A recent story on a nationally syndicated talk show brought to light a major struggle I have seen and live with among the women of our society. While most women long for a sisterhood among their fellow women and while most men already fear there is one, there exists a battle so intense it causes us peace loving, nurturing women to turn to our fellow sisters with claws drawn and teeth bared.
I’m talking about the issue of the working mom versus the stay at home mom. Ah-hah, see, you flinched.
In the “old days” women’s roles were clear. True, they might have been already chosen for them, but they knew what was expected. They could take pride in the job they did. They could bond together with the same concerns as coworkers do.
They could live in a sisterhood and pour out their feelings of hostility towards a male-based society over the fences of their backyards. Ah, the good old days. Today those fences are gone and we are too busy to indulge in such frivolities as a sisterhood.
The women’s movement changed the face of America as surely as the Civil War did. Women were encouraged to go out, “bring home the bacon, fry it up in a pan, and never, never let you forget you’re a man” (If you’re too young to remember this, it’s from an old perfume commercial).
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For many years women thrived under this encouragement. They became everything they wanted to be and they supported each other in their endeavors. They cheered each other on and rejoiced in the advances of women. It was a strong sisterhood. It was intense and it had a life of it’s own.
Something terrible happened in the midst of that success. The primary role of women in days past became scorned. Those in the throes of the successful women’s movement could not understand why a woman would lower herself and actually choose to be only a wife and mother.
Women who stayed home to nurture their children and make their families their first priority became looked upon as oppressed, lazy, or lacking the intelligence needed for further advancement. Suddenly, in the span of 20 years the most important job in the world became a disgrace and a shame.
It’s seems that this movement has now come full circle. Many women are finding that they no longer want to endure the daily battle of trying to find a balance between having a full time job and raising a happy family.
Filled with stress and guilt from both of these important arenas in their life they are finding they are not happy and fulfilled in either. For some, they find that the successes of the boardroom do not come close to salving the wound of missing their child’s first home run. So they make a tough decision. They go home.
They raise happy families and everyone lives happily ever after.
Women have become their own worst enemies. Those that choose to work often look at stay at home moms as academically unchallenged and blind to the things they could become if only they had the ambition. They are seen as settling for the life they have and weak because they won’t stand up and take more.
I’ve even heard it said that they are traitors to the women’s movement and have set it back decades. The other end of the spectrum can be just as judgmental. Some stay at home moms look at working moms as greedy and self centered.
One wonders why a woman would have a child and then pay someone else to raise it. Their children are pitied and the time is counted until they become ax murderers and bank robbers.
We seem unable to accept that maybe both sides are right. Maybe it’s because we both envy each other a little. As women we often strike back at things which make us feel inadequate and there is no other topic more able to make us feel that way than mothering.
In an area where we are our own worst enemies, always questioning our every chore given and discipline meted out it is no wonder why we would crush the opposite camp which makes us feel all those things with blinding and frighteningly accurate blows.
I believe in these facts. No one can replace a mother. No mother who loves her child wants to be replaced. There are some bad mothers out there who never should have had children.
A happy mom makes her children happy.
A mom who stays home to raise her children and is constantly resentful and moody raises children who feel inadequate and unworthy. So maybe all moms shouldn’t stay home and maybe all moms shouldn’t work either.
While we would never let our children be categorized or labeled we have done the very same thing to ourselves. We have divided ourselves into two camps. While we would rather not admit it, each has it’s best to give. Each loves its children. Each of us has our gifts and can offer unique things to our children.
How nice it would be to support each other in our choices and help each other and our children to make their lives loving and complete. It’s no less than what we ask our children to do every day. We ask them to have tolerance and compassion.
Maybe some day we can grow to accept our differences and our strengths and weaknesses and work together so that all our children can flourish.