Can we just go ahead and ban the phrase “working mother”?
Not because it’s divisive.
Not because it’s offensive.
Because it’s redundant.
All mothers work and work darned hard.
It was Jacqueline Kennedy who said “If you bungle raising your children, I don’t think whatever else you do well matters very much.”
It was Golda Meir who said, “At work, you think of the children you have left at home. At home, you think of the work you’ve left unfinished. Such a struggle is unleashed within yourself, your heart is rent. ”
Last week’s dust-up that forced Ann Romney to defend being a stay-at-home mom made me want to roll my eyes and say “This again? Really?” The Mommy Wars debate seems like something we should be so past, so over in the second decade of the 21st century. Sort of like the issue of insurance-covered contraception.
But there’s something different about the Hilary Rosen-Ann Romney conflagration. This attack on women didn’t come from a panel of men positing to know what was best for us. This was an attack on a woman’s choice, and the grenade was lobbed by another woman, another mother.
This should surprise no woman who has waited in the drop-off or pickup line at school, attended a PTA meeting or agreed to chair the Girl Scout cookie sale. For all the talk of sisterhood, for all the cooing good wishes we send on Facebook, for all the recipes we pin on Pinterest, far too many of us see motherhood as a full-contact sport, as a zero-sum game.
I don’t think we do this intentionally. When our children are young we sign up for mommy-and-me classes, looking for new friends and shared experiences. But when someone else’s little Max is rolling over, walking or — gasp — talking before your little Jake, you look for a reason — a rationalization.
●Max’s mom stays home while you work outside the home and Jake goes to day care. It’s your fault that he’s not getting enough individual attention.
Once kids get to preschool age, the stakes get even higher.
● The coveted spot in the pipeline-to-Harvard preschool is secured for a child whose mom has had the time to volunteer at the school and get an “in” on admissions.
● If little Sara bites your Madison, it’s because her parents split up and her mother can’t control her.
● How many extracurriculars your child is in becomes a high-stakes poker match. Suzy’s soccer/softball/lacrosse is a lame three-of-a-kind to another child’s full house of science fair champion/French immersion/
The problem is that the success of our children — and by extension our success as mothers — is graded on a curve. It creates a nonstop jockeying for a better position.
We need to stop keeping score. Stop keeping score of the number of times a mother who has a job that provides a paycheck calls to ask if a mother who works in the home can do the school pickup. Stop keeping score about the number of goodies put in the birthday goody bag at one child’s party. Stop keeping score of the number of play dates you host.
We all want the same thing: We want our children to be happy. My child isn’t a little happier, a little better off if your child is a little sadder, a little less well off. We need to understand that your child’s success doesn’t diminish my child.
We are all working mothers. No, scratch that, we are all mothers. That is the big thing that unites us. The things that divide us are the small things, the petty things.
It’s time to put Mommy Wars behind us, and that will only happen if each of us makes a concerted effort to judge less, understand more and recognize that we are all in this business of creating the next generation together.
Grant, the editor of KidsPost, writes about parenting issues every other week.
Have you dealt with being judged as a mother, or judging other mothers yourself? Join the conversation in the comments section.