My Facebook feed has baby fever. One quick scroll reveals: a friend’s adorable daughter dressed as Dorothy for Halloween, a newborn strapped into her car seat for the ride home from the hospital, a toddler sporting a fake mustache, twins in bumbo seats preparing to eat their first solid foods. And the pregnancy announcements, one after the other, coming so quickly now that I can’t keep the due dates straight. Who’s having a baby in March? And who in December?
The very people who once sang screechy 3 a.m. alcohol-fueled renditions of “Baby Got Back” by my side are suddenly moms of two and dads-to-be. All of these tiny faces and shower themes and bump pics are enough to make a childless person run screaming or, conversely, start planning a nursery of her very own.
I don’t have children. I stave off the obligatory, “So, when are you having kids?” question which began the day my husband and I married with, “I don’t know. Not yet.”
I’ve considered the mental, emotional, and monetary issues implicit in parenthood. And, year by year, I find myself wading a little further out into the sea of impending sleeplessness, testing the waters.
But I still struggle to wrap my mind around what kind of parent I’ll be. Will I be a working mom or a stay-at-home mom? And if I choose one over the other, how often and how loudly will I have to defend that choice?
If you read USA Today, Forbes, Macleans, The New York Times or any number of news sources, blogs and opinion pieces, you are no doubt familiar with the term, “Mommy Wars.” Many trace the now fully fledged conflict back to a controversial comment Hillary Clinton made in 1992 when questioned about her choice to continue her career in law: “I suppose I could have stayed home and baked cookies and had teas, but what I decided to do was to fulfill my profession which I entered before my husband was in public life,” a statement deemed elitist and offensive by many stay-at-home moms.
More recently, Hilary Rosen’s assertion that Ann Romney “never worked a day in her life” (she was a stay-at-home mom to five children) was met with a similar backlash.
Despite the uproar, popular opinion tends to support the two Hil(l)arys. In an increasingly “equal” society, the expectation seems to be this: A woman should want it all–the family and the career–and be willing to work her butt off to keep everything balanced. After centuries of pushing for equal rights, women are expected, as a collective, to make good on our hard-won freedom to earn money and hold powerful positions by not dropping out of the game. And somehow, the expectation continues, we should fit child rearing neatly into that equation.
As if we all want the same thing. As if we should.
Yahoo’s new CEO Marissa Mayer is famous for sleeping under her desk and working longer and harder than everyone around her. Now pregnant, she’s stated that she will continue to work throughout her three week maternity leave while juggling the new (and unforeseen) challenges of motherhood. Mayer has been deemed the unofficial symbol of the modern woman, the one who can do it all. And she hasn’t even given birth yet. In the media, she’s been simultaneously placed on a pedestal and torn to shreds. A recent Forbes article asks, “The Pregnant CEO: Should You Hate Marissa Mayer?”
Facebook’s COO Sheryl Sandberg presented a popular Ted Talk about not leaving before you leave, “Why We Have Too Few Women Leaders,” in which she urged women to stay in the workforce longer and take on more challenging roles in order to have something worthwhile to return to after giving birth. Despite her well-intentioned, logical argument, her one-size-fits-all prescription left me feeling cold.
Every time I listen to or read a bossy opinion about how women should navigate the challenging role of motherhood, I get a little bristly.
Why has the issue of parenting become so politicized?
I have friends who vocally look down upon women who don’t work full-time. I have family members who firmly believe a mother’s place is in the home, raising her children. Both of these opinions bother me. Because they are just that: opinions.
I was raised by a single mother who worked tirelessly to support me financially. Was I any less adored or educated or looked after as a result? Not at all. Does that mean I want to work forty hour weeks when I have a child? Not necessarily.
Studies show that there is very little academic and behavioral difference between a child with a working mother versus one with a stay-at-home mom. In fact, it seems that total household income plays more of a role. If a household is struggling financially, the increased income a working mother brings home is more beneficial than the time she would spend with the child otherwise.
But if a family has the resources to support a stay-at-home parent, it really boils down to one thing: choice.
Every rallying cry for mothers to work longer and harder outside of the home is stomping on someone else’s choice. Every reproach that a woman is not caring for her child properly because she is working too many hours is an unwelcome dose of judginess.
Can we stop with all of the “shoulds” and instead spend more time analyzing what will make us, as individuals and families, happy and proud and whole?
If we want to have a real conversation about better work/life balance, then let’s talk about maternity/paternity leave, flex time, on-site daycare, the tangible components that could make the choice to work or not work more feasible for everyone.
There are an endless array of pieces to choose from when composing the puzzle of family life. Why can’t we muster up a deeper appreciation for the unique and messy nature of all of the pictures out there? They don’t all look alike. Who says that’s a bad thing?
Parent or not, what are your thoughts on the “Mommy Wars”? If you have children, do you work or stay at home? What is that like for you? Do you ever feel judged for your decision?
