Thursday, February 24, 2005

more on mommy wars?

I keep wanting to pick up Becca's useful comments about the mommy wars, and how the issue needs to be reframed. Because it's true, if we only talk about moms, then what are we really talking about? Same old, same old. The SAHM/WOHM (really?) "wars" are just another way of dividing women into "good" and "bad" categories. Madonna/whore, anyone? Of course the thing with the mommy categories is that you can't win with either of them--as way more people than I can begin to credit have already noticed, welfare mothers are called "lazy" for staying home while middle-class women are labeled "selfish" for going out to work. Neither one is true, but this is not about truth, it's about making us feel bad so that we buy stuff, and about shifting focus from the real issues, which have to do with creating a climate in which men and women can work and parent equally.

In our case we've come close. For several years I was the sole wage-earner, one year Mark was primary, most years we both struggle along together. When Mariah was born we combined our two half-salaries and made do on that. Now we are both working full-time, but next year he doesn't have a contract and so far we're thinking we may just go with that for a while. No one needs full-time care at home anymore, as Nick did the last time Mark was home full-time, but it's still really helpful to have one person whose time is flexible and who can therefore do the weird errands that crop up, take the kids to the doctor, etc., etc. If more work turns up he'll probably take it, though, because at some point (sooner than we are ready for) these kids are going to want to go to college or something and it would be nice to be able to pay for it. But what we really would like is to share about a job and a half. Two incomes is nice, don't get me wrong, but with 1.5 and more time, things would be better--the house might be cleaner (no promises from me on that one), the refrigerator would stay stocked, the laundry would get done, and we'd both have time to do our creative work.

And I don't think we're the only couple who would make this choice if we could. I'm lucky, I know, that I am married to a man who is not putting his career first, who has always, in fact, put us (marriage, family) first. But actually that's not pure luck--he's who I chose, after all, and --though we didn't talk about it at the time-- I'm not at all surprised that this is the choice he's made, or really that we've made together. But it's not like we've had a whole lot of support for our choices, or for our wish for more time and a more flexible work environment. That's just not the way the world is set up for us right now. But that's what it will take, I think, to end all these "mommy wars."

This feels disjointed and not quite as forceful as I want it to be, but I'm too tired to change it now and I'm afraid if I wait until it's perfect I won't remember what I wanted to say. Sigh.

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