The myth of the rich, selfish working mom

marisa-acocella-marchetto New Yorker CartoonI have seen the following argument about working moms far too many times to count: Well, women could sacrifice second cars and vacation homes to stay home with their children.

Feel free to scream now. Or, you know. I could do it for you.

The implication of course is that that there is this vast army of  selfish working mothers out there, raking in the billions, and putting her BMW and her Hamptons house first while her six nannies do the butt wiping and the late-night feedings. Oh, of course she’s home in time to kiss them goodnight once in a while, perhaps on a layover between St. Barth’s and Palm Springs. Really, isn’t it enough just to know that she birthed them?

Oh, okay. So she used a surrogate so she wouldn’t ruin her figure. But still.

(Screaming party? Again? Sure, feel free.)

Here are just a few reasons mothers work in 2012:

-To pay the rent

-To pay for electricity

-To pay for medical care

-To pay for education

-To pay for clothes, and not expensive ones.

-To pay for her first and only car which is 20 years old and it makes her feel guilty every day that she drives her children in it because of the lack of safety features.

I was reminded of this all in a Facebook thread about Hilary Rosen’s editorial about Ann Romney, (thanks Erin) which has pretty much eaten the political internet this week. In it, Rosen defends her point that a millionaire stay-at-home-mom may not be Romney’s best surrogate to lead the discussion on the economic  challenges of  working parents. Rosen wrote:

I have no judgements about women who work outside the home vs. women who work in the home raising a family. I admire women who can stay home and raise their kids full-time. I even envy them sometimes. It is a wonderful luxury to have the choice. But let’s stipulate that it is NOT a choice that most women have in America today. 

And of course I agree.

We have a system (and let’s be honest, one political party in particular) that talks a good game about valuing family, even while offering the most piddly, pathetic family and maternity benefits of any industrialized country, as well as the least vacation time. (Note to self: Investigate career opportunities in Denmark.)

Women in this country work more than all but seven countries, and put in more hours than any country besides Japan.

Clearly there are institutional issues we have to fix to give more mothers–and fathers–the choices that they want.

But here’s the thing: the discussion can’t end here.

It’s easy to defend those women whose work is financially essential to the stability of her family, like the  9.9 million single-parent families headed by a mother. As Belinda Hankins put it, her child’s “dead father didn’t have any brothers who would be forced to marry me under biblical code so…what’s my choice?”

But how about those mothers for whom working may not be a financial necessity, as some might define it.

Can we defend them too?

Those women who, according to the most judgy among us, don’t “need” to work–yet do so despite having husbands that earn good salaries. Those who work and do have two cars and take nice vacations and put their children through private schools. I know women like this; and they are not the caricature I described above. Not even close.

What I believe that if were going to talk about choices, we need to talk about choices for all mothers.

I am the primary earner in my family and so indeed my career is financially essential. But that’s not the only reason I work. And I do work. A lot.

For some of us it is about mental health. About personal fulfillment and the pursuit of happiness, which, I believe, we’re still constitutionally entitled to even after we have spawned. It’s about continuing hard-won 20-year careers, which would disappear into nothingness should we even take three years off, that supportive our system is of mothers re-entering the workforce.

It’s about making sure, as our divorced mothers taught us, that we always have a means of self-sufficiency, should we ever find ourselves without those money-earnin’ menfolk in our lives.

It’s about being role models for our children as working mothers the way we see fit, the same way stay-at-home mothers are.

It’s about the fact that some of us are great mothers, but would simply would not make outstanding be-at-home-all-the-time mothers.

It’s also about acknowledging that the “takes a village” approach of leaning on parents, grandparents, sisters and amazing caregivers, works for a lot of families, and indeed does yield children who are healthy, strong, happy, stable, resilient, and 100%, arguably loved to pieces.

Are any of these less valid rationale for working than the financial necessity?

For God’s sake, people. We as a community of parents have to STFU about this Mommy Wars crap and start acknowledging that there are lots of models that work for lots of different families.

And maybe, just maybe…assume a little value.

It’s not hard, really.

Assume that the majority of mothers are doing the best they can, making the choices they think are the most appropriate for their families. Assume that mothers are not looking to traumatize their children, or abandon them at the drop of a hat. Assume that even if you can cite one example of some neighbor or school parent who does XY and Z which is really really selfish, that she is the exception and not the rule. Assume that there are great moms who work out of the house, great moms who work full time with their children, great moms with help, and great moms with none.

Assume that if a mother is working, for any reason at all, it is valid. And her children may be fine.

Because when someone insinuates that I am putting my work before my children, I have to stand up and correct them.

For many mothers, I’d imagine working means we are putting our children first.

While we’re at it, stop telling stay-at-home mothers that they’re wasting their educations. I can think of pleeeeenty of people wasting their educations, and none of them are mothers.

[New Yorker cartoon by Marisa Acocella Marchetto]


159 thoughts on “The myth of the rich, selfish working mom”

  1. I couldn’t agree more. Even when I was a stay at home single mom and made that choice for my family for many years-I knew I was fortunate. It was still a sacrifice for us (we lived below the poverty line for years), but now I’m a working mother balancing it all and it’s just as tough.

  2. I really didn’t see Hilary’s comments as starting another “mommy war”.

    I think she made valid points about how Anne Romney is not a good advocate for the 99% of moms out there. She may have made a conscious choice to be a stay at home mom, I don’t know. I don’t know the woman. But I do know she never struggled to pay the rent, buy groceries or wonder about paying for daycare had she chosen to work outside the home. And for that reason alone, she can’t possibly be an expert on those issues.

    1. I didn’t think she was starting a mommy war either. I thought she was making a fair political point.

      1. Agreed, so why has this suddenly become a debate about who works harder and who has it easier?

        Not saying that’s what you’re doing, just that based on twitter and the comments I’m seeing on her HuffPo piece, that’s what it’s devolved into.

        1. That’s what people do when they feel like they’re attacked. They defend their choices by putting down the alternative.

          Fortunately, we’ll have none of that here.

        2. It’s devolved into a debate about who works harder because the Democrats (and I am one) have a lamentable tendency to let the Republicans frame the discussion.

          Hilary Rosen was making a legitimate point, and the ensuing discussion could and should have been about whether Ann Romney is qualified to advise her husband on economic issues (she might be, who knows? but that certainly won’t be clarified now), about the disparity between the options wealthy families have vs the options the majority of American families have, and about whether her husband’s policies will be disastrous for American women or helpful.

          Naturally the Republicans did not want to have that discussion. So they reframed and distorted her comments into an attack on Ann Romney and her decision to SAH.

          What truly set the topic and the tone for the ensuing firestorm was the way Democrats from the President down piled onto Hilary Rosen, criticizing her as if she had said what the Republicans pretended she said — tweeting about how “offensive” and “disappointing” her comments were instead of coming out swinging in defense of her actual and accurate point — while acknowledging that yes, perhaps it would have been better if she had reworded her (unscripted, tv talk show) comments to make her point more clearly.

          1. I agree 100% Sophie. Your point is excellent.

            I still think this is a worthwhile discussion to have–why women feel the need to question’s another’s choices. But I do believe Rosen’s intent was exactly as you frame it. And you’re right, we should also have the discussion about who qualifies as an expert on American family economics and struggles, since Romney opened that door.

            And honestly, if the right wants to reframe the discussion (as I’ve been seeing on FOX) about whether women should be working or not…well have at it. They’ll be alienating 80.3% of married couples in the US.

            Thanks for your comment.

          2. Exactly. If she had added the words “for pay” or “held a job” the discussion would be null.
            Sometimes I think we as liberals shoot themselves in the foot.
            And the stay-at-home vs. work-for-pay discussion drives me bonkers. I’m at home. My choice, and I have damn fine reasons for making that choice. Those reasons do not stop me from missing my career and my professional self. It doesn’t stop me from wishing I had a chance to stretch those intellectual muscles again, or from having days when time away from screaming children and housework to do something I loved doing and was *good* at doesn’t sound damned attractive. Hell, there are times when 45 minutes in stop and go traffic sounds nice, because 45 minutes by myself thinking my own thoughts, OMG, luxury. It also doesn’t stop me from fully appreciating the lack of an alarm clock, the ability to make the best choices for my children on a minute to minute basis, the snuggles and smiles and all the countless other advantages that being present in my children’s life 24/7 allows me. Life. It’s complicated. For everyone, no matter what choice they make. So let’s just all acknowledge that every situations has it’s plusses and minusses, and move on.

  3. And now is where I tell the internet to send me hate mail:
    Some of us DO have a choice (don’t have to work) and we are still good moms. So there.


