Mommy Wars…again?

The phrase ‘working mother’ is redundant.” — Jane Sellman

So, who imagined that we’d be fighting the “mommy wars” … again … after all these years?

I’ve been working this month on a brand-new preface for the ebook edition of Writing Home, which my editor will finish converting within the next couple of weeks. In my new introduction, I felt the need to explain or redefine the so-called “mommy wars” — mainly because I hadn’t heard the phrase as often, and it places my parenting essays within a key social context. As I typed, I wondered: Do younger women even remember the old mommy wars?

Well, before I had a chance to proofread my new paragraphs, the remark made by Hilary Rosen Wednesday night reheated the issue and possibly set us back a few years.

If you’re not familiar with my book, I should explain that many of the motherhood essays in Writing Home were originally published in the early 1990s. At the time, parents and pundits alike were still arguing over “career versus family” — and the emotionally loaded debate fueled newspaper and magazine sales. Mothers were labeled with acronyms that sounded like Dr. Seuss characters: SAHM (stay-at-home mom); WAHM (work-at-home mom) or WM (working mom).

When I first started writing family columns and essays in the 1980s, the notion of working from home — so common today — was as new as the Internet that was making it all possible. (Blogging and social media were merely Silicon Valley fantasies in those days.) One of the pieces in my book, for instance, chronicles how proud I felt when I bought my first computer and moved my writing desk from the basement to a room in the main part of our house. Regardless, my toughest challenge was the same challenge every mother faces today: Striking a healthy balance for my family and for myself.

Meanwhile, the battle raged between moms who worked outside the home and those who didn’t. I watched it all from my home-office window, meeting my story deadlines while I babysat the children of friends who worked full time.

By the time my son graduated from high school in 2004, most mothers seemed to have reached a truce. We respected the lifestyle choices other women made, even when those choices didn’t mesh with our own. The truly wise among us understood that the woman who stayed home to raise her kids was no less a feminist than the mother who put in 45 hours a week at the office.

“I have several strategies for healing the mommy wars. First and foremost is to decide that its time to work together,” notes Amy Tiemann, Ph.D., author of Mojo Mom. “Any effort that women spend judging each other is wasted energy that could be used instead to work together for common goals. If you think about it, there is really no ‘us’ versus ‘them,’ only ‘us.'”

My own hope is that we — all of “us” — will finally come to terms and stop overlooking the real political issues at hand, including childcare. We can do better and our kids deserve more. –Cindy La Ferle

10 thoughts on “Mommy Wars…again?

  1. Wow, Cindy! I can’t believe we both posted on this topic! I really hope we don’t have a new breed of “Mommy Wars.” It truly is tiring. I pasted your blog link in the comments on my blog. As usual, very well-written!

  2. Cindy, I first got to know you because of this topic! I remember reading your weekly column in one of our local papers in which you discussed the Mommy Wars…and I wrote to thank you for your thoughtful column that resonated so strongly with me. Sad that this topic is still so contentious…and how women must continue to refight battles we thought we won.

    • Thank you, Cindy H! Yes, I remember hearing from you, and I bet I even kept that letter, because it meant a lot to me. Isn’t it amazing, how this issue has resurfaced? There are some good posts on this topic on BlogHer now, too.

  3. I agree with you, Cindy. I think some add fuel to the fire hoping to make political hay out of a pseudo-controversy. Women are smarter than that. We need to focus on what we have in common and move forward.

  4. I’d like to think that the “Mommy Wars” start up in the press when it’s a slow news day but it always amazes how, in this day and age, that some people still “go there” and it all rises back to the front burner again. Sheesh.
    xo jj

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