A mom’s life is not all baby smiles and sweet moments, especially when we consider how society imposes upon moms.
Everyone feels the need to weigh in on how mothers interact with their children, whether it is their parenting style, how long to breastfeed, disciplining styles or even at what age to become a mom. And now, according to the media, mothers are also at war with each other.
The Mommy Wars, as the media has dubbed it, is the on-going feud between working mothers and stay-at-home mothers. On one side, homemakers argue that working mothers are neglecting their children. Working mothers retort back, arguing that traditional mothers are submitting to the patriarchy.
From Sheryl Sandberg to the Princeton Mom, the argument rages on about whether a work-life balance is achievable. Even a couple years back, the The Atlantic published an article called, “Why Women Still Can’t Have It All,” arguing that the idea of a mother having the best of both worlds is “superhuman” and unrealistic.
At its core, Leslie Morgan Steiner, editor of the famous anthology Mommy Wars: Stay-at-Home and Career Moms Face Off on Their Choices, Their Lives, Their Families argues that women do this not to “win” the war, but to help them validate their parenting style. According to her website, “But the worst mommy war is the one that rages inside each mom’s head as she struggles to feel good about being a mom — no matter what her choices about work. This inner battle plays out on an external stage — through judgments about other moms.”
But the truth is. The Mommy War doesn’t exist. According to a poll by Parents magazine, “63% of all respondents believe the mommy wars exist, but only 29% of them have seen evidence of these wars in their own community.” While the majority of mothers may feel judged for their choice, or doubt the choice they made, the minority of respondents in the survey by the magazine actually had been personally criticized.
To some extent, media and advertising are the reason Mommy Wars are discussed so frequently. As a Salon article analyzed last year, the advertising industry pushes the tropes that often pits mothers against each other. Parenting books, self-help guides and the like all have a stake in keeping the alleged Mommy Wars alive, but in truth every mom has the ability to determine what she feels is better for her family, whether or not that includes getting a job.
Elisabeth Badinter, author of The Conflict: How Modern Motherhood Undermines the Status of Women argued that the conflict is one between “motherhood vs. feminism.” But this debate is the opposite of what feminism is about.
Feminism doesn’t mean women need to go to work to prove something. Being a stay at home mom doesn’t mean a woman is anti-feminist. Feminism is about equality, meaning every woman and man has the right to chose whether they want to work or stay at home.
Instead, why don’t we discuss the lack of support for women who want to go back to work including with the lack of paid parent leave or affordable day care? Why not work to eliminate the stigma around stay at home fathers? We can either work to make a more equal society, or continue to pit ourselves against each other and bring each other down.