  4. Not even a mom yet and I’m screaming with you. as always, spot on awesome article Liz! I was raised by a mom who stayed at home for some of the time when I was small and then proceeded to return to college for a Bachelor’s and then a Master’s Degree -and then she went to work -for many of the reasons you cited above as well as one that is very important for all human beings, fulfilling a sense of purpose that often means following personal independent ambitions. I am thankful that she was there with me and also lead by example by showing me how to strive for everything I’m wanting in this life. A great mom in both roles.

  5. I completely agree with you, but I have to ask about the flip side, which is this image that SAHMs are privileged women who sit at home sipping on Starbucks and getting manicures all day while the nannies tend to the children. I am equally offended at Rosen for insinuating that a mother who stays at home lives a life of luxury. I’m at home because, were I to get a job, we couldn’t afford a second car, daycare, gas money, etc. My entire income would go to covering childcare. And studies show more people are in my boat than the wealthy and privileged one:

    Ann Romney may be wealthy, but that doesn’t make her role as a woman or a mother any less valid or important. Women who stay home aren’t uninformed June Cleaver archetypes. And whether you work one job two jobs, no job, are married to Bill Gates, or are married to a garbage man, you are deserving of respect for the choices you’ve made for your family. I’m sick of the generalizing and stereotyping on both sides. It’s beyond ridiculous that women are constantly having to defend themselves, and against OTHER WOMEN at that.

    1. I agree with your points about stay at home moms 100%!–except for the part where you believe Rosen insinuated that all stay at home moms are privileged, something you state in your own post as well.

      If anything, her insinuation was that the Romney family is very wealthy and doesn’t understand the financial struggles of the average working parent. She clarified her support of stay at home parents pretty clearly in the post I linked to, as I quoted above.

      Honestly, I find the backlash against her to be politically motivated spin. But I’m biased.

      1. Rosen said, “I have no judgements about women who work outside the home vs. women who work in the home raising a family. I admire women who can stay home and raise their kids full-time. I even envy them sometimes. It is a wonderful luxury to have the choice.”

        I understand her point that the Romney family is out of touch, but that wasn’t specifically aimed at Romney. Her response seemed a lot like backpedaling to me and did little more than solidify my feeling that she is pretty out of touch herself.

        1. Hm, I don’t see any backpedaling. I thought that square on, she had to defend herself from the GOP spin that she was attacking SAHMs, and get that out of the way before she could get back to her main point. That’s why she wrote that she admires women who work from home. I see no reason to believe that she doesn’t.

          The quote that is the crux of her point about Anne Romney is “She’s never really dealt with the kinds of economic issues that a majority of the women in this country are facing.” But instead, the focus was put on the line “she’s never worked a day in her life.”

          That line was not an attack on mothers; that’s colloquial shorthand for “she is rich.”

          As for Rosen’s main point, it’s the very same one as yours–that a lot of SAHMs don’t have a choice in the matter, because of the financial necessity, lack of childcare options, bare minimum family leave, and a general lack of support offered by Romney’s party. Isn’t that your own point as well?

      2. I agree with Ashley here. Rosen’s apology continued the insult by saying it’s a “wonderful luxury to have a choice.” I personally wouldn’t call it a luxury to have the choice. It can be a burden as equally difficult as the burden of not having the choice.

        Love the discussion and the article. I would also like to add if Rosen is going to promote the belief that Ann Romney’s opinions are invalid because of her wealth, she is going to have to also invalidate the opinions of the majority of the representatives of our government. However, this never seems to happen, and it makes me incredibly sad to see a woman in a leadership position continue the all to common promotion of being overly critical of women in a way that men are never criticized.

        1. Rosen never said Romney’s opinions are invalid because of her wealth, that’s a twisted way to interpret what she said. What Rosen said, accurately, is that someone who’s never been out in the working world — as Romney has never been — is not qualified to opine on what that’s like. Romney has the experience of raising five kids while never having to worry about where the mortgage payment or the next meal is coming from. She can talk about that all she likes, and with great authority. What she knows nothing about is what it’s like to HAVE to work, to have to leave your children and go out in the world and deal with jackhole bosses, the sexist attitudes in the world, and then come home and put meals on the table and be with your children. I support Rosen completely — she was right, 100% in her comments about Romney. I wish she hadn’t apologized, because she said nothing wrong. Ann Romney knows what she knows, but she knows nothing of what it is to struggle financially and to have to make hard choices because of your financial issues. Her comment that raising five boys was hard work is frankly insulting to men and women who actually do do the hard work of raising kids and working every single day.

          1. I appreciate your opinion Tammy, even if we disagree, and I support Rosen as well. Even so, I just don’t see that that was Rosen’s only point about Anne, in light of the “elitist, out of touch” portrait that the left is painting of the Romneys.

            However I also strongly support the idea that raising five children is hard work. Are you a mother yourself, Tammy? Parenting is different work than what I do out of the house, but I can’t imagine that any parent would disagree that parenting children–let alone five–is valuable, important work that can also be exhausting. If we don’t acknowledge the importance and the challenges of raising families, then how can we, at the same time, ask for more benefits and resources to support working mothers? I often say that I have three full time jobs. One of them is at an office, one of them is running an online business, and one of them is raising my children. It’s not hyperbole.

      3. I love both points of view discussed here. My only concern is that the comment from Rosen was a continued political attack on Romney on how “out of touch” he is with middle America. Does one have to be struggling in order to speak intelligently on the plight of the under privileged? I know that there are a lot of things I didn’t have to experience first hand and still be able to speak intelligently on the subject.

        In my opinion, the political attack is what is the crux of the issue and not the working mom vs non-working mom but that is what is being sensationalized. Clearly it is a sore subject for many people or it wouldn’t garner as much headline space as it has.

        Thanks for your blog entry and all the comments. I think it is a great discussion!

  6. This was brilliant throughout, but you hit it out of the park with “While we’re at it, stop telling stay-at-home mothers that they’re wasting their educations. I can think of pleeeeenty of people wasting their educations, and none of them are mothers.”

  7. I don’t have words strong enough to convey my gratitude for this post, so I will just say thank you. These are wise words and I really needed to read them today.

  8. It blows my mind that we keep having to say this. (And, yes, we clearly keep having to say this). Forget any political war on women, we do it to ourselves half the time.

    But since we DO keep having to say it–YES. EXACTLY. THIS x 1000000.

  9. Amen (and I’m not religious!) times 100,000. Or maybe that’s a million.
    One size of Mommy-hood does NOT fit all.


    A Happy and Not Looking to Quit Her Full-Time Job But Still Has Part-Time Businesses that Make Her Feel Fulfilled Mom of Two.

  10. Fantastic post. And it’s about respect – respecting women for who they are and for the personal decisions they’re capable of making on their own, without judgement from others. Loved this line: “For many mothers, I’d imagine working means we are putting our children first.” So very true. Thanks for this, Liz!

  11. “We as a community of parents have to STFU about this Mommy Wars crap and start acknowledging that there are lots of models that work for lots of different families.”

    NICE, Liz!

  12. *sigh* Why can’t we make each other feel BETTER about our choices? Working is hard. Staying home is hard. We are all just doing the best we can for our families. Sometimes I feel so junior high all over again.

    I swear some people think I’m a stay-at-home-mom because I’m either rich, lazy, or lack any employable skills. I already volunteer twice a week at my children’s school, help out at the public library, run various school and extracurricular events and spearheading a new fundraising organization. Once someone joked that I could help out with an initiative, because “c’mon, you don’t work!”

    Oh, I work. I just don’t get paid for any of it.

    1. Karen, you are pretty much the least lazy person I’ve ever known. Tell the next one who implies it to come talk to me.

    2. What myth? The rich, millionaire, working mom was never even heard of in the town I grew up, let alone thought about.No one had the time to fixate on these things. My personal role model is my own mom worked in a factory to raise me on her own. She is not only incredibly hard-working, but she educated herself when I was a little older so that she could move up into something less grueling. My story is a lot different. I was a stay-at-home, non-millionaire Mom for many years and recently re-entered the workforce as a teacher. I believe that your blog falls short of anything less than a political attack, and that really bugs me Mom101~ this mob mentality that many of you liberals have is really quite disturbing. I believe that Rosen also stated that Ann Romney “knows nothing about economics”. Kind of “judgy” on her part isn’t it?

      1. I’m happy to welcome you to this discussion TeacherMom, but this is a community in which we don’t attack one another. Terms like “you liberals all xxxx” = not okay.

