What All Moms Want

Tuesday night. Los Angeles. Mommy Wars book party.

Working mom: "Have any of your contributors written about those out-of-control stay-at-home moms who put all their energy into volunteering at our kids' schools?"

Laughter all around.

Me: "Yes, actually, one of the writers Leslie Lehr..."

Stay-at-home mom, interrupting: "I am one of those crazy stay-at-home mom volunteers."

Me, seizing the opportunity to question said "crazy mom" who is willing to talk: "And why are you like that?"

SAHM: "Well, I used to work. I have these great skills. I'm organized. I can do PowerPoint. So why not give kindergarten the best Teacher Appreciation Lunch ever? I wanted it to be perfect! And it was perfect! It really was!"

The room went silent. I, for one, was stunned. The stay-at-home mom looked around at our faces. Was she triumphant or defiant? I couldn't tell.

Then, to my amazement, we moms gave her what she wanted. What all moms, whether we work or stay home, want for a job well done. We, a jury of her peers, applauded her as she stood and took a bow.

By Leslie Morgan Steiner |  March 17, 2006; 7:00 AM ET
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And this was supposed to be illuminating and/or funny? It sounded to me a bit like you were making fun. Perhaps that is not what you intended. However, a bunch of, successfull, professional women laughing at dedicated volunteers, for any organization, seems so "mean girls". To think that working moms, at first take, want to laugh at the contributions of volunteers, just stinks.

Posted by: LB | March 17, 2006 8:02 AM

Why did the working moms think it funny that there are stay at home moms who put their energies into our children's classrooms? That makes me sick. It's bad enough that the politicians in this country only pay lip service to the importance of education. Now we've got PARENTS slamming those who would give up their time to make our children's schools better places to be. Damn straight they ought to applaud.

Posted by: MomNC | March 17, 2006 8:29 AM

It's amazing to me that with all the advancements we've made over the years, all the accomplishments that women have made, we are still our own worst enemies. Men seem to have the "good old boys" club down pat. They stick up for each other, get excited for each other, are in awe of one another. Women, however, the "fairer sex" seem to only nit-pick and make fun of each other. (Yes, I realize that this is a broad generalization, but there is truth to it.)

Shouldn't women who work outside of the home be GRATEFUL for those "out-of-control moms" who volunteer at schools? If I had a child come to me and tell me that so-and-so's mom did something really neat, I would be grateful to that woman for caring, not sneer and say "Man, she's crazy! Doesn't she have a life?"

Posted by: DM | March 17, 2006 8:31 AM

Gee whiz, folks. Don't be so ready to take offense. The laughter was in recognition of a stereotype; the SAHM who gave the perfect lunch was APPLAUDED!

Also, while the good-old-boy phenomenon does, indeed, exist, don't kid yourself re how tight men are with each other. They compete with each all the time. Good-old-boys clubs exist to keep out "boys" who threaten the position of the in-group.

Posted by: THS | March 17, 2006 8:36 AM

Why does the endless debate over whether moms should stay at home or be employed always seem to take a slant towards what works best for the moms? Isn't it about what works best for the kids? Yes, it is, or rather it should be.

I quit my intellectually active and fast rising career 7 months ago to stay home with my then 9 month old son - as soon as we were financially able. I don't ask for praises or for anyone to acknowledge this decision, nor do I care what anyone else thinks about it - agree with me or don't. Did I choose this for me? No. To better myself? No, but maybe involuntarily and unexpectedly this happened as a result. For my bright and shining corporate future? Certainly not.

I did it for my son. I did it so that he has the security and comfort of having his mommy when he needs her. I did it so that I, who knows my son better than anyone else, can teach him about life and help shape his foundation of morals and values to reflect those of his family's. I did it to give him the best start in life I can. It's not about ME, ME, ME and having my dream car, dream home, or adventurous vacations right now.

If moms find that their child actually thrives better and is genuinely happier in a setting away from mom and dad, then power to them for being employed. And if mom and dad both have to work to provide for their kids basic needs of life, then a lot of power to them for working. In these cases, working parents may just be the best thing for their children.

But the view that indicates "mom should be where SHE is happiest" - is wrong. Being a mommy means that this time isn't about her - right now. There will be a time for mom to pursue a career or achieve "greatness" in a worldly sense if that's what she desires. She should learn to find happiness in being with her children. No one (anyone?) choses to stay home with their kids because they prefer to prepare grilled cheese sandwiches (minus the crust), pick up the dry cleaning and take little Johnny to the dentist - over the real sense of intellectual accomplishment that somes from a good performance in the work place.

It's a mother's job to sacrifice for her children.

Posted by: DL | March 17, 2006 8:40 AM

Ouch. "Crazy mom" label should sort of be set aside. No one wants to be a crazy mom yet if each of us were asked I bet we each had a bit of a crazy mom and probably are a bit of a crazy mom. It does seem condescending - "All she wanted was us to applaud her..." Why is everyone so shocked by another woman having talent? SAHM aren't neanderthals caring for their young and tending the fire...geez Leslie if you want discussion fine but do you really need to be that surprised?

Posted by: Engin'r | March 17, 2006 8:44 AM

I'm still waiting for recognition for my contibutions :). I'm a scientist, and being a single mom still pay quite a bit of taxes. Nobody seems grateful for that.
I think work is highly undervalued. Work, that made America wealthy.
It seems to me that there's an underlying problem... of course you stay at home if you would only make minimum wages working.
Of course children get to go to a better college if the parents can afford it. Of course you will be less of a burden in old age if you managed to make better savings for retirement.
We should make our kids education a priority, sothey won't make minimum wages once grown. And our daughters will never have to stay in a relationship because they couldn't support themselves. And they can afford to have a baby if so they want.

Posted by: Marianne | March 17, 2006 8:51 AM

Quoting DL:

"It's a mother's job to sacrifice for her children."

I'm not sure how to respond to such a regressive comment. Ick.

Posted by: ThereAre2Parents | March 17, 2006 8:54 AM

I think you're off your rocker, DL, if you think that every mom that stays home benefits every kid. Some of the most obnoxious kids I know are those whose mothers stayed home, catering to their every whim -- and those same kids never learned to deal appropriately with other children, protected as they were in their mommy cocoon. Being a SAHM is right for some moms and some kids -- but not for all. Frankly, DL, your attitude is exactly the kind that feeds the mommy wars -- the notion that your lifestyle is better than anyone else's. Right for you, perhaps -- not right for everyone. If your child grows up with the same bad attitude you have, you've done him a great disservice by teaching him your "morals" and "values."

Posted by: Jayne | March 17, 2006 8:59 AM

DL, you're giving me the guilts.

I'm the Daddy in a two-parent working family, and I don't think we spend enough time with our three-year-old son.

I'm not writing to say mommies should be the ones to stay home or that gender roles should be stereotyped. Nothing like that. But I personally think my son would be happier, and probably developing more quickly, if much of the daily time with parents.

Right now I leave for work before he gets up. His mother is in a rush in the morning to get him to daycare so she can get to work. I pick him up after getting his sister from pre-school, then spend my one-on-one time trying to get dinner ready for everyone. By the time we've eaten, it's nearly bed time. The only quality time at all on weekdays for the kids is story time before bed. That's sad, but I don't know how we can pay our mortgage and other bills without both parents working full-time professional jobs that require more than eight hours of time each day. We live in a modest town home in a passable neighborhood. We don't go out much, or spend much on vacations. We're prepaying college tuitions, but I couldn't tell you where else we could trim. It's sad.

Things were different during his older sister's first three years. I worked nights, and had a lot of one-on-one time during the day. But that didn't work with two kids.

More power to you. And good luck to everyone else doing the best they can.

Posted by: Springfield Dad. | March 17, 2006 9:05 AM

"But the view that indicates "mom should be where SHE is happiest" - is wrong"

Oh my. Do you really think it's better for a child to be at home all day with an unhappy mother? You don't think that child will pick up on that resentment, internalize it, and blame himself or herself for having made Mommy give up being happy? I have no words.

And by the way, isn't it also a father's job to sacrifice for his children? Sexist much?

Posted by: mharvey816 | March 17, 2006 9:22 AM

The crux of the mommy wars, to me, is this issue of "what is best for the kids" (especially since the answer is always: mom stays home). There is no way to put forth that argument without insulting moms who choose to work or worrying moms who have to work. It's also a generalization that can be disproved by millions of examples of happy, secure, well-adjusted, successful kids (and adults) who had working moms. So DL, get over yourself. Us working moms may struggle to "balance" work and family, but I'd rather try to make it work than just thown in the towel and claim I'm doing it "for the kids."

Posted by: VAmom | March 17, 2006 9:23 AM

DL-
I was just shocked by your post. So, basically a woman has to give up her own identity when she becomes a mother and "sacrifice" everything? How does that help a child to learn about self-esteem and self-worth when Mommy puts herself lowest on the totem pole AND becomes incredibly unhappy? How does that help the child to learn any independence when Mommy caters to the child's every whim? And where does Daddy fit in?
Both of our parents worked and my brother and I have become independent, socially capable, and intelligent adults... just like MANY other well-adjusted adults out there.
DL- you are just perpetuating these "Mommy Wars" with your comments...
And truthfully, you just sound defensive about your own choice of roles...

Posted by: Arl. | March 17, 2006 9:49 AM

I'm oh so tired of this tired debate. I didn't see much value come out of it in the early 1990s and still don't. It really doesn't add to the discourse on raising a generation of happy, healthy, well-grounded kids. There is no right or wrong or better or worse way to raise children based on who stays at home or who works outside the home. If a SAHM feels she is doing so and sacrificing for her kids, that's fine and I don't have an issue with that. I'm a working mom and I feel I'm sacrificing for my kids too. The point is we are all doing it and we are doing the best way we know how. I also applaud the SAMH that planned the teacher event. She picked up the slack when I couldn't because I had a Board meeting. I appreciate those efforts. Let's be supportive of all mothers, dads, families, SAH or working outside the home.

Posted by: Anonymous | March 17, 2006 9:52 AM

My grandmother had a PhD in biochemistry from Yale, one of the first to do so (1938 or so), which she received before she got married to my grandfather, a lawyer, also Yale educated. For a while after they were married, my grandmother worked as a researcher at Sloan Kettering. When get got pregnant, she quit - and for about 20 years, that was that. Eventually, my grandmother got her masters in French and was a successful french professor at a stat university, even becoming interim dean of the liberal arts school in the late 60s and early 70s - very progressive.

My mother - the pregnancy that did in the biochemistry career - has said that my grandmother giving up her work for so long was probably the worst mistake she ever made. She enjoyed it, much more than she enjoyed kids and being a housewife. Also, my grandfather's career was somewhat of a rollercoaster, and he was out of work a number of times - times when I am sure she wished she had a career to help make ends meet.

In contrast, my mother never wanted more for herself than to be a stay-at-home mother. My father's career has allowed her to do that, and I am certainly a happy beneficiary of that.

I don't have kids (yet) but I work - and actually make about 3x what my husband makes. So, should I chuck it all and stay home just because "Moms need to sacrifice"? Somehow, I don't think either my mother or grandmother would approve. The reality of today is that there is a sacrifice either way - either Mom works and there is extra money for trips, school programs, kids clothes, tutors, etc. (but we see less of Mom), or Mom stays at home and the kids wonder why all the other kids get to do/have X and they don't.

At the end of the day, it is a Catch-22, and the wars need to realize that NEITHER is the perfect solution.

