You can’t check the news headlines these days without seeing a reference to “the Mommy* Wars.” It started when Hillary Rosen put Ann Romney on the defensive about her choice to be a stay-at-home mom (also known as SAHM, an acronym that just rolls off the tongue). And the media capitalizes on this because, as one professor once told me, conflict sells papers (or clicks, in this case).
And of course, everyone thinks that the battle is between the SAHMs and the Careerists, even those calling for a truce.
The SAHMs, they say, are superior because they’re there for their children, 24/7. They are the PTA, the taxi to and from ballet and soccer, the ones who are truly, undeniably, 100% devoted to their children.
The Careerists, conversely, must be completely disinterested in their children. They put their selfish career goals and economic gains above their children’s wellbeing, allowing their poor kids to be raised by strangers in day care.
You want to know the real Mommy War? It’s the one that’s waged inside every single mother, everywhere.
I know plenty of SAHMs who stay at home because they believe that it’s the best thing for their children, but who will secretly confide that they’d give their left arm to have a grownup, intellectual activity in their schedule, something that work once fulfilled. Instead, their days are packed top to bottom with nothing but kid-focused activities, from homework to extracurriculars to PTA and in-class volunteering. “I love my kids,” one said, “But sometimes I want to scream, ‘I have a name! It’s Jane! I’m not just Sam’s mom!’”
And does anyone think for a moment that the Careerists don’t wish that they had the flexibility to come to school at 10:30 AM on a Friday to see their kindergarterner perform in the class play? Does anyone think that they don’t want to be there to pick up their kid and casually chat with the teacher to see what’s going on in class? “I’m not cut out to sit in a PTA committee meeting and debate the merits of the different prizes for the Fun Run participants,” another told me. “But that doesn’t mean that I don’t want to be there to cheer my kid as he circles the track.”
We all make our choices based on economics, logistics and just plain gut instincts. Some of us, like Ann Romney, have the flexibility to make choices. Others have the decision made for them as a result of economic necessity. It’s not up to us to judge her, decide for her or criticize her for her choices.
She has her own inner voice doing that for her.
So please, stop positioning this “battle” as two sides lobbing bombs into the opposing trenches. It’s a civil war, being waged within.
* And please, let’s stop calling us “mommies.” It comes across as diminutive and belittling. But that’s another rant for another time.