Monday, April 16, 2012

Mommy Wars 201.2

My husband calls it a pissing contest.

That’s what seems to be going on in the media and on social networking sites, as mothers (and some politicians) weigh in on Really Important Stuff, like who works harder, stay-at-home moms or moms who work outside the home.


Moms like to get in pissing contests, truthfully. We like to compare everything from our kids’ sleep patterns, what school we send them to, to what diapers we use (“I can’t believe anyone still uses Luvs.” “Oh my God, I don’t understand how anyone could use disposable diapers.” “Well my diaper material is completely organic, sewn with cotton fibers from a small local farmer.” “Can you believe those hippies who use cloth diapers?!”)

All of us do it. I know I do, even when I try to say I abhor it.

My biggest downfall is comparing the workload of being a mom based on the number of kids the mom has. Sometimes I catch myself looking down my nose at any mom with less than three kids, and looking with head-shaking reverential awe at moms with more than three kids. There’s nothing special about the number three, other than that’s the number of kids I happen to have. Moms with fewer have no idea how easy they have it (Oh my gosh, they still have an arm per kid!) and moms with more have some sort of superhuman capacity for sacrifice (I honestly think I would go insane if one more freaking kid came into my house permanently!), or so my thinking goes.

It’s not my better nature, that’s for sure.

The reality is that there are lots of factors that determine how hard it is to be a mom, and none of us (or almost none of us, if you prefer) has it easy. We do an often gross and mundane-seeming job, without any slaps on the back or performance reviews or promotions. It’s no wonder, when we live in a society that likes to rank everything from salaries to the top 100 episodes of our favorite TV show, we develop our own internal mommy ratings system to keep score.

It’s just that we don’t really need to.

The bigger picture is that most of us (all of us, if you prefer) want the same basic things when we think about our kids. We want them to be safe. We want them to have adequate food and water and clothes. We want them to go to safe, good schools where they learn to be whatever they want. We want them to get well when they’re sick. We want them to have a life at least as good as the one we do. And most of us want these things for all kids, not just our own.

Life is hard right now for a lot of us, especially women and children. We need to stick together and remember what’s most important, because united, the voice of mothers is strong, and wields power. Divided over petty and arbitrary rankings, we lose a lot of our strength.

Enough with the pissing contests.


  1. Catherine HechmerApril 16, 2012 at 4:21 PM

    I do not have children (as much as my two cats feel like kids to me), but I am the daughter of a mother of nine (who, I was told, mourned a miscarriage between me and my sister as much as if it was her 1st and not her 8th). And I've been wondering what she might say about this hullabaloo over 'working' vs. stay-at-home mothers. As was her way, I doubt she'd say much. But I think she'd have been impatient with the whole debate. The idea of working outside of the home never occurred to her. I am doubtful that she had much concept at all of herself as a WOMAN separate from her role as WIFE and MOTHER. And her filter was FAMILY. It was not HER sacrifice-- it was THEIR sacrifice, husband and wife, mother and father, to raise their children with one wage-earner. And actually I do not think she would ever have termed any of it SACRIFICE. It was parenthood. Growing up, I had everything I needed but far from everything I wanted, and I think that's exactly what my parents would have said about their lives as well. How much both my parents did without for us has become clearer to me as I've become an adult myself. Certainly I believe that my mother's complete internalization of the patriarchal hierarchy of her world was a factor in her eventual unraveling. And my own selfishness might be part of why I have not trod the path of parenthood. But I do think there are truths in her (their) perspective.

    I don't know why anyone feels the need to defend Ann Romney. The question is not whether she loves her children, or whether she invested her full measure of energy and devotion to them. The issue is whether and how much she had to worry about meeting even their basic needs. And the answer is not at all. And thus it has always been for the wealthy. The difference is that some of the wealthy still seem able to empathize with those who do struggle, and the Romneys don't come across like they do. I don't think Michelle Obama has the faintest experience with the challenges of the 'average' family, any more than Ann Romney does. We can only hope that she tries harder to imagine what those experiences must be like (and those struggles are no doubt much more recently present in her and Barack's family trees).

    I'm nor certain this comment really responds to your post, but this and your last one have got me to thinking, and I thank you for that.

  2. I find myself judging other mothers at times. I mean, who takes their screaming toddler to the grocery store at 10pm?! Within the next week I'm the crazy, exhausted mother who has her screaming toddler in the grocery store at midnight to pick up a prescription after a late night visit to the E.R. As I wait impatiently for the pharmacy to fill the antibiotics I realize my error. I feel bad and I feel like I've cursed myself with my harsh judgments. That'll teach me.

    I try to keep in mind that while every mother may do things differently than I do, they're all doing their best. Just like me.

    Great writing, Lolly.

  3. I asked Susan once, which was harder : being a stay at home mom or a working mom. She said it depends on the day.

  4. I have to agree with the previous comment. Some days I'm so grateful that I get to be home with my babies. Other days, I'm ready to dig out my resume' and go back to work!! LOL! Either way, it's hard! Great post Lolly!