FRANK TALK ABOUT WHAT WE DO WITH OUR LIVES

Why I Hate ‘The Mommy Wars’

In Essays on May 30, 2012 at 9:42 pm

By Kate Gace Walton

As the editor of a fledgling website focused on the subject of work, I should love the so-called Mommy Wars. In fact, every so often, Hunger Games-style, I should round up a few women to write dueling essays denigrating each other’s parenting styles and claiming superiority. This would, as they say, “drive traffic.” Unfortunately, it would also drive me bonkers.

I can’t stand the Mommy Wars, and here’s why:

1. They don’t really exist. A few limelight-seekers aside, stay-at-home moms and moms who work outside the home are not in fact at war with one another. For one thing, war is exhausting, and moms are tired. Tired and busy. Whether it’s wrangling the kids or seeking the Higgs boson, moms have lots to do. Sure, we all say snippy things from time to time (we’re TIRED, remember?), but there is no war. Given a free half hour, very few moms would choose to engage in a coordinated attack on an imaginary enemy. No, most of us would probably go on Facebook, like a few photos, and comment on a couple of posts (“You look great!…She’s so big!…Congrats!”) Inane, maybe—but a far cry from warmongering.

2. Even the teams are ‘pretend.’ Not only are the ‘wars’ trumped up; I don’t even think there are two distinct sides. These days, women and men move in and out of the workforce multiple times, for all sorts of reasons. Economic necessity? In! Layoffs? Out! Unbelievable opportunity? In! Serious illness? Out! Sometimes there’s choice involved; all too often, there’s not.

My point is that any parent who works outside the home today could easily be a stay-at-home parent down the road—and vice versa. The so-called camps in these so-called wars are about as fixed as intramural soccer teams: if we’re wearing uniforms at all, they’re merely pinnies.

3. They’re distracting. We don’t need fake wars—there are plenty of real conflicts to tackle. As our robot overlords will no doubt point out to us some day, we humans have all sorts of needs competing for the time and attention we might otherwise give to our jobs: yes, there are children to raise, but there are also elderly parents to care for, friendships to nurture, clothes to wash, meals to cook, bikes to ride, communities to tend, mountains to climb, stories to write, hats to knit.

Finding the right balance, both as individuals and as a society, is incredibly difficult—but that’s the work at hand. That’s always the work at hand. Let’s focus on that and confine all the highly-produced catfights to the place where they belong: Season 17 of The Bachelor.

  1. Not surprisingly, you’ve summed it all up perfectly. :). Amen, sister…

  2. My experience as a mommy blogger is exactly as you suggest in the beginning, most of the self important me against you comments and diatribe are designed to drive traffic. Anyone who is going on and on about how wrong someone in a different camp is (stay-at-home vs working, breast vs bottle feeding, attachment parenting vs teaching independence early, etc.) in my experience been someone insecure needing attention and validation that they’re right, or seeking negative attention in an argument they hope goes viral. The press love that stuff. Conflict sells. Just look at the recent cover of Time, designed solely to sell magazines and create a stir. I truly believe if we are educating ourselves in the best way for US to parent in a way that is comfortable to our or ideals and values, then we are being the best parent we can be. As someone who’s been the guilty feeling working mom, then laid off stay-at-home mom who couldn’t handle kids full time so felt guilty for that, turned work part time mom and happy as a clam with the balance, I can tell you from my heart that any situation can happen to any of us. Regardless of what others will say about what they think is right, it’s only what is right for you that counts. Thanks for this Kate!

  3. Jen, thank you so much for your comments. I was glad to be reminded of how your own circumstances/roles have changed considerably over a period of only a few years–so interesting. Also, I especially appreciate your sharing what you’ve learned as a blogger. (Other readers: Jen is a wonderful blogger–her site (heligirl.com) is well-researched, entertaining, and gloriously nonjudgmental!)

    Thanks again,
    Kate

  4. Kate, you hit a lot of things right on the head about the reasons “mommy wars” are erroneously named and more erroneously “fought.” The same social media that can provide all of us support and information can also be a weapon in the hands of someone who is quicker to accuse than empathize. I have seen plenty of stay at home moms who see very little of their kids b/c they fill up their days with other obligations. I have seen full time working moms who somehow manage to deal with children with very demanding special health care needs — and seemingly don’t miss a beat (although we know they are tired exponentionally). I am a working mom but have never fully made peace with that. Thank you for a balanced, clearly written piece that reminds us that everyone fighting “The Mommy Wars” should just stand down and parent.

  5. […] nonetheless. I, too, despise “The Mommy Wars,” so much so that last year I was moved to write this mini-rant. In that piece, I argued that these so-called “wars” aren’t even real: “A few […]

  6. […] that it wasn’t a site for working moms, or even for parents more generally. I’m both highly irritated and bored stiff by the Mommy Wars, and one reason I’m so interested in the topic of work in the first place is because […]

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