The Mommy Wars. The Parent Wars. Whatever you want to call it, they are still raging and destroying. A few months ago, I wrote a letter to my college alumnae quarterly magazine and they published it in the Winter issue. The next magazine revealed a really heartbreaking response. And here we are, Summer, and the discussion continues! There are TWO letters regarding my inquiry in the Summer Quarterly and a mention from the Editor about how this dialogue is “interesting.” The best note I have received so far was sitting in my inbox this morning from an alumnae named Anne. I have read and re-read it three times already today. I teared up, laughed and snorted a little all from one note!
I feel like a broken record (but I’m used to that – I have curious toddlers remember) but I honestly just wanted a little ditty (a column here, a mention there) about how other Smithies were raising their children. I can only imagine that a women’s college produces quite a few mothers – I mean, you do the math. Being that these mothers hale from a spirited and rigorously academic institution, I thought that perhaps a fair number of them were using spirited and rigorously thoughtful ways of raising their children. Just as the Quarterly highlights the extraordinary feats of alumnae in government or the sciences to inspire those practicing in these fields, why not also highlight the extraordinary mothers to inspire the young who may be searching for some higher meaning in sweeping up yet another pile of cracker crumbs or explaining for the one hundredth time what cows like to eat.
Aside from the notion that “motherhood is commonplace” and therefore not remarkable enough to deserve even an itty bitty paragraph on the side of the last page, I think I was more upset that a fellow alumnae who most likely went through the same exhaustive schooling as I did, sat on the same Seeyle steps as so many women before her and went out into the world with a boat-load of hope, motivation and can-do attitude only to find that it is harder than ever to fill out that “superwoman” costume, was doing what too many women in our day do – criticize, scrutinize and look away. Where is that support that we as women are built to give each other? Where is the love and understanding? I mean, give me a break folks.
The fact that Mommy Wars even exist makes me sad. (I am just going go with the whole “Mommy” thing here even though I know there are plenty of stay-at-home Dads out in the world. Sorry fellas) Working mothers think stay-at-home mothers live the high life and vice versa. It is like two ships passing in the night – no one is listening to the other side. No one is appreciating the other point of view. Perhaps I was naive to think that as Smith women, we would be above that, that we would have used those precious and expensive learned skills to listen, to assess, to empathize…to really support each other as mothers, as workers, as women. But here we are, criticizing and scrutinizing and all in 200 words or less.
I hope Anne doesn’t mind me quoting some of her note to me – I would love to just copy and paste the whole darn thang but want to keep most of it for myself – to pump me up as needed. So here is your little snippet: “The quote came down in my family (or in my head) as “A liberal arts education makes your mind a better place to spend the rest of your life.” That’s why you shelled out all those bucks and worked your ass off (I’m assuming) – as did I – not because we then ‘owe’ Smith or the world some amazing product – an MD, an internationally recognized work of art, a Nobel Prize, but because wherever life takes us – we bring good minds trained to assess, look for context, perspective… And when the outside experience sucks (as it will for most people at some time) or is mundane (as it is for everyone much of the time) our minds are not only better able to deal with the ‘out there,’ but have richer resources ‘in here’ to divert ourselves, steel ourselves, see beyond…”
Isn’t that just the truth?
Sooooo, can we all just agree that being a working parent sucks and being a stay-at-home parent sucks? Oh, is that too negative? Let me try again. Can we all just agree that being a working parent is the bee’s knees and being a stay-at-home parent is the cat’s meow? We are all doing what we feel we need to do so let’s pat each other on the back for sticking up for what’s best for us and our family. Regardless if Smith ever publishes something meaningful relating to motherhood, thanks to the responses I have received from various alumnae (along with friends and family), I am now more confident than ever that I am doing what is right for my family. And while I won’t get a promotion from my children or a raise from the household Gods, I get “paid” and “accolades” from the fits of laughter and hours of snuggle time. I know that right now, this is the most meaningful way me, myself and I can use this time.