Posted by: akmitc | March 17, 2006 9:54 AM

Doesn't anybody else see the fact that this woman in the story is dying to use her professional skills as a sign that we need to create a world in which it is easier to do some kind of meaningful part-time work from home? You have to admit that this mom is spending significant time on preparing "the perfect teacher luncheon" which is time away from hugging her child or otherwise interacting with her child. And yet that's OK with even the most regressive "woman's place is in the home with the babies"-types. So why isn't there a push to invent paid jobs for these women, that they can do for maybe just 2 hours a day, after the kids are asleep or whenever they're currently doing their copious amounts of unpaid volunteer work? There clearly is value in much of the volunteer work that occurs, but having some venue to make a bit of money (perhaps for your child's college education) and to keep your resume polished so that you CAN go back to paid professional work someday rather than being dependent the rest of your life has value, too.

Posted by: Anonymous | March 17, 2006 9:57 AM

Isn't it interesting that in a discussion of "mommy wars," a man made the most sense? Shout out to you, Springfield Dad! You're doing the best you can and that's all anyone can expect of you and your wife.

Posted by: boondocksjunkie | March 17, 2006 9:58 AM

One thing I don't get is the recurrent theme among SAHM posters that working moms are just doing their work for vacations and fancy cars. Beyond the obvious fact that some women need to work to simply pay rent on a basic apartment, what ever happened to the idea of work being a place where you contribute to the world. I think about my grandmother who, as a farmer, fed tens of thousands of people by doing her work. And my mother, a teacher, who taught thousands of children in addition to just her own 2 kids. This is pretty darn important work, and it wouldn't get done if all women thought the only way was to remain behind closed doors with just one or two kids all day long. Plus, do we really want a world in which the only people who make our laws, start new businesses that employ other people, do the scientific research to make medicines, protect our environment, advocate for children in the legal system, etc, etc, are men? There is a whole, wide world of meaningful work to be done that helps LOTS of people (not just the one or two in your house) out there. Of course, caring for children is important work, but there is no evidence out there that, in the long run, kids who are cared for during the day in quality daycare at a 5-10 kids/teacher ratio do better than kids cared for at a 1-2 kids/mom ratio. I know for a fact that a lot of professional women out there are working not for vacations and fancy cars, but for the opportunity to contribute to the world beyond their front doors.

Posted by: sammy | March 17, 2006 10:11 AM

This is a very emotional topic for most mothers. I would imagine that's the case on either side of the "fence". I am certainly no exception. My mother stayed home until I graduated college. She offered daycare out of our home and took care of up to 4 babies/tots at the same time. I resented her always being home and I even resented these other kids she cared for. I resented that her message was always unforgiving of even the kids parents she took care of. She never faultered in her comments that if a parent chooses to have a child, that is the focus of their life. She framed it as.. "I didnt have children so that I could have a convenient toy to play with when I want to. I always wanted to be a mom and I knew that I wanted to put my focus entirely on my children." I'd have to say it was her attitude that kept me from really wanting kids until my mid 30's. And believe me, I struggle with guilt EVERY FREAKING DAY because I work full-time and my daughter is in daycare. But, I tell you this, she is LOVED and she is happy and she is blossoming in her daycare setting. I know in my heart that if I stayed home I wouldn't be as content with myself and neither would my daughter. I truly believe it's a personal choice and I am thrilled for my friends that choose to stay home and their kids are thriving as well. It's simply not fair to judge other moms or dads on this one - we all suffer guilt enough as it is.

Posted by: newmom | March 17, 2006 10:12 AM

I guess my general take on this whole issue is that it cannot be discussed in any meaningful way without considering all the other pressures/options/desires that inflict our lives. Unfortunately, we live in a world where "success" is too often measured by material goods, or by the size of our paychecks, or by the inflated job title we may have. We are fortunate enough to live in a society where "needs" are generally attainable for the vast majority of us, although there are certainly portions of our populace where this is not true. The only question most of us face, then, is what "wants" are we going to chase, and at what cost. As in the story a couple of days ago, some choose a lower-cost lifestyle to invest time and effort in staying home. Others choose a higher-cost lifestyle and must work more to attain it. Are either right or wrong? No, unless you are unhappy with your choices. In which case, you should re-evaluate what choices you have made and change your own life. Without trying to impose your own values on those who make different choices. I really dislike the judgmental tone of many of these posts - there is no black/white or right/wrong solution here, just grey areas in which we all struggle from time to time.

Just my humble opinion. Flame away.

Posted by: Stafford TINK | March 17, 2006 10:13 AM

Here is a question that no one seems to have raised:

If, like SAHM, you have "great skills", are "organized", and can "do PowerPoint", how much value is there in pouring your time and energy into making "perfect" and the "best" ... a Teacher Appreciation Lunch?

Sure, the teachers probably enjoyed the lunch, and the kids (assuming they attended) probably had a fun time too. What SAHM accomplished clearly had some value to some people, and SAHM deserved, and got, a nod for her efforts.

But would it not have been of equal, if not greater, value if SAHM had taken those same wonderful and terrific abilities of hers and applied them towards
- learning a foreign language so that she can set an example for her kids
- researching new food recipes based on the USDA food pyramid, to ensure proper nutrition for her family
- helping her school music teacher organize a student recital at a retirement home
- helping chaperone a school field trip to the zoo
etc.

My point is that SAHM's efforts with the lunch came with an opportunity cost - these other activities did not benefit (at least on this occasion) from SAHM's organizational prowess, and instead her teachers got a perfect lunch.

Not exactly a burning priority in my book.

Posted by: Fooling herself | March 17, 2006 10:14 AM

I have to ask 2 questions - does anyone have a sense of humor and why can't we all just get along???? I have to assume that "crazy" was a tongue in cheek term. Personally I am alternatively grateful and intimidated by super-creative Moms whether they are SAH or working.

I applaud the people who are using their skills in the school - and hope we can all figure out a way to work together.

Posted by: Working Mom of 3 | March 17, 2006 10:15 AM

I think what this anecdote illustrates is that this SAHM, as much as I am certain that she loves staying home and wouldn't trade it, still felt less than completely fulfilled in her life. She had skills, that she loves using, that were left neglected. Fortunately for her, she found an outlet for those skills in volunteering. This benefited her, and benefited all the rest of us, too. She deserved applause, both for her contribution to the greater good and for achieving a higher degree of personal fulfillment.

Just because a Mom (or Dad) stays home, that doesn't mean they have lost the desire (need?) to use all of the skills and talents they spent years honing in the workplace. You would have to be pretty insecure, I would think, to refer to such people as "crazy" or "out-of-control" for having exactly the same desire to use their professional skills and talents as you, but do so in a different setting.

Posted by: Brian | March 17, 2006 10:18 AM

"One thing I don't get is the recurrent theme among SAHM posters that working moms are just doing their work for vacations and fancy cars. Beyond the obvious fact that some women need to work to simply pay rent on a basic apartment, what ever happened to the idea of work being a place where you contribute to the world."

Holy cow. I had no idea that raising children in no way contributed to the world. Gee, thanks for opening my eyes! *smacks head*

I'm not trying to pick a fight here, because you have a point to an extent, but you didn't pick the best way to articulate it.

Being a doctor, lawyer, bus driver, economist - yes, all wonderful and noble jobs that "contribute to the world."
At the same time, if those doctors, lawyers, bus drivers, economists had never been born because their parents were too busy "contributing to the world," then there wouldn't be much of a world to contribute to, now would there?

Sheesh.

Posted by: DM | March 17, 2006 10:29 AM

Once again, Leslie posts something designed to irritate someone and then disappears. Again, my response is DON'T TAKE THE BAIT. Ignore the backhanded complements. Focus your energies on the things that are important. Stop sniping at one another and find a more constructive alternative. I'm sure there are blogs for parents that produce more solutions than this one. GIVE UP THIS BLOG.

Posted by: JUST STOP | March 17, 2006 10:31 AM

"akmitc" writes:
"The reality of today is that there is a sacrifice either way - either Mom works and there is extra money for trips, school programs, kids clothes, tutors, etc. (but we see less of Mom), or Mom stays at home and the kids wonder why all the other kids get to do/have X and they don't."

I had to chuckle when I read this. Welcome to the club, akmitc. If/when you have kids, you'll not only be a mother. You'll also be a provider. And you will have to find a way to strike a balance. Just as fathers have had to do since time immemorial.

(Maybe, that's why it seems to boondocksjunkie that the most sense was made by a man in this debate. They've been there, seen that, wore the t-shirt already.)

Posted by: Fooling herself | March 17, 2006 10:34 AM

I'm not sure I could be a woman, forever swimming in a sea of self-doubt and second guessing my own decisions every day.

Ladies, whatever your decision--stay at home, work part time, work full time, Dad stays home--you made that decision because a) it was necessary; or b) you believe it was the best decision for your family.

Embrace your decision. Believe in it, and live it. What other families have decided is irrelevant. What other women think about your decision is irrelevant. How "society" views your decision is irrelevant. You made the best choice for you and your family, based on the best information you had and with the highest of intentions. Once you really, truly, believe that, the rest is just details.

Posted by: Supportive Guy | March 17, 2006 10:43 AM

Back to you DL-
If you have a girl, make sure that you tell her not to get too excited about having a career. She must sacrifice just like you did. That will get her motivated to achieve.

Posted by: Anonymous | March 17, 2006 10:50 AM

DM,
Actually sammy made the point SEVERAL times that parenting does contributue to society. Her point was that often times, work outside the home, contributes to a greater number of people in society--for example, my sister the social worker who helps abused kids. She has her own 2 she takes care of at home, AND hundreds of others.

Posted by: CMH | March 17, 2006 10:51 AM

Brian writes:
"You would have to be pretty insecure, I would think, to refer to such people as "crazy" or "out-of-control" for having exactly the same desire to use their professional skills and talents as you, but do so in a different setting."

Uh, no. I'm not insecure about my skills or contributions, either at home or at work. But I do think SAHM is (or was).

If SAHM appeared out of control to the other moms, it is likely that SAHM was organizing a teacher lunch with the zeal of a missionary.

That's the crux of what leads to the negative impression: SAHM was making an all-out effort to attain perfection ... in a rather underwhelming goal.

Imagine what SAHM would describe her accomplishment if she ran for election to the school board or for the PTA:

"Organized a teacher appreciation luncheon. It was perfect. It really was."

The first part of that is laudable: goodness knows, school teachers need more appreciation. The latter part, though, just seems, somehow, I dunno ... pathetic?

Bottom line: With all her skills, SAHM is almost certainly capable of finding something a bit more valuable and deserving of her time, attention, and effort.

Posted by: Fooling herself | March 17, 2006 10:52 AM

It's so great to see Springfield Dad's comments and other moms that have focused on parenting as partners vs. assuming that it is "Mom's job" to do x, y, and/or z. Just because women have the biological parts for bearing children doesn't mean that it is their "job" to do x, y, and/or z.

Posted by: PartnerParenting | March 17, 2006 10:53 AM

I don't know about the rest of you, but the last time i looked our schools were totally dependent on the work of your "crazy moms". teacher appreciation lunches aside, our town's schools fund their elementary arts and music programs entirely with money raised by hard working volunteer parents. Ms. Steiner chose a particular example of volunteer contribution for her piece to be sure to belittle the hard work of real women and men who are sacrificing their time for all of us.
Too bad... the last thing this discussion needs is one more petty, defensive anecdote.

