"Dr." Laura versus Modern Motherhood

My most favorite conservative talk show host and author, "Dr." Laura, has a new book out, "In Praise of Stay-at-Home Moms," in which she's once again fanning the flames of the mommy wars to encourage mothers to stay home with their children instead of having a career. While I did not run out and buy it, I've read a few interviews she's done to promote it, and I thought I would share a few of her pearls of wisdom.

In this interview, the good doctor was asked how she could recommend living on one income to a couple who needs two incomes in order to make ends meet, given the horrible state of the economy.

Unsurprisingly, she side-steps the question, says that it's really the rich who are suffering because of the economy and not the middle class, and then says she's "happy as peach pie," (because she's "all about the children and the happiness of a woman") that "nannies, day cares, and babysitters are all collapsing, which is forcing moms and dads to raise their children at home."

Yes, you read that correctly. She's happy that nannies, day care workers, and babysitters (most of whom are the very women whose happiness is allegedly so important to her) are losing their jobs, and that parents must now scramble for alternate means of childcare. Apparently, she doesn't care too much for the happiness of the children of those nannies, day care workers, and babysitters, who are now suffering because their mothers lost their income. She goes on to say that less cash seems to make people happier. Hmm... not in my house. Less cash makes me worried and cranky, and generally does not make for a happier mommy.

According to Dr. Laura, women hesitant to leave their jobs are "spending too much time thinking about what they have to give up, and feeling angry about not being valued." She has this advice for those women: "When your husband comes home, wrap your body around him at the door and look at his eyes" and says that "Kids who don't have moms suffer a lifetime," which is Dr. Laura-speak for "Kids who don't have moms who stay home with them suffer a lifetime."

I think it's this charge that irks me the most. The implication that children are being irreparably damaged by their working mothers is flagrant misogyny. There have been so many times in the past 1.5 years since I quit my full-time job to freelance that I've thought I would make a much better mother to my children if I worked outside the home. I would have more patience. I would have more tolerance for the constant crying that is as much a part of my household as the cat hair and dust bunnies. I would make Playdoh cookies, read the same book seven times in a row, and draw pictures of Clifford much more willingly, because I hadn't done the same tasks just an hour before. I have many, many friends who were raised by working mothers, and guess what? They are some of the most well-adjusted, successful, and (GASP!) happy people I know. Dr. Laura is a working mother herself, which makes her assvice all the more comical.

And then there's this interview, where "Dr." Laura talks about a letter she received from a stay-at-home mom whose middle child was tragically killed in a car accident when he was 22. The woman writes to encourage "Dr." Laura to never stop preaching to women that they should stay home with their children because you never know when they'll be taken from you. What happened to this woman is incredibly sad, but Dr. Laura uses her letter to make this caustic, judgemental, and sarcastic point:

"I’m sure the überfeminists would recommend that the touching alternative would be to stockpile reports and videos taken by day-care workers, nannies, and baby-sitters, so that if the worst does happen, and a child is lost, you still have those memories … just through the eyes of other people."

Because of course, if you're a working mother and your child passes away, you would have no memories of him and no special moments to treasure. The implication that a mother who works outside the home is not a full-time mom, is no more present in her child's life than the UPS man, and is being selfish by working either a.) because she has to in order to make ends meet, or b.) because she loves her career and finds it fulfilling, is nauseating to me.

I've said this many times on this blog before: feminism is about choice. You are not a bad mother because you work, and you're not a hero because you stay home. Making the choice for either path is a decision that each woman or family makes for herself (or themselves). Staying at home with kids is not something every woman is cut out for (and even though I'm home and working, I put myself in this category. It is by far the hardest thing I've ever done and most days, I don't think I do it very well.) To lecture women that this is the path they should take regardless of their individual economic situation, temperament, and desires is not only incredibly short-sighted, it's shockingly ignorant as well.

Do we really need another book that pits mothers against each other? I think not.

15 Responses to “"Dr." Laura versus Modern Motherhood”

  1. # Anonymous Lis Garrett

    I just can't respond to people like her. Having seen it from both sides of the fence, like a lot of moms, and now that I've been a work-at-home mom for almost two years, I can tell you each choice is difficult. My family missed me when I worked out of the home, and they whine about my having to work in the home, too. However, my life cannot BE all about them; I have to do what makes me happy, too. I know I'm not alone in that. And hopefully, I am instilling in my two daughters the belief that it is OKAY to be someone other than 'Mother'.  

  2. # Blogger My Wombinations

    I like this post, but I am not worried that Dr. Laura will make anyone feel too badly. Those that read her probably agree with her inane stupidity and those that don't (like me) find her irrelevant.  

  3. # Blogger Mom24

    I am not a fan of Dr. Laura, I think she's divisive and inflammatory--qualities that drive her radio show, but hurt and distract from any truisms she may raise.

