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