        I say this to everyone who is new to Mom101: I’m always open to respectful disagreement. Period. Anything short of that will be removed.

        As for your question about “what myth…” here is the Facebook comment that kicked off my thinking on this: It IS a choice. Some families sacrifice income, second cars, travel, etc. In order to have a parent stay home.
        There are many more like this. Google “selfish working mom” sometime.

        1. Okay, first of all… my apologies for being so blatant. It really was not my intention to “attack” anyone. Going forward I will choose my words far more carefully. Still, I did see another person reply (Erin) earlier than me with what I would construe as an attack on Republicans; albiet indirect, but still an attack. You also referred to “one party in particular”.

          I must be really out of touch with that whole “selfish, working mom” stigma. I have no plans to Google it. You made it pretty clear once you asked me to do that, that I was simply out of touch. Every working mom I know has her own choices (in my circle it is mainly financial) for working outside the home. The same goes for women who decide to stay home. I still maintain that Rosen was very judgmental regarding Ann Romney – another indirect attack on her choices. Just because Ann Romney has money, does that make her out of touch with reality on economics. Who are we to say? All I know is that Rosen’s comments were more about politics, and less about working moms vs. non-working moms.

          1. I would happily argue that Ann Romney is out of touch with the average working mom’s life as I am out of touch with the lifestyle she leads. The issue? She may be put into a position to make decisions for me and mine. And it is absolutely important to me that anyone who could be put in that position be in touch with the reality of average Americans like myself.

  13. Oh. Yes. THIS.

    I am the breadwinner in my house. By a bunch. But the Mommy Guilt eats me alive, and when I’m told how selfish I am and how I’m depriving my kids and assumptions are made about our income .. oh, the rage.

    Thanks so much for voicing this.

  14. Well done!

    I’m in the group of mothers who financially COULD stay home but have chosen not to, for many of the reasons you list. My reasons are specific to me, although perhaps shared by other women who have similar personalities, and are in no way a judgment on any other woman’s choice in this regard.

    I used to try to explain all of my reasons when someone asked me why I don’t stay home. But I either offended people or got judged. So now I tell another side of our family’s truth: that I make more than my husband, and so financially it would have made more sense for him to stay home, but he didn’t want to.

    And no one questions that.

    1. I am in the same boat. It’s like a get out of judgment free card, when your partner makes less than you. But then I do get the, “don’t you kind of wish that he…” and I just tune out.

      1. It would make me really happy if once- just once- the person asking me then turned to my husband and asked him why HE doesn’t want to stay home. But no one ever does.

        1. My partner did stay home, for just that reason. Now, seven years later, having done two university degrees, contract work, research projects and teaching all while staying at home with our two kids, he is unable to find a job. He is in precisely the same situation that so many women with a gap in their resumes end up in.

          The decision to stay home (or not) is all fine and nice in the moment, but it has long term repercussions (some of which Liz raised in this post) that aren’t always apparent or fully accounted for in discussions around the decision to stay home.

  15. What @Ashley said.

    I’m not sure that my choice to stay home is a “luxury”, but it’s the right choice for my family.

    We’re all just doing the best we can. I think we all need to stick together right now, so thanks Liz!

    1. I think Hilary Rosen needs to choose her words more carefully. Or maybe hang out in the parenting blog world, so she can learn a bit about how her choices of words will be felt by different people.

      But surely we can all agree that it is a choice not all women have open to them? Just like my expensive day care center is a choice that not all women have open to them.

      I’d like to fix both of those problems, actually.

      1. I give her a pass for being on live TV.

        I think honestly her choice of words was “felt” most profoundly by the producers at FOX News.

  16. I hate that so many people are taking her words out of context and twisting them into an issue. All that does is take the focus off the real meaning of her message, which is important. Mommies aren’t really at war. Everyone just wants us to think that we are.

  17. I think what would help us is to not define ourselves primarily as mothers. Obviously our children come first no matter what we do but we are people first. We need to think about our own needs as well. I love being a mom but its not the only thing I am. If I detach myself from the title I feel less pressure from society. As long as my kid is happy aNd taken care of I don’t give a crap.

  18. Hi Liz,
    Excellent post!
    I loved your comment “It’s about the fact that some of us are great mothers, but would simply would not make outstanding be-at-home-all-the-time mothers.” – this is so me to a tee. It’s why when I quit my corporate job to stay at home with the kids I lasted 6 months before I was working part time and back in school to reinvent myself. I’m a better Mom when I have an identity outside my kids.

    Women are already hard enough on themselves – I will never understand why we are all so hard and judgmental on each other too. There is no “right” way to be a mother. The only right way is what works for you and an individual and your family – and, that your kids are well loved and happy.

  19. I’m one of those moms who work for financial reasons and would gladly stay home with my kid should the opportunity arise. That said, I can’t look down on what any mother chooses, whether it’s to work despite having a partner who makes a ton of money, or to stay home even though they’re barely scraping by. I reserve those judgments for them, as they know what’s best for their families, and what works for their personalities.

    I seriously think our levels of parenting aren’t defined by whether we work or not, because even though (or perhaps because?) I work, I think I’m a damn good mom. I’ve done what I could to spend as much time with my kids as I can (flex schedule, living near work, etc.) but the rest is mostly out of my control. What I *can* control is how I make my kid ridiculously important in my life.

  20. There are a few things in this whole grand convo that’s been happening across the web that tick me off:

    #1 Conservative women seem to not recognize that we evil feminists have been fighting for THEM for decades. Now when the time comes for them to run for office, be forced to work outside the home due to financial circumstances, or CHOOSE to work… those opportunities are THERE because feminists have been fighting for generations to make them possible

    #2 Mitt Romney threw his wife into the political conversation saying she was his advisor on women’s issues when she CLEARLY seems to only understand the stay at home Mom who had every opportunity to stay at home due to her financial situation. She can’t seem to fathom some of us HAVE to work, or that some of us rely on government help (something the GOP wants to do away with or slash) in order to FEED our children.

    #3 Where in the HELL to these Republicans gets off championing any sort of women’s issue when they have been waging WAR on us for months now? From Lilly Ledbetter to affordable child care to the family leave act to health care reform- all things that would GREATLY benefit women (I left abortion out on purpose so we can avoid any confusion on a very controversial issue) and they are on the OTHER SIDE trying to DENY US a hand up, or equal pay for equal work. And suddenly they have the right to hold Ann Romney up as some champion of women’s rights? When her husband’s records is the EXACT OPPOSITE of what women need?

    Yeah, they can #suckit. Work, stay at home, I don’t care I have done both…but the political spin machine on this is making me want to puke.

    1. As a moderate (who learns toward conservative) woman I have never thought feminists are EVIL. I was raised by a single mother who is probably more conservative than me, yet she never took her rights for granted, especially since she was born at the height of WWII and immigrated to Canada post-war, then found herself pregnant with no support when it was considered outrageous to have “put herself in that predicament”. Raising me, she made the same wages as any man in her field thanks to equal rights. One distinction is that she never supported the “bra-burning” phase in American history. Another is that she never took a “hand-out” in her life. So many do in the state I live in, with no reform in sight, either. Welfare, food stamp, disability, immigration fraud is a HUGE problem. Yet, those in power do NOTHING about it. My husband and I are left footing the bill for those who can’t be bothered. Why? Because we have made it so easy and convenient in this country to get freebies to point where entitlement is the priority. I work in the public school system. I am a champion and mentor of kids and families who want to better themselves through programs, not freeloaders who expect it all.

      In reference to point #2. How do you know that Ann Romney cannot “fathom” HARD work? I mean, how do you know? What gives you the right to attack her personally, when you don’t know her? For all we know, her charitable contributions in one year are more than we can “fathom” in a lifetime.

      Yes, the gender wage gap is alive and well in America, and there are reasons far beyond equal pay, such as time spent away from the career raising families, less women choosing maths and sciences for careers. Boys outperform girls on the SAT, but the gap is closing. Today more women are enrolled in college than men. Yet, women do not declare a major early on. More work is needed mentoring females to choose a path that will help them make solid choices when it comes to careers and colleges. It is not up to the politicians. That mentoring comes from parenting and those within the community, as well as teachers.

      However, at the end of the day, I guess those that don’t agree with your political viewpoints, can just “#suckit”. I guess that includes me.

      1. This is going nowhere fast.

        The myth of the freeloader living the high life off so-called entitlement programs has been disproven over and over.

        There are two povs on goverment assistance programs: You can look at it as “footing the bill” for people with less opportunity, or you can look it as an investment in our human infrastructure, our future workforce, and a commitment to greater productivity and output from America in general. You and Erin stand on polar opposite sides, so I just suggest you both just smile and shake hands and move on.

