Monday, May 5, 2008


"Surely by now we're all sick of the mommy wars, with stay-at-home mothers and working mothers mercilessly attacking each other's career decisions as if the survival of the human race hangs in the balance."

Forgive me if I sound a little old-fashioned here. My generation are the women that first hit the glass ceiling head-on - that read Betty Friedan books - that went way beyond the 'norm' of secretarial, bank teller and grocery store clerk positions.

And yeah, we made major headway - the generation of female CEOs, middle management, and even military positions in combat positions (don't ask me if that's liberation or just stupidity, but it's equal).

We dealt with slow economics by going back to work full-time, and juggled work, housework, meals, kids and oh yeah, some of us went back to school to finish those bachelor's that we never finished because we got married.
But I've been on both sides of the fence here. I feel very fortunate that I was able to stay home until my second began pre-school - and then was still able to be back home by 2 p.m. when they got home from school (by my workday beginning at 6 a.m., but you do what you gotta do) - at least until my baby began pre-school.

After that, it was full-time - going up the ladder (at least in non-profit health!) and landing better paying positions each year. It was going back to school part-time for quite a few years - and it was overseeing homework via the phone, and having the kids make dinner, do the dishes and be ready for bed sometimes before I even could get home. It was missing a lot of school events and basketball games and asking a lot of other people to give my kids rides to where they needed to be in the hours before I got home.

So - it IS great that women have stepped up to the plate in the workplace, and proven that we should get paid the same as a man for the same job. We've proved that, with nervous breakdowns and some medication, we can handle being single-parents. We can do it.But you know what? The "survival of the human race" DOES hang in the balance. Because this is one of many reasons the family as an institution is so fragile. Mothers switched a lot of their responsibility to day-care, to after-school programs, and to the oldest latch-key kid (yeah, that's you, Harmony).

And it ended up NOT being the best option. It was okay, and it worked, but we cheated our kids out of, not quality time, but quantity time. Time to just hang - time to talk - time to spend. We were forced to inject short, carefully timed micro-managed bursts of sharing.And really, it does make a difference.

The oft-repeated "If I could back and do it all over" in this case is SOOO true. Sometimes financially it isn't possible, sometimes it isn't easy, I've done both - and being a full-time mom is, trust me, MUCH harder than a full-time job - but is IS what will make the difference the survival of the family, ergo the human family.

Trust me on this one.


Harmony said...

What a cool post--sounds like it should be IN Newsweek.

I think you did a great, great job balancing! Blake and I were just talking about how being a stay-at-home mom is one of the most thankless job ever (minus working for Thomas Seor (sp?))

(random: I love the bottom clipart--"yeah dammit, women CAN be telephone, women. RepairPERSON" !

Jen said...

My mom wanted to be a veteranarian when she grew up- and would've been, except for some dumb guidance counselor that wouldn't give her a recommendation to get into a vet college because it wasn't "ladylike." So she decided to be a mom, and told me that story many times with the promise that I could do ANYTHING I wanted.
But she made dang sure I knew that I wouldn't be able to do it all at the same time as well as I would like. And that I had better make sure I could take care of myself and my family, too. So I did "cool" jobs (where I wore nylons!) before I had the girls, and then my weekend job after, mostly for my own sanity. And because I did both, I got pulled into both the stay-at-home mom group AND the working mom group. And I'm pretty sure both groups are secretly jealous of each other. They are not so nice or understanding at times. I have also felt the same hostility between the breast-feeders/bottle feeders, public schoolers/home schoolers, moms who let their 5 year old girls wear pants that say "sexy" on the butt/and ME (seriously, that REALLY annoys me.)
I can only do what I think is right for my girls- make sure they have all the tools they need if they want to be doctors or lawyers, but make sure they are well aware of the sacrifices that are involved and how most things are more important than professional success.
I think women also need to realize that everything doesn't need to happen so dang quickly- why can't you raise your kids well and THEN go off & be a rocket scientist? Why does it have to be all at once?
How's THAT for a comment?! I feel very strongly about this particular topic, especially since I am quitting my job and both kids will be in school very soon and HOLY COW am I trying to avoid a potential identity crisis. And also I am just a little bit crazy.
By the way- you must've balanced it quite well, because Harmony is VERY well adjusted and normal-ish (ha!) and is just about the most wonderful mom that I know. My girls would very much like me to put them in a box & send them to Hawaii to live with her forever.

(and I think now I am officially your stalker and you can get that restraining order)

Grammatically Challenged said...

Jen, you are free to stalk me. I am certain you will be begging within weeks to be following someone who actually HAS a life (a 87 year old resident of a nursing home comes to mind).