/> a mother's heart » Blog Archive » The Mommy Wars

Okay, I’ve been remiss in not posting recently. And to the three of you that read this blog, I apologize. 😉

But now I’ve got a burr under my saddle, and this is the perfect venue for working this out. So hang on for some written processing….

“Good Morning America” has run a two-day piece on “The Mommy Wars” in which Diane Sawyer interviewed one Linda Hirschman. As someone once said, “Everyone’s writing [and trying to sell] a book.” Her basic argument is that there should never be an educated woman who chooses anything other than being in the corporate world–that stay-at-home-moms are simply deluding themselves and cheating society as a whole. Now, other than writing a article on the topic (for “American Prospect”) and doing the requisite research, I have no idea what her “qualifications” are for making the statements she’s made. But that’s going to work itself out, I think.I’m going to debunk some of what she’s said and ruminate at the same time.

1. “I think it’s a mistake for these highly educated and capable women to make that choice [to stay home],” said law professor and working mom Linda Hirshman. “I am saying an educated, competent adult’s place is in the office.” Hirschman sounds amazingly arrogant and elitist. Her basic point is this: privileged, educated women who choose to stay at home to raise their children are hurting themselves and others. Based on my own middle-class upbringing, I would probably fall in to this “privileged” category, and the fact that I earned my Master of Arts degree makes me “highly educated.” I argue that my place is NOT in an office (at this stage in my life), but with our son. I *could* be chasing my tail in an adult-sized gerbil-wheel-setting, but instead, I’m raising part of the next generation. How can that NOT benefit society?

2. …it’s difficult to re-enter the workplace after staying at home, and that when a mother comes back, she may make less money. This may be a matter-of-fact, but it’s quite irrelevant to the entire argument. If by staying at home, I’m being detrimental to society, how can my own personal gain (or lack thereof) be an argument FOR being in the office? Do you see where I’m going here? You can’t have it both ways: either I’m damaging society (and women’s rights, but I’ll get to that later) by staying home, or I’m benefiting society by working outside the home. But once you combine the whole “personal gain” argument in to it, you’ve nullified your initial gripe–my personal gain has little to do with the advancement of society.

3. Hirshman says working is also a matter of feeling fulfilled. She doesn’t buy into the arguments of many homemakers who say taking care of the family is the most fulfilling thing they could imagine. “I would like to see a description of their daily lives that substantiates that position,” Hirshman said. “One of the things I’ve done working on my book is to read a lot of the diaries online, and their description of their lives does not sound particularly interesting or fulfilling for a complicated, educated person.” Well, OBVIOUSLY, she’s not read THIS blog. 😉 But moving on…. I guess what burns my butt the most about this is that her perspective seems to be “all about MEEEEEE.” My work in my home not only fulfills me, but it SERVES my family. It BLESSES my family. And I’m just a PART of the FAMILY. And let’s face it–this is amazingly elitist, when you cut through the bull of the sentiment. No matter *what* kind of family you have, things still have to be done. Cooking, cleaning, laundry, child care, etc.–these things accumulate and require doing, no matter if you’re working outside or inside the home. So if “we” (privileged, highly educated women) find this “beneath us” to do, WHO does them? I’m quite sure she doesn’t consider this, but it then falls to whoever WILL do it. And usually this is not within the family–it’s left to an outsider. Who may not be as “privileged or highly educated” as me, but will work for it. So in review, *I’m* too good for it, but another woman else who has the gumption to own her own business and does other people’s cleaning or child care, *isn’t.* Now isn’t THAT the picture of equality?

4. Hirshman says that’s why women should only have one child. If you have one, you can keep up in the workplace, but two makes it difficult. Wow–I feel sorry for her “one child.” While I strive to add to our family so our son won’t be an “only child,” she advocates that he should be just that. For me, this just underscores the wide chasm between our two philosophies of life. I want my child to recognize that he’s part of a family and that the world does more than revolve around him (which these days, is a bit of a challenge–he’s four and thinks that he should get what he wants when he wants it. He’s having a bit of a rude awakening….).