Posted by: jwk | March 17, 2006 10:53 AM

CMH - You're right. I'm just frustrated with the notion that taking care of one child, or even two or more, isn't ENOUGH of a contribution.

Like I said before, not trying to pick a fight. Just a little sad today, I think.

Posted by: DM | March 17, 2006 10:55 AM

To Fooling Herself: What is the problem with the SAHM taking a job and trying to do it the best way she knows how -- to try do it perfectly? Isn't any job worth doing well? Don't you strive to do your paying job well, maybe even to sometimes do it perfectly? Who are you to judge what another woman should do with her time? You very obviously have a chip on your shoulder toward SAHMs. (And maybe teachers.)

Posted by: MomNC | March 17, 2006 10:57 AM

Supportive Guy writes:
"Embrace your decision. Believe in it, and live it. What other families have decided is irrelevant. What other women think about your decision is irrelevant. How "society" views your decision is irrelevant. You made the best choice for you and your family, based on the best information you had and with the highest of intentions. Once you really, truly, believe that, the rest is just details."

Amen.

Supportive Guy: You da man!

Posted by: Fooling herself | March 17, 2006 10:59 AM

I haven't read through all of the posts (too busy - multitasking as I once did in my office), but I would like to remind folks that most schools depend on volunteer parents. If it is a public school, there simply are not the funds to provide quality education without parental volunteerism/teaching in addition to PTA funding. If it is a private school, there might not be sufficient staff.

It's important work, people, just not paid in dollars. And, it might ensure your kid gets into a good college.

a SAHM who works hard.

Posted by: Stacy Collins Johnson | March 17, 2006 11:01 AM

Fooling herself wrote:

"The first part of that is laudable: goodness knows, school teachers need more appreciation. The latter part, though, just seems, somehow, I dunno ... pathetic?

Bottom line: With all her skills, SAHM is almost certainly capable of finding something a bit more valuable and deserving of her time, attention, and effort."

So, it's both "laudable" AND not valuable and deserving of her effort? I don't get it. THIS time, she organized a teacher luncheon. Next month, she volunteers at the school library. After that, she leads a fundraising drive. What difference does it make?

She felt good about using her skills; she made the school a better place. Why do you feel the need to belittle that?

In my experience, those who feel the need to put others down are, by definition, insecure.

Posted by: Brian | March 17, 2006 11:05 AM

Thanks Stacy...we believe you..do you?

Posted by: Anonymous | March 17, 2006 11:06 AM

To Springfield Dad: Don't beat yourself up. It sounds like you're doing a great job! You're certainly more involved with your kids lives than a lot of fathers. And you help prepare dinner to boot! I think you are teaching your children, (particularly your son), a valuable lesson in that men CAN help out around the house and be a caretaker in turn. Your children and your wife are all very lucky to have you. :)

Posted by: You should be applauded too! | March 17, 2006 11:18 AM

How happy the politicians that control the money in this country and give us NO good daycare, NO healthcare for our kids and NO true family leave time must be that women are still putting most of their energies into fighting with each other. And for the record I am quite sure the SAHM would have appreciated respect more than applause.

Posted by: Kathleen | March 17, 2006 11:20 AM

To no name:

Yeah, I believe.

Posted by: Stacy | March 17, 2006 11:21 AM

MomNC writes:
"To Fooling Herself: What is the problem with the SAHM taking a job and trying to do it the best way she knows how -- to try do it perfectly? Isn't any job worth doing well? Don't you strive to do your paying job well, maybe even to sometimes do it perfectly? Who are you to judge what another woman should do with her time? You very obviously have a chip on your shoulder toward SAHMs. (And maybe teachers.)"

MomNC, I agree that one should strive for excellence, that doing a job well is its own reward, and I completely agree it is not my place to tell SAHM what she should, or should not, do with her time.

So if SAHM really wants to spend her time and energy into organizing the perfect teacher lunch, well, as Supportive Guy put it, it's irrelevant what anyone else thinks. And we can all agree that SAHM has the right to decide how she spends her time .

None of knows SAHM, and so none of us can know whether SAHM actually did, or did not, pay an opportunity cost when she focused so heavily on the teacher lunch. Maybe if SAHM had looked around a bit more, she could have organized other activities that might have mattered more in the long run. Who knows? Without more details, we'll never know.

But we can conclude that SAHM at least ran the risk of spending too much of her time and energy and skills to achieve perfection in a teacher lunch. And it's the existence of that risk, i.e. the opportunity cost of putting all your eggs into one basket, that is a legitimate topic of discussion in this blog.

MomNC, for the record I have zero issues with stay at home moms (or dads), and I appreciate very much all the teachers out there who educate our kids day in and day out.

Posted by: Fooling herself | March 17, 2006 11:24 AM

DM -- Think you missed the point of the comment. I don't think anyone is saying that SAHMs don't "contribute to the world." The problem is the flip side of that, the stereotype that says that WOHMs work only for materialistic reasons.

Big kudos here to Supportive Guy. To my mind, the question isn't what's best for the mom, or the dad, or the kids -- it's what's best for the FAMILY.

In my family, what's best is for both mom and dad to work, for reasons that are too numerous to mention here. Working is definitely a choice, and it is one we have made for a lot of intangible reasons, including some that have been mentioned here and others that have not. But finances are the least of it: neither my husband nor I needs to work to pay the bills, but we also do not choose to work merely because it affords us an extravagant lifestyle (please -- my husband drives a Hyundai).

On the other hand, I know a lot of other families where what's best is for mom or dad to stay home. I don't know all of the different factors they considered in making their choice, and frankly, it's none of my business. But like us, that they are doing what they believe is best for their family as a whole. And you know what? All of our kids are fine, happy, and well-adjusted.

We all love our families and want what's best for them. So when someone else makes a choice that's different from ours, why is it so hard to understand that they are doing what they believe is best for their family? Why do we have to spend so much time and energy questioning and criticizing someone else's choice, and justifying our own? Why is it so hard to just say, "this decision is right for me/my child/my family," and leave it at that? Why do we have to extend that to "and because it's right for us, our decision must be right for everyone else as well?" It reminds me of junior high, when people would put others down to feel better about themselves. We're all grownups now, and all rational, thinking, caring individuals. How could I even begin to think I know enough about someone else's life to criticize his or her choices? And I KNOW that no one else understands enough about my life to criticize mine. There just doesn't need to be a war here. Let's focus our energies on building up the things we all want -- like safe, healthy, well-educated kids with a strong moral foundation and good sense of community -- instead of tearing each other down.

Posted by: Laura | March 17, 2006 11:31 AM

Brian writes:
"So, it's both "laudable" AND not valuable and deserving of her effort? I don't get it.

No, no. You misunderstood. I'm saying it's not "both laudable and not valuable". It's "laudable and valuable, but not deserving of 100% of her effort" See the distinction?

(Yes, I agree that it is not my business to tell SAHM what do to or not to do. Please see my earlier reply to MomNC on this point.)

Brian writes:
"THIS time, she organized a teacher luncheon. Next month, she volunteers at the school library. After that, she leads a fundraising drive. What difference does it make?"

Well, if SAHM does those other things, then that's great, and who could object to any of that?

But does SAHM actually do any of these other things? We don't know. We don't have the data.

Let's hope she does do these other activities, in addition to the teacher lunch.

Let us also hope that the applause she received from the other moms in that meeting helped motivate her to continue being involved with her school and kids activities.

Posted by: Fooling herself | March 17, 2006 11:38 AM

Raising children to be productive, contributing adults is job one. Those who outsource it should applaud those who do it themselves. It's impressive. And righteous.

Posted by: Family First | March 17, 2006 11:41 AM

To Springfield Dad--

One question: What is the make and model of your and your wife's automobile?

Staying at home is possible, if you are willing to sacrifice for the good . . .

Posted by: McLean Dad | March 17, 2006 11:47 AM

Supportive Guy and Laura- Amen.

Family First- one word self-"righteous".

Posted by: Arl. | March 17, 2006 11:47 AM

To Fooling Herself: That is what my husband and I call a "I'm sorry, but . . ." apology. You say that SAHM has a right to spend her energies the way she wants, but you conclude that she may have paid an opportunity cost for spending her time to give the Kindergarten teachers a nice lunch. Again, I ask why do you care so much how any SAHM spends her time? Is it specifically that you would rather she be out in the world working for the almighty dollar?

Posted by: MomNC | March 17, 2006 11:50 AM

Let's assume that the SAHM in the story is perfectly happy to organize lunches using the skills she had acquired in her professional life. Good for her. She did not take offense at the "crazy" comment from the WOHM and she did not seem to be resentful of the working mother. I want more mothers like that in my son's school. They make his pre-school experience fun and meaningful by helping his teachers to do class projects, organize and shaperone field trips and just by being there. However, let's just assume the opposite, that this woman wants a balance in her life -- isn't what this blog is all about -- and she can't find it because in her professional field there is no flexibility to allow her to use her skills to do something while her kids are in school. Isn't this where the problem lies for mothers and fathers who want to be there for their children but also want/need/have to work for whatever reason? Rather than looking for solutions from the government and politicians to give us better daycares and mandate maternity/paternity leaves let's work on educating the private sector on the value of telecomming, working from home, and MEANINGFUL part time work.

Posted by: Anonymous | March 17, 2006 12:10 PM

Sorry, but I took the bait. I truly believe that raising children may be the most important thing I do in my life. But as a working mom, I also have to calculate the society cost of letting go of 15-20 years of training to do what I do everyday. I also have to calculate what it would be telling my two girls, that it is not important to excel at school, or strive toward a career. Yes, I could use that education to teach my children at home, but that will mean hundreds of patients who will not receive care and potentially a treatment for a deadly disease that will not be elucidated. SAHM's I admire what you do every day and the contributions you make. Please accord me the same respect for the decisions I have made and cut me a little slack, because I miss my girls all the time and worry about them, too.

Posted by: Sunniday | March 17, 2006 12:15 PM

Most of you need to re-read DL.

Bemused by Leslie's post I stumbled on yesterday, I thought I would check in today to see if she continued in that same pejorative vein.
Yep..
Bill O'Reilly and the "War on Christmas", anyone? The Mommy wars don't exist. You are all being sucked in to create one, and for what? Are you all personal friends of the author? Do you feel better after reading and/or contributing to all this?
I know a lot of women, of all stripes, am related to more females than most, and I haven't read a single post here that sounded like the voice of anyone I know , for which I am grateful.

Posted by: Free2Be | March 17, 2006 12:17 PM

I have to say, putting so much energy into the luncheon to make it "perfect" is a little over the top. Clearly this SAHM is missing using her office skills and is starving for a place to feel appreciated. I sort of feel sorry for her. I can believe that staying at home w/your child is often a "thankless" job and there is not a lot of feedback like you would get from the office. But maybe she should find a way to put one foot back in the office or something that will be fulfilling to her outside of staying home with her child or volunteering for child-related activities. You know--women who stay home with their children shouldn't feel bad if they feel bored sometimes or don't find the SAH experience as rosy and fulfilling as they had imagined.

Posted by: 21704mom | March 17, 2006 12:21 PM

I have my foot in "both worlds" - I work part time in an office environment where there are at least 10 mothers that have their kids in daycare and have all the "stuff." I also have many friends in my neighborhood and through my daughter's elementary school that stay at home full-time. Some SAHM's have it all - some sacrfice.