    I do think it's best for a mom (or dad) to be home with their children. I think there are many, many problems with the childcare system in our country. I think often, it's a Lord of the Flies atmosphere that rewards children for aggressive behavior. I know many educators can pick out a child who has been in daycare all their lives a mile away. A very sad, but true fact. I think it's sad that we buy into the fact that our children would be better with someone else raising them. Who? Mary Poppins is not out there.

    Yes, there are some ideal daycare arrangements out there, where children thrive and parents know their kids are doing great. I don't believe that's the vast majority of situations however. I think most are merely average, or worse, but it's the only thing available.

    There's a reason motherhood is often referred to as the hardest job in the world. It IS hard to read the same book over and over again, to endure the whining, etc. But, if it's that hard for us, think how hard it would be for a stranger with no emotional connection to our children.

    The kids I see who are the happiest, most well-adjusted, have not been in daycare full-time. Their families have made the choices to either have a parent with them full-time, or part-time. They have not spent most of their time being cared for by someone else.

    You know we struggle financially. Sometimes I do think how our lives would be different if I had gone to work instead of staying home to be with our kids. But, then I think about who our kids are, the relationships we have. I wouldn't trade that for anything, and I do get a lot of pride in knowing that I helped, in a pretty big way, to shape that.  

  4. # Blogger My Wombinations

    I feel the need to repost because while I agree with some of what Mom24 said, I also do not agree with the basic premise that children of stay-at-home parents are better adjusted.

    My mother worked sporadically, but devoted a lot of her time to various volunteer organizations and exercise and other things just about "her." I learned how to take care of myself from her while my father worked hard and earned the kind of money that funded the best colleges (with no loans), long trips abroad, private schools and basically everything I ever needed or wanted.

    I actually feel very lucky about those things, primarily the college stuff. My husband's mother stayed home with him even though his father did not make enough to support them that well and he graduated from college deeply in debt and does not have a closer relationship with his parents than I do. In fact, he is probably angrier at them for the financial choices they made than I am for the time ones.

    Just another thought...  

  5. # Blogger Mom24

    I wanted to respond to something My Wombinations said. This may be right on, or it might not be her situation at all, but I do not feel I owe my children college. It's something we hoped to be able to give them, but I would hope it doesn't change their feeling for us if we can't. My sister has spent her whole life blaming my parents for any short-coming in her life. It's a sad, empty way to live. My kids may graduate from college deeply in debt, and if they do, I will be sad for them and worry for them, and I will do what we can to help them, but it will be choices they made and I will do my best not to feel guilty for them.

    I do not feel my husband and I owe our children anything financially beyond a home to grow in and be comfortable in, clothes to wear and feel proud in, toys and books to stimulate their creativity and education, food to eat, etc. I do not feel it is the right of grown children to criticize their parent's financial decisions.

    My own parents have made some decisions I would not have, but it's their life, they gave me as good a childhood as they could, and I am grateful for that, and I will not judge them. I would expect the same courtesies from my children one day.  

  6. # Blogger My Wombinations

    ah, yes. We do have a difference of opinion there. Both my husband and I feel strongly that we owe our children college.

    We may need to agree to disagree here because these are entirely different philosophies. I see one of my parenting responsibilities as making sure that my children start their lives debt free.  

  7. # Blogger My Wombinations

    And to take this one step further, I must say that your comment on grown children being angry over financial decisions seems a little unfair given that had I subbed out my husband's anger and referenced mine at my father for working so hard that he was away from our family, you would have agreed.

    I think reviewing our childhoods and seeing where our parents made mistakes is important. I do not know your sister, but I strongly, strongly disagree with the characterization of criticizing our parents as leading to a "sad empty life."

    Money is a wonderful thing. And people without it always say there are more important things, but there really are not. Money can't buy happiness, it's true. But those with money have a much better shot at it than those without.  

  8. # Blogger Pregnantly Plump

    I actually try not to read anything about that woman. I connect her with Ann Coulter, and believe they are just out to get press. The best way to do it is to insult a huge group of people.
    I find it interesting that by the good "doctor's" opinion, I am rich. The economy is definitely affecting us, especially since we are on one income. I'll have to tell my husband we're rich. He'll be very happy to know that all the stuff we've been worrying about recently is all for naught.  

  9. # Blogger Tracey - Just Another Mommy Blog

    Hmmm. I don't know about "better-adjusted" or not. I don't know all of the stats. But I do know that my family made some serious sacrifices when I was little so that my mom could stay home. Would I change a thing? NO WAY. I KNOW my mom. Really well. Do I know my dad as well? Nope. He had to work. It sucked. Ideally, both parents could have time enough to really KNOW their kids. Quality time is a good theory, but kids really ARE into the QUANTITY of time, too.

    I love that my kids are lucky enough to have an at-home parent.

    They will NOT have a free-ride to college. Even if we were loaded, I can't imagine allowing such a luxury into adulthood. They will go to community college, paid for partly by US, but the last 2 years will depend upon a combined effort. Hopefully this will encourage them to actually ATTEND the classes and do WELL.

    I don't like any authors that call themselves "Dr. First-Name" That is so incredibly high schoolish. Can we really take her seriously?

