Kate Tuttle: Are the Mommy Wars over? On Slate's DoubleX blog, writer Jessica Grose argues that they are -- at least in the U.S. A dustup over an English parenting author's warning that kids are better off when their mothers stay home with them prompts Grose to muse that she hasn't seen the same kind of argument in the American media in the past year or more. For those of us who, like Grose, have been writing and reading about parenting for the past few years, it does seem as if the working-versus-stay-at-home debate may be quieter than it once was.
But I'm not convinced this means peace in the land of Mommy. I think the battlefield has just shifted.
To see what I mean, just look at some of the comments below Grose's blog post. Many talk about the difficulty in getting and using even miniscule amounts of maternity leave, and ridicule the idea that Grose calls for, of expanded and paid maternity leaves (which would, I agree, vastly level the occupational playing field between working women and men). One comment questions the very idea of maternity leave, its author (who identifies herself as a childless woman) saying that she resents having to pick up the slack so some other woman can have a baby.
Perhaps the new contested ground in the Mommy Wars is to be found here, in the space between those who feel that society ought to provide economic and practical support for women to both bear and raise children and contribute in the workforce, and those who feel that women should choose one or the other. I know where I come down on this one, not only as a mother of two who has pursued a career, but also as a citizen who would like to see a country in which the next generation has been well-cared-for: I think we all (parents and the childfree) benefit from a culture in which somebody is thinking about children and their care. It's clear that in countries that provide paid parental leave along with quality early-childhood education, kids have better outcomes. This takes money, of course, and a philosophical belief that the whole country is better off when its children are in good hands.
Maybe the Mommy Wars aren't just about Mommy versus Mommy anymore, but Mommy versus the competing demands for our tax dollars, whether that be the Defense Department or the national debt.
And there's one more point I think Grose misses in her post: Sometimes Mommies just find another thing to argue about. If the issue of working versus staying home is somewhat played out (and I'm not entirely sure I believe her on that one), one only has to look at other contested issues to see conflict galore. Whether it's breastfeeding versus formula feeding, circumcision versus intactivism or vaccination versus anti-vax, fights between mothers on topics relating to their children seem just as prevalent as they ever were.