Wednesday, February 15, 2006

Mommy (and Daddy) wars

RebelDad sent me wandering over to The Imponderabilia of Actual Life discussing Happy Housewives written by Darla Shine.

I said my piece about the book, which I admittedly have not read, in RebelDad's comments. What I want to briefly discuss here is the polarity this book endorses. Maybe not by design (although the excerpts Imponderabilia posts suggest otherwise), but the end result is the same: Mommy Wars.

Way back when, five lifetimes ago before I ever got pregnant, I had no idea such a thing existed. Then I found out there were entire debate bulletin boards devoted to "SAHM/WOHM." What? What is there to debate - you work, or you don't. There's something to debate over this? Now, three kids, a SAHD, and a mental book of pointed comments I've heard over the years later, I'm wiser.

Not happier, just wiser.

I'm still perplexed, though. What is it about a working mom, or a stay-at-home mom, that causes such dichotomous reactions? I read about stay-at-home moms saying they feel they have to defend their choice. To whom? I could be the proverbial southern belle insisting she simply doesn't understand what all the darkies are complaining about, but I'm thinking the SAHMs feel they more have to defend their choice to stay at home with themselves, and not (many) other people. But, since I'm not a SAHM, I obviously don't have a leg to stand on that assumption, so I will accept that yes, SAHMs have reason to feel defensive about their lifestyle. It's a hard job that I do see not everyone appreciates.

Being a WOHM, of course, I can bring up all sorts of examples of WOHM-unfriendly comments and practices. Not only do I have to put up with various attacks against my worthiness as a mother, woman, and employee, I can't schedule swim classes or other fun child-enriching activities because they're all scheduled during the weekday.

And then there are the dads. Either they are accused of being hopeless parents and helpmates, or they are questioned about their masculinity and worthiness because they stay at home with the kids.

What is the point? All this bickering and martyrdom does is create a schism in what should be a united front of parents. People who need the support and comoraderie shared in a history of poopy diapers, sleepless baby nights, countless homework hours, pacing the porch during prom night, and worries about how we will possibly get along with our child's in-laws.

We all try to do our best for ourselves and our family, however that works for us. There is no room in our already overcrowded schedule to condemn others for doing things differently than us. We may give pause to consider someone with a different lifestyle, but in the end, it isn't our place to attack them or martyr ourselves.

We are parents. We know how much support and understanding goes towards raising our kids. We know how much support and understanding helps us get through the tough times. We know along with all the joys and wonder and exhileration of having kids, there are also worries, difficulties, and plain old exhaustion. What is there to gain by criticizing parents for staying at home or working? Why even suggest a parent is any less of a parent simply because of gender or employment status? Such generalities hurt us all. Why not put that energy towards making society more accepting and helpful for both the stay-at-home parents and the working parents, like advocating better family-friendly workplace policies so that both parents can help each other and their kids, or lets the single parent raise his or her children in a less-stressed environment.

In which I defend Dick Cheney (but not really)

So, I was driving around Needles today, like I'm sure you all do, or secretly wish you do, listening to Talk of the Nation. It was particularly nice to be listening to Talk of the Nation, because my car's radio has been on vacation ever since the car was stolen way back when, so I've been out of the NPR loop for far too long. I was in a Company truck today, getting it as dusty as I could, and the sound was f-i-n-e.

Anyways, I was listening to Talk of the Nation, and the topic was, of course, Dick Cheney and his poor marksmanship, and how he didn't bother to tell the Nation about how he can't hit the side of a barn with a shotgun unless it's painted bright orange and makes significant campaign contributions to the 'right' people.

There was discussion over the Press' response to this. One caller commented on how she thought the Press was going ape over him not telling the Masses about his failing hunter safety school because they had finally had enough of getting nothing from the Press Secretary and couldn't take it anymore, they had to go for blood. They had finally hit their limit.

I disagree. Completely. The White House Press Corp (I specify this, in deference to my friends and family in the Press) is a group of pansy kissasses, and have been for quite some time. They are as much a "liberal media" as Pat Robertson is Chavez' love child. I think they are all over this not because they feel slighted, but because this is a safe topic to go ape over. It's the stuff of jokes. I mean, really, Dick Cheney, the guy who made us invade Iraq and made our soldiers use all of those guns on people, can't even keep from shooting his own friends. It's comical, lighthearted, really, something that will always be remembered with a little guffaw, like Dan Quayle and his potatoes.