    Also, to make a sweeping statement that hurts women and families that have no other choice?? Ridiculous.

    Your kids are better off EATING and WEARING CLOTHING and in daycare than sitting on the curb, homeless but with a parent right there beside them.  

  10. # Blogger Shannon

    well, for us... we had no choice- we didn't have any money to pay the basic bills... so I had to go to work... and you know what... I am sooo much happier at work too... i'm not sad about it at all... Lore does better with other people. It has been that way since day one... and no it isn't because it isn't mommy and daddy... it is because she likes to be social and I can't do that as a stay-at-home mom the way she can get it in her new situation...

    At home she was bored and would act out... she started that at 9ms...

    But what people like Dr. Laura needs is a big kick in the head... but now I am off to find a Pat the Bunny video lol...  

  11. # Blogger Veronica

    My mother worried about staying at home. She gave up her career for my father's career. Her fear was that she would impregnate my sister and I with the idea that the role of the woman in the house was to stay at home and not work.

    My mother wanted us to be very independent.

    Interestingly, my sister took the SAHM route and I'm on the fiercely, no children ever, marriage is a long way off, path.

    I think what matters is making sure that your kids know that they can choose the path that is best for themselves -- regardless of what you did as their mother, and what society or other people may say.

    I don't like Dr. Laura at all. I listened to her back when I first met you, and it was like listening to a train wreck. After a while, I just couldn't listen to her anymore. She's out to get ratings and attention -- and the only way she can do it is by being extremist in her views.

    As for the discussion about money/no money versus daycare/SAH -- I don't think that matters as much as the actual parents and the environment that they create for their kids.

    That's why you can have kids who do well in all these types of situations -- the credit is on the parents, really.

    In my own family I have cousins who grew up with no money at all and two working parents and they are amazing adults -- well adjusted and cool (one is an aerospace engineer, the other is a classical Spanish guitarist). I think my sister and I are pretty amazing people and we grew up in a wealthier family with a SAHM.

    Parents do the best that they can, but there is not one "right" way.  

  12. # Anonymous Anonymous

    Having done both for short spurts, my job gives me 4 months off every year that I spend as a SAHM, I can say both are hard. Both moms work HARD both moms feel guilt. BOTH moms want what is best for their children. There is not one answer, there are options and in both situations children can be happy and well adjusted. My children miss me when I work, I miss them, it is a rush to pick them up at school and to get dinner on the table and to have time to play and to snuggle. But my children have top notch medical care, free. They have two parents that have careers and time for their family. They have time, and money, for gym classes, and for museum memberships, and family vacations. They are forming relationships with their peers at school and their grandparents who watch them a few days/week. They are well rounded and spectacularly above average in their cognitive skills, and their social adaptive skills.

    When I am home, my house is spotless, my children are able to do amazing crafts and go on day trips we have time together to do whatever we want. AND their Daddy has time to spend with them on the weekends b/c there are no chores for him to do. My children are learning that women can have careers and that men can do household chores.

    I get defensive about this topic. It is unfair and short-sighted to say there is a 'best' way. There is only the best that you can do. People like that "dr" woman (ICK), who make a living belittling other people's choices, are as 'small' as they try to make other people feel.

    I also respectfully disagree with the comment that educators agree that children raised by a SAHP are better adjusted. As an educator I have found children to be products of their parenting, both stay at home and work outside the home, both being equally good and bad. Educators I work with from K-college, agree.  

  13. # Anonymous Ness @ Drovers Run

    I hear you. Tewtally. I agree with the fact that I'm a better mom, the more 'me/career/kidless' time I have. Sometimes all it takes is a 10 minute trip to the shops to buy bread and milk for me to immediately get my head back in the game, and dig out patience to do all the things they want me to do with them. Naturally the guilt factor remains there regardless, but still. They're happier, when I've had me time - so there. Point proven!  

  14. # Blogger kenju

    I used to listen to Dr. Laura in the car, but I quit and I've never gone back to it. What I would love above all else, is to interview her son and she just what kind of mother she really was.  

  15. # Blogger MsPrufrock

    I find that, like breastfeeding, CHOOSING to work full-time is always something that needs to be qualified. If I want to bottle-feed, I will. If I want to work full-time and put my daughter in nursery, I will. It seems that both of these things are only ok if you HAVE to do them and have no other choice. As you say, feminism is about choice, therefore, it doesn't matter why someone does what they do, if that's what is best for them.

    I'll be perfectly honest and say something that a lot of mothers would be appalled by - I have never felt guilty about working full-time. Never. P has gone to nursery for almost 2 years now, and that's fine with me. If I didn't work we would have to make sacrifices as a family, but that's not why I continue to work. I work because I like to, and I want P to know that you can have a family and full-time job outside the home and manage it all (even if it is with some difficulty)!

    I'd also like to add that no one has the right to state that the happiest kids are the ones with a parent who stays at home. My daughter is happy, social, and very loveable little girl. My husband and I are good parents - that transcends the number of working hours we put in every week.  

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