Is it possible to be a great mother? For most of my life, I’ve received conflicting answers to this question. My parents admired mothers such as mine who left a medical career to be at home with my siblings and me. We listened to music on our journey to soccer practice and school. Dr. Laura Program, which opened with a kind of battle cry for stay-at-home mothers: “I am my kid’s mom.” My dad once bought my mom a hat embroidered with the tagline. “Damn right,” she said as she popped it on over her graying brown hair.
I also heard that mothers who stay at home are unable to work and become dependent on their families, the message was quite different. As Elizabeth Wurtzel wrote, “Or” AtlanticIt is an example of failure in feminist feminism to have a stay-at home mother. “Real feminists earn a living, have money, and means of their own,” she wrote.
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Although no one said I was anti-feminist after becoming a stay at-home mom, there were some dismissive remarks and casual comments. Once, while discussing my decision to stay at home full-time, a pregnant friend told me she sympathized with the idea but couldn’t imagine herself “doing nothing” for a year or two. Another mom acquaintance told me she needed to work because she wanted to feel like she was “contributing” to her household. This was due to so-called Mommy Wars that never seem to stop.
Until, perhaps, now.
It is clear to see the impact of the Mommy Wars on political and financial forces. Millions upon millions of mothers had to be vaccinated. Expelled from the workforce. There were millions more. You are struggling to keep your breath.. As policy-makers abandon tired mothers, we are seeing more people recognize that our frustrations toward one another can be misdirected.
Much like so many cultural disputes, the Mommy Wars started on a college campus. It was 1990, and Wellesley College had invited the first lady Barbara Bush to speak at the school’s commencement. This was the decisive moment. Many students are upset, prompting 150 of them to send a petition to the school’s president arguing that as a stay-at-home mother known largely for her husband’s achievements, Bush did not represent the kind of career woman Wellesley encouraged its students to become.
This incident caused tensions to grow between moms who chose not to leave their children and mothers who were in the public eye. “These are the Mommy Wars,” declared NewsweekThe New York Times called it the most important feud in the past decade. The New York Times was founded two years later. Times reported that the wars had “spilled into the national political arena, with Marilyn Quayle championing the fact that she gave up her law career for the sake of her family, and Hillary Clinton defending her decision to combine the two.”
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However, when I was asked to make a decision about what kind of mom I would become, the choice seemed almost impossible. When I had my oldest child, I was in graduate school. Managing school and first-time parenting wasn’t easy, but I had a lot of control over my schedule. A fellow student informed me that his boss was a senator from the state and wanted to hire someone who had experience with tax policy analysis. It was a promising job, but involved the chaotic hours of an entry-level political aide, and with a 9-month-old daughter at home, I simply wasn’t up for it. I didn’t interview and returned to the research job that I did for a small non-profit. Although the hours were longer, the salary was not enough to pay for childcare for multiple children. I quit the workforce after having my second child.
I didn’t mind being a stay-at-home mother, but the doorless hallway that led me there left me frustrated by the lingering disconnect between working and stay-at-home moms. As of the 1990s, this furor was almost gone. It was the norm to be a mother.. Yet, mothers still spoke moreOpenly discuss the difficulties in balancing parenthood and work in America, many people continued to frame stay-at-home motherhood as a “choice” or a “privilege.” Others still remonstrated women for “choosing their career over their children” without ever questioning why employers demand so much of their employees that it has to be one or the other.
The pandemic hit, and it became very clear to me how much agency we have when trying to balance our family commitments with our work obligations. You can read more about it here daycaresAnd schools shut, parents’ domestic responsibilities expanded, and in keeping with pre-pandemic trends, it was Mothers who took care of their children The additionalHousework, childcare and homeschooling. Millions upon millions of motherAs a consequence, many were forced from the labour force. “Society will call it a choice,” wrote Lyz Lenz here in TIME, “when in reality, it’s a failure of the system.”
It became clearer that policies to support mothers who work were needed in the face of cultural awakening. The challenges faced by working mothers are also being addressed.Stay-at-Home motherhoodMore visibility was achieved. It became harder to deny that caring for children is work, even when it’s unpaid. For decades, the same struggle between work and domestic responsibilities has made life difficult for women in the labour force. Employers and policymakers have the right to disregard domestic responsibilities, rather than being able to accommodate them.
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Along the way, high-profile working mothers began to extend olive branches to those of us who looked at the deal the American labor market offers mothers — Lower pay, Limited career progression, No paid time offOder Help with childcareAnd Some of the most tedious work hours are found in developed countries — and decided it wasn’t worth it. In September, for example, Katherine Goldstein and Jo Piazza wrote in Romper that we should “retire the phrase ‘working mom,’” because all moms work and it doesn’t help moms in the labor force to pretend otherwise. “We now realize that our feelings of superiority came from buying into a sexist narrative. Paid employment isn’t the only kind of valuable work and it does not make someone a different category of mother,” they wrote. Audrey Goodson Kingo explained her decision to resign as editor-in chief of Workingmother.com. Write for HuffPost that when the pandemic struck and suddenly 80% of her income went to childcare, her own articles encouraging mothers to keep working even when it didn’t make short-term financial sense offered her no comfort. “They angered me,” she wrote. For this stay-at-home mother, these were welcome overtures, and I think it’s time we officially called a truce.
I am not so naive as to think that we’ll all live in harmony from here on out, or that policy makers and pundits won’t continue to argue over where women’s work is most valuable—as they did in the debate about the Child tax credit refundable this year, for example—but here on the ground, among real mothers, the animosity seems to be dissolving. It is being replaced by something similar to solidarity as people recognize, whether employed or not that, in an unstructured system, all of us are doing our best.
Perhaps I’m being overly optimistic, but I hope not. It is possible to gain more from collaborating against your common enemies than by fighting one another.