The Mother of All Cat Fights

24 May

There’s a really ugly battle going on, one that I witness every single day. It’s a battle that’s been going on for years, but seems to have gotten particularly evil recently. It’s not in Afghanistan, Pakistan or Syria. It’s right here in the United States. It’s the one between the least likely set of combatants: American moms.

Every single day lately, I hear something hateful come from the mouths (or computers) of moms. Moms criticize moms for working. Moms ridicule moms for not working. Moms look down their noses at moms for using formula. Moms secretly envy moms who can breastfeed their babies. Moms hate moms and I’m freaking sick of it.

I’m particularly sick of the battle between stay-at-home moms and moms who work outside the home for pay. I call them Work-Away Moms. I don’t think there’s been a time when the battle has been so filled with vitriol. The Ann Romney/Hilary Rosen thing is only the tip of the iceberg. Recently, I read this from a SAHM regarding a WAM who asked what the SAHM does all day. “I wanted to shove my fist up her *ss.”

The Gallup organization recently released a study noting that stay-at-home moms are more depressed than other women, including work-away moms. Twenty eight percent of SAHMs report depression; only 17 percent of the work-away moms report depression, the same percent of women polled who have no children. The real news here though is that this is old news.

Betty Friedan wrote about stay-at-home moms and their unhappiness in 1963 in her pivotal work, The Feminine Mystique, which became a foundational writing in feminist literature. Nearly 50 years ago, Betty Freidan already knew what Gallup is reporting as the latest news: mothering is difficult work that is undervalued by our society and that pisses moms off. It’s not very PC to get mad about caring for your offspring, so Angry Mom becomes Depressed Mom. It was true then and it’s true now. Of course, today we’ve got a happy pill for Sad Mommy.

Let’s be careful when we look at these statistics, though. Most of the moms slinging mud at each other—staying at home, working at home or working away—are middle- to upper-class white ladies. When we talk about stay-at-home moms, though, we are most often talking about women living in poverty. Women who are at home because they can’t find work. Women who are the sole parent in their homes. Women who could work at Burger King, but then couldn’t afford the childcare. We’re not talking Ann Romney here, though I wouldn’t begrudge her a depressive episode, being married to Mr. Dignity Of Work.

Don’t be too quick to applaud Ms. Freidan for her prescience. Being a feminist is as uncool these days as being…well, I can’t think of anything that’s as uncool. Feminists are responsible for the bind we find our mothers in. If it weren’t for the stinking feminists, SAH moms wouldn’t feel so damn bad about themselves and we’d be celebrating the glory that is being home with your children 24/7. If it weren’t for the stinking feminists, all those women who chose their careers over their kids would get their butts back home where they belong.

Wrong. In fact, there couldn’t be a more twisted, deceitful interpretation of what the Women’s Liberation Movement attempted to achieve. Gloria Steinem and her feminist friends envisioned a society where “the American child’s classic problem–too much mother, too little father–that would be cured by an equalization of parental responsibility.” In other words, Mom and Dad share the parenting—equally. Think that happens already? Who signs the kids up for summer camp? Who makes the doctor appointments? Who washes the sheets the baby puked on?

Steinem saw a world where “there will be free access to good jobs–and decent pay for the bad ones women have been performing all along, including housework.”

How would that happen? How could it be possible? If we could get past our rugged individualism, we could get to a world where we put our money where our mouths are. You can yap about family values all you want, but a Family and Medical Leave Act that doesn’t include pay of some kind is a joke to the majority of workers who can’t afford to go without pay for six weeks. According to Forbes magazine, in 2009, the United States and Australia were the only developed nations without some form of paid leave. I’m Danish, but didn’t have my kids there. If I had, I would have been able to stay home with my son for a full year at full pay. Instead, I pieced together four months of leave by adding all of the vacation and sick days I had to my six unpaid weeks. I saved like a demon so we could get by while my husband worked on building a business. Then I went back to work so we could keep our house.

Feminists didn’t make the world worse for women. Do you like being entitled to half of your marital property? Thank a feminist; it wasn’t yours until 1969. Are you married and use the last name you were born with? Thank a feminist. You couldn’t do that until 1972. Did you use birth control before you got married? Thank a feminist; you couldn’t do that until 1972.  If your husband treats you like crap, you can divorce him. Couldn’t do that in 1969. In fact, until 1976 your husband could legally rape you. I was a senior in high school; we’re not talking ancient history here.

It’s hard for me not to see the trash thrown under the bed in the mom-on-mom battle. White moms—the ones who have the greatest access to political and monetary power—need to be kept busy with stupid crap like whether or not Rush Limbaugh is a pig. If we weren’t, we might get together and work toward healthcare coverage that recognizes hormones are used for more than just birth control.

I’m sick of hearing that work-away mothers chose their careers over their children. I’m sick of hearing that women who can’t breast feed just aren’t trying hard enough. I’m sick of hearing that stay-at-home moms sit around scrapbooking. I’m sick of hearing that work-away moms take advantage of the PTA moms. I’m sick of hearing how hard stay-at-home moms work. I’m sick of hearing how hard work-away moms work.

It’s all distraction, distraction aimed at keeping us from joining together to fight for paid family leave so moms and dads can be home with their kids. It’s a distraction aimed at keeping us from fighting for equal pay for mothers who work away from home—for whatever reason. It’s a distraction that keeps us from fighting for the right to make our own reproductive choices and not be humiliated because of them.

I, for one, am sick of being distracted. Are you?

