Wednesday, May 25, 2005

Bonk! Goldie Goes to Mommy Wars

Recently, I had the honor of being interviewed by Arethusa (as an aside, the questions were so intellectually challenging, it made my brains hurt!), and here’s one of the things I said:

Q: I think it's safe to say that the average person doesn't desire warfare. Getting that out of the way think of the battles that have been fought in the past. If you had to choose a) which war would you be apart of and on which side would you have fought on?

A: I'd like to be a part of cats vs. dogs war. I would fight on the side of dogs. If that doesn't work out, I'd be a part of Mommy Wars. I would be a UN peace corps. I'd carry a huge plastic paddle and walk from one side of the front to another, bonking people on their heads and telling them to go home and leave the other mothers alone. Eventually the war will end because nobody likes to be bonked on the head, and the world will become a better place.

With that in mind, I thought it’s probably time to deliver my first BONK! Given the recent comments on SC&A’s post about “White House Nannies”, the timing is perfect.

“Those working moms! They shove their kids into daycare centers and go to work so they can afford a new Lexus”.

If I had a dollar for each time I heard this, I’d probably be driving a new Lexus by now. The idea seems very popular in certain circles. The underlying assumptions that: a) it is abnormal for a woman, especially a woman with children, to work outside of the home, and b) when she does so, it is for selfish reasons, in order to be able to afford the luxury items, - really bother me. There are way too many issues to be addressed here, so I thought I’d break them down and address them one by one. I decided to start with the “luxury items”. When I heard another variation of the “Lexus statement” one time too many, I posted a survey on my fave Russian forum.

I asked working moms of underage kids, or their husbands, to respond. I pictured a hypothetical situation where the family somehow comes into a lot of money – enough to meet all their needs during their lifetime and leave some behind for the kids too. Retirement, medical care, top-of-the-line assisted facilities, everything is covered. In this situation, would the wife/mother continue to work outside the home or not? There were ten responses available (five for the wives, five for the husbands answering what their wife would do). The responses went something like this:

1. I would become a full-time SAHM/homemaker
2. I would stay at my current job, because I like it
3. I would stay at my current job, because I could use still more $$
4. I would leave my current job, but would work “for my entertainment”/study/volunteer, because staying home FT is too boring
5. I would leave my current job, but would work “for my entertainment”/study/volunteer, because I want to be of help and utilize my skills
6-10. Repeat for the husbands
The survey, by the way, is here

The results surprised me.

A total of 54 people responded.
Number of people who said they (their wife) would stay home full-time: 12
Number of people who said they (their wife) would keep their current job because they like it: 9
Number of people who said they (their wife) would keep their current job for the extra money: 0
Number of people who said they (their wife) would take a “fun job”, study, or volunteer, because staying home is boring: 11
Number of people who said they (their wife) would take a “fun job”, study, or volunteer in order to be of help or utilize their skills: 22

Bottom line, 42 respondents out of 54 said that, even if they had all the Lexuses in the world, they would still be doing something outside of their homes. Sorry, but the results of my survey seem to directly contradict the Lexus Theory! And, by the way, out of these 42, only 11 said that they would work outside of home because staying home is boring. This undermines another popular theory that working moms work because they cannot stand their own kids. You can tell that I’ve heard both theories countless times, and that both of them really tick me off!

Allow me to further explain my position on this:

1) My mother, her mother before her, and practically every woman I knew growing up, worked full-time outside of home.
2) We as kids did not resent that; more than that, we respected our mothers for what they were doing. They worked hard, both at work and at home, and in that, they were our role models.
3) Our parents did spend time with us. Not 24 hours a day, but definitely some time.
4) I stayed at home with my kids during their early years (18 months with each). That did them a world of good. I’m glad I was able to do it back then. I probably wouldn’t be able to do it if I had a baby tomorrow. I think being able to stay at home (maybe working from home) for the first three years of your child’s life would be very nice, but not everyone can afford it. I got away with a four-year-break in my career, because this break occurred when I was still in Russia. And by “got away” I mean that I was able to go back to work in the same field without having to go back to school first, change careers, or otherwise start completely over from square one. I would probably be making a lot more and my work would be more challenging if I hadn’t taken that break. But that’s part of the price you have to pay for being a parent. It paid off.
5) I have reasons why I have to work fulltime outside of home right now, that I won’t go into here. Let me just say that I explained my reasons to a group of die-hard stay-at-home moms, and they gave me a go ahead. I consider myself off the hook.
6) A large part of my work is being done from home, in front of my children, and I dare say they respect me for what I do. I try to be a role model the best I can. This, in my opinion, is part of the parenting process.
7) I happen to think that chastising people because they work is just plain wrong. No way can honest labor be a bad thing. When I hear people talk about working mothers as though they are criminals or drug addicts, while getting services from those same working mothers, well that just gets my ire up.

There is a lot more I would say on the subject, but then my post would get so long, no one will read it. So, with that, I leave you. I’ll check back when I return from that Lexus dealership!

The Goldie has spoken at 11:41 AM

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