According to Stout:
Many mothers who employ nannies are actually overstretched working women, a number of whom (contrary to their professional personas) suffer from an inability to clearly express their expectations and demands to the people they pay to care for their children. The result is a peculiar passive-aggressive form of communication, a less-than-ideal dynamic between worker and boss.The headline of the article initially drew me in, just as most things related to child-rearing and childcare do these days. And it was not without a touch of envy that I embarked on the article, wishing that I could have a Mary Poppins of my very own to lend me a hand every once in awhile.
But it was the comments on the article that really got me.
An unedited sampling:
1. Why don't you raise your own kids ??..... Or maybe you should have thought about birth control if you really don't want children. Obviously the message is you can't or don't want to spend time with them.
2. The first paragraph sums up why our kids are so screwy, what was so important that the mother couldn't spend time with HER children? Why did she have children if she was going to hand them off to someone else?
The majority of the comments criticized or praised substantive parts of the article. (For instance, many readers were disturbed by the fact that, although most of the women in the article were married, their partners were almost never mentioned; the childcare decision-making seemed to fall on them alone.)
3. We all have choices to make in life. I chose to be a stayathome mom until my children were old enough to fend for themselves for some time during the day. These women who 'want it all' should have the intelligence enough to realize that you can't 'have it all' and push their responsibilities onto others. Stop the bitching and appreciate all that these Nanees and Grandmothers etc. do for 'your children' .. a job you 'asked for' but are not doing while complaining about what others do for you.
But I was surprised by the number of people who used the occasion of this article to fire venom at the working mothers featured. Granted, the professional women in the article did not always come off looking too impressive, but many responses used these women's moments of admitted weakness to suggest that they should not have had children in the first place.
Before I had kids, I thought I wanted to be a stay-at-home mom. And I am one. I acknowledge the tremendous rewards I reap every day. And I recognize how lucky I am to be in a financial situation in which my being at home works for my family.
There are ways in which my choice wasn't exactly a choice: A move precipitated by Husband's job to an isolated location that makes my working outside the home in my chosen profession a virtual impossibility. The fact that - even if there were a job to be had - we would pay almost the same in childcare as I would earn as a high school teacher.
And I have to wonder whether some of those angry commenters might feel their own lack of choices so viscerally that they lashed out at women who they perceive to have more or truer flexibility. Commenters who don't acknowledge the ways in which the demands and realities of life can turn some alleged choices into fait accompli.
In dissecting these so-called "Mommy Wars" in her book Perfect Madness, Judith Warner writes:
I have by now talked to hundreds of women. And what I see is that working and stay-at-home moms do what they do not so much by choice - by choosing from a series of options arrayed before them like cereals on a supermarket shelf - but out of a very immediate and pressing sense of personal necessity. There are many aspects to that sense of necessity - money, status, ambition, the needs of the children and of the family as a whole - all of which play themselves out, in various ways, in individual women's lives. And all of those aspects of personal necessity are part and parcel of the condition of motherhood - not external to it, not accessory to it, not a "selfish" deviation from it. They grow naturally out of what women have done - and who they have been - throughout their lives. So their paths as mothers are not so much "chosen" as devolved from who they are, who they've been, and what the material conditions of their families require.I, for one, would like to move to a metaphysical place in which we stop wasting time on the divisions between stay-at-home mothers and working mothers and start focusing on the conditions that unite us. On the language that connects us. (Motherese, perhaps?) On the ways in which all of our choices are limited. On strategies to expand all of our options.
Elizabeth at Boy Crazy recently summarized this idea quite eloquently in a post about her first week back at work:
Here's to Elizabeth and to mothers everywhere. Here's to arriving at a place in which we can acknowledge and honor complexity. Where we call a truce in the "Mommy Wars."It's not often black and white.We are more complicated than our choices.More complex than our labels.
If you are a parent, how did you arrive at your "choice" to or not to work outside of the home? Does your reality match what you had planned before you had kids? If you are not a parent, but hope to be, do you plan to work outside of the home?
Image: Christmas Party: 12/05/09 by Nathan Branch via Flickr under a Creative Commons license.