Today I would like to stray somewhat from our blog’s usual focus on parenting topics, and discuss something that has been bothering me the past several days. Unless you have been, as the saying goes, living under a rock, you have of course heard about the whole debacle over Hilary Rosen’s comments about how Ann Romney “never worked a day in her life”. I am going to spare you the details and trust that if you do not know what I am talking about, you are quite capable of doing a Google search. I have watched as the news media has once again started mashing on about “The Mommy Wars”. They always seem to fall back to that, don’t they? But you want to know what I think? I don’t think it is really a working mom vs. stay at home issue. It is not even a feminist issue. Instead, I believe it is a societal issue. What is the real question they are debating, what hidden thought goes through your mind when examining the topic? In the end what is really being asked is what is a person’s, especially a woman’s, worth.
It seems like nearly everyone has a formula stashed away in their minds of what makes a woman’s life valuable. Does she work, if so does she earn a good income or is she merely “playing” at it? Does she stay at home, if so does she do a “good” job and “really” work? Somehow after all this time we still seem to value women only in what they have to offer us or their family. The idea of a woman’s value being based on the simple concept that all life has value or that the pursuit of happiness is to be protected, and even treasured, has been lost to the idea that one must earn their value in life. Especially if that someone happens to be a woman.
I happen to be a stay at home mother to 7 children. Now let’s examine that for a moment. In my life, when people have been confronted with the details of my household, they tend to draw a conclusion based on what they personally view as making me worthy of my place. To some that must mean that I am a start-up Michelle Duggar, and thus thrust upon me all the religious expectations that concept brings to mind. To others, they wonder if perhaps I am one of those “welfare moms”, and I can see them squinting at my children, trying to decided which children might share the same father and which ones they suspect do not. I have run into some that assume I am some sort of hippie commune in the making, while others assume the opposite and bring in thoughts of a house run with The Sound of Music precision. Why? It is my experience that no one fits those molds we have so carefully constructed for them, no matter how hard we keep trying to get them to fit. But what is saddest is that for many, if you do not fit the ideal they want you to be in, then you just don’t measure up. Your value is lost to them.
One of my sisters happened to go a different route. She is the mother of 2 children and has a successful career in computers. So what does that bring to mind? To some it brings up ideas of a dragon lady that sacrificed knowing her children for the promise of more money. To others it is the image of the perfection of motherhood blending together the modern goal of both career and family. To me she is just another person, woman, that has made decisions that she feels is best for her.
It is not just working mom vs. stay at home mom, even if you lean to one ideal or the other it rarely stops there. It is not enough to just work, you have to be successful or you didn’t do it right. It is not enough to just be a stay at home mom, you also have to do all the work yourself and keep a good house. So what is the measure of success? At what point do we get to have that magic moment when everyone stops and pats us on the back and says “good job”! Answer in short, there is none, and, never. Why? Because if you are trying to live up to the world’s expectations of you, motherhood or not, you are going to fail. Not because you were not good enough, or you didn’t work hard enough, but just because this is a great big world we live in, and pretty much no one agrees on what exactly makes the ideal mom.
I have zero desire in this post to end with a ringing call to arms of my fellow women and mothers to stand side by side as equals. Sadly, I think our world is far too judgmental for that to ever work on any grand level. What I do desire is to call out to anyone that will listen, and ask them to look inside themselves and find peace with the life choices they have made. If you desire a different life, first ask why. I thought for several years that I was depressed, until one day I realized I had somehow surrounded myself with jerks that talked me down no matter what choices I made. I removed my emotional debt to those people, moved on and suddenly, look who wasn’t depressed anymore. Do you feel unsuccessful as a stay at home mom because someone told you to? Feeling guilty for working because “good moms” stay at home? At the end of the day, it is yourself, and not them, that you have to face in the mirror, and your own mind that gets to clatter around in your head before falling to sleep. I don’t know about you, but I don’t have enough room in my bed for everyone else.