Last week I heard from a fellow ob/gyn physician that she had had enough of the stress of her job and was stepping back for an indefinite time by quitting her full time position. She felt that she was unable to provide mothering for her patients and have empathy left over for her family. My first reaction was one of dismay as to how she could leave the intellectual stimulation of our job and switch to stay at home mom mode. Not that I don’t sometimes have secret fantasies about doing the same – but usually I am thinking more of a month or two away from work, not indefinite. However, we are all different individuals and we have different home commitments. Though this is not what I would want, I do not have her job or her stresses. I applaud her for putting family first and being able to step back for a time to reassess how she wants her life to continue.
So why the “Mommy Wars” that are so often the fodder for women’s magazines? Stay at Home Moms blame Working Moms for allowing a stranger to raise their children. Working Moms blame Stay at Home Moms for hovering over their children. Why do we all need to be the same? The workforce would suffer (and possibly some children!) if all mothers decided to stay home with their children. Conversely, our society does not have enough good daycare options if all mothers were to work outside the home. In an ideal world, we could move seamlessly between the two, depending on our financial and personal lives. As we all know, life is not ideal. But if we could treat each other with a little more respect and understanding, maybe we could start to pave the way to a more ideal world.
The International Labor Organization recently came out with a shocking statistic – at least it should be SHOCKING. The US is the only Western country – and one of only three in the world – that does not provide some form of monetary payment to new mothers taking maternity leave. We are only ahead of Oman and Papua New Guinea. When you add this statistic to the high cost of quality daycare, many women cannot afford to return to work, even if they so desired. Many of my patients who need to return to work 6-8 weeks after delivery are struggling with sleep deprivation and still sore bodies. If they were provided with financial subsidies and could prolong their leave, more woman might choose to return to the work force and be able to contribute more as an employee.
We as Mothers know that each of our children have different personalities and require different parenting techniques to get the desired outcome. Can’t the same be said of these children when they become adults? Some girls are driven to excel in the work world; others may be more happy caring for their children and aging parents. Would we think of our daughters any differently depending on the life choices that they make?
Part of the problem with stereotyping each group of women is that we tend to associate more with women who are in the same lifestyle choice as ourselves. As a working mom, I spend my day with female co-workers who have also chosen to work outside the home. Mothers who stay home connect more with other mothers who are home during the day. Just as with political or religious affiliations, if we only associate with others who agree with us, we tend to become more strident in our beliefs. I think part of the solution for any “war”, whether it be cultural, religious, political or a Mommy War, is to get to know the issues on the other side by knowing and talking to another human being and realize that there are more similarities than differences between us.
Each month I look forward to my longstanding book club date. The discussion is enhanced because we are each different, with different interests, different backgrounds and yes – different work or non-work situations. If we could create more mixed groups such as this, focused on an interest outside of our children, we could change the Mommy Wars to the Mommy Co-ops. In the spirit of starting a new trend, please share this with another mom friend who belongs to the opposite mothering environment as yourself. Discuss a shared interest outside of parenting and I am sure you will find many more similarities than differences!