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Career Mom vs. Home Mom vs. Orange Spud

Apr
19
2006

In yet another skirmish in the so-called Mommy Wars, career moms are in a huff about family life writer Caitlin Flanagan and her book “To Hell With All That: Loving and Loathing Our Inner Housewife.”

We have Salon editorJoan Walsh all up in arms because it turns out that Flanagan has at certain points throughout her career had a nanny, a housekeeper and a professional organizer while writing about the advantages of being a stay-at-home mom for publications such as The New Yorker and Atlantic Monthly. Spot-On’s own Deborah Klosky calls Flanagan a “hypocrite” for extolling the virtues of stay-at-home motherhood while relying on home childcare and pre-school.
Honestly. The woman had twins. Boy twins. And she only had three people to help out?
She wasn’t a hypocrite, she was a trooper.
Have you ever witnessed a household with twin babies in it? My sister-in-law had twins, wisely calling in every relative, no matter how distant the connection. Still, trying to get things done around her house resembled that act on the Ed Sullivan show where they play The Sabre Dance by Aram Khatchaturian while a guy runs around maintaining ten spinning plates on sticks.


So Flanagan went into a depression and hired a nanny. Walsh calls her to task for having come out of the bout just as the boys learned to talk (“Kids do get a lot more amusing at that age.”).
Well. . . yeah. . . they do. I mean for most of the first year babies don’t do a whole lot by way of entertainment and a whole lot by way of crying and pooping. Basically, they’re a really high-maintenance wedge of cheese.
Yeah, yeah. Every now and then they crack a smile and they would have you believe that the smile bestowed upon you by your infant should strengthen you through night after night of sleep depravation. “They” would be the people at Johnson & Johnson.
For the record, I would like to state that, even though I made the decision to stay at home to raise the Heirs, and would lose my status as all-knowing earth mother of the universe if I hired help, I would have abdicated in a heartbeat. If I had twins, boy twins, I would have changed my name and left the country.
Yes, Flanagan also took advantage of a pre-school program when her boys got a little older, as do many stay-at-home moms who want to socialize their kids with others. I did the same with my youngest because it was the only way I could sit in the bathroom in peace and know that the dog would not have anything mysterious in his fur when I came out.
Let’s face it, both sides of the Mommy Wars exploit the worse case scenarios and all their call-social-services drama. But most stay-at-home moms are no more languishing on their couches in suicidal funks than career moms are shaking their clinging toddlers off their legs in their hurry to do lunch with an important client.
But apparently the extremists-that-be want some sort of declaration that theirs is the best way. And while you may expect that, as a stay-at-home mother, I would side unequivocally with Flanagan and her statement that “when a mother works, something is lost,” I’m not going to do that.
The fact is that we don’t know how children will fare with either scenario under the best possible conditions because, while the Women’s Movement has done wonders in the workplace over the past 40 years, it’s done next to nothing on the home front. Women still do most of the housework and childrearing. Culturally it is the woman we hold responsible when the house is messy or the children misbehave. And we are our own worst enemies when one of us, God forbid, “cheats” and hires someone to help with the disparity.
So I can’t fault Flanagan as being a hypocrite because, having written the previous paragraph, I will still be required to alert the media when my husband folds a load of clean laundry. And I suspect that a man who can design a onsite sewage disposal systems for an entire town could, if he really put his mind to it, manage to figure out how to grind beans for a pot of coffee.
The fact is, we’re all doing the best we can under less than ideal circumstances. If we start arguing over labels, we’ll only get further off track.
But if you insist on me calling myself something, let’s just say I ascribe to the philosophy of Popeye: I yam what I yam.

Share  Posted by Jeanne Jackson at 8:08 AM | Permalink

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