Yeah, I'm sick of the mommy wars too, but here's a warning: Don't be an ostrich about money!
By Nordette Adams on May 01, 2007
BlogHer Original Post
Susan Wagner of Friday Playdate let me and other BlogHer Contributing Editors know about this beautiful video at The Washington Post of Jefferey Barehand and his son. The video is part of the "On Being" series.
Barehand is a stay-at-home-dad who shared the following anxieties.
As a stay-at-home parent sometimes you feel you're not as accomplished, or you could be doing other things in terms of career or climbing the ladder. Part of me thinks I should be doing that as well.
I don't actually see us ever getting divorced but it happens. I mean what happens if I'm not doing anything. I'm not working on a career and that happens. Horrible. I'm not sure if it's at that point still yet where you actually get the kudos you deserve. ...
Susan Wagner said she sent the video link because she was glad to see anybody talking about parents and not just mommies. I'm sharing the video with you because I'm glad to see somebody other than mommies talking about the anxieties of leaving a career behind to stay home with children. Barehand cares for a total of four children.
Before you yell, "Oh, but he shouldn't say he's not doing anything. He's doing something. Stay-at-home parents are doing something," I ask that you calm down and get real. You know what he means.
You know that when you apply for a job and put down that your job for the last five years was "stay-at-home" mom, most employers don't put you on the fast track, march you to a corner office, give you a company car, and your own personal assistant. If you don't have marketable office skills, you'll be lucky to be someone else's personal assistant. You know what he means and that corporate America lies through its teeth when it says it values stay-at-home parents.
Jefferey Barehand is voicing the fear that crawls in the back of many stay-at-home parents' minds, one they turn toward and squash like a bug. They don't want to hear it, not even its annoying distant buzz.
We live in a country where it's reported that nearly half of first marriages end in divorce. When it comes to matters like finances, considering that your marriage may be on the splitters' side is not being pessimistic anymore. It's being practical.
Still, like E.J. Graff, who also has a piece at The Washington Post, I think the moms who stay home vs. moms who work battle is getting old. I'm sick of it. While it may have been real at some point, I think women who judge other women about their choices to work or stay home are simply being judgmental or possibly showing their own insecurities about their own choices.
Why must I put down your choice in order to feel good about my choice? What's that about? The reality is that many women have to work; it's work or starve. There have always been women with children, poor women, who've had to work.
Graff writes in the article "The Mommy War Machine" that publishers and media outlets are pushing a war between women that no longer exists.
... This is a war that isn't.
The ballyhooed Mommy Wars exist mainly in the minds -- and the marketing machines -- of the media and publishing industry, which have been churning out mom vs. mom news flashes since, believe it or not, the 1950s. All while the number of working mothers has been rising.
I agree, but this marketing machine has some pretty loyal, female foot soldiers who don't gain anything from pushing the war but enemies, but they push it nonetheless. Some women seem to buy into the so-called war and are quite sensitive about the choices made by other women as you can tell from this roundtable show on Oprah, Every Mother's Dilemma.
Oh, if you check out the Oprah link, it's not the show about Elizabeth Vargas leaving her television anchor spot after she had her baby. The Vargas show, according to Graff is an example of media misrepresenting stories about women in the workforce to fuel the questionable mommy wars. The "Mother's Dilemma" show features ordinary women discussing the choice to work outside the home versus being solely stay-at-home parents.
And the nonexistent war rages on in cyberspace. Blogger Karen Rani of Troll-Baby.com alerted BlogHer's Mommy & Family to a bit of nastiness between radio show host Dr. Laura and Leslie Bennett, author of The Feminine Mistake. Bennett asserts that women take a risk by choosing not to work because should they end up divorced they could end up financially devastated.
Some people complain that Dr. Laura resorted to calling Bennett fat instead of legitimately making her point. I don't know the ends and outs of the Dr. Laura/Leslie Bennett feud and don't care, but here's part of what Dr. Laura said in her blog after she finished trashing Bennett personally:
Encouraging women to do the wrong thing by making them paranoid about disasters, so they should only strive to be good-enough moms when theyâ€™re around, good-enough wives if they have the time, but the work is everything, is exactly what for decades and decades women complained their men were doing. (Dr. Laura)
I haven't read Bennett's book, so I don't know if anything Dr. Laura says is valid about Bennett's book, but I do have questions: Should we not prepare for a potential life crisis? If so, why not advise canceling your husband's life insurance policy? Should we ignore divorce statistics, disdain sound financial advice, and assume that no harm will ever come to us?
What is it with people and extremes? What's wrong with considering possibilities and being practical?
I do know that Bennett says that she wrote her book because she felt some books about opting out of the workforce did not address "the risks of economic dependency -- or the myriad benefits of work."
Economic Dependency: It doesn't sound scary when you have money in the bank.
Unlike Bennett, I won't be talking about the benefits of working outside the home. It seems to me that some people focus so much on that idea that they miss bigger points about facing life. I do, however, have a thing or two to say about economic dependency. I think women should avoid relinquishing responsibility for their financial futures or being economically dependent if they don't have to be, but I don't think taking financial responsibility for your life means you must get a traditional job outside the home.
Nevertheless, some beliefs voiced by one blogger disturbed me. It made me wonder do some people, no matter how feisty they appear on the surface, put their heads in the sand when it comes to potential life crises like divorce?
Rami pointed out the blogger whose post told her about the Dr. Laura/Leslie Bennett feud. I looked at that post and noticed the blogger seemed pretty angry at Bennett, and she also personally attacked Bennett, calling her stupid, making references to her weight. As a side note I wonder, What's up with that? Are there women out there who think only fat women are in danger of being divorced? Perhaps they should read Dina McGreevey's book about the collapse of her marriage to former New Jersey Governor Jim McGreevey, or I could point them to some exceptionally thin friends of mine whose good looks and exemplary "wifely" behavior did not stop their husbands from screwing up or keep them from divorce court.
In any event, this particular blogger wondered whether Bennett had heard of alimony, child support, and community property. Well, gee, I'd heard of all those things when I went through my divorce. The knowledge didn't make my settlement fair.
Perhaps the blogger assumes that there's always enough money to go around after divorce or that all husbands are honest or that all attorneys and their clients are honest or that the courts are always fair, or perhaps she believes as some men believe that the divorce courts favor women. Women take a far bigger risk assuming a divorce will go favorably for them financially or that life will throw them no curves than any risk they'd take understanding their own financial situations.
Part two of this piece will post Friday.
And here it is! Link to Part 2.
Nordette Adams blogs at Confessions of a Jersey Goddess.