In May 1989, I unknowingly became a combatant in the Mommy Wars. Having had a successful career before my first son was born, I anticipated returning to work some way or another.
Within a few months of giving birth, I was ready. (Ok I’ll admit it — I wanted a break from the seemingly endless diaper changes.) The Fortune 500 company I worked for prior to becoming a Mommy closed our office while I was in the early stages of my pregnancy. So I experimented with other opportunities in the same industry.
That’s when I discovered the trials and tribulations of arranging adequate care for my baby. Nannies and babysitters came and went. An opening at a well run center with care for an 18 month old had me euphoric. I thought all of my day care problems were over.
Until my baby got sick, that is.
Then, he had to stay home — with me. My husband’s work situation as a software contractor didn’t offer any benefits like leave to care for a sick child. I though I had planned for any problem. So much for Plan A and Plan B.
As I bounced back and forth between work and home, I became aware of a ferocious debate happening on school playgrounds between Stay-at-Home Moms (SAHM) and Working Moms (WM). Each was trying to justify their choices in raising their children. The Mommy Wars.
And I was a card carrying member of the WM club. My son was being well cared for at the day care center. He seemed to be thriving. Then, one rainy October day, my son came home from the center chattering about a superstitious belief. It was innocent enough. But that was when it hit me.
In a split second, I flashed on a different reality. My son would grow up with someone else’s values unless I made time to teach him our family’s values.
That was the day my career goals changed.
It was a tough decision. Just staying home with our son, might have dealt a huge blow to my future. Having been divorced, I was painfully aware that relationships can change over time. Accidents happen. How would I support myself and my child if I needed to?
And on a more personal level, how could I be true to myself? I loved working.
It was impossible for me to sacrifice everything to become a SAHM. The stakes were too high.
So with planning and cooperation from my spouse, we moved to a better school district and I became a Work-at-Home Mom. Looking back on the past 18 years, that turned out to be a terrific choice for my children (second son born in 1993) and for me.
Choice - Sarah Palin has launched a firestorm of commentary in the Mommy Wars over her choices. Palin has young children, the youngest, just an infant, born with Down’s Syndrome. Some women cheer her on. Others ask who really is taking care of her children? Why does Palin want to take away others’ right to choose?
The salary of the Vice President of the United States is $221,000 for 2008. (Too bad Palin didn’t spend some quality time with Wikipedia before she asked that naive question on camera about the Vice President’s role.) Even with the high cost of living in Washington, D.C., the Palin family will be able to afford quality care and schools.
Historically, the Vice President’s role was rather limited, mostly ceremonial. Recent Vice Presidents have expanded the role into an active member of the President’s Cabinet. Certainly, if Palin chooses to take an active role, her husband can stay home to be the emotional anchor for the family. Maybe. I have known husbands who successfully did just that. It take a lot of courage to buck the norm.
My heart aches for the Palin’s eldest daughter who has become the poster child for “abstinence doesn’t work.” I don’t see her as a bad or willful child. I see her as a child who grew up with someone else’s values or, worse, no one’s values.
Every day I encounter teens who do have their family’s values. Many of their parents work. It’s just that these parents made a point to spend time with their children, talk to them and answer their deepest questions when they arose. Teachable moments happen at random times over 17 or 18 years. The only way to assure that you have them is to spend time with your children regularly.
The needy kids who haven’t gotten enough attention are easy to spot. They’re usually the troublemakers or the ones in trouble.
The Palin family has made pronouncements that they will stand behind their daughter as she lives with her “choice” to have the baby. She is lucky young woman. It is far more common in America for an unwed teen to be forced into poverty and then struggle for years to climb out. Which is why maintaining the right to choose is so important.
Abstinence appears to be an exceedingly difficult value to pass on to our children. Perhaps this is because it runs counter to the biological imperative wired into each and every human being. Like trying to prevent people from sneezing. While it might make good sense from a public health perspective, it’s exceedingly difficult to achieve. Just imaging not catching colds and flu from the person sitting next to you on the plane, train or bus. A healthier world!
Have you noticed that Michele Obama is not out actively campaigning? She told an interviewer that she would be sticking close to home to assure that her girls got a good start to the school year. Her family is her highest priority. This is how it should be. Far too soon, those lovely Obama girls will be women. The teachable moments will be gone.