There are mothers in both groups that I can't stand (for various reasons) and there are mothers in both groups that make parenting look easy and are raising great kids. It is a crapshoot - everyone has to find what works for their families and be honest when their situation is not working.

I am truly blessed. When my husband and I are at work either grandma (both sets of grandparents live in the area) watches the kids - so they have never been in daycare. I have no guilt about spending time at the office and I get to do all the volunteering I want. This used to be common, but in this area we are an oddity - but lucky. I wish everyone had the family support I do.

Good Luck to everyone - working moms, dads and the stay at homes!

Posted by: cmac | March 17, 2006 12:29 PM

Besides being a platform for this book what are you trying to accomplish here???

The only reason there is even a mommy "war" is because of the sterotypes labels and categories you have concocted.

A few samples

"all men are like this"
"mercedes and suv big house"
"economy car with high milage"
"day care prison"

Some women work some women stay at home big deal there will always be good and bad mothers in both camps. Thankfully, most of the people who post here understand this.

Finally a question, what is the solution to the mommy war.... Oh wait there is none so you can write a sequel to your book.

Posted by: calling you out | March 17, 2006 12:40 PM

I feel a little bad for the "crazy mom" in this artical. She obviously gave up a lot (a job that she loved, and recognition that she needs), for her child.

I think it's heroic that she gave up her career for her child --- and to be able to organize these great events for her kid's class and teacher.

But on the otherhand - I wonder if she she feels any resentment? Sort of like Lynette on Desperate Housewives. She loves her kids - yes --- but at the same time, she loved her career and her job. Think about the amount of time and energy that we pour into our careers...going to college for it, getting paid less then nothing to be an intern in the field. Then to suddenly give it up - for a child.

Yes, it might (notice I said MIGHT) be for the "greater good" - as some children need a parent around full time...but another part of me wonders if some of the resentment that these SAHM (and SAHD) may be unintentionally leak out?

Not the same situation, but I had to take a sabatical from work to take care of my ailing mother. I love her, and she's my only family left, and at the time, I didn't think I resented giving up a promotion - to stay at home and be with her, when she needed me. However, after taking care of her for several weeks, I found myself being short with her and impatient over small things. Yes, it's different when it's with childen --- but at the same time - is it BETTER to have a parent stay at home - filled with resentment that they may be repressing --- then to have good daycare???

Posted by: actually | March 17, 2006 12:41 PM

Correction: I didn't mean to strictly say that I haven't read "a single post that sounded like someone I know" Of course, there are some familiar voices here. But for the most part, these women posters are more strident and compunctious than the women I know.

Posted by: Free2Be | March 17, 2006 12:45 PM

MomNC writes:

"To Fooling Herself: That is what my husband and I call a "I'm sorry, but . . ." apology."

Um, I wasn't apologizing, to you or anyone else. So your "I'm sorry, but" label simply does not apply to what I wrote above.

MomNC writes:
"Again, I ask why do you care so much how any SAHM spends her time? Is it specifically that you would rather she be out in the world working for the almighty dollar?"

Huh? I thought I already answered that. I'll try again.

I have no chip on my shoulder about whether moms (or dads) stay at home or how they spend their time. As others have written in this forum, moms and dads should ideally discuss this together and make a considered decision in the best interests of their family.

None of this has any bearing on what we were discussing...

Posted by: Fooling herself | March 17, 2006 12:55 PM

I agree with "actually." Look, what works for one family may not work for another. Just because a mom stays home w/her child does that guarantee the child will grow up to be a model citizen? Successful? No. My husband and I were both latchkey kids. Each with divorced parents. Our moms worked full-time. Yes, I wish she was around more--but I learned independence, how to take care of myself to a large degree and the importance of education and working to support myself in this world---all atributes I want to pass on to both my children. My husband and I turned out great--both successful executives. Just a thought: If all moms stayed home to care for their kids, where would we be, 1950? Get real! Why would we want to turn back the clock on the progress women have made in the workplace. It takes women with and without children to continue our successes. God bless the women who stay home w/their kids--really--one of them watches my infant--we need BOTH SAHMs and office moms to run the world.

Posted by: 21704mom | March 17, 2006 12:59 PM

I worked as a babysitter and in childcare for older kids for years, starting as a young teenager and going past college. I am *so* thankful for that experience. It taught me that this debate is so wrongly focused.

I cared for kids of SAHMs, WOHMs, and every variation in between: Children of single parents, children of stepparents, children of traditional families. What I learned is that working or not is incredibly far down on the list of things that matter to kids.

What makes a happy family and contended, well-raised kids? Confident parents. A strong marriage. Open affection. Pride in one's children. Tolerance of others. Respect. No alcoholism. No raging tempers. No screaming. No passive-aggressive sulking. No guilt-inducing martyrdom. No coldness. No distance. No fighting about money. No making a child feel guilty for existing.

Believe me, those traits or lack of them are shared across SAH and WOH families. I babysat for totally screwed up children of SAHMs and absolutely wonderful children of poor single working mothers. I also babysat for wonderful kids of SAHMs and screwed up kids of working parents.

It wasn't the working or SAH in those families that made the difference.

By the way, for those of you who like to openly criticize other parents for how they're raising their kids: One thing I observed over and over again is that families where genuine tolerance is taught (and practiced!) generally have happier teenagers and stronger family bonds. Those families where martyrdom and criticism of others were the rule of the day ended up with older kids who felt like they couldn't talk to their parents. If you teach your children that there is only one right way, that your way is the ONLY way, they will never come to you to talk if they feel like they've done something you might disapprove.

Posted by: Catherine | March 17, 2006 1:01 PM

"What makes a happy family and contended, well-raised kids? Confident parents. A strong marriage. Open affection. Pride in one's children. Tolerance of others. Respect. No alcoholism. No raging tempers. No screaming. No passive-aggressive sulking. No guilt-inducing martyrdom. No coldness. No distance. No fighting about money. No making a child feel guilty for existing."

Standing ovation for Catherine! Well said.

Posted by: mharvey816 | March 17, 2006 1:04 PM

cmac wrote:
"I am truly blessed. When my husband and I are at work either grandma (both sets of grandparents live in the area) watches the kids - so they have never been in daycare."

What is the stigma associated with day-care? You might as well say it in a wisper.
Would you rather be in a room with kids your own age playing, reading books and doing art projects or stuck in a car seat taking trips to the bank and the cleaners?

Posted by: Anonymous | March 17, 2006 1:19 PM

Just a reality check for the blog! Most American families cannot get by on one salary. For the majority of Americans (maybe not washington post readers) that is the honest truth -- college degrees or not.

Posted by: egirlsmom | March 17, 2006 1:32 PM

To Fooling Herself: You write "I have no chip on my shoulder about whether moms (or dads) stay at home or how they spend their time."

But before, you wrote: "But would it not have been of equal, if not greater, value if SAHM had taken those same wonderful and terrific abilities of hers and applied them towards
- learning a foreign language so that she can set an example for her kids
- researching new food recipes based on the USDA food pyramid, to ensure proper nutrition for her family
- helping her school music teacher organize a student recital at a retirement home
- helping chaperone a school field trip to the zoo
etc."

Your statements speak for themselves.

Posted by: Anonymous | March 17, 2006 1:33 PM

I couldn't even read through all of the posts, although I thought the one who advocated giving up this blog was on the right track, as well as the one who said basically, to each his/her own. I am a teacher. Every single teacher at my school is a woman. Most are mothers, trying to balance. Leslie is still trying to keep her job with this nonsense blog (but I am reading it, so maybe this is like a reality show--you hate them, but you watch anyway). It is all SMOKE. The most important concept I try to teach my students is not how to ace the MSA or the foil method, but respect. Some days they have it, other days they don't. From the looks of things, we humans are peaking in the 7th grade. And Catherine, you ROCK!!!!

Posted by: Oh Puke | March 17, 2006 1:42 PM

If I tol he guys at the office that I was "sacrificing" my professional career to take care of my family, they would all laugh at my little joke. You guessed it - I'm a man. If I actually did quit my job, my wife, who is a part-time nurse, would probably divorce me. A stay at home Mother should consider herself priveledged, not a sacrificial hero.

Posted by: Father of 4 | March 17, 2006 1:57 PM

Wasn't the feminist movement about giving women choices? About having the freedom to make decisions on their own? If a woman *chooses* to stay home because she wants to, is happy doing it, and is fulfilled in a different but no less important way than her formal career fulfilled her, then who's business is it anyway? Certainly not anyone else besides her and her partner if she has one. For everyone jumping all over DL, maybe if she had written "it's the job of PARENTS to sacrifice for their children" instead of making a statement specifically about women, you would all be less spiteful, but the message is the same. Having children means giving things up, but it doesn't have to mean just women giving things up. Echoing Catherine's post (I also worked in daycare for 3 years and agree with her 100%)the happiest children come from families where those sacrifices are shared between both parents.

Posted by: 88 | March 17, 2006 1:59 PM

Leslie is a flame thrower. To the extent that "Mommy Wars" didn't exist, she is creating them. She is the girl in class who told Suzie that Jeannie was mad at her and told Jeannie that Suzie thought she was a jerk. Then Leslie would stand back and be entertained by the fight. THIS BLOG IS DEMEANING TO WOMEN AND MEN, TO WORKING MOMS AND STAY AT HOME MOMS. If it raises your blood pressure, HIT THE RED X AT THE UPPER RIGHT OF THE PAGE AND SHUT IT OFF. THIS IS BELOW THE POST'S (DECLINING) STANDARDS.

Posted by: Anti-Leslie | March 17, 2006 2:02 PM

Wow, Father of 4, you just illustrated my point perfectly. It sounds like you're doing a super job of sacrificing for your children, and not putting that entire burden on your wife at all, demonstrated by the monstrously arrogant attitude evident in your closing statement.

Posted by: 88 | March 17, 2006 2:03 PM

I can't believe that anyone who isn't having emotional problems unrelated to her parenting choices believes there are "mommy wars". I work because I need to pay off student loans and to pay for the things my children need (like health care and excellent educations, we're not talking ipods and designer clothes here.) I am lucky to have the skills to make decent money, and I am thrilled for my friends who can get by on their husbands' salaries alone (and would join them in a heartbeat if I suddenly received an unexpected inheritance). If there's anyone at war with moms, it's a society that thinks that women with few skills and little education are either welfare queens or else deserve nothing better than lousy jobs with often abusive employers.

Posted by: Lawyer mom | March 17, 2006 2:06 PM

Don't know who the anonymous poster was that got all bent that I MENTIONED that my kids never had to be in daycare - but why get offended?

For one thing - daycare costs $$. I have family and do not have to pay them anything (except my appreciation).

Also, my husband and I decided we did not want to go the daycare route - that is what was best for us. I am not making any judgements, but apparently anonymous is.

Posted by: cmac | March 17, 2006 2:10 PM

While I am grateful for the volunteer time many SAHMs have contributed to my children's school, being a SAHM is not a prerequisite to volunteering. Most of the volunteers at my children's schools are working parents, in fact. In my experience, this is because the SAHMs have no one to leave their younger children with while they volunteer. So forgive me if I don't kiss the ground SAHMs walk on because they've somehow "saved" my children's education. What a crock.

Posted by: Jayne | March 17, 2006 2:13 PM

With few exceptions on this blog, I cannot believe how judgemental and self rightous you are being toward one another (lets hope that isn't a trait you are teaching to your children). The decision to stay at home or work is a very personal decision for a family to make for many of the reasons already mentioned. Who do you think you are to judge one another for this choice?

