What Mommy Wars?Kelly Wickham
I have something to say about these “Mommy Wars”, but first I have to spend a moment laughing. Let me get it out. LOL ROFL HaHAHAAA. Whew! Now I feel better. It’s almost impossible to talk about these media-manufactured wars without seeing them for the ridiculous distraction that they are. I don’t know about you, but none of my friends and I are fighting this or behaving sanctimonious enough to put on other women our own insecurities and strong beliefs on other moms. Every time it comes up I am surprised that it’s even a topic again (except that I totally get the ratings they need) and, this time, just for good measure, I asked several of my girlfriends who are a mix of work-at-home and work-outside-of-home moms to please weigh in on the topic. The verdict: they laughed just as much as I did earlier. Not only is it manufactured, but there’s a certain White Privilege slant to the conversation as well as the even-more-taboo take of talking about class in America. We just aren’t comfortable doing those things, are we? Still, oblige me for a moment to explain why this is the worst bait for women to take.
When I first became a mom I wasn’t aware of any so-called “Mommy Wars” because I was 15, a sophomore in high school, and had to learn to juggle diapers and sleep schedules with algebra and research papers. By the time I was a senior, Mallory was a toddler and I went to school part time and worked as a bank teller part time. It was a tough time, but there wasn’t much guilt on my part about trying to get it all done. Necessity will do that to you; you won’t have time to worry much about what other moms are doing. Poor moms aren’t fighting this battle, but the media isn’t really interested in their take on things even when those in poverty are trying to create their own narratives. Look at the (very) privileged people who write books about what it’s like to be poor. Two that come to mind are Peter Van Buren’s “We Meant Well: How I Helped Lose the Battle for the Hearts and Minds of the Iraqi People” and “Nickle and Dimed” by Barbara Ehrenrich. These are people who are educated and privileged horning in on something that is an actual battle: poverty.
Even when I went to college and met other moms who were trying to juggle their lives like I was, I didn’t see any competition between them. Sure, sometimes there were discussions of how old their babies were when they first walked and when they were potty-trained but the thought of competing with them about who had it harder and who was better at being a parent isn’t something that ever entered my mind.
Then, I became a writer and read things online more and more and was kind of forced to think about these “Mommy Wars” and that’s when I decided to call shenanigans on them.
It’s not that I don’t believe their existence, it’s the emphasis put on them that seem fabricated to me. It seems like some faction keeps the fires burning in them to keep women fighting and continues to keep them from dealing with real, tangible issues at hand.
Mothering is hard. It’s the hardest work I’ve ever done and my youngest child just legally became an adult when he turned 18 last week. The last thing I need to do is compare and compete about who is doing mothering better.
As a mom, I have my share of guilt, but it’s not piled on me by other mothers. I can do that all by myself. But is it really guilt that I have? Or just regret?
When my youngest son was born in 1995, it was the first time I considered being a SAHM (and only temporarily, because I knew I would go back to work eventually) only because I truly wanted to take a break and just spend concentrated time with him. His babysitter lived in my neighborhood and I took him down to her house every morning before heading off to teach. Her house had a giant, covered porch in the front and as soon as I left the door from dropping him off my sweet little guy would toddle to the window at the front and wave his chubby little hand at me. “Bye bye, momma” he would say, though I only guessed at it since I couldn’t hear him. Then, I got in my car and bawled the entire drive to work, stopping to fix my face and dry my tears before heading into work. Was that guilt about not being able to stay home with him or was it regret that I couldn’t afford to do that?
Look, I’m not saying that there is some jealousy and feelings of “Well, I’m doing something productive with my life” that goes on between mothers, but it causes me to wonder why those conversations even exist. But we’re not all bystanders to the “Mommy War” that New York Magazine suggests, while watching two high-profile women juggle motherhood and work. We’re not talking about their business decisions, good or bad, as the top priority, either. While searching just now for an article on Elon Musk I typed “Elon Musk terrible father” and the first three hits were on his business choices. It wasn’t until the 4th one that I got the one I was searching for in the first place. Interesting, right? Isn’t there some “Daddy War” that you fathers should be waging against him right now?
No. Of course not. You’re not having those conversations, are you, dads of the world?
Mothers of color aren’t having these conversations, either, and for once I am grateful to be marginalized from the conversation because, and I can’t stress this enough, it’s a production not of our making. We have really important victories to celebrate like having the most women elected to the Senate in 2012 than ever before. We have wars of poverty to wage, a sequestration to consider, and global health initiatives to helm. I’ve spent my time learning about it all in one place, too, and that’s through the ONE.org group. Do you know why I’ve spent time there? Because navel-gazing at motherhood is truly boring for me and a lot of moms just like me. My focus is on something bigger than myself, and not on tearing down another woman because of the choices she’s made for herself or even if she’s made a choice at all.
The divide doesn’t exist, moms. This is my plea to get us to stop engaging in the conversation, shift the narrative to more important topics of allowing women to move up and enter into the workplace if they so choose, and to stop allowing the mere words “Mommy Wars” to get us to take up our battles and play them out for the sake of the media. Really. We’re just far too busy raising children.
Hear more on the Mommy Wars from Raising America:
We’re continuing this conversation all this week, because we want that lasting peace, dammit. Read more posts on this subject in this section all week (you can start with Catherine’s kick-off post.) And tune in to HLN’s Raising America (12:30 EST) to watch The Mommy Wars: the Peace Talks, a 5 day collaboration with HLN’s Raising America aimed at wrestling this so-called ‘war’ into peaceful submission.
For more on ‘leaning in’, and for buckets of inspiration toward being intentional and empowered in our choices (motherhood-related or otherwise) and our lives (including inspiring stories from many Babble bloggers that you know and love), visit the Lean In community. And maybe join the Lean In community. It’s a movement for all of us.
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