My Facebook feed has baby fever. One quick scroll reveals: a friend’s adorable daughter dressed as Dorothy for Halloween, a newborn strapped into her car seat for the ride home from the hospital, a toddler sporting a fake mustache, twins in bumbo seats preparing to eat their first solid foods. And the pregnancy announcements, one after the other, coming so quickly now that I can’t keep the due dates straight. Who’s having a baby in March? And who in December?
I have to say your third from last paragraph said it all. I wouldn’t be a stay at home mom if I had better options for daycare and flextime. France has amazing childcare. Kids are fed well and taken amazing care of. I wish we had that stability for our children here in the U.S for moms who wanted to go back to work.
Canada is also way ahead of the U.S. in this regard: a full year of “parental leave” that can be used by either parent (or split between both). In the U.S., it’s a crapshoot–you may get a bit if you have a good employer. And flextime still seems so rare. I really hope this issue comes to the forefront in the next few years so that everyone (men and women) can make better choices about how and when to have a family.
I disagree. You have children for YOU to raise, not for someone else to raise. That is pure irresponsiblity. Your husband or boyfriend should be working, you should be at home with your kid. And if you’re a single mom, its further proof of what a failure you are.
Only sluts are single moms(: and yes Im a teen mom so I know what I’m talking about(: Still with the daddy of my baby, forever will be, no matter how tough or horrible the relationship is.
Great post! I totally agree! One thing my mother taught me is to, “do whatever works in your household!” And that was way back when when I was a teenager, just dreaming about being a wife and mom in the future. I am still single and I have no kids yet, but I still dream of having a family one day. Honestly, I’m just as progressive as the next young woman of this generation. I plan to have a career of my own, but I would love to have the chance to take long periods of time off to be with my children. And when I’m ready to go back to work I will. And that’s the point you made: it is about personal choice! What gives the modern woman power is her freedom to choose for herself, and not have the decision to work or not imposed upon her from family, friends, society, or women-at-large. How dare anyone, especially other women, judge a woman for how she chooses to raise her children? Such thinking seems counterproductive for women’s forward movement. I think that both stay at home moms and working moms, and those somewhere in between should all be respected and celebrated for the choice they made. As for me, I thank my mom for her great advice, “do what works for you.” In sharing that insight, all those years ago, she freed me from this entire problem of caring about what others think about my choices. In fact, her very words empowered me to make them. What a great mom I have!
“In sharing that insight, all those years ago, she freed me from this entire problem of caring about what others think about my choices.” What a wonderful gift your mother gave you–self confidence and an open mind. She sounds amazing. And so do you!
Why thanks! I didn’t realize that I wrote so much! LOL! BTW I read the post for my mom and she LOVED it!!!
When next you head that way … right next door is where we got the pebbles for the pond. Wonderful selection, all colours, and all sizes. Then there’s Lu82wg&#di17;s Roses. Next door to them is Van den Berg, my first choice for a wide selection of indigenous. Especially trees! And the Joostenberg Deli, does cake to die for. (Closed on Mondays?)
Whatever decision a woman makes–stay in the workforce or stay at home–as long as she knows why she made it defending it is never required. “Defending” your choice implies agreement with whoever is questioning it. If it is right for you, that’s all that matters.
You’ve hit the feminist nail on the head. It is about choice! I am taking a class right now titled The Culture and Politics of Motherhood. You would love it. We are exploring the mommy wars this week. It’s fascinating and disheartening at the same time. Great post!
Your class sounds fascinating, Emily. Do you think you’ll write a post related to what you discussed this week? I’d love to read it!
Great reflection on motherhood, Rian. I also wonder what kind of mum I’ll be and I won’t give in to conflicting views from society, family, friends, or celebrities. I find the mommy wars as ridiculous and annoying as the pro-life vs pro-choice discussion. In the end, we’re all individuals and we should be able to decide for ourselves. Especially as women, we’re constantly told what we should look like, how we should behave, what choices we should make… Enough!
My ideal of parenthood would be to have time for my children and for myself- be it in a job, in a hobby, writing… The perfect situation would be that my husband and I both worked 75% maximum. That way, we would share responsibility to bring income and to raise the children. However, it is often difficult to achieve that ideal today- most men are expected to work full-time and earn more money than women which makes it easier for the woman to give-up her career.
There’s a lot to be said on the topic and you brought a thought-provoking perspective on it, as always :-)
I think your ideal sounds great, Cécile. It would be wonderful if work culture shifted to allow for more equal child care responsibility between the sexes. I focused on women, but there’s SO much to be said about men. If you asked the majority whether their workplace is flexible in this regard (at least in N. America), you would hear a resounding no. It’s still unfortunately uncommon for men to take the lead role in child rearing because society and work culture don’t support it.
