Saturday, September 23, 2006

More Mommy Wars in the News

I am beginning to think that the mommy wars is merely a chimera promulgated by the media to increase readership. (Translation: they are desperate to increase revenue.) James Wolcott at The New Republic weighs in on the mommy wars in the Oct 2, 2006 issue. If you are annoyed at the snarky writing at the beginning of the piece, skip it and read on. On the whole, it's a very intelligent and balanced survey of the mommy wars literature.

I am a working mom who feels no guilt about working and being away from my child. However, I do miss her when I am away from her. I wish I could have several lifetimes for all the things that I want to do, including not missing a minute of her childhood.

I actually agree with both Caitlin Flanagan (also here) and Linda Hirschman. Something is lost when a parent is away from the child. Read Mommy Don't Go.

When I explain to people what I do for a living and why, I have never had anyone suggest to me that I should do otherwise. No stay at home mom has ever tried to tell me that my child would be better off if I quit working. The only exception has been my child. But she told me yesterday that I was being a good mommy right now.

keywords: mommy wars, modern motherhood
links: archives here and here


  1. I thought your comment on the New Republic site was interesting. I am a PhD scientist in industry, and male, so I talk occasionally with women working in my group about the extra pressures they felt in school, and that they feel now in school- it sounds hard. I have a family, my wife is a stay-at-home-mom (at the moment. I don't try to push her one way or the other).

    What I wonder about, in reading Wolcott's piece, is whether women feel comfortable with other women being as prescriptive as Flanagan or Hirschman. Do women listen to them, and worry that what they do is in any way better or worse?

    I read Hirschman's bio on her site. I get the impression that she is thinking very collectively, about the good of women as a whole, and might be willing to sacrifice individuals to a greater cause (my reading of it is just my opinion- as a white male, to some extent I am background noise- I am the default setting, if you like, and fairly or not, have the option of being clueless. I try not to be, but I recognize the danger.) As a scientist, my guess is that you chose science because it spoke to you, and any benefit to women was a welcome side effect. But I'm asking, really.

    In your example, you have made choices, and incurred costs along the way. You seem to have your eyes open, and would likely move to remedy problems if they arose.
    I can't see that being engaged and adaptable gives Hirschman or Flanagan any space to comment one way or the other.

  2. I can't speak for anyone but myself. But I am not bothered by polemics anymore. Maybe when I was younger and more energetic... Seriously, such strident and prescriptive writing has its place in the dialogue. They are a good jumping off point to get people to think and challenge their own assumptions.

    I am an interdisciplinary scientist precisely because I like to hang out with and learn from different communities that do not think alike. I am attracted to research that does not go where it is expected.

    That's also why I like to read people who hold different opinions and took different paths. Let's just keep it civil and rational, listen to one another and learn. We will change the world one civil conversation at a time.

  3. That makes sense. I had not thought of the polemic as a piece that sort of sets up counterpoints to conventional wisdom. I just imagined myself bristling at being told what to do. I realize that you don't speak for all women, but your perspective helps me see it differently.

    I second the thoughts about interdisciplinary work. It can be surprising how closely different groups (I specifically know about chemists and physicists) will attack very similar problems with entirely different vocabulary and models, even when they share materials and goals. Even within chemistry, it is telling to listen to organic and inorganic chemists discuss a problem. I find that not everybody likes it- you have to spend a lot of time making sure everyone is on the same page. But you get back a lot of perspective talking only to people "raised like you' scientifically wouldn't easily provide.

    Thanks for taking the time to respond.


Comments are open for recent posts, but require moderation for posts older than 14 days.