Whenever another skirmish breaks out in The Mommy Wars, you can almost hear the national pundits licking their lips and yelling “Cat fight!” with gusto.
The latest heat-seeking missile came from Democratic strategist Hilary Rosen. In trying to paint the very wealthy Mitt Romney and his wife Ann as out of touch with most Americans, she said that Mrs. Romney – who raised five sons -- “never worked a day in her life.”
It was a stupid thing to say and Rosen later apologized but by then the 24-hour cable news cycle was in full churn. I see these tussles in The Mommy Wars as sort of a full-employment program for those of us in the commentariat. Thank God for gaffes or I’d probably be revisiting my old foe, high-stakes standardized testing, this week.
But here’s the thing: Left to our own devices, women who work outside the home and full-time homemakers get along pretty well. We carpool and feed each other’s kids and sit together in the bleachers at our children’s games. Most of the moms I know who don’t have paying jobs do important volunteer work in the community – for which the rest of society should be very grateful.
Despite flare-ups from The Mommy Wars, most actual mothers have some appreciation for the others’ lot. Perhaps that’s because at some time or another, we’ve all been on the other side. If you took any maternity leave when your kids were little or have them on nights and weekends, you know that being a full-time caregiver can be exhausting, frustrating and even depressing at times.
If you’ve held an outside job at any point while your children were growing up, you know how stressful it can be to try to do it all and that inevitably you will drop the ball sometimes.
I always felt like I had the best of both worlds. When my kids were younger I worked part-time at night and was their primary caregiver during the day. Three nights a week I went to a job, which was vital to our family finances but also meant I got to do work I loved. Almost as important, I got to talk to funny, smart colleagues and eat my dinner while it was still hot. My job helped keep me (relatively) sane.
My husband took over care of our boys those three nights and it was good for all of them to have to fend for themselves.
Some families need two full-time bread-earners to stay afloat. And some women just love their work and feel like they’d lose their mind if they were home all day with kids.
Women shouldn’t have to apologize for that. Men are admired for supporting their families, loving their jobs and doing work they believe in. No one questions the right of, say, a state legislator or congressman to work full time – and longer – because they believe in their causes and want to serve. (Though it should be said that their families do come in handy when politicians decide to resign, especially under questionable circumstances. If I had a nickel for every time a pol said he was leaving office to spend more time with his family, I’d be vacationing in New Zealand this summer.)
So while I love a good kerfuffle as much as the next columnist, I think the actual rank-and-file troops in this “war” spend too much time fraternizing with the enemy to take the bait and weigh in with outrage. Unlike the talking heads, we’re willing to give peace a chance.