WHAT “Mommy Wars”?!

Everywhere I turn there seem to be “shocking” or “eye-opening” reports on “The Mommy Wars,” including those on ABC news, the Washington Post, CNN, and Good Morning America. Although I’ve been hearing the term bandied about all year, it was just this week that I decided to find out what the heck they were. After all, as the mother of a toddler, I should probably know why I’m at war with other women—and whether I need to draw my weapons.

Here’s what I’ve learned: According to the U.S. Census Bureau, 55% of mothers with infants were in the workforce in 2002, down from a record high of 59% in 1998. Meanwhile, there were 5.4 million stay-at-home moms in 2003, the bureau said. Apparently, moms who stay at home are angry at moms who work, because they should be home spending time with their kids (whether they can afford it or not!); and moms who have jobs are ticked off at women for opting to stay at home after women worked so hard to make their way in the work force.

Um, I have to tell you, I’ve got friends that are mothers who work and others who stay at home. There is not one woman I can name, including myself, who feels like they are at war with other moms. Those who are at work often feel guilty and wish they could spend more time with their kids; but they appreciate getting paid and having grown-up conversations that don’t involve the word “pee pee.” Those who stay home feel like they’re going insane after being cooped up inside and watching Teletubbies over and over but love being free from work politics and getting to see their kids do all the firsts.

This is nothing new. There are always tradeoffs. I think we all understand by now that there is no such thing as “having it all.” I don’t even think we buy into “finding the balance,” which implies some precise situation in which we are paying attention to everything just enough, and are at peace. Mostly, there are just a whole bunch of us doing the best we can on any given day.

I say “The Mommy Wars” is just one more media-created fabrication to get newspapers and magazines sold, to fill talk-show time, and create watercooler buzz. The real war should involve women pushing back against media and politicians who keep trying to divide us.

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Is there something to the horrible stereotype that people are looking for a catfight, even when there clearly isn't one? I agree that this is one generated by the media -- with lots of loving support from skewed research generated by particular segments of the political divide (dare I go out on a limb). And why is this the Mommy Wars? Not every family is a two-parent heterosexual unit, but many -if not most - are. And many of the fathers I know are willingly equally involved in their children's lives. Yet, rather than take a constructive look at how our society can adapt to the multiple opportunities and challenges posed by the constructs in which we live (not least is the high cost of raising a family), the media pours its energy into counterproductive and divisive rhetoric. My friends -- working part-time, full-time, at home, in an office, stay-at-home moms -- don't have the energy to be fighting with each other. Instead, they build communities with each other. In a time when some of us don't have extended families nearby or at all, our friends are our families. And, we are looking to build functional, supportive and fun families. Women have never stopped working. In some societies, women are the sole bread-winners while men study all day. Not that I'm ready to advocate that line either. This is about families - not just mommies, and there's no war we need to be spreading. All that I'm saying is give peace a chance....

I think this is very similar to the "war on Christmas" - the only place these wars are being fought is in tabloid media.

How to cite this page

Cove, Michelle. "WHAT “Mommy Wars”?!." 30 May 2006. Jewish Women's Archive. (Viewed on May 22, 2019) <https://jwa.org/blog/mommywars>.

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