  21. Oh, it’s so on! I’m married to an investment banker and we’re planning to start a family soon. I would be heartbroken to give up my own career in corporate recruiting. I love my career and it’s an essential part of who I am.

    The best thing about my husband is that whenever someone asks me that question, he listens to my answer and then when the asker moves on from the subject, he asks them why they forgot to ask the same thing.

    To be fair, people do ask him ALL THE TIME if he’s planning to exit to the buy side (waaay shorter hours) once we start a family. At least in our circle, I’m very glad to report that there is a strong presumption that a guy who works 100+ hrs a week needs to retool his work life once a child enters te picture.

    Doesn’t make up for the many other shitty inquiries and presumptions but I think including men in the question of how your family will respond to an addition is very important and has started to change in at least some places.

    1. That’s actually very promising. He may find that his priorities shift after he becomes a parent, same way it happened for so many of us.

  22. Anytime somebody who’s not me starts telling me how to define my needs – say, like whether or not I *need* to work (or whether or not I *need* a bowl of ice cream) – and my hackles go up.

    We’re grownups, y’all. We’ve got reasons for the choices we make. Isn’t that enough?

  23. Last line = BOOM!

    Thank you for that. Yes, I stay home. Yes, I’m college educated. No, I’m not wasting it. Thank you for saying that out loud.

  24. What is right for my family is right for MY family. I won’t tell you how to raise your family and you don’t have the right to tell me how to raise mine. I hate being judged for wanting to give my kids things my hubs and I never had. I can send my kids to gymnastics and ballet where my parents couldn’t afford to send me. I want us to take the vacations neither of our families went on when we were young. Does that make me selfish?

  25. I’ve been “afforded” the opportunity to stay home with my kiddos. My husband is a teacher, and, at least in Texas, it takes a lot of work to keep a family afloat on a teacher’s salary. But, we have chosen this route. Do I value my choice? Yes. Valuing and seeing this as the best choice for MY family doesn’t mean I devalue the choices of others. I think that these days, people feel that to “own” their choices, it means they must belittle ANY alternative, or secretly whisper disapproval in the corners. I applaud anyone who does what’s BEST for their children–mothers AND fathers–even if their choices look nothing like mine.

  26. Imagine what we could do if instead of participating in Mommy Wars, we came together and offered support and community to one another? If we acknowledged that being a parent is hard and there is no one right way to do it.

    Thank you thank you for writing this! I too wish we didn’t need to keep saying these things, but I’m glad you said what you did.

  27. I would like to reiterate what Cloud said (BTW, I love her blog, too – great for these kinds of discussions as is yours). Why do we, as women and Moms, have to go through this, but the Dads do not? No one EVER questions why they work every day. Why they want to work every day.

    The only thing the Dads get questioned for, is if they stay home. Then, they get the opposite reaction, implying that they are not good providers because they don’t provide financially. Or that it’s temporary. Or that it’s the last resort.

    It’s hard to put into words how I feel, but let’s just say….it’s so not at all fair.

  28. Amen. And if we’re going to be Judgy McJudgersons, why are we only judging women for choosing to work? Why is it ok for men to make those choices but not women? Hello! It’s 2012.

  29. As much as I love and agree with this post (and I do), this cuts both ways. I often have women sigh and say, “Oh, I wish *I* could afford to stay home with MY kids” like I’m living in the lap of luxury. Forgetting the fact that I am actually working (long, long hours) while also taking care of kids, we had to make sacrifices to pull this off. Not as many as some people, but enough that it has been a challenge. This is all about priorities for us. My priority was to be around with my kids as much as possible while they were small (and this is not an unselfish “my kids need me” sort of thing, but a very selfish “I want to absorb every moment” thing). It also tied in with a value to work for myself and build something for me.

    But in agreement, I say this: I think it’s healthy for moms to make so-called selfish decisions. It’s healthy for kids to see moms who are happy with their lifestyles. It’s important for them to see moms who feel fulfilled, whether that comes from time at home, a demanding career, a part-time job, or an engaging hobby. And moreover, there is VALUE in each of those choices, just as there are usually consequences as well.

    Every week, I see an article about a child who was beaten to death, or neglected or abused. And somehow we’re still fighting about whether or not both parents should work. Put two adults together and see if you can guess which one had two working parents and which one didn’t. If we put half of this energy toward protecting children who are actually in HARM’S WAY, we might actually accomplish something.

  30. I get so tired of people thinking that anyone who has chosen to do things differently than they are is criticizing them? I would never criticize my friend who fed her baby formula because she didn’t want to breast feed, or my friend who works because she chooses to and could afford to stay home, or my friend who stays home because she chooses to do so, or my friend who works because if she didn’t, the family would be living in the 20 year old car. I can even keep my mouth shut with friends who spank their children, because even though it’s not what I would do, they are not suggesting that I am a bad parent for not spanking, and gosh, look, their kids seem to be turning out just as OK as mine. I really wish people would relax and support each other in our decisions. Some of it really is a choice, and some isn’t, and sometimes it’s muddy. But we can all use moral support in this time of hyper critical child rearing.

    1. And why did I put a question mark in that first sentence? I was thinking three things at once and my fingers got confused. 😉

  31. For the life of me, I will never understand why people are so concerned how other people spend their days.

    Also, where do I pick up the keys to my vacation home? I work and all, I think it’s high time I redeemed this hog I’m living high upon.

  32. I have chosen to be home partly because I know I wouldn’t be a very good teacher right now. I used to spend my weekends grading papers and planning lessons – and I wouldn’t do that now. Luckily, I don’t HAVE to find a full-time, traditional job. My husband’s job provides health insurance, and we live well on his steady salary. My choice to work freelance is purely for mental health reasons, and I thank my lucky stars that I am able to do that.

    That said, I sometimes fantasize about going back to waitressing at Friendly’s. It was wicked fun – and tasty.

  33. I have no issues about working moms… My mother is also a working mom but she did not fail to raise me well… I don’t get the point of judging others because it is not my business after all.

  34. Yes yes and yes and I would just add one thing…I can imagine households wherein the woman earns well enough to carry the family and yet the man maintains his career outside the home. I expect he is not coming under the same scrutiny, though. Not by a longshot.

  35. Liz – you knock it out of the park every time. Sometimes it is funny how I feel myself shaking my head in agreement with you and I was a SAHM for 8 years. Something about the way you speak to all women with little or no judgment makes everything you say so very valid.

    I was raised by a single working mother until I was five when my mom remarried. I was raised by the village – grandparents, babysitters, aunts, and my hard working mom who was one of only a few to be divorced in 1974 (and later my stepfather) . Who knows? Maybe that is why I opted to stay home when my kids were infants – something I never had.

    All this being said – I am pretty sure that this part of my background gave me a different perspective on being a SAHM and allowed me to be in touch with the realities of life and how they were different for all women. One day I woke up and thought – Shit, if the bottom falls out (death, divorce, whatever), I am screwed and I must find a career FAST.

    Does Romney’s wife get this – not so much.
    But do other moms – SAHM, WAHM – yes.

    Every woman’s circumstances are different and we need someone who understands that.

  36. I have done both. I was happily a SAHM for 3-years and I’ll be honest–we couldn’t afford me to be one. I now work full-time to put my kids in private school, my kids can do sports, etc and so we can take a vacation or two each year. I wish I was working to help build our nest egg or something like that–but I also work for selfish reasons. I didn’t do well staying at home and once my oldest started school full-time, I saw no need (nor did I have a real desire) to stay home. I worked part-time and it was flexible, but now I work full-time and I am super busy. But I’m happy. My kids are happy.

    I really don’t get why we have to keep having this discussion. We live in a world where most families need 2 incomes to make ends meet–lets have a discussion about how we can make it easier for families. Instead of finding ways to keep beating this horse.

  37. My mother didn’t “need” to work. My Dad made enough to support a 4 bedroom home and 2 cars. My mother, however, NEEDED to work to remain sane. She was also a bit of a workaholic. She made all the meals, never had a maid and had 2 jobs. She liked working. Even now, she comes to my house and stares at me sitting at the computer and says, “That’s what you’re going to do all day, just SIT there?”

    Based on our upbringing, neither my sister nor I wanted kids. With Mom as a role model we thought we’d never be able to do all she did. It was exhausting keeping up with her. I recently asked her how she did it all and never complained and she replied, “I never really thought it was that much.”

    And scene.

