Mommy Wars

I read a blog post by Libby Anne recently that caught my attention and I wanted to share it with you. It’s about the “mommy wars.” You may have heard the term. It describes the plight of mothers today who, in contrast to many women of previous generations, must choose between staying at home fulltime to raise their children or going to work fulltime and also raising their children with the help of daycare, etc.

While it’s great to have choices, every choice involves a trade-off between things gained and things lost, and this is one choice where it’s particularly easy to get caught focusing on what’s lost. I think on some level that’s understandable: we want the best for our children and we by nature are more keenly aware of risks and deficits that opportunities and gains.

This creates a level of anxiety among today’s moms about whether they’re doing enough, about whether they’ve made a good choice, and even about whether they’re good moms in the first place. Unfortunately, out of this anxiety and insecurity comes a desire to reassure oneself, too easily at the expense of moms who have made different choices. As Libby writes:

My daughter is in daycare. When I walk or drive past a park while she’s in daycare, I immediately suffer a bout of guilt. I see the other moms there with their young children, and I feel guilty that I’m not doing the same, guilty that my daughter is in daycare, guilty that I want a career and life apart from my offspring.

But then I start justifying. My daughter is gaining excellent socialization skills. My daughter is getting to do all sorts of crafts and activities. My daughter has a diverse array of friends. I try desperately to convince myself that I’m a good mom, even if that means looking down at stay-at-home-moms in the process.

And so it goes. I think these observations relate to parenting more generally, and that includes choices dads also have to make about balancing career and family, but I also think that roles for women have changed so much and so quickly that it’s particularly difficult for moms. As I’ve often said in presentations about the changing nature in which we fashion identity, when my mom went to college fifty years ago she had two major career paths she could choose in addition to being a wife and mother (which were assumed): a teacher or a nurse. When my daughter goes to college in six years, her choices will be nearly infinite. We don’t yet know how to evaluate and balance all those choices and so we are less sure in our identities, and this is particularly true for women.

So the obvious question is how can we come together as in our communities – local communities, blogging communities, faith communities – and collectively recognize and articulate 1) that parenting is hard, 2) that none of us really knows what we’re doing, and 3) that we all have to make choices that involve trade-offs. Out of those shared admission and convictions, perhaps we can then also 4) agree to try to deal with our natural insecurity by supporting each other rather than comparing ourselves against each other.

Is this idealistic? Maybe. Difficult? Definitely – because, let’s face it, it forces us to name and take responsibilities for our insecurities and needs ourselves. But I also think it’s important, really important, as parenting is hard enough, and important enough, that we need each other’s support!

Let me know what you think. And, in the meantime, you can read the rest of Libby’s post here.