The New York Times ran an article a few days ago spotlighing a book called: “The Conflict; How Modern Motherhood Undermines the Status of Women,” by Elisabeth Bandinter. The newly-translated work of a french feminist, the book claims — and I freely admit to paraphrasing here — that women who stay at home with their kids are misled savages, anti-feminists, losers, and unthinking automatons.
Not a position I agree with, but OK. Everyone’s entitled to their opinion.
It’s the comments following the article (264 of them, at current count) that I found so depressing. Nearly all are by women. Nearly all are mothers. And nearly all blast stay-at-home moms as being, basically, beneath contempt. From “[SAHMs] make me cringe” to posts that declare that SAHMs set a terrible example for their children, to ones that avow: if they say they’re staying home out of love for their kids, they’re lying to themselves, each comment is crueler than the next. Some women in my situation do chime in to defend themselves, but the responses to those comments are especially dismissive. When one at-home mom defends her choice as legitimate and “free,” she gets this response:
I wonder what’s so free and liberated about women having to watch their children alone all day, clean the house, cook the evening meal and let their intelligence and talent go to waste while the men go off to work where they interact with other adults, use their brains and talents, bring home money, and escape to other cities and stay in fancy hotels for travel.
Women in the sixties and seventies fought for professional recognition and for the right to be something other than a housewife – and now we decide that what we fought so hard for is purgatory?
I never thought my choice to stay at home with Myra-Jean was the only, the best, or the “right” one, but it certainly has been the right choice for me. I am truly content in my “work.” My daughter, I think, is faring well. My husband seems happy, and grateful for the small contributions I am able to make. Sure, he thinks I’m a kook on many levels, but that was true when I was working as well. Kookiness, I have proven, is a condition not contingent upon employment status.
But it never occurred to me that the choice I’d made could be seen — by other women especially! — as reprehensible. Or that I could be faulted for wishing to simply be there for my daughter. For wanting to capture the moment-to-fleeting-moment, whimsical, uniquely beautiful trajectory of her growth. That I could be judged as inane in some way because I am taking advantage of the miracle of fortune that enables me to stay home and witness her unfolding.
And I shouldn’t let it get to me. But I confess. Some of the comments crawled way under my skin. Will I be a “lousy example” to MJ? Will she, as so many promised, denigrate me in later years for not having more “important” concerns when she was a child? Will our dinner table lack for stimulating conversation? Will she lack respect for me?
I suppose it is possible she will. And it’s troubling. More troubling, though, is the knowledge that so many of my fellow mothers already do. I shouldn’t care. I won’t, always. But today I do.
Fortunately, I have no more time to worry about it. My daughter just woke up. She is calling, in the uniquely cacophonous way only she can: “MAAAAA-ma!”
Call me a fool. I can’t wait to see her.