There is a book called MOMMY WARS that is on my reading list. Since my current book weighs in at about six hundred pages, on that list MOMMY WARS will stay for a long time, but I am still more than intrigued by its premise, which is that there is a huge amount of strife between two sides of the same coin: stay at home moms (SAHMs) on one shiny side of the coin and working moms (or, as everyone on my mommy websites like to clarify: moms who work outside the home, so as not to make SAHMs feel as though what they do does not equal work.
Because it does. If you’ve ever hung out with one or two or six kids at home, and had to feed them, clothe them, and entertain them, not to mention pick up after them, you realize pretty quickly that staying at home with kids involves a shitload of work. And it is rather lonely. A three year old who just filled the in-hallway potty seat, making your home smell like some circus animal’s been visiting is just not equipped to discuss the war in Afghanistan, Bristol Palin’s turn on Dancing With the Stars, or the mid term elections, no matter how much network news you leave on during the day. Days with kids can be grueling, now matter how fun it may seem when you play hooky from work and yank your kid out of daycare to do it once or twice when you just can’t take the office anymore.
And those of us who work outside the home—which really brings to mind women in business suits and heels crouching on standing briefcases, clandestinely typing away on a laptop amidst the hydrangeas—know that work and kids is not a juggling act, it is a three ring circus, the kind that we cringe at when we see the ads for tickets on TV. You are constantly on and constantly tired and constantly feeling stretched and guilty and a little hungry, as your day is spent being spent.
I occupy both sides of the coin, so I instantly get rattled when SAHMs get characterized as people they probably aren’t: lazy (in terms of having a “real” job), entitled, out of touch….and I get equally rattled when I hear “working” moms get characterized as people they probably aren’t: lazy (as in “she’d know how to deal with her kid if she spent more time with him”), entitled, and out of touch….
All of this came frothing to a head recently when I heard of a new dance studio devoted to children. This seemed wonderful, and I emailed the link to my friends who have small kids. Very quickly one of my friends emailed back and commented that there were only two (2!) Saturday classes, and they were geared towards tweens, not toddlers. This seemed unbelievable. Saturday morning is primo kiddie time in the “let’s pile on the extracurriculars so my three year old does not end up at community college” race to the top of the food chain. But it was true. And odd. So I do what I am always telling my husband I will do, and I wrote an email to the studio, which is run by a mom, a working mom, and so the answers I got back were dismaying.
‘We’re adding Monday classes at 4:30, which seems to work great for our working moms.’
I swear to God I felt palpitations and my blood went cold the way it does when I want to attack something, the same way I supposed it does in a lizard, when it is going to lash out with its tongue.
And I suppose that is because I just don’t know very many full time working adults who are able to take a class at 4:30 on a Monday afternoon.
And I also felt the urge to point to the gaping wide hole in her schedule that is Saturday and say: this THIS is when most adults are FREE!
And it got me thinking about the idea of revolution. The book I am reading posits that “[i]t is cliché that revolutions in societies occur not at the point of maximum misery but during periods of rising expectations. The same can be said of individuals. Those who are taught to expect things often wind up thinking that they deserve whatever they have, and that they have a right to expect more” (Gordon-Reed, 329. I know, I know. Citations! In a blog! What is surprising to me, though, is that I am using this quote to discuss mommydome, when I was planning to use it to discuss those Tea Party people, but this dance studio schedule really got me flipping riled up). And so I can’t help but start to ruminate about how these mommy wars and feminism relate to the idea of revolution.
I suppose, in a conventional sense, I could say: after the revolution there will be no more mommy wars because in a world after the revolution something will finally be done about the fact that the majority of our work force is women and the fact that over ninety percent of women eventually have children. Yay for childcare. Whoo Hoo.
But if we were to shirk convention, perhaps, after the revolution, there might also be a way to reconfigure the assumptions we make about parenting. Because, implicit in the decision to offer a working mom’s mommy and me at 4:30 on a weekday afternoon is the idea that a certain type of working mom would be available at a time when, well, most people are still working, and that a certain type of working mom, well, wouldn’t be in the market for this type of class anyway, so why market to her in the first place?
And I guess what got me hot and bothered under my collar is that the person creating this schedule is a woman. Who works. And so it is not so difficult to see how a Sarah Palin could voice such strong opinions about restricting Choice, or healthcare or tax cuts. Sure that is a leap, but I’m leaping it, watch me. And I am sure this person would be horrified to be likened to Palin. I am sure this person’s blue state of mind would be very disgruntled to be compared to Palin even for a nanosecond.
But I guess what I am hoping is that as our culture evolves (we’re evolving right? we’re getting better at this shit, right?) we start to ask more of ourselves even in these little moments, and reach towards inclusion. Maybe.
Gordon-Reed, Annette. The Hemingses of Monticello. W.W. Norton & Company, New York: 2008.