  38. I didn’t have a choice the first time around, and worked and raised happy, healthy and well-adjusted children. The second time around (yes, I’m the crazy one) I did have a choice. So for awhile I stayed at home. But after a couple of years I needed more. For me. So I started working again. And the money, while not desperately needed, helped a lot.

    And when my husband looked at me and said “Honey, I love you so much for giving me those babies and for staying home while they were little, and you did SUCH a great job at it. But I love THIS you more. This is the woman I married. The career woman who sets the world on fire with her ideas AND who manages to love and raise kids at the same time. That’s who I fell in love with. Do what you want, I’ll love you either way, but know that you’re a kick ass mom, and working takes nothing away from your ability to do that. And clearly it makes you happy – which is what really matters.” Oh goodness, I just fell in love with him all over again.

    Women need to STFU and get over themselves. And let women who work work and women who don’t don’t. And not make sweeping generalizations or judgments when most times they have no idea what they’re talking about.

    Whew. I feel better. Great GD post, Lizzer.

  39. Interesting, I brought up the point about Denmark and Sweden enjoying liberal vacations in a comment on a Mashable post two days ago about moms and work “And don’t European countries like Sweden and Denmark get 6 weeks vacation?”

  40. I feel like nowadays, women cannot win when it comes to motherhood in the eyes of American culture. Their parents have made attending college mandatory. They earn a degree. They have children, and some decide to stay home with their children, and are punished for “wasting” their degree. Some decide to work, and are punished for that, even though that was, theoretically, the entire point of earning a college degree. Or, they don’t earn a college degree at all, and they’re constantly pushed to go back to school to be able to better support their children, which in turn takes time away from their children, which in turn they are punished for. BLARGH.

  41. Wether you work or stay home it is hard! I’ve done both and I can’t tell you that when I was a wohm I envied my sahm friends and now as a sahm I envy my wohm friends. I personally do feel lucky that I have a choice right now in my life and I’m taking my time to return to the workforce because I want to find something fulfilling, my mother and sister didn’t have have the same choice. My mother worked in factories and cleaned people’s homes, she didn’t have time to worry about whether she was a good mom because she worked, nor did she have the debate about whether her job choices were going to further her career….like many women in this country she was trying to feed and clothe 4 kids, she was happy when she was able to work OT and YES that did mean that her children had to be with someone else but she was doing it for her children. When I boohoo about how hard it is I think about my mom and I say I’m lucky to have a choice and would NEVER bash a mom who worked or didn’t work regardless of the circumstance. We should all stop trying to justify our choices, the only people who matter are our partners and children. Thanks Liz for how you handled this topic it was respectful to mothers.

    1. Thank you so much for sharing this Nicole. We should all do well to remember your mother’s story.

  42. Earlier this week, I overheard a woman at the supermarket state to the cashier, “Must be nice to be a SAHM. Then I wouldn’t have to run around like a mad woman all the time.” I blogged about it yesterday and then…THE WARS! What timing.
    We are making ignorant comments…it’s 2012. I don’t understand why we are still having this discussion.

  43. Love it, Liz. And really, isn’t so much of this “I can afford it” stuff relative? When I was a very young mom I was so smug about being a SAHM…but I still had 3-4 decades of earning potential ahead of me, and truly, I had so little career opportunity that working would have COST us money. Nearly 15 years later, the decision not to work would be devastating in a way I couldn’t have imagined then. We’ve built a life – not a fancy life, not a frivolous life, but just a LIFE – on having two moderate incomes. If I were to be just starting to have children now, walking away from what I have built, in the middle of my career, that would be SO hard. I just didn’t realize that when I was in a different place of my life. I really think so much of the “mommy wars” are due to lack of imagination: we’re unable, or unwilling, to imagine ourselves in somebody else’s shoes, which makes judgment and smugness so convenient.

    1. Wow.

      I think this is a super important point Meagan; one I hadn’t considered. I think when you’re 23 and you leave a job or career, it’s easy to imagine all of your future potential down the road should you want to return. Not so much when you’re 35 or 40. (Says me and my old ovaries.)

  44. Brilliant brilliant post! So glad I stumbled on your blog.

    Really what this controversy is doing is to divide women and distract. Distract from the real issue that we need to have affordable quality childcare for everyone, distract that there should governmental subsidizes to support paid parental leave, and distract from the need for more flexible work schedules and environments for both mothers and fathers. As women we need to come together and fight to make the US more liveable for all families rather than encourage divisiveness.

    1. I totally agree with you Kim. Women contribute a lot to our society and therefore they deserve to be treated with a lot of respect. They are the most hardworking people on the planet.

  45. Being a SAHM has not been a luxury choice for us, and I don’t know anyone that is a SAHM that feels that choice was a ‘luxury’. I chose to stay home after years without kids of planning, saving, and making it possible. It’s been a constant sacrifice and a constant battle to stay ahead of the financial game. It was never a choice of luxury, but instead a choice we CREATED through planning, sacrifice, and hard work.

  46. I thought your post was great. A lot of comments so clearly an important issue to many.

  47. So well said. We mommies need to support each other’s choices and help life each other up, not criticize anyone who makes different choices than our own. I think for me it is just a defense mechanism. When someone makes a different choice than mine, does that mean that I am not doing what is best for my kids? Well then I must defend my choice and also attack the other side. Ugh. It’s so sad that we are still attacking one another. We are all on Team Mommy, so let’s start being a little nicer to eachother!!!

  48. Another on-point post, shared. I agree so much — Please enough of the Mommy Wars! This fighting over the One and Supreme Mode of Parenting has *got* to stop. Can’t we all get along?

  49. You have really great points. Two incomes does not always mean more money for luxury. As a mother, I have had every work scenario (stayed home, worked PT and FT). Each comes with it’s own set of challenges. People have to just pick what works for their family.

  50. I love this article because it really outlines and doesn’t judge the different family structures. I wanted to add one category which is pretty significant in the current environment – the stay home mom (or dad) that would have needed or in the lucky cases where the spouse is able to provide for the family financially, liked to work but is forced to stay home because (1) their area of expertise has become less valuable in the current market. Think of all those structured finance professionals or real estate lawyers. The stay at home skills no longer needed parent could take a lower paying job but it may not be practical if the cost of child care young children outweighs the income coming in.

    1. Absolutely Milbert! Excellent point. I alluded to it when I mentioned those who work in order to stay in the game, but you’re right. I know lots of moms with kids now in school who are dying to work again, but either can’t, or would return at such a major pay cut that it’s not worthwhile. They’re leading lives of quiet desperation and it’s painful.

  51. I admit that when I heard Rosen’s comment I cringed. Mostly because I knew the pile on that would ensue. Not, like Joanne mentioned in her CNN piece because it’s ridiculous that someone who hasn’t had to experience the challenges and choices of working parents is going to be the surrogate for economic struggles of women in this country, BUT because it would become an opportunity for another mommy war.

    I think at some level we all just have to quit being so sensitive. We all do our fair share of work — how much we do doesn’t matter. What DOES matter is whether those work experiences make us right for a particular job.

  52. Indeed, FOX News is have a field day with this one. Everyone wants to start a new mommy war because (1) it’s easy to talk about, (2) it drives everyone crazy, and (3) it gets ratings. Most women I know, while they may struggle internally with their parenting choices, don’t judge others. The real nut of all this is whether a women who never had to earn money so she could feed her kids or make the house payment is the best person to be an economic surrogate for her husband. Maybe if Romney spent a little more time talking with moms on the campaign trail, we wouldn’t be having yet another round of mommy wars nonsense.

  53. This argument makes me wonder what women (and men) truly think of stay at home dads. I am the bread winner in my family, it wasn’t planned it just happened that way. My husband, due to unforeseen circumstance works part time and is home with my school aged children a lot of the time. (ages: 10,8,7)

    If women judge other women based of what their ideals are then my compassion pours out to the male population that are staying home with their children.

    Adults need to learn to be adults and stop judging each other based on what we think we know about the situations of other people. Embrace the differences and learn from them. Isn’t that what we “should” be teaching our children?

    1. I’m with you Dawn. My partner was a stay at home dad for the first two years. I’m lucky to live in a community where that’s not such a big deal–but it still wasn’t easy.

  54. It feels like something an elementary school teacher would say, but I can’t help thinking that if people put the same energy into following their own path as they do to criticizing the paths others take, we’d all move a lot farther forward.

  55. To be clear, I am not attacking teachers, I was trying to communicate that it seems like a message people should have grasped and committed to memory and put into practice sometime around the age of 7.

  56. I can’t believe that Team Romney is crying “Mommy Wars” b/c of this silly situation. To think that anyone’s taking that ridiculous bait when it’s such a bald campaign ploy. Sigh.

