Did you catch the drama sparked by Anderson Cooper’s daytime talk show Anderson last week? If you missed it, here’s the rundown: Anderson let a panel of moms debate who is happier: stay-at-home moms or those who work outside the home. In typical talk show fashion, the positions were extreme and the arguments tired and predictable. Formulaic television producing for the win!
If you want to watch some clips of the show, click here.
The internet has responded – also predictably – with an all-you-can-read buffet of reactive blog rants. Many simply further the drama; a few provide space for real discourse (even those inevitably unravel the further down you read in the comments section). The Babble Voices Discussion Series attempts to answer the questions (and I’m paraphrasing here) Why are we still fighting about this? and Can’t we all just get along? and the posts and comments there do offer some thoughtful insight.
But here’s why the whole discussion doesn’t work for me. It assumes too much. It forces us to stick one of those Hello, My Name is… labels on the way we spend our days (which, by the way, will probably change in a few years anyway – hope you didn’t use a Sharpie on that label!) without consideration for the fact that not every SAHM or WOHM or WAHM (acronymsOMG!) is a carbon copy of the one sitting next to her on the panel. Most of us didn’t ask to be on a panel, or to wear the team jersey, or to be pitted against our friends and neighbors.
Most of us did not enlist to fight in the mommy wars. We are too busy brokering peace treaties between the block-throwing aggressors and Occupy Naptime protestors in our own families. We are too busy actually being friends with the women on the “other team” – the ones at whom Anderson would so badly like us to throw stones – comparing notes on how much a day can suck no matter what kind of shoes you’re wearing, commiserating about sleep woes and celebrating potty training triumphs.
Most of us are not fighting.
Those who are – the ones on TV and in the comments sections of the blogosphere – have a right to do so, of course. I don’t have to watch very long or read very much before somebody says something so unkind and so untrue that I feel tempted to jump into the fray, to stick up for my team, to defend my choice. But I abstain, because I know too many shades of gray in this debate; I know too many real people on
both every team who are great moms and happy moms, and others who are struggling for reasons that have everything or nothing to do with whether they work outside the home or not. So if you feel this is your cause, your fight, by all means suit up and go for it. But I’m choosing not to take up arms.
I’m not going to fight in a war I don’t believe in. And I don’t believe the majority of mothers hold resentment and anger toward others who make different choices than they do. In a sweeping, generalizing, macro sense, maybe, there are some fundamental areas that will always spark debate – and this is certainly one of those. But when you zoom in on the waiting room at the pediatrician’s office and look at two moms holding feverish babes, one dressed in a suit returning emails on her BlackBerry and the other in yoga pants with applesauce on her sleeve, I just don’t believe that each is sitting there fuming at the other one because she works – or does not work – outside the home.
They’re not fuming because they have more important things to worry about. Because they have so much more in common than not. Because their stories are so much more complex than a Hello My Name is… label with a silly acronym, and each knows that about the other without having to really think about it. They may not even know that Anderson Cooper and the blogosphere have labeled them as sworn enemies, or if they do know, they’re too busy to worry about it, too tired to fight.
It’s easy to manufacture the illusion of conflict when you have a TV producer’s budget or an anonymous screen name. I just don’t believe that when it comes down to real moms, real people, there is as much animosity as we are led to believe. And I have more important things to do – people to raise – than fight an invisible enemy.
What if there were a Mommy War and no one showed up to fight?