My spouse made the decision she was going to stay at home after our second child was born. Actually after consideration of the childcare costs, it is just about cheaper for her to do this. Although from time to time she mentions to me how she misses the professional world (usually after someone makes an ignorant comment or pays her a backhanded compliment), she has always said she has been content and happy with her decision. I believe our children are better off for it.

That said, we were fortunate that this was a choice we could make. Others are not so lucky or simply recognize that being a SAHM/SAHD isn't for them. Who are we to criticize them? They are doing the best they can to provide for their family, and I respect them for it.

Perhaps instead of eating one another alive, you could take a moment to recognize that there isn't a one size fits all solution.

Posted by: Astonished | March 17, 2006 2:18 PM

Funny blog! My mom was a SAHM. She is a great mom and always encouraged me, regardless of the choices I made in life, to work. To do something for myself, for my benefit and intellectual stimulation. Why does this have to be an either/or?

On another note when women ask me if I have children and I tell them no, the silence is deafening. Crickets chirping . . . like I am less of a person or something.

Posted by: Not a Mom | March 17, 2006 2:19 PM

Wow, I think some people here are taking Leslie's story waaaay too seriously. It reminded me of how I felt as a mother of young children and a scientist, listening to some of the full-time-mothering wives of some of my male colleagues. Some of these women made a real science out of infant care - keeping detailed logs of everything they ate and what the baby did, what the weight was every day, etc; and sharing their theories of what foods they ate and what effect they had on the baby (who was nursing). I didn't have any true peers (working moms like myself) at the time or I may have privately joked with them about these women and their activities. But I wouldn't have been making fun of them really, nor did they make me feel inadequate. I just felt that these college-educated women were applying their abundant skills maybe a little over-zealously to the mothering task and making more of it than was perhaps necessary. But hey if they wanted to, that was their choice... just that it seemed some of them worried more about little details than maybe was good for them but everyone worries about their baby and wants the best. We just go about doing it different ways...

And if we can't have a sense of humor about things... that's just sad.

Posted by: cr | March 17, 2006 2:22 PM

Aren't the real issues here flexible work arrangements, affordable daycare, and the right to make family and career choices without worrying about what others think?

No one can cite any "credible" studies that prove whether children of SAHM or working mothers are better off. There are so many factors involved in the development of a child and it's impossible to isolate the working status of the mother as a single factor.

So, if you are a SAHM or a WM, don't try to justify your choices by trying to prove that your children are better off. Children benefit from parents who are happy and content with their lives. Not bitter and resentful.

Posted by: LC | March 17, 2006 2:35 PM

I have to laugh when I read all the "a happy (read: working outside the home) mom is better than an unhappy (meaning: stuck at home with the kids) mom. I laugh because I see so many of my female co-workers who are mothers of young children and who basically seem to hate their jobs and only stay because at this workplace they are allowed to "work at home" without proving they are actually doing any work and can leave the office almost any time their child sneezes. Yes, it annoys me, and no, I don't see a lot of women who are intellectually fulfilled and stimulated in the workplace. I'm talking about coworkers, friends, and relatives all across the U.S. Many women work because they want to, yet it seems to me that a far greater number work because they MUST.

I wish women and men would think more clearly and deeply about what it means to have a child and be a parent in our society. Families who have more than one child without thinking seriously about the economic consequences are just being stupid. Whether one parent stays home or not, the big question should be "Can we afford to have a child?"

Posted by: atarrill | March 17, 2006 2:42 PM

atarrill,
I hope that you don't work or have a child. Please stay isolated in your little world.

Posted by: Anonymous | March 17, 2006 2:52 PM

Thank you for all your comments. As someone hoping to have my first child soon who stresses out more and more about whether to work or not, it is enormously helpful to read these thoughts. Of course, I still have no idea what I will do - but it is nice to know I am not alone in being freaked out about it!

Posted by: Not a MomYet | March 17, 2006 3:04 PM

You know, in the end I don't think it makes one scintilla of difference which parent - Mom OR Dad - stays home to raise the kid(s) - as long as one of them DOES, until said kid(s) are old enough to go off to school.

Schools & Teachers are constantly castigated for children's perceived failures - social, emotional, academic.

Well HERE's a newsflash: Parents - of both genders - have largely abdicated their reponsibilities as parents - and the schools have become the scapegoat.

If you're not going to be a parent to your children - don't have 'em - it's not society's responsibility to raise them.

If you can't afford them - don't have them...the taxpayers shouldn't be held fiscally responsible because irresponsible parties of BOTH genders can't control their urges.

Life is about making choices. There are a finite number of hours in a day. One can choose to try & "have it all" & end up doing it all in half-ass fashion. Or one can develop priorities & choose to do a few thing really well.

The initial example provided for this column demonstrates how seriously off course this society has gone...being derided for being an involved & dedicated parent...?

I wonder if the condescenion exhibited by these employed women is due to: A) guilt at having abdicated their parental duties or B) simple narcissism?

Posted by: Registered Voter | March 17, 2006 3:08 PM

This is the most idiotic blog I have ever seen. Leslie is nothing but a whiner. Frankly, I am sick of listening to women whine over their kids, balancing work and home, etc. Maybe Leslie should have thought of all these things before having the kids to begin with. Maybe she should have discussed the workloads with her husband before having the kids instead of trashing him now. I suspect that Leslie is selfish, she wanted to have kids and didn't evaluate the consequences. And now she complains about her husband, complains about juggling work, complains about stay at home moms. What a loser. I have no sympathy.

I manage a department of 8 people. The biggest problem that I have is my working mom's. Not a day goes by without someone's kid disrupting my department's work: they are sick, they have cheerleading or baseball practice, they have some school function to attend, the list goes on and on. I have accommodated everyone with flexible hours, time off, work from home, anything I can do to make life easier for the working mom. Which also means I get stuck picking up everyone's slack, I get stuck working late, I get stuck having to do the job of others while they are out attending to their kids.

I grew up in the late 60's- early '70's, the very beginning of "Women's Lib." It incensed me that men did not want to hire women because they were afraid they would get pregnant and quit or would not be able to juggle home and work. Now, I understand how all those men felt. My working moms are the least dependable employees I have. I have an opening now that I plan to fill with a single or gay guy that is willing to work a 37.5 hour week without all the kiddie baggage.

Posted by: Teresa | March 17, 2006 3:16 PM

Teresa -- Poor you. So now, instead of trying to work with what you've got, you're going to resort to the methods the men in the 60's and 70's used to discriminate against pregnant women or women who were likely to be so. Hats off to you. You should be so proud of yourself.

I managed a department of 14 people and flexible schedules and juggling kids are the REALITY. Get used to it, it's not going anywhere.

Posted by: Incensed | March 17, 2006 3:20 PM

We need much more flexible work arrangements. Well educated women can make a very large impact on the economy AND can raise intelligent and well adjusted kids that can make a large impact on the economy when we need income from our retirement investments.
Women with kids should be encouraged, financially and via benefits, to keep working on a part time basis, if they so choose, so as not to rust professionally. There should be fulltime jobs that can be husband and wife teams, or other teams for that matter.

Posted by: cymbiola | March 17, 2006 3:26 PM

Wow Theresa, your comment shows why this discussion is needed. First, why is it just the moms that have all these issues. Don't the men in your department have kids? Why do the moms get stuck doing this stuff--and penalized at work for it--and not the dads? Second, you must be a heck of a manager if you are willing to write off 50% of the talent out there because you don't want to (gasp) manage. Top companies and managers excel at getting the best out of all of their employees. Stereotyping and discriminating against groups of people are not how great managers manage.

Posted by: Who'sthe whiner? | March 17, 2006 3:29 PM

PS Single people can get pregnant. Gay men can adopt. And everyone has a personal life! Companies need to deal with the fact that they employ human beings with families and outside lives and learn to help their employees make it work. Pretending that everyone has a stay-at-home spouse who can run the house so a worker can devote 24/7 to the job...that model is long gone, and will never be back.

Posted by: Who'sthe whiner? | March 17, 2006 3:33 PM

I agree w/ posters who have pointed to societal solutions. We don't leave it to individual parents to decide how to educate their children. We tax ourselves and pay for schools. We could do the same for much younger kids. Many countries in the world provide high-quality childcare for children, and the children are fine. It is not bad for kids to play with other kids and be taken care of by well-trained, caring people in group settings. As a society, we have been unwilling to pay for such childcare and, as a result, parents are left to struggle w/ these choices and, it seems, feel inadequate no matter what they do.

Posted by: SJG | March 17, 2006 3:33 PM

This is a fun debate for me because I get to work outside the home and be a "crazy mom" volunteer. I work full-time and am also a Girl Scout leader and the Treasurer of the PTA. I can do it because my husband only works part-time - so he's home every day to drive the kids around and start dinner. Anyway, I think it's terrific that there is a choice to make - I don't think women in the US have ever had this much freedom to choose.

Most women just want the opportunity to make a difference - wherever they can.

Posted by: LG | March 17, 2006 3:37 PM

from earlier there are good and bad working moms and there are good and bad stay at home moms

a post further down caught my eye and I would like to hear some more discussion on it. Why should a working mom be treated differently than any other employee in a company. If a working mom needs some more flex time all employees should get flex time. If a working mom needs to take some additional time off let all employees take additional time off or dock the pay a bit to make up for the time.

On the other hand there is maternity leave maybe there needs to be some mommy/daddy leave as well. This still doesn't solve the problem of being equitable with single people or people without kids.

I think it comes down to a choice. If you can't put work first then you can't expect to rise in the corporate ladder as fast as someone who can dedicate more time to a company. Not saying either way is better it's just a fact.

Posted by: calling you out | March 17, 2006 3:45 PM

Do you think if Leslie was not a Wash Post exec she would get such prominent placement at the top of the washingtonpost.com web page from which to lob her grenades.

I can't believe that she gets to start arguments among people who would otherwise get along and then never re-enters the fray to try and provide reconciliation.

Leslie is a coward who is profiting off of the anxiety of mothers; anxiety that she only makes worse.

Look, most parents in the U.S. are working their hides off to do what they think it is best for their families, whether it is working in the office full time or part-time, or in the home. Most of us only have so many choices. Don't let the insecure elitist named Leslie get you down, get you mad, or get you shouting at each other. There is so many better places in life to direct your energies. Leslie is the "crazy" one.

What up Leslie? Do you have the courage to do something constructive or are you just going to set people against one another with your randomly-dropped word bombs as you gallavant around the country promoting your book?

How about a story about people who aren't fighting? About a WM and SAHM that helped each other out? About a husband and wive who supported each other?

Are all Washington Post executives like this?

Posted by: Come on | March 17, 2006 3:53 PM

I think this is ridiculous. Volunteers are wonderful - stay at home Moms fabulous - working Mothers Gold Bless them.
HOWEVER, a fine line is crossed regarding the "Volunteer Mom" who happens to stay at home and feels that by controlling, chairing, organizing, always cooking for the party, hosting the party, and carpooling before the party that she is contributing. Yes she is contributing but to whose agenda. I really believe the agenda is not school, not the team, not even the children. The agenda is to create a small web of control in her day to day. A sense of importance for whatever reason,
This is not a volunteer but a control freak and sometimes it needs to be recognized and called out.