You may also find this article about Elisabeth Badinter interesting: ‘Mommy Wars’ are American phenomenon, says feminist French author
It would be really interesting to talk more about men, I agree. It’d also shift the attention and the judgement on men instead of women.
Thanks for the link to the article, I might check out Badinter’s book. However, I can say mommy wars also exist in France. Maybe not as strongly and openly as in the US but there is a divide between stay at home moms and working ones. there’s also a lot of pressure around breast-feeding and all “natural” ways, as Badinter mentions in the article. That might be stronger in France than in the US even.
The comment box is insufficient to address your questions and the issues raised by your post! It is an interesting subject, one I could spend hours discussing, as a mom to two teens now, who continued working full-time before and after about a 2-month maternity leave (during which I would check email at least once a week or go into the office to go through mail with baby in tow — and baby got oohed and aahed over! — it was less stressful to keep things at least familiar and moving along with client matters than wait after a 2-month absence and try to completely refamiliarize). I am fortunate, though, I enjoy my career, it was a choice to return, and my husband and I both have jobs/careers that provide some level of flexibility such that we’ve never missed a holiday program, at least one of us have been at any sporting game/event, we have been able to volunteer periodically at school and chaperone field trips along the way — there has been a lot of tag-teaming along the way, particularly with more than one child as they become involved in activities and some days you are all like ships passing in the night (and then the fear of having your teen drive independently for the first time turns into a sigh of relief they can get themself to their music lesson now!). Do we “have it all” — no. I don’t believe anyone does. We all make choices. I think we can all think of “working” moms as well as “stay-at-home” moms whose children arguably would be better off if mom (or whichever parent is in that role), were not. Vice versa is true, as well. It takes a village, and the quality and diversity of that village is important in raising your child — so is the quality of education the child experiences.
Have I had to “defend” my choice? I certainly have been judged for it from time to time, both while pregnant and while they were young — “You aren’t going back to work after that second one, are you?”, “You aren’t going to continue to work full time, are you?”, “How can you stand to drop off your baby with someone else to care for him every day?” Did my husband get these same questions? No. I recall how my boys loved the daycare situations we were fortunate enough to have prior to their starting school. Once I said to my oldest, “some people think your mom should not work, and should be home with you during the day every day instead.” He looked shocked and protested, “But then I wouldn’t get to play with my friends everyday.” We were fortunate with loving, caring, safe childcare options.
Am I the perfect parent? Certainly not. I don’t think anyone is. Is there any “right” answer as to the perfect setting/structure to raising a child “properly”? No, I believe that answer is a multiple choice equation where more than one answer can be correct.
Thanks for your post. ~ Kat (see I told you I could go one forever on this topic)
Youre clearly a failure. Your children are for YOU to raise, not for you to pawn them off on other people. Why was the father not working? Theres no reason for a mom to work, period, end of story.
P.S. The blog “The Mommy Quad” has some great posts on this topic.
These ‘Mommy (or mummy here is Australia : ) ) wars’ are a constant issue I think about since having my twin boys 7 months ago, so thank you Rian for bringing it up for discussion : )
Before I was a mother, I envisaged Motherhood as this one big Sisterhood where we’d all support each other’s choices. HA! The reality was far from it! Whether it be on Facebook or when I’m out, I feel particularly susceptible to Mother’s judging me, as the whole twin thing tends to draw attention when out. I quite often find that women start automatically making competitive comments like my pet hate ‘Oh, I had my children x amount of years apart, that’s harden than twins’ (don’t even get me started, as they are two completely different situations!) But I used to (and still) get quite upset about it, because I would never dream to make such competitive and judgemental comments to a parent.
‘Mummy wars’ have gotten so competitive, I can no longer make a Facebook status update about what book I’m reading without a Mother putting their unwanted two cents worth in about it if it so remotely relates to parenting. In fact, I even tried to hide the fact that I had stopped breast feeding because I knew a couple of women who I knew would ‘look down on me’ for doing so (and sure enough, when they did find out, they did indeed frown upon it!
As for the working/stay at home mum debate, I’m fortunate enough to be a Mum and Beauty Therapist with a salon from home, so I get the best of both worlds, but I have absolutely no judgement for women who go back to the wok force or stay at home with their children. Both should be valued as they are both hard work and we fought so long for women’s rights, we should simply be supporting and celebrating each other’s choices! I think women are forgetting the most important thing about parenting…it’s about loving the children and if the parenting method isn’t causing harm to the children, let’s make this Motherhood thing a whole lot easier and get on the same team!
Oh, and on a side note, are you sure that picture of the twins having their first solids in a bumbo wasn’t posted by me? : ) I posted that very pic a few weeks ago hehe : )
Ahh, more twins in bumbo seats, I love it! They sound precious.
I know I would work because not working wouldn’t be a financial option for me. And honestly, I like working. I’d be totaly willing to cut back hours though.
But what kills me with this debate is the amount of judging that goes on, mostly by women against women.
