mommy wars: a book review

That’s the title of the collection of essays I’ve been reading. What, do you ask, are the mommys fighting about? Why working vs. staying home, of course!

The book is a collection of essays, editied by Leslie Morgan Steiner. Most of the authors are authors, which is nice, because everything is well-written, but somewhat boring because a lot of their views are the same. They seem pre-disposed to working part time, from home, flexible hours, etc. Many were faced with finding “reliable help”, i.e.–The Nanny. The ones who stayed home talked about downsizing on the Upper East/or West sides of NYC. So while a lot their conflict is universal, it wasn’t very down to earth for the majority of America, IMO.

Things I would have liked to have seen:

1) More exploration into finding reliable center-based care, because most nannies are out of most working families price ranges.

2) More essays by women without MBAs, Ivy League diplomas and what not–again, a very small percentage of the population

3) Atleast one essay by a mom working for health insurance. I can’t tell you how many families I know with two wage earners because they need affordable healthcare.

That being said, there was a lot to chew on in the book. The moms who thought they would work but didn’t. The ones who didn’t think they’d want to, but did.

I’ve been reading this book for over a week, not going in any particular order through the essays. At first, I found the working-mom essays, for some reason. I thought the book was skewed in that direction. Then I started finding the at-home mom essays, and realized that no, there were about an equal amount of both. Some of the at-hom moms were VERY preachy–not taking into account that downsizing on the Upper East/ or West Side is not really downsizing at all. The at-work moms were all aware of the “pity glances” they get from the at-home moms. The at-home moms were a little resentful about having to take care of the whole neighborhood, classroom, whatever, while the at-work moms got a free pass.

A few quotes that I really like, in no particular order:

“I am old enough now to have known enough people making enough bizarre arrangements work (and making textbook arrangements fail) to persuade me that anyone who thinks she can judge what’s best for other people’s kids is either arrogant, psychic or high.” –Carolyn Hax

“…that make me more certain than ever that the definition of a good mother is ‘a woman who spends enough time with her children to know what the hell they are doing’ ” Iris Krasnow

And then there’s a whole essay by Susan Cheever called “Baby Battle” which goes on to describe the lack of support of working moms and at home moms–how the two sides are pitted against each other because only mothers seem really interested in the issue, when really society as a whole needs to take an interest in nurturing the next generation.

And that’ s just the tip of the iceberg. If you don’t have kids yet, read the book–it’ll give you some interesting perspective and things to think about. If you’re feeling good about the choices you’ve made, get the book–you’ll be able to see the point/counterpoint and be OK, I think. If you are feeling trapped by work or trapped by your children, you’d probably enjoy it too, at least some parts of it.

If nothing else, it’s a good exercise is realizing that the grass is always greener……

**if anyone has read it, please let me know if the “On Being a Radical Feminist Stay-at-Home Mom” by Inda Schaenen pissed you off. It REALLY rubbed me the wrong way.

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