Tuesday, October 29, 2013

weighing in on the mommy wars

This post comes straight from a comment box.  As in, I meant to write a short comment and instead ended up writing an entire post.  My thoughts are in response to a post about "the mommy wars" that I read on Momastery.
I'm 50+ years old, have three teenagers, have stayed at home and have (mostly) worked three-quarters time, which gives me a taste of both worlds.   I have long been in the company of feminists, both working moms and SAHMs.  I've got lots of mommy friends and in my job as a shrink I hear the complaints of plenty of moms.

I have never heard, emphasis on never, women who argue that all stay home mothers damage women’s liberation, as the warring sentiments of working moms, as indicated on the Momastery post. 

However, frequently my tongue bleeds because I've heard far too many times phrases such as, 

I'm not going to let someone else raise my children.  

I'm not going to dump my kids off at some daycare.  

I want my children to be bonded to me, not to some daycare worker.  

Etc, etc, etc.  Usually said with harsh voice tone.  Unmistakably critical.  The implication, "I'm better mommy."    

From what place do these competitive and hostile remarks spring?  And why do I hear them so damned often?  Perhaps these kinds of disparaging comments arise from the frustration?  boredom?  anxiety? resentment?  associated with being a full time, stay at home parent?  I know I have felt envious of and anxiety about the slower paced lifestyle, the lack of need to "get dressed for work," (not to mention the extra laundry associated with), and the freedom from worry that my child isn't getting quality attention (though when I stayed at home I hardly felt that my children received the best quality attention) among many other things.  But I don't feel the need to condemn their choice.  In fact, I celebrate the choice women now have.  And men, too.  Twenty years ago it was extremely rare to find men willing to forgo their careers in favor of full time daddy.  Hooray for the kids of our generation whose dads are more involved in their lives!

My concern about SAHM isn't about what's best for children because I truly believe it's more about the individual parent than it is about the working mom / SAHM distinction.  What my concern IS about: the vulnerability many SAHMs face in the harsh reality of post-divorce.  I know many moms who SAH and don't regret it (only the occasional mom admittting to regret) despite getting royally screwed in the divorce settlement.  Despite intense fear bordering on panic at the prospect of re-entering the job market.  

I want to see family court prioritize and monetize a woman's SAH contribution when it comes to settlement.  I want to see pre-nups and post-nups where the working parent agrees, that should we divorce, the SAH parent will be entitled to a generous settlement.  The parent who stays at home is not only tending to the children, s/he is tending to the working spouse's career while his/her own career is wasting away.  Which means of course, earning potential that decreases, or at best, stagnates.  We need fairness in the family legal system before I'll encourage someone to quit their job and stay home with the kids.