Two women enter, only one will prevail it’s two-mom family mommy wars! The concept of the “Mommy Wars” isn’t new. Stay at home moms and working moms have been battling it out for supremacy every since Mary told Joseph to cook his own dinner because she was going to go build bombs at VicMu with that dreamy, swaggering, swoon-inducer, Betty McRae.
Like family feuds that lie dormant for years until someone keels over and the descendants battle each other for the shitz-kes the dearly departed left behind, the Mommy Wars heat up every few years when some lady, or gent, decides to write a missive on the back of the cocktail napkin/blog post/book/article. There’s been another round as we all ring our hands about the small number of ladies in the top posts are big companies and the large number of women apparently opting to stay home, iron their husband’s shirts, and channel Betty Draper.
I’ve been stewing on this subject for a while now, wondering what, if anything, a stay at home mom from a two-mom family can offer to the discussion. If you believe the media, my wife and I are probably at each other’s throats regularly as we argue about who has it better, who has it worse, who is the better mother, and who is setting back the feminist cause. Obviously they are right. We spend all our time debating the merits of stay at home versus working motherhood because that’s the real issue here.
No, of course we don’t. This is a false fight in a false war. Sure, stay at home moms sometimes feel like shit because people think we sit around eating bon-bons, watching our stories, and relaxing on the couch. Working moms feel like their mothering abilities and even their womanhood is questioned because obviously they lack both if they would choose to be anywhere but in their home while their children are growing up.
Why can moms do this to each other? Sure some of it is a media creation, whipping people up into a false frenzy to sell magazines or generate website hits, but there is a kernel of truth to women resenting each other for their choices. It’s easy to get mad and throw your hands in the air at women you don’t know because they have made a different choice than you have, or because they have the option to make a different choice.
This is where I can see the benefit of the two-mom family. First, we don’t have as many societally created notions about what we should or shouldn’t be doing. There’s no “the man should provide for his family” baggage because, well, there’s no man in our house. Second, and more importantly, we can’t demonize each other. There can be no idea that the other person is a bad mother, or a bad role model either for working or staying home. Because our family only works, right now, with one of us staying home.
There are days when I hate being a stay at home mother. But there are at least as many days when my wife hates leaving the house, and our kids, to go to work only to return after they are already in bed. So much of the anger and vitriol that gets created between types of moms comes down to jealousy or at least that’s what I have learned from our family. I’m jealous that my wife gets to leave the house, speak to other grown-ups, not have whether she has a good day or a bad day contingent on the whims of a toddler, and have people respect the fact that she’s a doctor. She wishes that she could wear her pajamas to work, go outside when the weather is nice, not have to deal with insurance companies or patients who are jerks, and actually see our children when they are awake.
I think for many women, not just us, the bigger problem is that we live in a society that requires parents (most often mothers) to choose between having a true career and being a parent. All the nonsense about women opting to stay home because it’s more natural (The Retro Wife, I’m giving you the stink eye here), is much more of a commentary on our society. Women have been in the work place for decades but we have not truly adjusted to the idea of how we raise children in a world where both parents work.
How do parents work jobs that rarely run from nine to five and care for children who need parents to be present and active participants in their development? How do we adjust our expectations to take into account the fact that leaving your child in full-time daycare starting at six or twelve weeks can be a heartbreaking decision and one that many parents are not ready to make? Remember when it took Tami Taylor three or four tries before she could leave her baby in daycare, that’s a real thing. I cried for an hour the first time I took my 15-month-old daughter to preschool. We need to allow for these realities and not force parents (not just mothers) to pretend that they can work jobs that increasingly leak into “non-work” hours and act as though there isn’t any toll exacted from leaving a child in the care of another person before you are ready.
Our society doesn’t work. The world in which one parent could support a family at a nine to five job is gone, leaving us with a system that no longer works and parents who have to make it difficult decisions in order to survive. Sadly, the result is these “Mommy Wars” in which women fight each other with volleys launched through the media as if they are the ones to blame. If this were the case then I am actually sleeping with the enemy. The problem is not that there is a right way or a wrong way to be a mother or a father. There isn’t a right or a wrong choice, there is only the choice that works.
We can’t have it all. I can’t work as a lawyer at a big firm, billing 2200 hours a year, while my wife works a million unpredictable hours as a doctor, and parent our children in a way that works for them. Someone has to lose in this equation. We chose that we would scrape by on my wife’s small salary, and I would forego working lawyer hours, in exchange for our children are getting the consistent parenting they need. Other people in the same position may have chosen financial stability and career instead. That doesn’t make them a better or worse parent. Until society changes so that two parents can work demanding jobs and be present to care for their children we will continue to have to make choices and sacrifices. Just because someone else made a different choice, whether it’s work continuity or take a step back to be home, we should be able to respect it and not project our jealousy or guilt or anger or whatever other emotion onto them.
I am married to the supposed “enemy” in this fictitious war and I can tell you the war is fake, moms (and dads) are not the real problem. The real issue is a society that is set up to force choices that many of us are uncomfortable making and which limit our options as parents and in our careers. Until we deal with that root cause, we’ll keep having these discussions and the stupid “battles” will crop up probably until my own daughters are wrestling with these difficult choices themselves.