  57. I do have slight a problem with the author suggesting that blame should be put on one particular political party. When living in NYC and dealing with the infamous Park Slope Stroller Moms, you find that far from the truth.

    “We have a system (and let’s be honest, one political party in particular) that talks a good game about valuing family..”

    What I do agree with is that we as women should all have more choices and respect each others decisions. I do not discount Hilary Rosen’s opinions she has a right to express them and should feel no need to apologize for them. I also respect Ann Romney’s choices and opinions. What is missing is the realization that parents make sacrifices regardless no matter what their choices are.

    1. You are free to disagree with my political views. But the facts are, there’s a long list of GOP policies in recent years that are not women or working family-friendly, from opposition of Lily Ledbetter and family leave policies, to reduced childcare support, to the Blunt Amendment. I’m not quite sure what Park Slope has to do with this. Are they making laws now there?

  58. Great post!
    And what about this: Why don’t people judge and berate men that go to work every day after having a child? My husband chose to ramp up his career, not scale it back, after we had a child. No one is calling him out for being a “selfish” parent because he has to travel for business and be away from his child 2-3 days/week.
    I know, he’s not the mom. But still, it irks me that we continue to have such a huge double standard.
    And being a divorce attorney for close to 20 years, your point about women continuing their careers is such a valid one. The truth is a significant amount of men will choose to end their 25+ year marriage. And that woman, who “sacrificed” her career for her kids, will often find herself without a husband, without a career, her kids in college or careers and/or families of their own. That woman who seemingly dedicated her life to her family, taking little to no opportunities for herself, may well find herself essentially alone (and with no source of independent income).
    In my observation of so many of these types of divorces, I seriously question the assumption many make that stay at home moms are better for kids. My anecdotal evidence gathered over the past 20 years shows me that that idea is largely a myth.
    Happy, fulfilled parents produce happy, fulfilled children. Period.

  59. My sentiments exactly! What you said about it being the woman’s choice is key. I respect a woman’s choice to either stay at home (if they have the choice) or to go to work for whatever reason. It’s up to each individual and who am I to judge what is right or wrong for someone else’s family? I mean really! I’ve both been in the working field and am now currently staying at home with my daughter (and another on the way) both are stressful responsibilities in different ways. I just wonder if those defensive women (from both sides of the spectrum) are just letting others judgement of their choices affect their self-esteem and therefore feel they need to tear each other down to build themselves up or even to justify to themselves that what they are doing is ok. Why can’t we just all respect each other and the choices we make? If staying at home with your children or working outside of the home is a choice you feel is best for you and your family, than why let anyone else tamper with how you feel about that? (this is just generally speaking, not directed at you.) 🙂 Anyway, thanks for the food for thought!

  60. I’ll defend million dollar moms as being hard working mothers as much as I’ll defend any mother of working just as hard – WOHM or SAHM to one kid or twenty.

    MOTHER is not a job. MOTHER is a relationship. The fact is that to maintain a good relationship with any one particular child means many different things. It could mean needing to give up a career and stay home. It could mean needing to take on three jobs. A million dollar mom with five sons may indeed be working her ass off every day to maintain those healthy relationships with each child.

    The point is, this is art, not science. And relationships cannot be judged without having all the fact about every party involved. They can only be judged from within.

    If the million dollar SAHM of five is not considered to be working just as hard at the parenting relationships as the WOHM to one as the single mom of two, then all mothers lose out. The battle continues. And as long as women are battling among themselves for scant societal resources and respect, no one will get it. No one.

    One thing that would help would be women in business and industry making conscious efforts to hire mothers re-entering the workforce, affording them on-the-job opportunities to refresh skills as they are getting paid. I’m all for giving this kind of advantage to moms out of the workforce until there is an even playing field all around and without judgement for why mothers “chose” to stay home. Either there is a political sisterhood or there is empty feel good talk. At every point we make this a competition, we all lose.

  61. I’ll defend million dollar moms as being hard working mothers as much as I’ll defend any mother of working just as hard – WOHM or SAHM to one kid or twenty.

    MOTHER is not a job. MOTHER is a relationship. The fact is that to maintain a good relationship with any one particular child means many different things. It could mean needing to give up a career and stay home. It could mean needing to take on three jobs. A million dollar mom with five sons may indeed be working her ass off every day to maintain those healthy relationships with each child.

    The point is, this is art, not science. And relationships cannot be judged without having all the fact about every party involved. They can only be judged from within.

    If the million dollar SAHM of five is not considered to be working just as hard at the parenting relationships as the WOHM to one as the single mom of two, then all mothers lose out. The battle continues. And as long as women are battling among themselves for scant societal resources and respect, no one will get it. No one.

    One thing that would help would be women in business and industry making conscious efforts to hire mothers re-entering the workforce, affording them on-the-job opportunities to refresh skills as they are getting paid. I’m all for giving this kind of advantage to moms out of the workforce until there is an even playing field all around and without judgment for why mothers “chose” to stay home. Either there is a political sisterhood or there is empty feel good talk. At every point we make this a competition, we all lose.

  62. YES! “Different families, different rules.” I say this to my kids to explain differences between the way we do things and the way their friends’ families do things. They do what works for their family and we do what works for ours. One way is not better or more right than the other; it is simply different.

    I hope that message sinks in. I hope sooner rather than later these Mommy Wars end.

  63. This post is pretty much made of awesome. Societal expectations can pretty much eat it. We are pretty lucky that my wife can work part-time and we aren’t dependent on her income. And as a Yoga Teacher she has some flexibility as to when and how much she does work. But of the record I’d love nothing more than stay home with my kids. My wife’s income potential doesn’t really make that realistic. But I live for days off with my kids, I wish I could do it all the time.

  64. I agree we should support each other. Many of my husband’s coworkers ask me why I work. It gets annoying to have to justify myself. First and most importantly I like to work. I busted by butt in nursing school, then got married a year later, then baby number one 10 months after that. I wasn’t (and don’t think I ever will be) ready to stay home. I did drop to part time (two 12 hour shifts a week). I honestly think with my personality I am a better mom for it. My mom worked as a nurse and we went to day care, she always said she did better at quality not quantity. I know I need my 2 days at work to recharge my mommy cells and come back fresh. I applaud SAHMs I know I couldn’t do it.

  65. I really appreciated reading this article. I made a really tough choice to leave my FT job to stay home with my son. The cost of daycare was equalling my salary per month just about. Nevermind other bills.

    I fully support moms who do what works for them and their families. Being a SAHM or WAHM is a mental challenge just as hard as moms who face the “guilt” (I believe that’s what I’ve read others refer to it as this) of being away. Let me tell you that it is isolating as heck when your friends and family are work out of home moms and constantly make “playful” comments that you should do X, Y, and Z with your daily life. It has taken me almost 2 years to be comfortable and confident in the fact that I made the right choice to be home. I sacrifice a LOT, every single day. We live on a very tight budget, we don’t have cable or Internet (I rely solely on my smart phone for that) and many other things. The interesting thing is- were I to have stayed in my position working full time I would still be making these sacrifices and struggling to pay for daycare.
    I was a daycare teacher and I bring a lot of my classroom skills into our daily routine. It’s a swift kick in the gut when other moms say things like “wow it must be nice to have time to do those projects”. Well YES. It really is nice that I can teach my toddler and make the best of our time together. I never thought I’d be this person, I’m beyond grateful I have this opportunity- but I envy moms who can escape (even to an office desk) daily even just the social interaction they have with adults.

    I could go on, but rant over. This “mom war” is way too intense and borders on bullying sometimes. How are our kids supposed to learn that bullying is wrong when we do it as parents to eachother?

  66. I like your perspective, and what you’ve written here, although it’s admittedly a little TL;DR. But maybe that’s my problem. I did skim, I promise. And like.

    Just thought I’d add an interpretation I’ve come up with. Some new vocabulary we could use.

    being a mom is a job.
    having a (paid) job is a job.
    being a caregiver (like of mom or dad) is a job.

    So, some women have multiple jobs. Its easier to do a good job at a job if you’re not over extended. To some extent we can compensate for having multiple jobs by outsourcing some of the less meaningful work. Depends on income, access, community, etc. When I’ve been overextended with more than one job, typically, I make hard choices and don’t do parts of it. (like my house is a pig sty, etc. or I don’t do my kid’s 4th grade mission model like other parents do, or perhaps I’m overqualified for my job… just perhaps) If I was committed to being a stay at home mom, I’d be a better one.