Honestly, what’s right for some people isn’t for others.
There are women whose identity and self worth are tied up in their careers. If these women are pressured to stay home, I really doubt that they are going to magically morph into happy mommies. They will be unhappy, and they will probably make their children unhappy.
Then there are women for whom mommy-dom is the childhood dream and their raison d’etre. It is the career that gives them their identity. Going back to work hurts them.
And I’m sure there’s a whole range of people it between.
I don’t think there’s a blanket right or wrong here. There are women who will be miserable in either situation and it just makes sense that a miserable mom isn’t the best thing for a kid. One who is happy and proud of what she does will be the best mom she is able. Guilt trips and judgment from other women don’t do anyone any good.
I’m very curious why this topic is focused only on women. I’ve heard about the “Mommy wars” endlessly but not a single peep about Daddys who choose to stay home or choose to keep working. Why the hypercritical lens on women in parenthood. Why isn’t society focusing on Dads? Perhaps because it’s socially accepted that Daddys get to choose their involvement, even if that involvement is absense, whereas women do not have the open social acceptance (even from eachother) to simply choose their involvement? I’m pretty sick of the women vs. women wars. Women should be supporting eachothers choices, and thus ending all war metaphors between us.
I KNOW that I am judged for being a stay-at-home mom. Apparently also being a full-time college student doesn’t count. I think people’s opinions on the matter often have to do with their socioeconomic status. There are a lot of lower-middle class and lower class families in this area where they can’t survive without both parents working and I think it leads to people expecting that to be the norm that everyone should follow not to mention a side of jealousy. On the other hand the town I grew up in was more upper-middle class and though mom’s were educated and could have had a job, many made the choice to stay at home and weren’t thought badly for it.
it doesn’t have to be all or nothing. i left a job i was unhappy in (a postdoctoral fellowship after receiving a phd) when my daughter was born. i couldn’t bear to leave her in the crappy daycare that we could afford (at $1200 month it should have been much less crappy but good daycares were much more expensive, believe it or not), especially for a job that made me miserable. on the professional side, there were many warnings that i was ruining my career by walking away, especially considering i had a prestigous grant from the nih. within a few months, i basically fell into contract work in a semi-related field, but was able to work part-time at home in a job that was much more family friendly, paid more, and a better fit for me personally. my daughter is five now, and at a fabulous preschool from 8:30-3 every day. i work while she is at school, 30 hours a week. i could care less what politicians say. i could care less what people in my field said (though i did at the time). i went with my gut (after much self torture and doubts) and have never regretted my decision. my professional life ended up soooo much better for it. children change your priorities, and that changes your life. you likely won’t know what’s best for you and your family until a baby is here. it’s a very personal choice, and you’ll know what’s right for you when the time comes. doesn’t matter what society thinks. they’re all over the map. and they don’t live your life and raise your children.
I have an almost five-month-old daughter, and living in Canada, I have a full-year of paid maternity leave. But I have no idea what I’ll do after that. I enjoy working, but I adore my daughter, and can’t imagine leaving her all day. What I do know is that everyone’s opinion only makes it more difficult, overwhelming and emotional for me to make a decision.
I strongly dislike the idea of one method of parenting being “better” than another. I’ve read the backlash against attachment parenting, against tiger moms, against bottle-feeding the babies. Most of the time I don’t think the complainers even have the baby’s welfare in mind: it’s all about comparing themselves to the other mothers and justifying the choices they themselves made.
I think it’s fairly natural to worry if the personal choices you make will affect the outcome of the small child you’re responsible for (“Would my child be happier & healthier if I was married/it had a sibling/was breastfed longer?”), hence why people judge each other and why it gets nasty.
My bottom line is: if you make a parenting choice with justifications (i.e, mother stays at home because the family income allows it and she wants to look after the children)…then I don’t see what the problem is.
“I think it’s fairly natural to worry if the personal choices you make will affect the outcome of the small child you’re responsible for” That’s a good point, Claire. And I think it’s the basis for a lot of the competitive, judgmental spirit of the mommy wars. Women want to defend the choices they are making. If they can’t “prove” those choices right, what does that say about their parenting skills? It’s too bad we can’t all be a bit more vulnerable and open in this respect: “I made X choice, but it’s not working out, or I made Y choice and it works well for me but I can see how it wouldn’t for another.”
Ugh…it’s all SO HARD. Being the mother of one was kind of easy. I mean, I got to have a year off (yay Canada!) to be there for most of the firsts, and then we found an amazing daycare and I got to have some adult time again and The Tornado’s brain EXPLODED when she was around so many kids all day and she learned so so so much more than i was ever teaching her on my own.
But now I’m about to be the mother of two. I get another year off (yay Canada!) so that part is a no-brainer, but then all of a sudden having TWO kids in daycare makes THAT expense more than our mortgage. MORE THAN OUR MORTGAGE! But can I afford to stay at home? Nope. So what do you do?
