The Mommy Wars: Why the Phrase "Stay-at-home-mom" is Played Outcarolyncastiglia
All week long, Babble is teaming up with HLN’s Raising America to take a look at “The Mommy Wars” and all of its many facets. (For the record, I don’t participate in The Mommy Wars. I don’t care what anybody does as long as they’re happy. I do, however, reluctantly participate in The Mami Wars, which is when Spanish-speaking men fight over me in the street. I can’t help how hot I am, y’all.) I’ll be appearing today around 12:45 (but tune in when the show starts at noon) to talk with Kyra Phillips about “Stay-At-Home-Moms.” First of all, the phrase “Stay-At-Home-Moms” feels totally played out at this point. It sounds like something Rush Limbaugh would say, doesn’t it? “Stay at home, moms!” Like it’s a command. “Do you have kids? THEN WHY AREN’T YOU HOME?” Furthermore, the phrase doesn’t accurately represent reality. The “Stay-At-Home-Moms” I know are never home! They’re always out running errands or taking their kids places or going to PTA meetings … Stay-At-Home-Moms need a better moniker, like “Drivin’ That Van, Gurl!” That way they could have a more appealing acronym, too. SAHM has always seemed to me like it has to do with some kind of kinky sexual preferences. “Are you an SAHM?” “No, I’m DTV, G!” Not only is there typically lots of work involved with being a SAHM (my safe word is “nachos”), being able to stay at home is for many a luxury they can afford. For others it’s a decision arrived at based on the financial realities of how much it costs to work. Prior to the birth of my daughter in 2005, I had been temping at various Wall Street financial institutions. My weekly take home pay was only about $100 more than what I would likely have spent to put my child in daycare, which made “opting-out” seem like the obvious choice. No one wants to work 40 plus hours a week to bring home a hundred bucks. Which brings me to my point about lower-wage earners: Senator Elizabeth Warren pointed out at a hearing last week that if the minimum wage had kept up with worker productivity since 1960, Wal*Mart greeters would be making $22/hour. But for $7.25? Why wouldn’t everyone just stay home? Opting out of corporate office culture is a great option for mothers and fathers, because it allows parents to craft a more desirable work/life balance. (That’s why Marissa Mayer’s decision to terminate Yahoo!’s telecommuting policy struck such a nerve with so many people.) “Opting-out” by the way is another hilarious phrase – first we were opting-out, now we’re leaning in – this feels like a lot of ab work.
Because it doesn’t matter if you go to work in an office or stay home, as long as you look hot doing it, amIright, ladies? But seriously … this essay by Michael Winerip – published in Sunday’s New York Times – details the work/life balance he and his wife carved out for themselves by taking turns being the primary caregiver of their children. Both Winerip and his wife are writers, though, a notoriously flexible career path, given that one can write from anywhere, or even totally hammered as is the case with many literary giants. (Note: the same cannot be said for parenting.) That’s why so many so-called “Stay-At-Home-Moms” have found success in careers like blogging or freelance journalism and graphic design.
It’s essential for us women to be forthright about the fact that “staying home” does not equal “not working.” Stay-At-Home-Moms do unpaid domestic work, sure, but many self-identifying “Stay-At-Home-Moms” are actually running extremely successful businesses out of the home. To be disingenuous about that is bad for feminism, which is bad for a better work/life balance for all parents. We should all be able to work some and play some and raise our children. For more on this subject, tune in to HLN’s Raising America today at 12 pm EST.
See what Carolyn and fellow blogger Meagan Francis have to say on Raising America about the mommy wars below:
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.