Mommy Wars: A Review

It took me six weeks, and three library renewals, but I finally finished Mommy Wars by Leslie Morgan Steiner. This collection of essays, written by working moms and stay-at-home moms, explores the polarization that exists between women in each of these roles, and why the raising of children is such a divisive force between women who make different lifestyle choices.

The essays were eye-opening, completely candid and honest, and I could relate to so much of what many of the authors wrote about.

Here's what I took away from reading this book:

"It is possible to love your children without taking twenty-four-hour custodial care of them...It is possible to take care of children around the clock and not love them very much at all...It should be a twenty-first-century truism that not every women is destined to be her own children's primary caregiver. It should be a twenty-first-century truism that not every woman needs to be a mother." (Inda Schaenen)

I've never really understood the judgement and scorn mothers who make different lifestyle choices hurl at eachother. The SAHMs feel the working moms are abandoning their children, and in doing so will most certainly turn them into skinheads and armed robbers as a result. The working moms feel the SAHMs are turning back the clock on the feminist movement by opting out of the workforce women have fought so hard to enter, and in addition, what in the hell are they doing all day anyway? They must be so bored!

But here's the thing. Feminism is about choice. As another essayist says, "True liberation for women is doing whatever makes you feel like your strongest, best self." Just because a working (or non-working) mom's choice wouldn't work for you doesn't mean it can't work, and work well, for another family. It's my belief that if you love your career, you shouldn't have to give it up to stay home and care for your children, unless that's something you truly want to do. Because if a career-woman gives up a job she's devoted to, that fulfills her, that makes her feel good about herself, I believe it's only a matter of time before she eventually begins to resent her children. No mother ever wants to experience this, and she shouldn't have to.

"Motherhood is a state of being, not a job description." (Sara Nelson)

The author of this essay describes a situation where upon attending an event at her daughter's school, another woman asked her what she did for a living. Sara told her that she was an editor, and asked her what she did for a living. The woman replied that she was a "full-time mom." Sara was very angry, and of course rightfully so, because, as she says, "I've been a full-time mother every second of every day for the past ten and a half years, whether I'm researching an article or pushing a swing." My response to this is that anyone who suggests to another mother that she's in any way inadequate because she works outside the home clearly has some self-esteem issues to deal with.

"Having it all doesn't mean much when you don't have time to enjoy any of it." (Beth Brophy)

People who hear about my job situation often comment on how great it is that I can work from home. But the reality of the situation is this: While I know I'm extremely lucky to have this option, juggling the insanity of two full-time jobs (caring for Isabella and writing for my company) makes me feel like I'm doing neither job well. My patience is often short(er) with Isabella because of work pressures and deadlines, which is completely unfair to her, and I'm nowhere near as sharp in my writing as I used to be. As another one of the essayists says, "It is impossible to bring your best self to two separate full-time jobs simultaneously."

"I know now there are lots of mothers who, like me, are following the compass in their hearts, only their arrows point to offices. Just like I need my home to feel whole and fulfilled, they need colleagues and desks miles away from their kitchens. I am not better. These women are not wrong." (Iris Krasnow)

Every woman wants to give her children a happy mom. For some moms, being happy means staying at home full-time with her children. For other moms, that means working full-time or part-time. Whether a mother is working because she has to or because she wants to, she is no less a mother than the one who is privileged enough to not have to work or who simply lives frugally so she can stay home.

I cannot recommend this book enough to those of you out there who are moms, or even those who are thinking about becoming moms one day. It made me examine my own choices, my own beliefs, and it made me take a hard look at the type of mother I am as a result of my working situation. I have much to say on this topic, because my work is at the forefront of a lot of stress in my life right now, so my next post will be about how I'm making a change I've always wanted to make, but for reasons I never could have predicted.

10 Responses to “Mommy Wars: A Review”

  1. # Blogger Marie

    Can't wait for the next post, Kristi!!

    There's so much out there on this topic. Everyone has their 2 (or 12) cents, that's for sure! I think every family struggles with getting the balance to be a comfortable one. Some days are better than others, for sure.  

  2. # Blogger M

    Great post! I love it. I think I am a much better mom because I work. The time I have with her is completely focused on her. When I was at home I was doing a million other things while taking care of her.
    For me, working makes me better.  

  3. # Blogger Thalia

    Great post Kristi, this was really interesting and a great personal take on the book. Thank you.  

  4. # Blogger Hopeful Mother

    Looking forward to the next post too!

    Thanks for the review - I'm going to reserve this from my library, and hopefully get through it before another renewal is required!  

  5. # Blogger Mony

    I have read your blog for 4 minutes & cried 9 times.
    The pictures. Oh, the sweetness. Your daughter is a dream.  

  6. # Blogger Shokufeh

    Sounds like a great book. I was thinking along these lines - SAHM, WAHM, working in the office mom (is there an abbreviation for that?) - today. Since I'm going back to the office sooner than I would have thought, but totally excited for it.
    I don't know how you juggle the WAHM life. But it sounds, from your teaser, that that's about to change. I look forward to reading your next post.  

  7. # Blogger Susan

    I've been meaning to read this book ... I do check out her blog from time to time. Thanks for the nice summary/review. Time for me to hit the library!

    Susan at Working Moms Against Guilt  

  8. # Blogger Beagle

    Great book review, it makes me want to read it. I find the divisiveness amongst women in general quite upsetting on so many levels. Why does one way have to be "right" anyway?

    You make some really great points! (As apparently do the contributors to the book!)  

  9. # Blogger Damselfly

    I gotta hand it to you. I tried working from home and couldn't do it. It's really tough.

    You're right, we should all respect one another's choices.  

  10. # Blogger Kristi

    Marie-I know. I haven't been able to find that balance. Hence, the change.

    M-That's exactly my point. So many moms who work are better mothers because they have their jobs. Good for you.

    Thalia-Thanks. I have much to say on this topic since it hits so close to home.

    Hopeful Mother-Definitely read it. It's one of the best books I've read in a long time.

    Mony-Thanks! And thank you for visiting my blog.

    Shokufeh-It's such a complicated issue, and as Marie says, finding that work-home balance is definitely a challenge.

    Susan-I hope you enjoy her book as much as I did. And thanks for visiting!

    Beagle-The book addresses this "having to be right" issue in quite a few of the essays. Definitely try to check it out if you can.

    Damselfly-it really is. And that's why I can't do it anymore. :)  

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