I know that this should be more than just a fiscal decision, but now that everyone needs to do everything, society has made it almost impossible for a one-income family to survive with multiple kids. So I work. And hope that we’ll all be ok.
You have made some great points, Riaan. It all boils down to the husband and wife deciding what is right for them and not apologizing to anyone else for their decision.
I am so glad to read this post! Even just the opening paragraph made me want to hit “like”! It is so hard to be a woman who isn’t sure whether she wants children, and I know that the pressure to make a decision about what is best for you and your family only increases once you decide that children are going to be a part of your family. As an outsider to the Mommy wars, I do have to say that it seems incredibly sad to me to think that so many feel like they have to tear others down in order to feel better about their own decisions. I am a believer (to a degree, anyway) in another Hillary quote, the one about it taking a village, but we (culturally) are so divisive that we are chasing away the very village that should be our help! I’m on the side of “to each their own,” but to hear about Marissa sleeping at or under or even next to her desk seems a bit extreme. I also cringe to think that she (who makes a gazillion dollars more than most of us will ever dream about) is being lauded as the poster mom. Metaphorically, that is like telling every 10 year old that if she doesn’t grow up looking like Barbie, she is somehow less-than. Why do we set impossible standards? Why do we project our own desires on other people? Is it insecurity? Is it jealousy? Is it useless? The last one is the only one I can answer definitively, and that is with a resounding “Yes!”
“Why do we set impossible standards? Why do we project our own desires on other people? Is it insecurity? Is it jealousy?” I think the answer is (mostly) yes and yes. And I think it’s something we learn early on. I wish desperately that all of us (myself included) could drop those standards and embrace the differences, the quirks, the amazing variety of choice out there. I hope that by talking about it, we can start to let the insecurity and combativeness go, bit by bit.
Really, I think we can expand this concept to pretty much all female conflict. Can we just agree that women need to stop being so insanely awful to each other in general? But, strictly on the topic at hand, I heartily agree. I’m not even married yet and I’ve seen enough of this to dread my eventual motherhood. I read an article that pointed out that in nearly all states, the cost of having 2 children in daycare simultaneously often negates the mother’s salary alltogether. For those high-caliber professionals who make the big bucks, this may not be a consideration, but for most families it’s an issue, and yet so many of those mothers are looked down on or taken to task for not working. Then again, you have women criticized for continuing to work, even if it’s only part time, instead of dropping everything (possibly their dream job, though I’d have no idea how that feels) to immerse themselves in that one role. It’s crazy to say that motherhood isn’t as important a career, but it’s equally insane to discount a person’s financial situation or their individual dreams and goals. We need to just let it be and concentrate on those truly abusing or neglecting their children.
“Can we just agree that women need to stop being so insanely awful to each other in general?” Hear, hear. I am eagerly awaiting that day. But I’m not sure it’s coming any time soon…
The comments someone left today in response to some of these discussion threads perfectly illustrates the need to stop judging. No one should presume to know or understand another’s path until they walk in their shoes.
I think women, in general, are just too hard on themselves because of the endless options we are faced with. We all want so badly to be the perfect mother and spouse and best friend, that we seek out a ton of conflicting advice when it comes to how to do it “right.” But there is no right way, there is only one’s chosen way. We can read a thousand books or websites on parenting and relationships, but no book or website can make the decision for us. We have to do that on our own. And we have to live with it. Fantastic post, Rian!
Great post as always, but this one really strikes a chord with me. I actually wrote about this exact issue in several posts and am thinking about writing a book about the choices that high level professional women have had to make, including advice for younger women who want to succeed in life. One thing that strikes me is the number of women who have chosen to put their careers first, because we were told that we could and should do that, and then end up focusing on kids too late – after the clock has run out. That is part of what I would like to write a book about. I guarantee you that the fertility clinics are chock full of women who have thriving careers, but are unable to have children naturally. I agree with you – it is all about choice. But unfortunately, science has other plans for all of us and dictates some of this. If I were to give advice to a younger woman I would encourage her to focus on her career if that is what she wants to do, but not to lose sight of the age of 34, after which a woman’s fertility drops dramatically. If a woman knows she wants to have kids, don’t put it off too long. Thanks for another brilliant post, Rian!!
I’d love to read some of those posts, Jennifer. Can you share a couple of links? And you’re so right–I have those horrible fertility graphs burned into my brain. The drop is pretty darn steep come mid-30’s. You might enjoy some of Penelope Trunk’s posts. She says some pretty controversial things but she talks a lot about these issues and provides tons of links to different studies. Might be some good fodder for your book. Here’s one: Get pregnant at 25 if You Want a High Powered Career
Wow – that does sound like a thought-provoking post. I have to check that out!! Thanks for asking for links to a few of my posts on this…I did a series a few monthsback, so here are a few:
Thanks for asking and for the encouragement on my book idea. I’ve spoken to quite a few women about it and many seem willing to tell their stories and interested in the concept. Now I just have to get off my duff – or on my duff and at my computer – and make it happen! Thanks for another thought-provoking post, Rian!!
