Friday, December 30, 2011

Mamas be damned.

I've been thinking about our culture's common perceptions and judgements about moms; working and "stay-at-home;" and how often I hear obvious or underlying arguments among moms about whose life is easier and whose is more stressful, and how one thinks the other should feel about her situation. (I don't know any real stay-at-home moms; we're always taking our kids somewhere or running errands.)

I feel like it's become a damned if you do, damned if you don't situation.

I feel like women who "stay home" are often devalued by society in general. It feels like we don't get the same respect that career women get. We're constantly belittled, albeit often unintentionally, because, you know, we're "just moms," and our job is commonly perceived as being so much less stressful than that of other working people. We are regularly told how grateful we should be, how blessed we are, how much easier our life is. There is constant pressure for us to be "more than," "better than," "more successful than" just a mom. I feel like that's unfair, because our job is significant, important, challenging and really stressful sometimes. Probably more fulfilling than most other jobs, but seriously stressful. I've read about and talked to moms who chose to go to work because they found being a "stay-at-home mom" too stressful or overwhelming; being a full-time, round the clock, on call care provider, cook, housekeeper, chauffeur, secretary, etc. I've written before about how I get tired of hearing women tell me how blessed I am to be able to "stay home" while they "have to" work, when in reality, they could "stay home" too, if they tightened their budget like we did and gave up some luxuries, whether it's purses and sunglasses, eating out, ski trips, new kayaks, Hawaiian vacations, etc.

On the other hand, it seems like full-time working moms get judged harshly, too, for "having someone else raise their children," on top of the guilt and/or regret they often feel for spending so much time away from their kids, or inadequacy they may feel for having found it too stressful to be full-time care providers for their own children. It seems like many people assume they haven't made their kids their priority, and while that does seem true in some cases, it's certainly not true in anywhere near all. I know my mom wouldn't have worked and sent my youngest brothers to public school if her income hadn't made the difference between being able to pay bills and not being able to pay them. There's even been some studies that showed that, at least among certain demographics, people perceived full-time working moms as not being attached enough or as having a more strained relationship with their children. That doesn't seem true or fair either.

It feels sometimes like all we really got from the women's rights movement was the right to vote, and plethora of more subtle and insidious double standards and societal pressures, continued domestic and sexual violence, sexual objectification, and rampant eating disorders, (but that's another blog post or hundred). It seems like noone really quit expecting us to keep filling traditional feminine roles, society just started gauging womens success on how well we perform in traditional male roles while also filling traditional female roles. These "mommy wars" often seem to me another symptom of those inequities and unreasonable expectations. It seems like we're all being told we're inadequate no matter what we do, and we're retaliating by going on the offense. We're like politicians. We're not talking about our personal strengths, the positives in our situations, and pursuing opportunities to better ourselves, our situations, our communities, and our world. We're too busy throwing insults, pointing out how much worse our perceived opponents are, dragging their weaknesses, mistakes, and families into it, claiming that their success is not their own but luck of their privileges, claiming that our own shortcomings or circumstances are not our own but the result of our lack of privilege.

We are perpetuating the rampant separation of, isolation of, and depression among ourselves. As a result we are robbing ourselves and our world of all the amazing, healing energy we have to offer and the good things we could accomplish as women, mothers, appreciating eachother and ourselves. If we could get the fuck over this inane, offensive, "you've got it easier" bullshit, take the credit or the blame for our actions and outcomes, forgive ourselves and eachother, and above all support eachother, regardless, through physical and emotional resources, through information, education, exposure, and acceptance...

...oh what a world it could be.

We could put our cumulative energy into making sure every kid gets fed from a healthy, sustainable source, that they're all being adequately clothed and equally educated, and are all physically, emotionally, and mentally safe and nurtured. We could be offering them respect and acceptance instead of judgement and inadequacy. We could be helping our daughters to view themselves as more than their appearance and simultaneously that embracing their natural femininity, whatever that means to them, doesn't equate to being inferior; and helping our sons work towards respectful, meaningful relationships with other people rather than cultivating objectification, superiority, and greed. We could be helping our children and eachother to be strong interdependent people.

I don't really have an answer as to how to get people, moms, to give eachother more respect and to be less defensive; but maybe encouraging us all to take a minute to evaluate our own paradigms, to reconsider our perceptions and behavior, is a good place to start.

Have you ever felt attacked for your mommy-choice, whether it was personal choice or circumstantial? How do you resolve the "mommy-battles" you encounter? Ideas for encouraging connection and support instead of separation and resentment?

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