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Read all about the adventures of the Tsao Family during the summer of 2012

Monday, March 06, 2006

 

If given the choice, I would not choose

Imperfect Mommy has a good post up she titled "A year later, my blood still boils (aka why the mommy wars are a joke)."

Her post hit me like a brick because I have been thinking about writing one very similar to it. She writes:

"Looking back on things, I am 100% confident that I would still be working if I would not have had to engage in a constant battle after the little lady was born."

She then goes out to outline the amazing amount of BS she went through after returning to work from maternity leave. I commented on her post:

Your story very much provides an stunning illustration to the book I'm currently reading, Judith Warner's Perfect Madness: Motherhood in the Age of Anxiety. She writes a lot about how little choice there is when a woman decides to become a mother; in many cases, an unflexible work life simply decides for her. Unfortunately, mothers are then blamed for dropping out when (like you pointed out) they may have stayed in the workforce if the conditions were actually supportive of the idea that a mother does want to spend some amount of time with her child.

I, too, have been looking back on things lately, mainly because I am reading Judith Warner's book and also because I'm not always 100% totally and completely happy with my life as a stay at home mom as it is. I long for some of the life I once had as a valued member of the workforce. I sometimes blame myself for quitting. Did I wimp out? But the reality is that there were pros and cons to being a working mom and very quickly after I returned to work the cons outweighed the pros. I tend to write off my decision to quit by saying, "I'm lucky I had the choice," but did I really have the choice? And why did I have to choose? Why couldn't I have had both?

This passage from Perfect Madness rings very true with me and helps explain a lot of my mixed emotions over whether or not I did the right thing by giving up my career to become a domestic engineer:

What's unnatural about motherhood today, if you follow Hrdy's (author of the 1999 book, Mother Nature) line of thinking, is not that mothers work but rather that their "striving for status" and their "maternal emotions" have been compartmentalized. By putting the two in conflict--by insisting on the incompatibility of work and motherhood--our culture does violence to mothers, splitting them, unnaturally within themselves. And the nature of work today makes this split worse. The demands of the contemporary workplace, which often require long working hours and long commutes, force mothers to separate from their children for excessive periods of time. Lack of flexibility completes a picture in which women really are forced to choose between providing for and nurturing their children. This means that mothers' instinctual drives to "seek status" are put in conflict with their children's instinctual needs for succor. "The conflict is not between maternity and ambition," Hrdy writes, "but between the needs of infants and the way a woman's ambition plays out in modern workplaces."

My comment on Imperfect Mommy's post went on:

After reading Warner's book, I, too have revisited my own reasons why I left my career when my daughter was six months old. I had always imagined I would continue working and juggle parenthood with a career, but then the reality of pumping breastmilk in the company "X-box" room while male co-workers rattled the door handle despite the sign on the door, the dismal (yet expensive!) choices for daycare not to mention the waiting lists -- all of these things combined forced me to reconsider my decision and leave work.

I hope mothers can stop pointing the finger at each other long enough to see that it's an attitudinal shift in the nation that's needed. The availablility of quality daycare would be a good start...

Right now I'm actively trying to find part time projects that will satisfy my desire to be an adult who interacts with other adults, my "striving for status." I've found a couple and I'll let you know about them when I've finalized the details.

And I'll write a more detailed review of Warner's book when I'm done with it.

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