Wednesday, February 22, 2006

Is there really a "Mommy War?"

All right folks, when are we going to stop gawking at the manufactured cat fights in the media and start dealing with the real problems? I know it's much more fun to watch a bunch of ladies claw each other's eyes out over something as heated as parenting issues (i.e. Stay-at-home Moms vs. Working Mothers), but it's time to look at the real problems here.

First, lets take a look at the language used for these news stories, shall we? Stay at home moms; (read - fun, approachable, warm) vs. working mothers (read - cold, task master, unapproachable). They make it very clear that we are talking about two different kinds of parents here. Which one do you want to be raising the kids of America?

By using these supposed stories to pit women against each other, the news media is overlooking some real basic points. Such as, there is no such story. News Flash - the is no "Mommy War".
By creating these black and white, mutually exclusive "sides" the media is ignoring the fact that most women do not subscribe to one or the other method of child raising throughout their lives. The vast majority of mothers try both working and staying at home during their careers. If there is a conflict here it is within ourselves, not against each other. As long as the media makes it appear as though women accept that they are trapped in these rigid, unchanging roles, then businesses sure don't have to worry about things like, oh... providing adequate day care. It's the women's problem after all. We allow ourselves to be brain-washed by the idea that if we are not devoting our lives to baking cookies and wiping noses, then we are failures as women. The guilt heaped on us by these fake news stories (and detergent commercials, and sit-coms and Ladies Home Journal etc. ad nauseum....) is enough to give a girl a serious complex. Damned if you do, damned if you don't, huh? It actually reminds me a lot of the old high school dilemma when someone would ask you if you had 'done it' yet. Answer 'yes' and you're a slut, answer 'no' and you're a tease.

Which brings me to what really gets my undies in a bun about all this. I never see any stories about a so-called Daddy War. Men do not have to choose between working and being a dad. Aren't fathers just as important to a child's development as mothers? Men don't have to choose between work and family because it is still just accepted that it's Dad's job to go out and earn the living. Mom should not be earning her own money anyway. That leads to all sorts of terrible things like independence, thinking for yourself and having grown up conversations with people over three feet tall. We wouldn't want that.

I know I'm being a little pessimistic here. There are plenty of fathers that do their fair share around the house. There are lots of dads that pick the kids up from soccer and pack lunches. Unfortunately, these men are still seen as something of an exception. It is the American Mother that is charged with raising the future of our society. To these women fall the responsibility to raise happily adjusted little citizens. As long as this crushing responsibility falls on Mom, she will be scrutinized and caricatured in American media. We like things to be simple, easily defined and slightly entertaining. I'm afraid I expect to see the cat-fight-as-news-story for a very long time.

Wouldn't it be nice if we, as a society could take responsibility for some of this? Imagine a world where there was plenty of affordable day care that you could actually trust to care for and nurture your kids because the staff was educated and adequately paid. Imagine if both Mom and Dad were held equally responsible for what goes on in the home. Imagine if the government subsidized more after school programs and pre-schools.

Imagine what could happen if we actually asked for some of these things from our representatives in the upcoming fall elections.

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