    This brings me to the other vocabulary:


    What did you study in college? Why did you pick your career path? To quit? Or because you’re good at it and like it?

    We need to facilitate and enable women to practice their crafts. If it’s early childhood development, then fine, go for that 24/7. Otherwise, be a lawyer or an inventor or a EE for part of the day.

    Otherwise, I’d like to propose that we stop educating girls. There’s no point in it. (Obviously bad idea, I hope you see.)

    So there are a couple of my insights. It’s about new vocabulary. And policy to follow.

  67. It seems every time I come here I can be guaranteed a rant about working mothers. If you are so comfortable with your decision why are you constantly defending it? If you work because you want to or because you have to, if you stay at home for either of the same reasons what bloody difference does it make? I am a stay at home mom (and before everyone groans and imagines me as June Clever) who has a doctorate degree and, somedays, I wish I was still working and I’m sure my brain is atrophying. I get blank stares at parties when asked what I do for a living. I get ignored during work related talk with my husbands associates (he has the same degree). But you know what? I don’t care what they think because I’m comfortable with my choice. I don’t see the point of continually discussing the issue, judging others or defending myself. It should be a non issue.

    1. “I am a stay at home mom (and before everyone groans and imagines me as June Clever) who has a doctorate degree” – that doesn’t sound to me like someone who isn’t defensive. And guess what? That’s okay.

      It’s human to want to defend our positions. I do it and you do it. What I hope I also do, however is defend others’ positions –or at least hear them out, and create a forum to do just that. By discussing we come to greater human understanding. By discussing, we can improve things for one another. We can support, we can lift one another up.

      Or, we can not “see the point in discussing.” Which is where we differ.

      For six years, this blog has been my space in which I can write about the things on my mind, the stories that affect me, the things I care about, the things that make me laugh or the things that make me groan. If you care about different things, I am more than happy to recommend some other blogs for you on a variety of subjects. I hear there are a few others out there.

  68. Being a mom is hard…period. We can all agree that it is the hardest full-time job a woman can have. Now, here comes my real opinion…and, yes, I know it is extremely unpopular and will elicit a frenzy of opposition:

    As a working mom with school age kids, I have the exact same mothering and household responsibilities as stay at home moms…cooking, cleaning, shopping, homework, taxiing to and from school and activities, discipline, volunteering, paying bills, feeding the dog, etc. There is nothing that a stay-at-home mom is responsible for doing that I don’t do as well…every day.

    In addition, as a working mom, I have stresses and pressures that stay-at-home moms don’t have and can’t relate to…deadlines, revenue numbers, performance reviews, customer demands, presentations, system upgrades, overtime, etc. This is where the “Mommy War” frustration comes in to play. There’s a lack of acknowledgement that working moms have 2 full-time jobs which is a heavier load than just one. Stay-at-home moms feel the need to validate that their work is important but they forget that working moms are carrying the same load and then some. I believe it is a luxury to have only 1 full-time job instead of 2.

    1. This is exactly where the ridiculous war begins.

      There are plenty of women I know who quit their full time jobs – ended careers full stop – exactly because they said they could *not* do both jobs well. Because they had children with special needs. Because their relationships with their children were suffering. You can’t measure what you are doing in regard to your job and your relationship with your children when it come to other women and what they needs to do, the amount of work they need to do to maintain a healthy relationship with their kids.

      Also, just because stay at home moms aren’t working for money, doesn’t mean they aren’t doing more work than just “mommying”. Stay at home parents provide an awful lot of free childcare for parents who are locked into work hours during days off from school, in volunteering in schools, sports, scouts, and other groups which provide services that all children benefit from, in being the people at home in neighborhoods when summers and after school hours are filled with pre-teens and teens who are on their own until other parents get home.

      I’ve been a WOHM, and WAHM, a SAHM, and now I work part-time. I’ve been on every side of the debate, and I’ve heard tons of women say – in ALL situations – that they can not do it all. That they do fail at times, and sometimes fail with consequences so dire that they need to re-think their entire situation, whether in going back to work and in needing to find paid childcare (i.e. parenting) to fill-in for them in the duties they can no longer perform for their children, or in quitting work so they can be more available for their children or spouse, either long term or through a crisis situation.

      No one does it all. I do understand the defensiveness and feeling of loss of power in needing to keep up this appearance since there are many women battling for limited monetary, political, and societal resources and respect. But putting down any other kind of working mom as not doing as much as you only harms all mothers. It’s the kind of angry lashing out that pushes us all back.

      1. I actually agree, but see an opportunity in terms of both policy and retail services that can ease the pain. We can improve things by demanding things such as: school hours that more closely match core work hours; after hours medical/dental services; enrichment activities that are on school grounds with continuity of child care coverage; room parent participation and donation tools that are “cloud” based; employment law that covers leave, sick days, etc; and other possible retail products.

        It doesn’t all have to be about perception and fighting. We can work together to solve these problems with infrastructure solutions.

        1. Absolutely. Yes. Thank you.

          But discounting “just” parents affects all parents. To say that “just” parenting isn’t a hard job affects these kinds decisions. If we don’t say, “The act of parenting is important to ALL of society AND hard enough that ample time and resources must be allocated to do it well AND IF working parents are at a disadvantage in fulfilling this important job when the don’t have time or resource to “hire out” some parenting duties to paid providers THEN all of society will suffer” then we will never get these considerations.

          When we say, “Parenting is such easy work that I can do it all well AND work full time” without being honest about 1) the other people and services we do fall back on to help us be better parents while we are at work or because work drains our time and energy, and 2) admit those times we do fall short in being successful parents (in providing ample time and resources to meet children’s needs), then changes will never be made which benefit all parents. Both the parents already at work AND the parents who are stay at home by default because their specific situation makes working without these considerations untenable (affordable childcare, school days which mirror working hours, paid leave, breastpumping rooms at work for cripes sake some women still don’t have them) will benefit.

          But for that to happen, working parents will have to admit that they can’t always do it all and their children are sometimes suffering for it. Stay at home parents will have to admit that being full time at home parents is draining as well – both in being so heavily depended on for all those childcare needs that some working parents can afford to hire out, and in sometimes having lower quality of life for kids because out -of-the-house employment would be eaten in childcare costs. The answer isn’t is admitting how we can do it all – and god bless, we are all working hard, most of us – but in where we are failing. Once we say “Society benefits when the act of parenting is valued”, things will get better. Every time we say, “I’m better than you” we stop progress.

      2. And just to be clear, we have no idea what goes on behind closed doors in anyone’s life when it comes to what they do in their homes and how hard it is. Anyone can list their resume and how they spend their hours, but we don’t know that a SAHM isn’t working 20 times harder when she’s with her kids because she’s taking care of kids with tough medical or developmental issues. Or if she’s at home because of chronic pain or injury and so what looks like sweeping the floor to us is actually a Herculean effort to her. Or if her marriage relationship just makes waking up every morning and getting through the day taking care of kids while fighting back her depression is tougher than running a corporation. We don’t know if she went through ten damn miscarriages and the death of a born child and fighting back anxiety while she spends the time with her child isn’t burning 10,000 calories a day. To just tick off a list of “here’s what I do” is meaningless. The fact that someone is able to – or has to – hold down an outside job as well as parent children is meaningless when it comes to pissing matches of “who works harder”. There’s always someone who is working harder than we are and making it look easy. The only person who we know isn’t working hard is the dead man.

        1. I think this is a really, really important point Josette. We don’t agree on every single thing, but you always bring so much thoughtfulness to your comments. Thanks for adding to this.

  69. “Assume that if a mother is working, for any reason at all, it is valid”

    I work because I want to, and also because I have to, for reasons my husband and I have deemed to be necessities in our own lives (private school, vacations, savings, etc.). No one but the family making the decisions about their own family should really have any say in what those decisions should be. There are far too many variables.

    I’m tired of the same ol’ same ‘ol arguments when it comes to working moms. Do what works for YOUR FAMILY.

  70. It should be ok to acknowledge that some things in life are harder than others:

    Being a surgeon is harder than being a cashier.
    Cooking a soufflé is harder than making toast.
    Driving a stick shift is harder than driving an automatic.
    Running a marathon is harder than sitting on the coach.
    Being a single mom is harder than having a fully engaged partner.
    Having a handicap is harder than being able bodied.
    And balancing a family and a job is harder than not having to balance both.

    It should be ok to acknowledge that some things in life are harder than others without offending those who can’t do surgery, cook, drive a stick, run a marathon or choose not to work outside of the home.

    1. I’d like to just respond by referring to Josette’s excellent point, that we have no idea what trials and challenges go on behind closed doors. Please check it out; that comment really made me think.

