I am way too busy with my own family to care about what other people are doing.

  88. trina says:

    hear hear! Not a mom yet and these worries about planning and working and can I do a few days from home and if my parents can help watch my babies while I work, and much more are constant thoughts going through my head and we’re actually doing well. I cannot imagine for women that are not doing well financially or are single moms.

  89. Merle H. says:

    I’m a new mom and had no idea that something called the “mommy wars” even existed. Regardless, your article is dead on and made my heart ache. Everyone wants what is best for their families whether they stay at home, work full-time, or are doing whatever they can just to get by.

    http://www.blackbirdsbooksandbabies.com

  90. Alley says:

    Thank you.

  91. Teresa says:

    The only women who have “mommy wars” are the women who sit around and think about themselves all day. They are at war with other people in their own heads. The rest of us are busy. And yes, I am white, I have a nanny, but do you think I give two shits about whether or not my neighbor ( who had a baby two weeks after I did) is nursing her kid? No. I have no idea if she has breast milk or formula in the bottle and I have never even thought to ask.
    Also, while this is a very sad story, I don’t think it is “extreme”. In fact, the fact that “affluent” “educated” white women think this is a rare case just kind of proves how out of the loop they really are.There are many ,many women like the girl in this story. I bet there are more like her than the actual privileged who get to sit around and read blogs all day. And I include myself in that statement.

  92. [...] missing voices in the Mommy Wars (Babble) Rot13.write("Lbh pna ernpu guvf cbfg'f nhgube, Xbn Orpx, ba gjvggre be ivn r-znvy ng [...]

  93. T. says:

    However I might feel for this woman, and other women in her situation, I can only think…
    ctrl+c
    ctrl+v

    (yes, it makes sense, though you will probably have to think about it a while)

  94. Lemruitte says:

    15 Jun 2012 … Dzanc Books was founded in 2006 to advance great writing and …… It held a little under one hundred eighteen thousand dollars in cash. 3. paydayloansun.co.uk to 46 per cent, and this increase was on the account of cash and balance at other banks …. d y x. = (2). To avoid the necessity of either imposing restrictions or arbitrarily … technological advances (∆T >1) and/ or closure of the performance gap …

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