Posted by: blonde19 | March 17, 2006 4:08 PM

For me its simple. I dont want to miss a day of her young life. I have so much fun with her and i love staying home. Iv worked ever since i was in college. For 20 years sometimes two and three jobs at a time. I really stuggled with this. But for me it was the best thing I have ever done. Im lucky. I had a great job that now lets me work part time. I get a little of both worlds. I love coming into the office but i also miss being at home. For me its the best thing. And i think thats the point. Its as personal as what foods you like or what your favorite color is. Dont look down on others becasue they choose to be diffrent than you.

Posted by: TK | March 17, 2006 4:24 PM

Volunteer moms in this case refers not to moms who throw a teacher appreciation party, but to moms who throw a three course meal perfectly presented with centerpieces; elaborate room decorations; hyper-organization; scheduled setup teams, replenishment teams, cleanup teams, and gift presentation teams. Volunteer moms in this case are completely over the top. You don't just get a Spring Fair on the playground; you get Ringling Brothers with a high thread count invitation. These are not signs of a healthy person. And believe it not, I'm not saying that staying at home or not staying at home is better. But what I've seen as a teacher and as a school head sure isn't healthy.

Posted by: Missing the Point | March 17, 2006 4:28 PM

calling you out: I understand what you are saying about working moms getting special treatment. I work part time - was full-time till after I had my first. One of the reasons I did was because I knew I could not give 100% to my job with a baby - and then we had a second - and I never went back full-time. If I did go back full-time I would expect to have to work my way back up the chain. Some woman can do it - they work full time and keep it all under control - but I can not.

There is a situation in my office that has led to complaints and resentment due to a new mother and her job and it is the fault of our employer for allowing it to happen. There can be only so much flexibility.

Posted by: cmac | March 17, 2006 4:34 PM

Dear Missing the Point
Hallelujah Sister
You are preaching to the choir!!
All this back and forth about your children, life choices, and quilt quilt quilt! It will never change - you get pulled either way.

Were you at my child’s spring fair last year, it was the RBB&B circus! The sad thing is the person who chaired this probably did not enjoy the "fruits of her labor" and guess what nobody else noticed, they just took there elementary child to his/her Spring Fair and went home.

I think what this all gets back to be enjoying ones life and the choices one makes. That said- A Spring Fair is a Spring Fair is a Spring Fair!!!

Posted by: blonde 19 | March 17, 2006 4:42 PM

Let's not be so quick to judge WHY a parent is volunteering at a child's school, is at home, etc. There may be personal reasons that you have no knowledge about, and frankly, may be none of your business.

For all I know, some of you may snark an titter about me, at home with two teenagers and volunteering at their schools. What you don't know, and couldn't tell by looking at me, is that I've been battling cancer for the past four years. I am no good to myself, my kids, my husband, or my job while trying to work and handle daily treatment.

Working with my children's schools is part of the way I have chosen to create a legacy for my kids, to emphasize the value my husband and I place on our children's educations, and to demonstrate how to make positive changes in the system.

It was OUR decision for me to stay home in the hopes that my active, involved presence will help to support them as we continue on this cancer journey. My kids know I miss my professional life, and I am fortunate that they are old enough to remember me having that role. However, I see that they worried less about my health and energy once I was home, which enabled them to continue with their activities and schoolwork without a lot of disruption.

I say "our" decision deliberately. In my experience, major decisions in a partnership like whether or not to work shouldn't be made unilaterally. Kind of defeats the concept of partnership, to me at least. That's not to say one shouldn't take a stand and defend it vigorously!

And yes, I've stayed home full-time, worked full-time and part-time, all since my kids were born.

One thing I've learned on this cancer journey is that an outsider can never know the intimate, intricate calculus that goes into the decisions and priorities we make. I think the same lesson applies to parenting.

Off my soapbox now...the sniping and judgmental attitudes on both sides here was really getting to me.

Posted by: School volunteer | March 17, 2006 4:44 PM

Boy are there a lot of jugemental people out there. I don't like to generalize about any one or group of people, but from this blog there are plenty of other people to fill in. I have been a professional reporter/defense correspondent, a PR professional, a "stay-at-home mother," and now as a part-time communications consultant. The point of women's "lib" was to give us the freedom that everyone here is arguing about - to have a choice. We can stay at home, work outside the home, volunteer or try to do "it all." I have tried every variation on this theme. I have been happy with some of my choices and not as happy with others but the point is that I had the choice and I made it based on what I wanted - not what society or anyone else thought. I do what I think is best for me and my family. My work does not suffer because I put my family first, but certainly my family would suffer if I put my work first all the time. Life is in the balance and no one promised me that it would be a smooth ride. (Frankly, that would be boring anyway.) I have friends who work and have kids, work and don't have kids, some who stay at home (some make financial sacrifices and others who aren't lacking for anything without the other income, single parents (who obviously need to work. Where you stand often depends on where you sit (to use another cliche). And since I've stood in a number of positions, as I'm sure many of these readers have, my opinions have often changed. When I didn't have kids, women who had kids seemed a little annoying. Now that I have kids I can relate a little better. I try not to "always" talk about my kids. I talk about my dog too... my job, the weather. If women could just find more things in common with one another instead of finding only the differences we would really be liberated.

Posted by: Anonymous | March 17, 2006 4:58 PM

I'm a working mom and I'm with DL. She never said that being a SAHM is better than a working mom. Read the post folks. She said people should do what works best for their particular situation, but always keep the best interests of the kid in mind. If both parents have to work to keep a roof over their heads and food on the table, then of course it is in the kids' best interests for the parents to work. But get your priorities straight. If you are working to keep the Mercedes and McMansion and fancy vacations but your kid is in daycare 12 hours a day, your priorities are off. If you're working because staying at home would drive you nuts and you would hate life, there's a way to do that without abandoning your kids to constant daycare. All DL said is that when you have kids, it is your responsibility to consider their needs and make them a priority. If you can't do that, then you don't deserve to have children.

Posted by: DL | March 17, 2006 4:58 PM

While I agree that "a working mom (shouldn't) be treated differently than any other employee in a company. If a working mom needs some more flex time all employees should get flex time. If a working mom needs to take some additional time off let all employees take additional time off or dock the pay a bit to make up for the time..."
It never works out that way. I have no children so obviously, I can stay late, take over work for others, etc. Not a problem if there is reciprocation but too many women feel that this is allowed because they have to leave their kids.

Posted by: Not A Mom, Just an Aunt | March 17, 2006 5:05 PM

Not a Mom - Just an Aunt
You are why so many working parents must swim up stream. You do not have children and so to make that comment is limiting.
Working Mothers and Fathers need that extra consideration at all times. Because you have no children - you do not have daycare issues, doctor visits, school attendance issues etc. I am not stating that Parents should be given extra compensation - But yes they should no matter what. Most people at work would never give there child as an excuse to slack off or duck out early or take vacation time! Since you lucky enough to be an Aunt why don’t you call up your sister/brother and glean information, insight and some sense of balanced perception about what it is like to be a parent. I am guessing you are someone’s Manager and that makes your comments all the worse.

Posted by: blonde19 | March 17, 2006 5:14 PM

Blonde19

Iam no one's manager...just someone who is always willing to assist others as needed but who received ABSOLUTELY NO SUPPORT from the working mothers who I often support during a recent very serious illness. I was told that I should take the work home with me. They said that I would be sitting or lying down in bed anyway, I could finish the work there.

Posted by: Just an Aunt | March 17, 2006 5:26 PM

just an aunt

Now imagine your situation - triple with children in the picture - daycare - dinner-after school activities- homework - children who are sick or gravely ill - babysitters - on and on -

Posted by: blonde19 | March 17, 2006 5:33 PM

Blonde19

Aunt has the right to expect that someone she has supported in the past should support her as needed, if possible. It has nothing to do with whether or not you chose to have children, it is common decency....which unfortunately, is not that common.

Posted by: Sarah | March 17, 2006 5:38 PM

Oh, lord. What a pathetic story. All that work and effort for a "teacher appreciation lunch". Someone needs a life.

Many of you say that women should do what they want. Well, stay at home mothers don't do what they want. They do what their husband can afford, and they are entirely dependent on his willingness to fund her life--and the only thing she gives in return is a reduction in the cost of daycare.

As for those volunteers being the foundation of schools, think again. It's nice to think you all produce value, but we'd all do without you nicely.

Parents who leave the workplace put their children's financial wellbeing at risk. Beyond that narrow point, kids do fine with educated parents, barring extreme abuse. There's not a major difference either way, and lord knows researchers have spent 30 years desperately trying to find something.

So if you're staying at home, don't pretend you're doing it for the kids. You do it for yourself. Given a choice between working and not working, you chose to live on someone else's dime.

Posted by: Cal | March 17, 2006 5:45 PM

Hmm. I was hopeful about this blog, but boy, the postings (and comments) are not very nuanced, not really helping the situation. If it continues like this, I certainly will discontinue reading it.

Posted by: BoulderMom | March 17, 2006 5:55 PM

Cal
Tell us how you really Feel!!1
You are simply wrong and angry about something perhaps you are a stay at home Mom under these circumstances or you are the husband who is living w/someone who would like to be dependent on "your dime".
I have a friend who is a stay at home Mom, works w/her husband, helps to raise there kids, and is not being a selfish person on the planet without her contribution to her husbands business I doubt if a business would exist today.

Posted by: blonde19 | March 17, 2006 5:58 PM

"You are simply wrong and angry about something perhaps you are a stay at home Mom under these circumstances or you are the husband who is living w/someone who would like to be dependent on "your dime".

Cal can say what Cal feels...YOU believe the opinion is wrong, there are people who think you are wrong. It doesn't matter what others think about your actions and opinions. What matters is that the child has a safe and healthy place to live and grow

Posted by: Maureen | March 17, 2006 6:05 PM

I totally agree with "Just an Aunt" and others who say it's unfair that mothers (or fathers) get to run out of the office every time their child has a cough or a school function when childfree adults are expected to "pick up the slack" and aren't given (or are grudged) time off for sick parents, spouses, or pets.

It's not a problem department managers can easily fix without causing more resentment. Company policies are company policies and they aren't especially worker- or family-friendly these days. A few companies have good policies, most don't. I have seen women promoted to management positions who then use their position to duck out early most days or take extra time to be home with their kids. Who to complain to so that I won't end up being punished?

Unfortunately, many women today are making the "mommy track" a reality by their behavior. The minute they have children they expect the workplace to bend to their schedules and they are upset if they think they don't get plum assignments or big promotions because they have kids. We DO need to battle for more flexible and worker-friendly workplaces and other quality-of-life issues, and so it's a bad thing that we are still battling each other instead of the executives who are in control.

Posted by: Another Aunt | March 17, 2006 6:48 PM

I don't know how it is in your neck of the woods, but in our expensive city, a school - public or private - does not succeed, and neither do the children, without volunteerism. Period.

Posted by: Stacy | March 17, 2006 7:02 PM

I had my children when I was young. Now, as I approach my 'golden' (50th) birthday, my daughter is in the 6th month of her first pregnancy. I was caught in this dilemma with my children, and I know that it is continuing with the next generation. Sorry that my generation didn't find the answer. But we certainly raised the question.

To quote: "Working mom: 'Have any of your contributors written about those out-of-control stay-at-home moms who put all their energy into volunteering at our kids' schools?'"

