Saturday, March 04, 2006

Mommy Wars?

A few weeks back, while visiting my family in the states, I flipped on the television and randomly tuned to Good Morning America. I tuned in just in time to catch a segment called “Mommy Wars” with my oh so favorite woman of the moment – Linda Hirshman.

My first reaction was “what the hell, am I at war with other mommies?” I never felt that I was at war, and I am sure most moms agree with me. Or are there mommies slugging each other in the baby food isle at the supermarket, throwing dirty diapers at each other in the playgrounds? As I watched on, and listened to Ms. Hirshman blame women who stay at home for “destroying feminism” I just got more and more angry. Who was this woman to tell mothers what they should be doing? Isn’t telling a mom that she should stick her kid in daycare and go work 40 hours plus per week to break through that glass ceiling on behalf of all womankind just the same as telling a woman that she belongs at home barefoot and pregnant, scrubbing the toilets and waiting with dinner ready for her husband to come home?

I have always considered myself a feminist, but according to Linda Hirshman I am actually destroying the cause because I, a university educated woman (whom she calls elite to my utter enjoyment), has chosen to stay at home with my daughter instead of going to work outside the home. Wow, amazing that what I thought was the very IDEA of feminism – choice – has made me the cause’s enemy. To me feminism is about putting women on equal footing with men - in the office and at home. Feminism fought for my right to earn a degree, and to go to work. It fought for my right to make reproductive choices (and vote for politicians who support those choices) so I could decide when I wanted to become a mother. Feminism fought - and is still fighting hard for - access to affordable daycare so women can go to work after they have children. Didn’t feminism also fight for my right to choose my life path? To be able to choose to stay home if that was my desire?

I could go to work right now if I wanted to; no one is keeping me at home except me. While Mr. P is exceedingly happy that one of us can stay at home to care for our daughter (as am I), he would fully support me if I had decided to go back to work, either part or full time. He is not forcing me into any “less flourishing sphere” against my will, and I am not “unjustly” assigning it to myself. I love being able to devote myself to my daughter, to help her grow into a strong confident young woman. I am glad that I have that option; many women do not. Many women are single moms who have to go to work or lose the roof over their heads, even if they are barely making ends meet working two jobs and barely seeing their children. Many families can’t afford to survive on a single income and both parents have to go to work, while perhaps one would love to stay at home. Shouldn’t Linda, if she really is so concerned about a mother’s status, fight to make sure women who want to go to work can afford to do so, with daycare options and flexible hours – and shouldn’t she likewise fight so that women (and men too of course!) who wish to stay home also have the option to do so?

What angers me the most though about Ms. Hirshman, is that she pretends to know what makes me happy and what does not. She states that I must be bored mentally at home, that I can not be possibly happy unless working my way up the corporate ladder, furthering my career. Perhaps that is what makes her happy, but it is not for me, and it never really was. I gave up a “great” career in advertising long before Pumpkin was even thought of because I could not stand the cut throat nature of the business and the god awful office politics. I did not see myself fighting my way to the top, it just was not me. In fact I never had a job I loved until now. I love seeing my daughter grow up, being able to teach her things and show her the world. I love that every day she can count on her mama being there. Perhaps as Pumpkin gets older I will decide to work from home or part time while she is in school, but my first job is and always will be Mom. Am I the anti-feminist because of this? Am I a shame to all “elite – college educated” women? I don’t think so. In fact I think I am exercising my feminist right to choose my life and my career. If you disagree please feel free to toss a dirty diaper at me the next time you see me by the sandbox.

posted by Laura @ 9:25 PM   4 comments