      1. I totally agree….we all have challanges and struggles we face everyday. I’m just saying they are not all the same level of hardship. I’m lucky enough not to have very many hardships in my life. I have heathly kids, a good flexible job, a helpful husband and little financial stress. I recognize that and don’t pretend that my struggles are harder than anyone else’s. And I don’t get defensive if people think I have it easier than them.

  71. STOP! It is time to pause for reflection on our roles as women. We aspire to be our best, as individuals, as mothers whether full-time or part-time, as single mothers, as workers, as business women, political figures or in whatever we choose to be. We each have different hats we wear each day. We all have the capacity to excell in whatever role we play. We do make mistakes, and we can correct it and go on. Life is too short to be negative. Let’s be supportive and build each other up! We can work together to make a great nation in the little things that we do!

  72. I’m a college educated SAHM. I do not have to work outside the home, as my husband makes a good salary. I home schooled our three children until high school. I do not, however, have a cook, or a housekeeper, or a nanny,a chauffeur, or a anything else. I WORK. YOU WORK. We are women–we ALL work!! 🙂

  73. That’s why I’m a blogger. No one can really judge me as a “working mom” because no one can tell if I’m actually “working” or not. It’s very hard even for me to tell sometimes. I know I’m not making any money at it, that’s clear. But I don’t let that stop me from eyeing a vacation home in the Hamptons though. I’m just selfish like that.

  74. Thanks so much for your post and for all the comments – I really enjoyed reading everyone’s perspective. At the end of the day, we all have a different journey in life – choices we make are most likely in our best interest as families and/or individuals. We all have varied backgrounds, upbringings, beliefs, family or lack thereof, marital status, earning potential, education, health issues, motivations, etc and it’s great to respect all of our differences. What works for me could be opposite for you. I also believe, unfortunately, attacks/judgments on a could-be first lady are obviously politically driven. We saw it with Michelle Obama, Jill Biden and others in the past and now Ann Romney. Here’s to all of us sticking together and respecting our choices to raise great children!

  75. Funny, I just went to a mno with stay at home moms and we talked about how we felt judged by the working mom. We get why people work. We felt like they didn’t get why we stay home. I think the debate will go on forever and the guilt or the jealously. There are pros and cons to both worlds. I try not to judge any situation and just admire the hard work people do with the support they have…whatever that is.

  76. Liz. Thank you. Bravo.

    I wrote a diatribe that spiraled through three separate houses and into a garden and along an alley and down the street and when it shattered the glass storefront of my favorite bistro, I stopped writing and yanked it and put it in a document of its very, very own, so it could be nice and polite and not suffocate the rest of your comments and your post and the internet.

    I find it sufficient to say I agree, and I shout: ridiculousness! Rodney King said it best, and I second his words. Let’s cease shenaniganizing and get with the ERA reforming, hmmm? We’re all in this together, and our kids are the ones who win when we make amends between the (Fox/Faux) “mommy gangs.” (Although to be fair, if we were really forming gangs, I would insist on creating a Broadway show around their existence. “When you’re a mom, you’re a mom all the way, from your first nipple chafe to your last momming day.” You get the gist.)

    ps Please can we all stop beating up the welfare recipients? I don’t lament helping people out with an extra $50 or $100 bucks a month who can’t afford to buy food for their families. I prefer to bitchily lament allowing the rich to keep their tax breaks. You know. The people who live permanently on inheritance welfare. Because in the end, it’s all welfare, really. We are interdependent beings. Man/island? pSHAW.

    And: I’m done. Really. Honest.

  77. Thank you for this. I remember my first day back to work after the birth of my son, three years ago. Within the first few hours of being back, an older female coworker, who I know is a mom, too, asked where my baby was. When I said, “In daycare,” she muttered, “Oh,” with a disapproving look. No men asked where my baby was or felt the need to look down on me. What was amazing to me was this was a fellow mom making me feel awful…so much for solidarity.

    I work because my husband and I both have a lot of student loan debt; I don’t have a choice if we want to live in a house and eat. And frankly, I also work because I like it. I went to school for six years and I want to work. I love my children more than anything, but I think I’m the best mom I can be as a working mom.

    I’m super sick of the BS about women judging other women for their choices. I’m tired of feeling guilty about doing what I have to do.

    We’re all just trying to do the best we can!

  78. Hell to the yeah, Liz. It happens that I’m the primary wage earner in my family, and my husband has become the primary housekeeper/child organizer. It wasn’t really a choice; circumstances out of our control landed us in this spot. But I really like my job, and getting up and getting on the train every day is the best thing for all of us, really. I suppose it goes without saying that my husband’s not sitting around eating bon bons (or drinking beer) and getting his nails done (or hanging out at the gym), and nor is he wasting his Ivy league education either.

  79. I’m a SAHM, but I fully support moms who work. There is such a double standard in this country. Fathers who work do not have the guilt that mothers do. I believe in doing what’s best for each family and unique situation. Imagine what might be possible if parents worked together to make a system in this country where families were able to make a choice for childcare in which they were truly satisfied instead of tearing each other down? Thanks so much for your piece, you have said eloquently what many people have felt.

    1. Thanks for your comment Kim.I’d hope we can all support each other. Anything else really doesn’t serve any of us.

  80. Amen: and just put perfectly.
    “It’s also about acknowledging that the “takes a village” approach of leaning on parents, grandparents, sisters and amazing caregivers, works for a lot of families, and indeed does yield children who are healthy, strong, happy, stable, resilient, and 100%, arguably loved to pieces.”
    “For many mothers, I’d imagine working means we are putting our children first.”

    Thank you for putting it into such great words!

  81. I am a working mom and hate that I am. With a 2 1/2 and 4M old, it sucks. I truly truly believe that people tell themselves what they WANT to believe. As a working mom, I think the best choice I can make is to be a stay at home mom and regretfully, it’s just not possible for many reasons out of my control. I sincerely believe that EVERY mother – yes every- would do their kids better if they stayed home if not 100% at least have the flex to work from home and spend PT being a stay home mom. There is zero way that until the age of 5 any kid is “better off” with a mom that isn’t around (I should say at least one parent). You can spin it, dice it, refute it all you want but nature is such that science if not philosophy proves the bond between parent/child being strengthened prior to age 5 benefits child. From a security perspective and even just as a kid who wants the attention of mom. We have a FT nanny but nobody takes the place of parents. I think that all working moms who choose to not take on the responsibility of staying home ought to own up to the fact that they would do better if they could be with their kids. I know I do – I still work and in many ways work is much easier and I’m better suited for it over moms work – but I acknowledge that this whole choice of either way is great for kids is pure BS. We just tell ourselves that so we believe we are great parents. You/I may be to the best of our ability and we should not be ashamed to have to work but again, acknowledging in my opinion, that stay home moms have kids who benefit over working moms is called facing truth. For the record I’m a liberal, well educated and a feminist supporting women’s rights to choose but on this topic, I feel strongly that it’s not political. It’s about nature. Now after age 5 I would agree that a woman choosing or work or not is absolutely right. In every other developed country parents are given more time than the US to bond in the first 1-2 yrs of baby. There’s a reason for that!

    1. Cate, you are entitled to your opinion. But it’s just that–your opinion. And your situation is not the same as everyone’s situation, as you might have garnered from comments here. I can’t speak for everyone, but my own children have had such amazing, rich experiences with an array of committed grandparents (and a father!) in their lives who are here when I’m not. I assure you, that’s not a justification.

      I do feel the need to point out that this is a fairly modern, western invention, this lack of a village to raise a child. For generations, in cultures around the world, children have thrived with the help of many caregivers. But of course I agree that our country could do better in facilitating more options for new moms.

      I’m so sorry you’re unhappy with your situation. Many of us know how that feels. I can only assure you that When your child is older than 2.5, you may just find him (or her) to be as happy, healthy, delightful and well-adjusted as children in his class who have at-home moms. Give yourself a break. And give other working parents a break. It’s not a political thing at all. It’s a human one.

  82. This is a tiny big off topic but I really hate it when people refer to staying at home as a “luxury” or “privilege” or somehow being able to have that choice. For many many many families, having a parent stay at home IS the economical choice. In areas where childcare is expensive, pretty much the minute you have two children, especially if one is an infant, staying at home becomes the sensible option.

    When we color it as a “choice” and label the ability to choose as a privilege, then we devalue the WORK, the backbreaking, mind-numbing work, that stay at home moms do. It is not a choice of work vs. stay at home, it’s a choice of work vs. work.

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