I feel judged sometimes for not wanting kids. I am “only 28, I’ll change my mind” is what I’m told. Maybe I will, but I probably won’t. For now I’m happy with me and my cats. Which I also get crap for ;)
I’ve wanted to write a post about that specific issue for a while. It was just too much to try and incorporate it all into one post. But the decision to not have kids–it’s amazing to me how opinionated people can be about the issue. I had a discussion with a very normal 30-something guy recently and he used the word “selfish.” It blew me away. I honestly didn’t realize people my age thought that way. It’s absolutely NOT selfish to remain childless. It shows a remarkable amount of self awareness. It took me a long time to make a decision–it certainly wasn’t a given. And I have a lot of friends and mentors who don’t (and will never) have children. Good for you for knowing what you want and standing behind it. ((And if you do ever change your mind, that’s fine too.)
I think it’s funny to hear people think like that. Our world is so populated as it is, how can it be “selfish” to not want to have children? It might even be less selfish, if anything. It’s interesting to hear how some people think… But, as you clearly outlined in your post, parenting is a very loaded topic.
I was a stay-at-home mom and what I told my son and his wife was that they shouldn’t have kids if someone else was going to raise them, if you have them, parent them yourselves. That’s my opinion!
Great post as always Rian, and obviously by the comments it has generated a lot of responses and thoughts! I loathe the “mommy wars” – in fact I loathe all the snap judgements we make about others’ parenting choices. I am occasionally guilty of criticising other parents but try to keep it to the “I cannot believe she let her 2 year old run into the seas completely unsupervised” kind. I thought long and hard about this issue and can’t write it all down here again, but blogged myself about it a couple of months ago: http://familymattersnz.wordpress.com/2012/04/19/can-women-really-have-it-all/ and here’s another blogger’s post that I REALLY liked:http://www.huffingtonpost.com/kristen-howerton/mommy-wars_b_1510807.html?ref=parents
Awesome post, Lisa. Thanks for sharing! As a working mother of six (!), you have a great perspective on this topic. I hope other people head over and give it a read.
Brilliant post, there. I support a woman’s choice or maybe I should say that I support the family’s choice. That “family” may only consist of the mom and her child or it could be the mom, husband and child, whatever.
I do resent the expectation that women should work to “have it all.” It’s flipping exhausting. I stayed home for a few months to take care of my children but then I went back to work. Even with the flexible schedule that I’m lucky to have, it’s still hard and I’m still confronted with guilt.
Let us please have more understanding, than judgment.
I support choice. I don’t really care what other mother’s do or what other people think. For myself, I’m not sure I’ll have kids, but if I do, I’ll never be able to sit at home an raise them. Personally, I find not working to be rather boring and unfulfilling but hey, that’s my personal choice. My sister is a stay at home mom and that works for her. In the end she ends up doing way more work than my brother in law anyway, but she gets to spend time with her kids, which makes it all worth it for her. Who’s to say anyway?
What a wonderful, well-written post. I’m only seventeen, but I often find myself wondering what I want for my children. And, of course, society’s opinion can’t help but play a role in your decision.
I’m a happy mother of 2 little boys 6 and 2 years, I was a workaholic PR and Marketing Manager from a Corean Electronics big company for South AMerica; one day I decided to get pregnant , and everything change for me. 6 months after my first baby was born, I decided to quit my full time job as to work freelance. Was a great experience for me, I also had another kid in the middle, but as the economical situation has change, and the youngest boy is more than 2, I decided to begin to work full time again, at least to try… 6 months and see how it works.
Is hard, Is tough, is not easy, but in a way I feel that is not a bad choice. I shared the first 5 years with my big kid and 2 with the little one; I breastfeed both of them, share days, went to kinder, and enjoy a lot of afternoons in the playground. But, in a way I need to get back to me, to who I was… I’m happy that I did it, and I never regreat, I made less money, but I was very, very happy.
None is better than you to decide, and if you have the chance to decide when to have or have not a kid is a blessing.
Life change in 180º, and nothing will be the same, a kid take, the best and the worst from you and your husband, but I love every moment of my life, since they are here.
Is really a personal issue, and none can tell you what to do.
