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Thinking aloud….

So, to revisit the whole intergenerational mommy wars issue from last week, I’ve been thinking. These are half-formed thoughts, so bear with me, please.

There’s much ink being spilled over the rift between second-wave Hilary feminists and third-wave Obama feminists. I’m sick of it already. But the (obviously oversimplified) dichotomy fits in neatly with the whole little subtle clash I had with Mrs. M.

The older feminists — largely Baby Boomers but some GI-gen types — believe that the only valid route to power is the one through the “man’s world.” And they believe that we all have a responsibility to charge ahead on that path. They think we should vote for Hilary and work in the corporate world and believe that not doing so is a betrayal of everything they’ve fought for.

The younger feminists — Gen-Xers and Gen-Yers, mostly — see that they have a choice. They have the option to vote for Hilary. They have the option to work in the corporate world. And they (we, really) don’t understand why the older types are angry at us for making a choice.

We also don’t believe that the only route to power is down the traditionally male path. We see value in those traditionally feminine spheres of influence. And I think that’s what pissed me off. Mrs. M., by dissing my choice, didn’t see that what I’ve chosen to do has value. Is important. Is a real and vital contribution to society.

And there, my friends, is a whole lot of what’s wrong with American society: We devalue motherhood.

Now I’m not going to go all Rebecca Walker on the Baby Boomers asses and declare that their form of Feminism has robbed a whole generation of their mothers. I call bullshit. But I do think that because motherhood…. NO, parenthood, parenting, has been “tainted” by the feminine, we’ve decide to undervalue it, under cut it, sneer at it.

Think about it. Daycare workers are some of the lowest paid positions out there. I happen to know that au pairs — the women you choose to leave the vast majority of your child’s well-being in the hands of — these women get $13K a year!

So, too, elder workers — another parenting role, if slightly reverse. Teachers, also parenting-esque, get shit.

I think if we stopped telling people that stay-at-home parenting was “opting out” and if we started to actually give props to those who have embraced this long, hard slog through the minefield of childhood, we could get a generation raised more thoughtfully.

Now, I suspect that if you’re bothering to read a mommy blog, you’re already a thoughtful mom. But how often do we see terrible parenting out there? How many of society’s ills are caused by people not know how to parent because we haven’t been taught? This isn’t an easy job — a little training or advice would help here, folks! But because it’s a devalued job, we’re told it’s easy, that women should come to it instinctively, naturally. And if we get frustrated, pissed-off, or want to beat our heads bloody against a concrete wall, well…. clearly it’s because we’ve got some deeply fatal flaw, we’re bad mommies, we’re unwomanly, something.

Let’s face it, the bad mother is pretty much the biggest monster in literature. From fairy tale step moms to Medea to that woman who drowned her kids… it’s the hammer they smack our heads in with.

And I’m guessing that the runaway prevalence of mommy blogs — women reaching out into cyber space to get reassurance that no, other moms feel this same way, too — means that we all feel like beating our heads bloody sometimes.

Okay, I’ve wandered pretty far afield from my thesis which is that I was pissed because Mrs. M. devalued my choice and because she thinks being a mom isn’t as important as charging the corporate gates. So I’ll conclude with this thought: I know we still have a long long way to go.

I know that we suffer a paucity of women in high-level corporate jobs. I know women don’t get as much per hour for the same job and hey, McCain wants us to just suck it up as our lot in life. I know that the single-most probably cause of death for a pregnant woman is murder… by her parter. I get that there are still mountains to climb, hurdles to clear, rivers to ford, metaphors to torture.

But I also want someone to point out that what I’m doing is important damnit.

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Categories: motherhood
  1. June 13, 2008 at 6:59 pm

    I’ve got your back, lady.
    Excellent slew of thoughts. Thanks.

  2. aguane
    June 13, 2008 at 8:03 pm

    I agree with what you’re saying but I want to point out that for those of us that choose to have children and work end up dealing with just as much shit as the stay at home moms – only we get it from both sides (e.g., the corporate world looking down upon us for having children and the stay at homes looking down on us for choosing to work).

    When I went back to work after my son was born (arguably one of the most difficult decisions of my life) the person who’s job I was taking over (he was leaving for medical school) gave me a letter from his wife in which she detailed all the reasons I should be a stay at home mom and not put my child through the stress of having a working mother.

    Sadly, there’s no perfect dodobird solution to the dichotomy for those of us who have children…Rather than all shall win and all shall have prizes, it’s more like all shall lose and all shall be made to feel guilty. Not all the time of course, but we all encounter it on a semi-frequent basis through either overt or covert communication.

  3. June 14, 2008 at 1:02 am

    To touch on one thing … We as a society need to remove gender from the primary parenting role and I think you touched on that by saying parenthood instead of motherhood. There was a report on ABC news tonight that more and more men are staying home and how they too have difficulty fitting into the “mommy” world of playgroups and such. Maybe one day parents will be parents and the income provider will not be assumed to be a man. An jobs will be a means to an end not a status symbol of a movement.

  4. Juliet Bravo
    June 15, 2008 at 2:14 pm

    I think that trying to find my identity as a woman and a mother causes me more stress than anything else in my life right now. And its our whole generation that is in this crisis of identity. We realize that we can’t have it both ways, and society keeps saying that every decision we make is wrong wrong wrong 😦

    If you stay at home and don’t work, you are anti-feminist, and thus a bad parent (especially if you have a daughter). If you work, you are a bad parent because you are neglecting your kid. If you can afford to hire help so that you can do both, you are still a bad parent because you are letting someone else do your job. There is no answer that will satisfy… whoever it is that I feel is judging me all the time 😦

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