Tuesday, August 10, 2004

Interesting new salvo in the 'mommy wars' that's been under discussion for the past couple of days in one of the at-home dad listservs concerning a month-old opinion piece in the Austin American-Statesman (reg. required).

The story -- a full-out attack on at-home motherhood -- is worth a read because it comes from the somewhat novel perspective of an academic, rather than a working mother taking potshots at her at-home peers. Much of the column demands eye-rolling, but one of the points made by the author, University of Texas women's studies prof. Gretchen Ritter, has much value: the idea that it's not good for children to grow up with the idea that childrearing is somehow a gendered job, suitable only for females. Huzzah to that, I say.

But it doesn't follow that the prescription is (necessarily) fewer at-home moms. Boosting the number of dads on the playground and schoolyard pick-up zones would solve the problem just as well, without demanding that women (or anyone else) chuck the caregiving job. Ritter kind of acknowledges as much at the end of her piece, but by that time it's too late. She has set herself up firmly against at-home motherhood.

She also ticks off a bunch of other concerns: at-home mothers somehow prevent dads from being involved (how a two-income family actually creates addition dad time isn't explained), that children are over-scheduled (a problem that isn't limited to children of at-home parents) and so on.

Look, I think that there should be more parental involvement generally. I'd love to see a work world where men and women could have a lot more balance. I dream of the day when women aren't punished by the marketplace for having kids and where boys don't grow up thinking that caregiving is a job for moms alone. But the way to get there isn't to convince the world (as Ritter says) that "Full-time mothering is also bad for children" and "the stay-at-home mother movement is bad for society." the solution, sadly, is a lot more difficult than demonizing a group of dedicated caregivers.


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