5. One of Hirshman’s most sobering arguments is that women who leave the workplace are ensuring that the hard-won gains made by women will be undone. She asks why should business schools give advanced degrees to those who don’t use them? Hirschman sounds a lot like the late Betty Friedan (author of “The Feminine Mystique”). Friedan also criticized women who stayed home as “letting the team down,” and argued that the work these women *choose* to do was demeaning and unfulfilling. The argument didn’t hold water then, and it holds less now. Yeah, housework is a drag. Even for those of us who are “FlyWashed,” it’s still a chore. But if you know who you ARE and define yourself as more than the sum total of what you DO, then it’s not demeaning or unfulfilling. Additionally, the idea that those of us who stay home “aren’t using [our educations]” is absurd. Let’s talk about rationally facing off with a toddler, shall we? Or reading or having hobbies, or corresponding or writing….none of this would be possible without the education that we *earned*. Just because we choose to use it differently than she does apparently makes us “unworthy” to have it. Hogwash! Again, she lets us see liberal elitism at its best (worst). I have a Psychology degree (undergrad) which entitled me to do one of two things: 1) Go on for another degree (which I did, but not in psychology per se) or 2) Ask people “Would you like fries with that?” My degree has never (and would not now) get me anywhere in corporate society, which by her definition means I “wouldn’t be using it.” Back to the idea that I’m unworthy of an education. *How* is this different than the Taliban and their belief that educating women is a waste of time and resources?? Let’s face it–women these days have a choice about staying home or working in an office. And many of us choose to stay home. Should we then be crucified for making that choice?

For me, the most telling fact that was left out of her research is the trend that most of my friends show–educated moms who stay home with their kids were the classic “latchkey kids” of the 80s. They had the full-time working mom and are choosing a different path for their own kids. Of course, I wouldn’t expect intellectual honesty from Hirschman–it would undermine her thesis and nullify her work.

What’s fascinating about this for me is that I have a mixture of work-at-home and work-outside-home mommy-friends. And none of us are at “war” over this–we accept the other’s choice for what it is and support each other as moms. It’s the same for those friends who homeschool and those who don’t–no one criticizes another, we simply support each other. And isn’t that the way it *should* be?.

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  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/5963182 SuperMom

    Well, Sue, probably you messed up by getting a degree in psychology. You should have gotten a business degree in order to contribute to society better! 😉

    I think it’s interesting with all of this woman’s philosophy it seems that anything service-oriented is not to be done by the people needing the service. Apparently you should pay someone else to get the job done.

    So, instead of me cooking, cleaning, educating, whatever for my own family, I should be out working and then paying other people to do these things for me.


    I agree with you that most real life Mommies are not at war. Seems like somebody out there wants to make it so, though….

    For me, I’ve done enough/lived enough to know that the way I do things has it’s ups and downs, like everything else. If someone else lives their life a different way, I figure they will have a differing set of ups and downs to deal with. Not better or worse. Just different.

    It’s interesting to me also that if I am educated and competent, I should not be home with my children but should be out making money someplace else. However, some other educated, competent woman would be caring for or educating my children for me in my absense. The ultimate switcheroo is the one where both mothers are teachers, with each other’s child in their class. Yee haw! Now nobody’s potential is getting wasted, and everybody gets a paycheck! Zowee.

    Also interesting to me is that supposedly all the women’s rights trailblazers wanted women to have options….but now it’s not ok for women to choose the option of being a homemaker. If we don’t have choices, what’s the point?

    i agree that there aren’t many mom blogs that make staying at home sound particularly inspirational. however, a lot of mommy bloggers choose to use their blogs as a venting place and to focus on the funny/cruddy/annoying aspects of their lives. It’s not especially entertaining to read someone waxing eloquent about their perfect life and perfect children and how much they love to dust and clean toilets. KWIM?

    It’s not surprising that only single-child families fit into her plan. I wonder why soceity deserves more of my brilliance than my children do?

    You know, I don’t hear too many women that work outside the home going on and on about how fulfilled they feel, how much good they can contribute to society through their career, or even that they love working. Largely I hear that people need the money that working provides, and perhaps that they don’t feel cut out to be stay-at-home moms and would rather earn the money for the child care or educational situation of their choice.

    My younger sister is single and has 2 master’s degrees and a very busy career now. Although I think she would say she likes her job, she is always tired, hurried, stressed, and has no time for herself, her boyfriend, or anything else in life. Not exactly a recipe for feminism success…..actually yes it is if it means no marriage, no kids, plenty of money…

    Just preaching to the choir….