As I read the article, I wondered if Working Mom realized that some of "those out-of-control stay-at-home moms" were in the audience as well. Would she have phrased her question that way knowing that it was going to offend? And why is that her way of referring to stay at home moms? What was she expecting the answer to her question to be? What was her point?

I ask this because I notice it when 'othering' is being used in conversation. The question grouped all stay at home moms into one group, with one set of behaviors. They become 'the others', not like us. Just as we hear the term 'soccer mom' in wide use. Those terms carry a stereotype message. Those terms limit our ability to see the human beings in the situation.

We are subjected to increasing levels of this kind of talk -- this stereotyping. I think that when we talk about others as stereotypes, we begin to think of them as less than human.

Nana

Posted by: Nana | March 17, 2006 9:55 PM

When my sons were young I was a SAHM and often also volunteered at their schools. But even as a SAHM myself, I was bemused by the crazier moms, who made the volunteering all about them. I learned to volunteer only for non-committee-type jobs after observing the control-freaks in action and listening to their catty remarks about other moms, kids, even teachers! This served me well when I returned to full-time work, still volunteered, but found myself not taken seriously by the super-moms because I was not a FULL-TIME volunteer like they were. There are "cliques" of these self-important women at every school. I hope they actually do some good for the schools!

Posted by: Bernadette | March 17, 2006 11:44 PM

Believe what you want, but DL is right about one thing:

"Why does the endless debate over whether moms should stay at home or be employed always seem to take a slant towards what works best for the moms? Isn't it about what works best for the kids? Yes, it is, or rather it should be."

I'm waiting to hear what the kids have to say about parents who are too self-absorbed to see that their children are lacking the proper care. And if you deny that there is anything wrong, perhaps you aren't paying close enough attention.

Just ask Sandy Hingston.

Posted by: Truth | March 18, 2006 12:07 AM

It seems that there are people who are very investing in one solution -- either working or staying at home -- to be the right solution for everyone.

My mom was a SAHM in the 60s & 70s. She and my dad fought about money constantly until she went back to work after I was in college. Then she had some money of her own and the fighting was reduced dramatically. I think that my parents' fighting was very difficult for my siblings & myself & it has affected our lives today.

The decision about how children are cared for is one that must be made in the context of the particular family. Each family has its own story, and often it is hard for any outsider to know the true story behind the family's situation. One thing this blog shows is that you don't know if your co-worker has chosen not to have children or is distraught that she is unable to have childre. You don't know if your neighbor is a stay at home mom for choice or is battling cancer.

People should be much less judgmental.

Reciprocity is an important value. So is respect. Having now a mommy track job, I know that one problem that SAHMs & mommy track moms have is a fundamental lack of respect. The conversation stops at a party when you admit you have a mommy strack job or stay home because of the tremendous lack of respect. So some SAHMs do elaborate luncheons, or do other tasks so that they build a resume so they have something to talk about. We Americans are just too much focused on valuing people for their careers rather than for other aspects of their lives.

We just all need to be more tolerant of each other and more supportive and much less judgmental.

Posted by: ES | March 18, 2006 12:38 AM

ThereAre2Parents, shall I rephrase DL for you?

It is both parents' duty to sacrifice for their children.

Don't like it, don't have kids. And if sacrifices are 'regressive', you really shouldn't have any.

Posted by: Wow | March 18, 2006 1:21 AM

A better name for this blog:

"Un-Balanced"

Posted by: new name | March 18, 2006 2:41 AM

FYI, several comments critical of LMS have been deleted. She _is_ a coward.

Posted by: commentsdeleted | March 18, 2006 2:48 AM

Posting for 3rd time:

Do all women eavesdrop on their friend's phone call in order to excoriate their friend's husband in their newspaper blog?

Posted by: anearliercommentasked | March 18, 2006 2:50 AM

I'm still thinking about the article from last night. This issue really has a lot of meaning to me. I read the posts and I see it has a lot of meaning for the many women here.

The question I had was about the following quote: "Stay-at-home mom, interrupting: 'I am one of those crazy stay-at-home mom volunteers.'"

This stay-at-home mom took the label 'crazy' for herself.

I realize I am now far from the first-hand expereience; my kids are in their 20's and 30's.

I am not naive, but if someone could please explain here: Why are women willing to call themselves by labels that, to me, seem hostile and demeaning?

Again, not to be naive, but is this all there is left for women? To attack each other with put-downs and diminishment of self-esteem?

Nana

Posted by: Nana | March 18, 2006 11:49 AM

Again, I am deepy disturbed by the posts you are writing in this blog. Why are you relying on and indeed furthering stereotypical notions and agendas? Why are you doing such a poor job with the platform that you have? In the story you tell here, instead of asking "Why are you like that?" of the "crazy" mom, why didn't you ask "Why are we using the term "crazy" to describe this woman?" It is difficult enough for women (whether it be SAHM or working moms or part-time or whatever) to create a sense of self-respect without the feelings of guilt that she is not doing enough or all. And now, you are simply playing into the "mess" (as Judith Warner so aptly described the current state of motherhood in this country) rather than helping women figure out how to really create balance. What a sad waste of the platform you have to do some good. I am not buying your book (nor are several other women I know who were going to get it, but now have decided otherwise - simply because of this blog!). If the comments from the readership here haven't made it perfectly clear to you already, let me try again: this blog is irresponsible. You are NOT helping. Try and do better.

Posted by: amomandlawyer | March 18, 2006 9:09 PM

We all need to stop looking at this off balance blog. If we stop posting maybe it will go away, as Leslie should. Leslie, you should be ASHAMED.

Posted by: Enough | March 19, 2006 9:57 AM

For those seeking a more thoughtful treatment of the same topic there's a great article in today's NY Times. Here's the link:

http://www.nytimes.com/2006/03/19/business/yourmoney/19law.html?pagewanted=5&incamp=article_popular

It addresses in detail some of the specific reasons why women leave powerful, challenging careers for stay-at-home-motherhood. It also gives an example of an accounting firm (Deloitte & Touche) that's working hard to retain its valuable women employees.

Posted by: Friend | March 19, 2006 10:28 AM

I think 80% of the people here can agree on one thing without mass debate:

This blog has done little of the purpose it seems to have been intended for.

Juggling work and family? Thus far, Leslie has not posted about her own more than perhaps two times! She has been, instead, posting critically (or bemusedly) about other families and parents! I suppose she knows this will spark debate and conversation, but she's causing unnecessary (in my humble opinion) strife between strangers on one forum on the Internet.

Her essay, in Mommy Wars (yes, I managed to read most of it), was one of the most mature. She seemed intent on being unbiased, on recognizing the differences as generally insignificant. But then she turns around and on this blog posts as though she is being told what to say. Posts whatever pops into her brain. There is something seriously wrong with the content and the lack of response to our comments.

Leslie, here is the debate you seek so avidly! You have caused it, now clean it up.

Posted by: Stunned | March 19, 2006 11:07 PM

I've read with interest some (though not all - -I have no time) of the blog postings, here. This debate that pits "stay-at-home" moms and "working" moms against one another seems so self-righteous, superficial and, to use a far-overused cliche from my profession, entirely bourgeois. My husband and I are both low-paid history profs. Neither one of us could serve as sole breadwinner. In fact, I make a bit more than he does, but not enough to make a difference. How I would love to stay home and write books, as that is what I am trained to do. But I must teach for my bread and butter and squeeze in my research and writing when I can.
My sister (also a Mom of two)is a federal employee with an ailing husband who depends on her federal insurance, so she has very little flexibility, though she loves her work.
I think our circumstances better reflect the needs of most moms and dads in America. Any debate about "choice" exists only among a very small segment of the population, those families who can live securely on one income. Families can exercise "choice" only when they have the means to do so.

Posted by: Mommy of 2 and History Prof | March 20, 2006 2:38 PM

I am a working mom by necessity and choice. I suppose we could live on one income but prefer to have two for the obvious advantages for us a family and my daughter. I have met many "stay at home moms" some wonderful, some not so wonderful. I will give you the example of my neighbor who prided herself on being a great stay at home mom. Her boys are mean, wild and uncontrollable, I heard too often of her cocktails at 1100 am and received one too many invites to her many stay at home business endeavors (candles, home cooking items) because she didn't work - the parties were a way for her to obtain items she wanted without sacrificing slugging away at job to earn income. Kind of like welfare for the stay at home mom. For a brief second I envied that she could stay at home - until I realized that her kids are worse rotten because of for her being there. Her, I'm a superior stay at home mom attitude finally gave way when she ran off with another man - hmmmm the perfect stay at home mom - I don't think so.

Posted by: CJD | March 20, 2006 3:03 PM

I used to say, (jokingly,) that feminism was a capitalist plot to get two for the price of one. It's a joke, but it is sad that most of us don't have a choice about working when there was a time when one salary could take care of a family. Even though many of us don't have a choice about working, my experience has been that most women would be bored to tears staying home. I did choose to, but not without the occasional digs from working friends who would call and say things like, "What are you doing, hanging out?" Either way, we pay for our decisions. I suspect part of being judgmental about others is thinly veiled envy, whether it's "I'm bored to tears, you should be, too," for SAHM or working mothers looking down their noses at those who don't have a paid job. The enemy is not each other, it's a bottom line government that cares more about coporate rights that family rights.

Posted by: Diahni | March 20, 2006 3:24 PM

Our office is fortunate that a director who recently returned from maternity leave has given her notice that she'll be permanently leaving. The exceptions being granted to her (taking advantage of flex time by only working 4-5 hrs a day, routinely missing meetings without warning, not completing assignments, etc.) were seriously affecting not only morale in the office, but also the quality of our service ot customers. This was definitely the right decision for her and I'm glad that she came to it of her own volition before action had to be taken.

Posted by: Anonymous | March 20, 2006 4:01 PM

I am a divorced Mom working outside and inside the home. When my son was little I worked for a company that gave me some flex time so I could volunteer after school at an elementary school computer club. That's my field and I loved volunteering my skills to the kids, including my own. The principal of the school wondered (to me) where the other working Moms were, and why they didn't volunteer. Here's the answer:
1. Most companies don't offer flex time. It was a rare benefit. Most companies I worked at if you aren't there 8 hours a day at least you face discrimination from coworkers and bosses and risk the possibility of being fired - or at least not promoted.
2. Moms who work inside and outside the home just want to cook dinner and spend time with the family when we finally get home.
3. We're too exhausted to volunteer when we do finally get a minute. I appreciate any interested person who has the time - mothers, and even the fathers, aunties, etc. Thanks to all of you for supporting my son! I wish I could always have been there. Thanks for being there when I couldn't be.

Posted by: GPOD | March 20, 2006 4:13 PM

Ladies, please tell me why we continue to go through this. Why do we continue this debate? Each of us does the best we can for our children with what we have of ourselves to offer, some have been blessed with more, and I don't mean money. A friend of mine once told me that his alcoholic and verbally abusive father did the best that he was capable of at that time. Talk about an understanding and forgiving son, but it drives home the point of allowing each parent to do the best job they can with the abilities they have.

As to the SAHM vs the working outside the home mother debate...some work, some stay home, some work because they must, and some work because it makes them better parents for it, some make great financial sacrifices to stay home, but each of us sacrifices and does the best for our children that we can. It is not my place to judge what one person deems as the best situation for their family or children.

Posted by: Anonymous | March 20, 2006 4:39 PM

to GPOD: Thanks for volunteering, and thanks for being appreciative of others who do too.

