done with mommy wars

I'm SO over the mommy wars.

Around the time I had Daniel, I did some reading about motherhood, mostly in the context of modern feminism and women's rights. I read The Feminist Mystique (or at least most of it) and The Mommy Myth, as well as a smattering of articles on the subject. Most large media publications would like us to believe that the Mommy Wars are real, that stay-at-home-moms (SAHMs) and career moms are at odds with each other, that SAHMs believe career moms are selfish, that career moms believe SAHMs are boring and unambitious. We are at opposite ends of the spectrum, says the myth, and ne'er the twain shall meet.

I am here to tell you that is absolutely untrue.

Here is what IS true:

1. Motherhood is difficult.
2. Motherhood is physically and emotionally exhausting.
3. Motherhood is totally worth all the difficulty and exhaustion.
4. No one understands this completely until they have gone through it themselves.
5. Mothers get endless criticism from all sides, no matter what career and parenting decisions they have made. I think this is true for two reasons (look! subcategories!!):
a) No one really understands what motherhood is like until they've done it themselves (see no. 4, above)
b) No one, including mothers, know what they want from women and mothers in our society, and this ambiguity and ambivalence creates tension and criticism that gets whipped back in the face of mothers because, let's face it, we're easy targets.
6. Most of this can be said about parents in general, though I find that fathers don't get all the crap about career decisions. Unless they decide to forgo the career to stay at home with the kids, but that's a whole 'nuther thang.

I am constantly having discussions with friends of mine who are mothers or planning to be mothers about modern motherhood. This also happens with random parents at the park/zoo/local caf├ęs, in part because it's easiest to start a conversation about something you have in common, and if there are two adults both trying to wrangle squirmy kids in a high chair or negotiate who's turn it is on the curvy slide, well, it's pretty obvious where to start. We talk about stuff that bore any non-parent out of his/her gourd: eating habits, sleeping habits, potty successes and failures (guess where we are on that topic? sigh...). I confess I find these particular conversations stifling unless I'm talking to someone I already know well and care about.

When I talk to other parents (mothers in particular) about career decisions, I find almost universal ambivalence (see 5b, above). Most of us don't want to give up the idea of a career completely, but knowing how difficult the juggling act between work (as in "paying job") responsibilities and home responsibilities can be, we tend to fall on the side of whatever makes the most economic sense. Most single mothers I know can't afford not to work. Most SAHMs I know can't afford to work; I can't, considering the cost of daycare for two kids and the pay level of any job I would be qualified for. Most career moms I know have only one kid, or their kids are spaced pretty far apart, or they have really high salaries to pay for all the daycare.

It sucks we're not presented with more options. But more options means higher taxes to pay for it and we all know how most Americans feel about THAT. (Actually, I'm not sure what most Americans are more afraid of: paying higher taxes or the word "socialism.")

In the end, though, I have to admit I'm tired of the whole discussion. Me? I'm just doing the best I can, and I believe the same can be said for 99% of the other moms out there. At least we can agree on that.


katie said…
If you're tired of the discussion, maybe you don't want comments, ; ), but, I wanted to add that I think another stumbling block is that so many parents have lost the instinct in parenting. So many feel they need to depend on someone else's theories, and on the books they read. And, the theories out there are so polarized it becomes like a religion, almost. I think parenting is as idiosyncratic as people are themselves and that each one of us needs to discover what works and doesn't work best for us, and what we instinctually know to be best. This doesn't mean books and theories can't guide us, but when we're in such unfamiliar territory, it's too easy to make decisions solely based on what someone else said.
Jessi said…
I completely agree. I think ambiguity is one of the main problems, but I think that insecurity is another one. I have been called lots of nasty names and had plenty of bad things said to me (one mom said that I should have my kids taken away from me for formula feeding because it was clearly abuse and when I questioned her what a foster parent would feed my kid, she left in a huff). I believe it is because we are all so unsure of our ideas and methods we feel the need to defend them to everyone else on the planet, even if we do it in a mean spirit.

Personally, I look at the moms around me who do things differently (nearly everyone does something differently) and I can't think of a single thing that I disapprove of. I don't hate breast feeders because I am a bottle feeder or SAHM's because I am a WOHM. But what I do hate and have no patience for is moms who are so bent on their way being the only right way that they are willing to alienate other moms because of it.

Your points just drive home that we are all in this together. We are all fighting the same battles and crying the same cries. So why can't we all just be nice to each other.

Good blog. Thanks for it.
Strangeite said…
"one mom said that I should have my kids taken away from me for formula feeding because it was clearly abuse and when I questioned her what a foster parent would feed my kid, she left in a huff"

That cracked me up.
Suze said…
Jessi, it's rotten someone said that to you. Jerks are everywhere, huh? The subject of baby-feeding is such a minefield.
Steph said…
I appreciate how you make the point that the decision to stay at home or not stay at home generally comes down to what makes economic sense. So often people talk about these decisions as though they are made based on ideological stances that put you in one "camp" or another. That doesn't seem to ring true for very many of the parents I know, if any.

Jessi, GREAT response to that heckler.
Feral Mom said…
Great post! You can be sure I'm forwarding this one to friends who are mothers. Thanks

Also, sorry to put this in the comment box, but I don't know how else to reach. I'm about to go private--if you want to be invited to read Gone Feral, shoot me an email at

Hope all is well!

take care, FM

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