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18 Responses to “The Mother of All Cat Fights”

  1. The Waiting May 24, 2012 at 6:25 pm #

    A teacher that Ben works with at his publicly-funded community college had a baby last October. She was given three weeks unpaid maternity leave. Since one of those weeks fell during Fall Break, she actually only got two weeks off, since Fall Break “didn’t count”. It makes my head spin. Outrageous.

    • nevercontrary May 24, 2012 at 7:58 pm #

      That is crazy since I thought the US required a company to give you 6 weeks leave. Maybe I am totally misinformed?

      • Janice Lindegard May 24, 2012 at 8:20 pm #

        If the teacher isn’t full time, then there might be some loop hole. But you are not misinformed, nevercontrary. Of course, if the company doesn’t have more than 50 employees, the the employee is out of luck. BUT, no matter how many employees a company (or college) has, there is no requirement to for the leave to be paid. Some unions have successfully negotiated paid leave. That’s why my sister was able to take care of our father during his chemotherapy and other cancer treatments. Neither my brother nor I have a job that enables any kind of leave.

      • bandia17 May 25, 2012 at 11:48 am #

        You also have to have been a full-time employee for a year before you qualify for FMLA. I barely hit my 52 weeks when my daughter was born 8 1/2 years ago. My doctor wanted me off 8 weeks, but I told him he had to release me at 6 weeks. I couldn’t afford to be off any longer than that.

    • Janice Lindegard May 24, 2012 at 8:27 pm #

      It slays me how employers in the US are constantly trying to figure out ways to get out of the things we as a people have decided are good. Just don’t get it. If a company has the same rights as an individual, then don’t they also have the responsibility to be a good citizen of the world?

    • Janice Lindegard May 25, 2012 at 1:45 pm #

      All of these comments just prove to me that we gotta stop letting the media suck us into some manufactured war between women.

      • philosophermouseofthehedge May 29, 2012 at 10:26 am #

        Your last comment is the most important thing. Media wants a cat fight for ratings. I’m sick of knee jerk reactions to emotionally charged words. (Women being set up to give a desired response by media/politicians) I’m sick of “studies” – anyone familiar with research knows you can interpret data any way you want – and can get desired results from a study if the questions on the poll are framed carefully.
        Everyone needs to wise up and quit being played. Get rid of the shrieking emotion and generalities. Or risk going backwards.
        Tremendous post.

      • jmlindy422 May 29, 2012 at 10:45 am #

        Thanks, philosophermouse. I’m thinking of rewriting it and sending it to some publication as an op-ed or something that might even make me some money!

  2. nevercontrary May 24, 2012 at 7:59 pm #

    I try to avoid moms that talk about the mom-war battles. Luckily my mom friends are very easy going. Or maybe they just are nice to my face and talk shit about my parenting behind my back?

    • Janice Lindegard May 24, 2012 at 8:22 pm #

      I’m betting there is no trash talking behind your back. I’m actually much less concerned about what my neighbors think and more concerned that the media pays attention to this junk at the expense of more important issues.

  3. bandia17 May 25, 2012 at 11:43 am #

    Reblogged this on TwentyFiveEight and commented:
    If you’re not following Snide Reply, start following her now! Ha ha! She writes like I will one day. Honest, in-your-face, tell-it-like-it-is writing that always makes me think. This blog is one of the best I’ve read yet. Enjoy!

    • Janice Lindegard May 25, 2012 at 1:44 pm #

      I said it before, I’ll say it again, Bandia17. . . Thank you!

      • bandia17 May 25, 2012 at 2:10 pm #

        You’re very welcome! I always love reading your posts and this one just resonated with me so much. I’m a single mom who deals with the sideways glances and implied criticism for having to work. No one should be judged for their choices. No two people have exactly the same lives and everyone has a different story. Everyone deserves respect, not just the people who live the way you expect them to live.

      • Janice Lindegard May 25, 2012 at 2:30 pm #

        I will admit to asking a SAHM who does no paid work in or outside of her house what she does all day. But it was in the context of I am home alot of the time and, while I work, it doesn’t occupy every moment. So, I read. She cleans and organizes. Her house is so neat that I just want to go live there. So that’s the answer to my question to her: she cleans and that is why her house is neat and mine is a pig sty.

  4. Mary Rayis May 29, 2012 at 9:29 am #

    I agree with bandia17 that this is one of your best columns, Janice. I am sick of feminism being dragged through the mud by both men and women. Younger women seem to take for granted all the things you mentioned in your column that were not available to women as recently as the 60s and 70s. I look at the political scene and see a bunch of privileged white men still in charge of policy in this country. Until that changes, things like paid parental leave will be a pipe dream. I agree with you that we need to stop focusing on the mommy wars and start running for office. Janice Lindegard for president, anyone?

    • jmlindy422 May 29, 2012 at 9:50 am #

      Mary, you are one funny chicita. I would never be elected; I’m bipolar which translates into “Do we want a crazy woman with her finger on the button?” Now, of course, we had Dick Cheney in power, but he’s a guy, so his craziness doesn’t count. Thanks for the lovely comments. Maybe we second generation feminists need to start getting the third, fourth, etc. off their butts.

      • Mary Rayis May 30, 2012 at 9:16 am #

        Good idea, J. Maybe if I can convince my older daughter that feminisim is her friend, we can get her to run for president!

  5. wisdomseeker1 June 11, 2012 at 2:24 am #

    I wanted to let you know how wonderful your post was. You managed to verbalize what I have been trying to articulate for years. As someone who has experienced both worlds (working outside the home and now stay home working) I couldn’t agree more. Thanks for the inspiration and reminder. Keep on writing… I love it!

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