Take care! don’t listen to the people who speaks just becasuse they can.
sorry, is me, Carla!! ;)
I know this is going to be unpopular, but I believe that once you decide to have children and you want to give them the best ever life which doesn’t depend on money so much as time and love, you don’t have a “your life” anymore. Your life is to nurture the life you created. I think most mammals raise their own young. Only humans give birth and destroy that precious bond. Drop off at 6am at a daycare with strangers who at the very least don’t care about them and at the very worst are neglected and abused? It changes those innocent children forever and is that what you want for the life you created? Children are not accessories like a purse or a new pair of shoes. It’s a serious commitment to place others first and live an unselfish existence. I’m no angel, but I would never have traded being a mom for a paycheck. I know that my son never had to feel separation anxiety or any other pain or sadness or abuse and he is the most confident and self assured boy ever. I went back to teaching when my son was in college-I could unerringly pick out the kids with the stay at home mom(or dad). They could stay on task longer, they were calmer, more self assured. The nanny/daycare kids were clingy, unfocused, and not nearly as well behaved, acting out a lot more. I could go on and on, and guess I will devote a post to this; just wanted to contribute to the discussion. Thanks for listening with an open mind!
Well, I’ll be showing my age here, but my first daughter was born in 1968–about that time, it was normal to return to work without too much criticism—-but i chose to stay at home and was lucky that my husband’s income provided well for us. Still feel that it is important for one parent to be able to remain at home if possible, but some are not as lucky as I was.
Conformity is almost always a horrible way to do things. We are not a cookie cutter society, nor should we be. I get tired of a lot of things. A few of these are: Men who think women should “stay at home and have babies”; Men who think women should “be the do-all mother when they are working, too”; women who think you should all be able to do it all; and women who think that staying home isn’t enough. I hope that covers most of the big extreme views. A woman is a wonderful part of life (not all women, but women as a rule). Many women are stronger than men. My goodness! I know women who are single, work full-time and raise three children! And, they are mostly sane. I also know women who stay at home and are happy and loving the ability to be able to have that choice. And, I know women who, even married, do not want to have children. We need to allow people their choices. No one is right or wrong in how they feel about having or not having children, nor having or not having a job when they have children. Let it go! Be individuals! And, we need, as a society, to let them be.
Thanks for your insightful and balanced perspective, Scott. I do wish we could all be more comfortable in our own skin with our own choices–and that extends out way beyond this particular topic. The comparison game is so damaging. But most of us seem compelled to play it, again and again.
So very true.
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I am on your team–to each her own! I have also noticed my facebook feed exploding with all thing babies! Sonograms, ultrasounds, new born babies, family pics, baby’s first halloween…My goodness. I am constantly (over) analyzing the decision to have a baby. Having our first child is what we want for many reasons, but the financial aspect is kind of a dark spot. We are currently discussing this very topic of work versus staying home with the (hypothetical) baby. I would like to work part time and stay at home part time, while my husband works full time. Anyway, that’s where we’re at right now. Great post :) xoxo
Rian, your writing is so balanced and thoughtful on this issue. I have been both a stay at home mother and a single mom who works full time. There are pleasures in each role – and huge frustrations too. There are days when I race home from work to pick my kids up from school, and look longingly at the stay at home moms on the playground, who are still in their running gear. But I remember being that mom, and looking longingly at the women who were working. I agree that the key is feeling that one has a choice.
I’m against public ‘ownership’ of motherhood, mommy wars, celebrity’s and even regular mothers who don’t acknowledge how hard parenting is and even people fixating on when/if you’re going to have children, grrr, so annoying!
I was never someone who was ‘into’ the idea of having children but fell pregnant as a student and had my first daughter as a single parent which was really tough and came with a world of judgement.
I’m now married and have two more daughters, I think because I had one it was easier to see myself in that role and I’d learned that with your own it’s different, you can’t compare with how you feel about other peoples children, even nephews and nieces (it’s not the same!)
I’m happy and sometimes still surprised that I have three children! I am thrilled to have them but still feel I’m not a ‘natural’ lets call it! I am however close to my children even the 16 year old so that’s something at least!
We have a terrible recession in Ireland at the moment so there is very little work for anyone at the moment so I think for that reason combined with the exorbitant cost of childcare in this country that no one would expect me to be working unless I had a pretty amazing job….and fewer children! I’m done now though, done, done, done!
To sum up I recommend the role but feel people should be allowed to decide ‘not’ to have children without judgement plus I recommend the attitude ‘putting off in the short term to gain in the long term’ when it comes to having children and if people want to work/stay at home that’s up to them,there is way too much criticism of women in this world : )
This is a great critique of how society views motherhood and parenting in general. I find this mindset elevated among my colleagues: naturopathic medical students and doctors who, when they have babies insist on co-sleeping, breastfeeding until the age of 4, baby-wearing and all-natural home births with 0 anesthetic, induction, or hospitals. The implicit understanding is that a mother who doesn’t opt for those things is “unnatural” and will have a baby who is unhealthy, who will grow into an unhealthy adult and suffer for the rest of his/her life. it’s a very touchy subject, to see the least, and, you’re right, it’s uncomfortable when people display their personal life choices publicly, making it seem that those who don’t also make those choices are, in some way, less dedicated parents or simply “bad” parents, who don’t value their children. I wonder if parenting was always this touchy a subject or if it’s a phenomenon of our generation. Great post!