I have a part-time job that doesn't interfere (too much) with my kids' at-home time. As a mom with a foot on both sides of the working mom/SAHM fence, I have a story to tell.

After agreeing to take on a volunteer project at my kids' school, the PTA chair found out I "worked". The next time she saw me she said "I never would have asked you to take this on, if I'd known that you worked". That made both the SAHM side of me and the working mom side of me laugh (and cry).

How about if we all do what we CAN do to benefit our kids, be it earning a living or supporting them in other ways. And how about if we're all appreciative of each other for our contributions . . . to the workplace, to each other's kids, to the common good. And how about if we do that whether we're moms or dads?

Posted by: serene-life | March 20, 2006 5:44 PM

I can’t speak for other moms, but here are some of the things I want.

I want the phrase “working mother” to be stricken from the language. Why is it assigned to those who work outside of the home? ALL mothers work. Simply because I do not get paid, do not get sick days, do not get vacation days and do not get promotions does NOT mean I do not work. I will go as far as to say that my work and contribution “at home” is far more important that MOST of what you “working” women contribute.

And along the same lines, I want those of you who insist upon calling yourselves “working mothers” to please call the rest of us “full time mothers.” I for one have never met a full time mother who “stays home.” And if you are paying someone to provide the services to your children and your home that you are not, well then, you are only a “part time mother”, now aren’t you.

I want those of you who chose themselves and their own desires over of the welfare of their children to take a good long look in the mirror and see the truth, you are NOT noble you are SELFISH. Call it like it is, ladies, you chose what you want over what your child needs. Aren’t you wonderful?

I want those of you who are waiting for recognition for working outside of the home to send some of that recognition in the direction of all the full time mothers who are over-worked and under-valued, and MOST criticized by other women, most specifically those who “work.”

I want those of you who think full time mothers cater to the every whim of their children to stop generalizing through the filter of your own guilt.

I want those of you who will resent staying home with your OWN children to stop having them. That IS a choice, you know. Life is precious. You have called this life into your own. You have a responsibility to it. To tell yourself anything else is just a load of crap.

I want those of you who think being a full time mother is putting yourself lowest on the totem pole or losing your identity or sacrificing to think about who is really being sexist in the “mommy wars.” A statement that devalues the role of mothers in such as way is as SEXIST as it gets.

I want those of you who think so little of yourselves that the only way to find self esteem and importance is by being paid for the job you do to have some faith in yourselves. Believe that if you are indeed intelligent enough and motivated enough, you CAN have everything, just not simultaneously.

I want those of you who mock and criticize full time mother’s for striving for perfection in their pursuits to turn some of that negativity toward the women who do the same in the workforce. How important is it really to have the “perfect” anything?

I want those of you who think the only purpose for teaching young women to strive for excellence in education is to become part of the workforce to stop being so ignorant.

But what I want most if for our daughters to live in a world where motherhood is a valued career choice

Posted by: FTM | March 22, 2006 12:04 PM

I suppose the composer of the original post just wanted to create a controversy. She has afterall written a book and wants publicity for it. And if I remember correctly, No publicity is bad publicity.

Rather awfull really, exploiting an issue like this just for the personal gain.

Also, who is the suggested replacement of SAHM at school volenteering ? We keep on getting flyers and requests from the school to help them. School parties are the least of it, teaching aids, helping special needs kids, reading initiatives , even field trips chaperones...so let us suppose for a minute that all SAHM say NO for one year to volenteering, who then is going to do it ?

US school system is based on a very strong parent participation, so it is natural really that the parent who has comparitively more time to spare is participating more.

Grow Up Ladies.

Posted by: Neerja In DC | March 27, 2006 8:51 AM

Wow, I've been reading the various installments of this blog and the postings that ensue with awe and disgust. Kind of like a car accident - you can't help but stop and look.

As a SAHM, I am disturbed by the generalizations and stereotyping going on - on BOTH sides! My credentials? I am a SAHM mom - by choice and get this folks, NECESSITY! Why? Something I haven't seen mentioned here, but my husband is in the military. Not exactly your typical 9-5 and 5 day a week job. And it doesn't pay too well either.

I've experienced probably just about every scenario there is - SAHM for young kids, PT worker when I took a job on weekends to be in a field I loved (and when my husband was shore-based and didn't deploy so he could keep the young kids at those times - and did it willingly!)- back to SAHM AND a single parent - when he did deploy for 6+ months and I had to quit working because child care was impossible for such unusual hours and I was now the only parent my 2 kids had on this continent! Being a SAHM at those times was damn hard because there was NO break from them except school hours - but also it was imperative that my kids had the security of knowing that I would never go away to work and not come home again. Something that even at their young ages, they knew was a reality with Dad. They needed the emotional and physical security of having one parent that was always going to be there for them. Under those circumstances, it was an easy choice for my husband and I to make and one that was made equally and with no regrets.

Guess what? It's ALL hard! Because being a parent is hard - the hardest job you will ever have because it doesn't come with a manual or a checklist. We are all just making it up as we go and we won't know until later how we did. I assume that at one time, as new parents we poured over the parenting books looking for any pearls of wisdom that would somehow de-mystify what we were facing. The thing I found repeated over and over was "trust your instincts. You can tell what is working for your baby."

That advice has been the cornerstone of our parenting philosophy. My husband is an incredible and amazing man - he puts his life on the line for this country and he changed diapers, too! Now that the kids are older, he even comes home and cooks dinner on the nights when I get home later from taking our daughter to ballet! He spent 2 hours visiting 4 class rooms on Career Day. Our parenting is a partnership based on what I call "mental" equality - we both recognize that we are 100% equal and dedicated to our children - even when the physical time in the trenches doesn't split 50-50 or anything close. And we NEVER castigate the other for it. Sure, I wish he worked "normal" hours and had a "safe" job. But he loves what he does and would feel less of a person if he weren't in this career. I would be less of a person if I had to sacrifice someone else for my own ends. I also knew what I was getting into when I married him - but that's another topic of another blog. One of the things we've learned and it would be great to see it put into practice here is not to try to "one up" the other. You will never have it harder than your deployed spouse AND he will never have an easier time than you do as a "WestPac" widow. Why? Because it's apples and oranges, folks! Each situation is so unique and challenging that it defies comparison. The way to a happy marriage? Don't keep score! The way to end the Mommy War? Same thing!

Where is this going? It's basically a plea to "stop the madness" generated by this blog. Stop trying to villainize (if that's a word) anyone who didn't make the same choice you did! To make yourself feel bigger by making someone else feel smaller. To stop demeaning others for your own enjoyment and ego! And stop trying to make yourselves authorities on situations you know nothing about!

Does anyone else realize that so many of these same arguments could be rescripted to apply to issues like - breastfeeding vs. bottle; army vs. navy; public vs. private school vs. homeschooling.

Why all these choices? Because we are not a cookie-cutter society and thank God for that. I believe someone tried that once - oh, it was communism - and people risked their lives trying to get out from under it.

I am proud to be SAHM and very appreciative of a situation that makes it possible. I volunteer at school on a weekly basis. Not because of some inner need for fulfillment or frustrated sense of self, but because of the benefits to my children - and EVERY child in that classroom! Every volunteer hour that I give at school helps that teacher do his/her job better - educating the kids. No, it doesn't take a college degree to run the copier (though sometimes it helps!), but it means that the teacher doesn't have to spend valuable prep time doing it and they now have the materials necessary to teach the topic. Do I have the patience and personality to be captive in a room full of 22 1st graders? Hell, no! But I'm more than happy to enable someone else to do it and do it well. With a class load of 20+ kids, no matter what school district, do teachers have the extra 20 minutes of one-on-one time to help a struggling 5th grader with multiplication and division? Not always, though I know dedicated teachers wish they did. But as a SAHM, I do - in fact, I did that just this morning. So please, don't slam SAHM volunteers - ultimately, every child benefits from their attention. I didn't do it for applause or a Volunteer of the Year award - but because it was truly helping someone else. That's what makes me feel good and important and fulfills me - the same feelings that many of you get by working. What's the difference other than the beneficiaries?

My apologies, I didn't realize that this would be so long until I got started. My thanks to anyone that has stayed to read this through to the end, regardless of opinion. It's nice to have a forum to get this off my "SAHM for 10+ years" chest.

Posted by: Navy spouse | March 27, 2006 1:35 PM

I've done quite a lot of research on this topic. Based on my own experience and those I've interviewed, I've created a coaching practice to work with mothers as they tackle the challenge of personal identity and the need for balance in their lives.

Please visit my website: www.CoachForMoms.com

Posted by: Tina | April 2, 2006 12:10 AM

My experience is that all the volunteer work comes from WAM's & D's.

Posted by: Work Away Dad | April 3, 2006 6:57 PM

To FTM:

What *I* want most in the world is for our daughters to have a CHOICE. Maybe it is you who is selfish by trying to impose your choices and values on everyone. Good for you that being a stay-at-home mom works. But maybe your daughter wants to win a Nobel Prize, wants to be President, or wants to be an astronaut. Maybe you should encourage her to make her own choices.

That's all we really want. To be permitted to make our own choices without guilt or derision. Make your choice, let me make mine. I'll respect your decisions if you can respect mine. Simple, isn't it?

Posted by: Anonymous | April 4, 2006 2:26 PM

I'm not a mom yet, but I come from a long line of working women -- my mother has a successful career in the foreign service, and my grandmother owned her own business at a time when few women worked at all. I was always proud of their accomplishments, and I never felt that I grew up lacking for anything by virtue of the fact that my mom didn't get home until 6 or 6:30 at night. To me that was normal -- my brothers and I went to school during the day, and my parents worked during the day, and then we all reunited in the evenings and talked about our day, sports, current events, what the dog did, etc.
My mom and grandma were great role models to me. I always assumed that I could be anything I wanted when I grew up, including a mother, because they had shown me the way.

Posted by: WJA | April 4, 2006 4:14 PM

cal,
i say amen to you!! woman dont stay home for"the good of the kids" they stay home because its easier than having a real job.

Posted by: Anonymous | April 17, 2006 8:36 PM

I feel everybody has their own inner sense of what will work best for themselves as well as their families. I love staying home, but now that the kids are getting older and I'm finding more time on my hands as they are in school, I felt I needed a flexible outlet for my free time and creativity. So, I paint murals for children's homes and offices as a quasi hobby-business and though it's not a huge money-maker, it's fun for me and my own "thing" to feel good about... Ina

Posted by: ina monahan | May 3, 2006 9:25 AM

I believe to each her own. If a mom likes to spend her free time volunteering in school 24/7, that's her choice. I, however, believe there is too much parent involvement in our elementary schools today. Some pushy, dominant moms impose themselves on the classroom to a point that teachers feel suffocated, watched by "big brother", etc. It may stifle the learning environment as the teacher may feel an obligation to "behave" in a specific manner or toward a specific child (child of parent in classroom) unnaturally to appease the parent(s)... unhealthy all the way around. Also, the child may not like their parent their -- children need their time away from us to grow, make their own choices, etc. With queen bee mommys these kids barely have a chance. Anyway. It's nice to show interest in your child's schoolwork and learning experience, but not to go overboard! Ina

Posted by: ina monahan | May 3, 2006 9:32 AM

Hi! Very interesting! pfkxvba

Posted by: John S | July 1, 2006 11:57 AM

I agree with Cal. Women are just coming up with any excuse to avoid working.

Posted by: tl | September 4, 2006 12:01 PM

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