Waging a (Mommy) War
Well, the mommy war is certainly being waged out there, folks. And the battleground is splashed across online media. Proof? Check out Liz Pardue Schultz’ piece in xoJane: http://www.xojane.com/issues/being-a-stay-at-home-mom-is-not-a-job, which was then picked up by Time: http://time.com/3744591/30-day-minimalism-challenge/ and commented on by Salon: http://www.salon.com/2015/03/16/stay_at_home_motherhood_isnt_a_hobby/
Originally published in xoJane, Schultz’ article appears as part of the “Unpopular Opinion” column. She begins by offering the disclaimer, “Alright, calm down. Before you get angry, you should know that I was a stay-at-home mother of my daughter for five years.” She then dives into her focus of the piece: the dismissal of the notion of stay-at-home parenthood as a career. “Being a stay-at-home mother to your own kids is not a ‘job,’ no matter how difficult it is or how hard we work. Period. Getting to do nothing but raise a person you opted to bring into the world is a privilege, and calling it anything else is ignorant and condescending.” Schultz doesn’t stop at calling stay-at-home motherhood a privilege, though. She eventually calls “SAHM” a hobby: “No, Stay-at-Home-Mothers, choosing to create your own little person upon whom you’ll spend all your time and energy is a hobby. It is a time-consuming, sanity-deteriorating, life-altering hobby — a lot like a heroin addiction, but with more Thirty-One bags.”
Okay, heroine metaphor aside, I can see how she came to the idea of stay-at-home motherhood as a privilege…in the sense that it is a phenomenon reserved to the few that can afford to live/raise children on a single caregiver’s income. But, in some households, stay-at-home parenting becomes the solution to expensive childcare options. In this scenario, it is neither a privilege nor a hobby. And speaking as a nanny whose profession is, by definition, to take care of children for a living, this makes me feel a certain way. What about us, the people who get paid to do just what this woman is defining as not a job, but a hobby – especially the comrades in my field who are career nannies and housekeepers? Where does this leave us?
Written between the lines of these essentializing statements about stay-at-home-parenthood is the frustration of a woman who is tired of mothers complaining about a job that she feels they knowingly signed up for. Sure, okay, we get that. People have been complaining about other people complaining since the dawn of time. But there is a huge difference between saying that and calling your peers “unemployed, self-righteous idiots” (note: this is especially reserved for the women in the author’s mothers’ groups who have uttered the phrase, “Mothering is the hardest job in the world!”). I can understand if she’s felt alienated by comments here and there of parents espousing their method of child rearing as the best. But in an effort to call out the “martyrdom”, she comes off as a bit self-righteous herself (and isn’t that just a classic case of the pot calling the kettle black)? But, I think, the most undigestable nugget occurs when she talks about a friend that had trouble conceiving and to whom she lent support. Schultz writes that when she finally was able to get pregnant, she had the audacity to complain about her difficult pregnancy (gasp!). Why shouldn’t she have that right? Just because she sprung for expensive fertility treatments in order to be able to get pregnant, she shouldn’t be able to complain about nausea and gas, just like other pregnant women do? Despite claiming to have loved The Feminine Mystique, Schultz missed a key lesson in feminism: a woman’s body (and her associated rights to make complaints about said body) is (are) her own.
Perhaps the thing that we should take from this is that motherhood looks (and feels) different to each person involved. When it comes to motherhood, one woman’s struggle could be another’s triumph. It’s not up to one singular voice to dictate the experience for everyone who they believe to be in their shoes, even if it winds up in the “Unpopular Opinion” column.
Written by: Jenny Nigro, MoM Online Intern
Photo credit: Creative Commons