Thanks for this interesting perspective, Talia. It does seem like no matter how you slice it there are people who insist on going to extremes. Wouldn’t it be great if we could pick and choose from the menu according to what works for us as individuals and be applauded for that rather than villified for not taking sides?
I agree in choice being the focus, not what to choose. How/why we choose is as unique as we each are; what fulfills us, what motivates us etc is as unique as our fingerprints. I see both sides of this, or rather, I’ve been on either side of the debate and now find myself in the middle. I invested a lot of time (9 years) for my career; a leader in my field I suppose one could say. Then found myself married and not too long after, a parent. My whole world changed. My outlook and the very aspects that fulfilled my life and motivated me shifted, in a good way. I believe it’s quality not quantity; it’s about being present, engaged, connected while spending time with my daughter; a living example. I had the privilege of my then husband staying home and taking care of our daughter for 6 months after my maternity leave waned. As much as he thought he’d enjoy it/wanted it, he felt like he wasn’t a productive part of society (so we hired a nanny for the days we were both at work). I will never understand how raising a human being, an adult-to-be, isn’t considered being a productive part of society or a leader. What is it to lead? Does leadership only come from specified spaces or places? Back then, I felt myself increasingly jealous that the choice to stay home was not mine as I was the breadwinner. I also felt let down in that while growing up I bought into the mentality that above all career/academia is first; that my feminine destiny is solely for equality in my professional choices, my achievements to rise above what my mothers choices were or her mother’s choices or, honestly, lack there-of in their case. However, with that being the focus I wasn’t prepared for the feeling of loss and isolation after my daughter was born. Nothing had prepared me for the conflicting emotions and ideology of what “having it all” meant as I was busy rising above the choices and circumstances of others, rather than focusing on what I should rise for in my life within my circumstances. While working does fulfill me so does spending time with my daughter and balance is a four letter word in our home, it’s juggling in a three ring circus and I wouldn’t have it any other way. In being about quality not quantity, and, in my belief, why you see the conflicting data about stay-at-home working mothers versus working away-from-home mothers in relation to academic and behavioral aspects with the child; what brings the quality is the important aspect-whatever that may be- such that when you’re with your child, you’re WITH your child. You’re present, available and the living example resulting in the child feeling loved, taken care of and in the presence of his/her mother. One has to be present in one’s own life to be present in another. To me, that’s what counts. How you find it is your choice. We’re fortunate to live in an atmosphere with many choices. I realize these are my feelings and thoughts about it and that’s also a key point in my belief, not what this CEO says or that politician’s wife…no one is living my life or a mother to my daughter but me and I deal with the consequences when it’s not what I need it to be or what I feel I need to be giving/imparting to her. It’s good to take in experiences of others, but then find what works for you and your family. In becoming a parent the best thing I’ve come to realize is that it’s not simply about mommy wars, or politicizing parenthood…it IS about judgement and it happens in all areas of life. No one likes to be judged, let alone the sting of self-judgement. When we’re busy judging others, we have less focus on ourselves as well as take sides to feel justified in what we’ve chosen. Why should that be the case? The proof should be in the pudding, in what one chooses…realizing things change, we change our sphere of being dynamic lending to an endless spectrum of possibilities in our spectrum of life choices. I hope we see the changes mentioned above about parental leave after birth or adoption (the US is at the bottom of the barrel in the data I’ve seen), on site day care, flexible schedules, and work environments conducive to those who do choose to have a child as much as for those who don’t. That is choice, the grass green on both sides of the fence or rather let’s remove the fence and realize it’s all a grassy meadow for us to graze, but our choice in where we are; where we feel we should be. Be well, Rian :) Thank you for this post!
“What is it to lead? Does leadership only come from specified spaces or places?” This is a great, thought provoking question. I think there’s an entire post in there, Kristy ;) You have a lot of fantastic insights into this issue. Thank you for sharing them here.
Yes, I couldn’t believe how long it was when I hit reply! I owe you a cocktail ;) You’re right in this being an entire post, this happens when I’m not writing enough combined with the fact I’ve been mulling around a blog post of my own similar to this; one highlighting my response to an article in The Atlantic “Why Women Still Can’t Have It All”, with motherhood but a piece of that puzzle. I appreciate your thought provoking posts, it can help me realize that there’s still a pulse for me on the blogosphere. Be well, Rian!
My husband and I firmly believe that one parent should be home with the kids. As I am the breadwinner, that parent would be my husband. And you know what? He loves his job as a stay-at-home-dad. And I love my job as a doctor. I love my kids, but I could not stay home with them full-time. I’m just not cut out for it. I applaud any parent who can do it.
You have the monopoly on useful inorematifn-aorn’t monopolies illegal? ;)