It gives them something to claim affront to but not really ruffle any feathers. Something they can say, "See?! SEE?! We really DO care! We really DO want to know what is going on!"

We'll hear about Dick and his Gun (oh, yes, I'm surprised I haven't hear that pun yet) for decades. But, when was the last time you heard the press ask about the Downing Street Memos? The progress on finding Bin Laden? Haliburton's choice non-compete contracts? Hell, I had to search around in my memory, knowing there was something else big, really big, until I finally remembered Valerie Plame, and I even wrote a post about that!

No, the Press is all on this recent (in a long list of) affrontery because they don't have to do anything, they won't really ruffle any feathers, they get to whine without having to be taken to task for it. All they will succeed in doing is sticking in some redneck's mind that Cheney used a gun once, so he must be an all-right kinda guy.

Later, I did hear something about this that did make me pause a moment. I think it was All Things Considered where it was mentioned that President Bush (pardon me while I hack on that phrase) deferred to Vice President Cheney (cough! cough!) about informing the Press Corp about the shooting. Let me repeat that. PRESIDENT (hack, snort) Bush deferred to VICE-PRESIDENT Cheney about reporting the incident. The PRESIDENT let the VICE-President decide what the country should or should not hear.

There you go. Some proof of how Cheney really does run the show.

Friday, February 10, 2006

Letting go

My kindergartner has a love-hate relationship with a girl in her class. I'll call her Troi, because she has the same hair as bean-head Counselor Troi in Star Trek: The Next Generation. It's one of those fickle, confusing "friendships," where Troi is terribly mean and nasty to N one day, then is best friends with her the next.

There are various reasons I don't like Troi, mostly centering around how she confuses and hurts MY little girl. She is also prostheletizing to N, filling her head with Heaven and Jesus and how N's parents are going to Hell because we don't believe in that. I try to be tolerant with Troi, I even took N to church last weekend (Unitarian Universalist; take THAT Troi!) because she asked to go, and I'm into letting my children explore their spirituality. Yesterday, she came home and told me how Troi said women can't marry women, and what does gay mean? Finally, I had a passionate, reasoned response to Troi, and told her in no uncertain terms I will NOT let anyone tell my daughter who she can and cannot marry (secretly thinking, "Except ME, of course!").

Anyways, as usual, I digress. In short, Troi is a fickle little girl who likes to manipulate others. You can't really tell that from the previous paragraph, because I didn't want to digress TOO much.

What brings me to talking about this is what happened this morning. Hubby dropped N off at school. For some reason, when I drop her off (which is the norm), I may exchange a few greetings and how-are-you's with a few moms and dads, but that's about it. When Hubby does the drop-off, he comes back with gossip. Maybe it's an at-home parent thing, I don't know. I kinda feel left out, but console myself with the thought that maybe they all think I'm too nice to sully with gossip talk. yah, that's it.

So, you see, back to the story, N asked Hubby if she could play with Troi before the bell rang. Hubby said sure, go for it. As they scampered off, the two moms (whom we've known for years) talking with Hubby looked aghast at Hubby and said, "You let her play with Troi?"

Ok, I guess I'm not the only one who isn't all that comfortable with her. That made me feel like I had more leverage to tell N, "You know, if she's going to be mean to you, don't play with her. Good friends don't tell you they won't invite you to their birthday party and then invite other people right in front of you." (yah, that's another thing she did). And I felt a bit elated at how Troi was not as popular as I thought she may be.

But then I thought a bit more about it. True, only skanks trash you in front of other people. But it's up to N to make these decisions, not someone else's mom. Gossip should not in any shape or form be a tool for deciding whether or not to like someone.

I was brought back to my schooldays, and the hurt gossip created. I thought back to ten years ago, last year, last week, hell, any time, and how even as adults gossip creates all sorts of problems.

I realized I had to let that comment go.

If I want my girl to make decisions based on fact and not innuendo, if I want her to refuse to spread gossip and hurt and be true to herself and her values, I cannot use gossip to validate my own feelings about her friends (or, in this case, tormenter).

My little girl is in the Big(gish) World now. I have to let her make her own decisions.

I have to be objective when she asks for my help.

I have to be there for her when she finds out she made the wrong choice.

And that's hard, letting go.

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