Google sends me an email every night with links to every article or blog written about the so-called “mommy wars.” Why does Google do this? Because I asked it to. I was curious to see, over time, how the notion of Mommy Wars would play out in the media covered by Google news. Since April, the majority of the articles assail the whole concept of the Mommy Wars as a fictitious battle invented by the media.
Last night, Google sent a link to an article that actually piqued my interest: Is There A Dad Divide To Go With The Mommy Wars? The article by Leanne Italie with the Associated Press asks a fundamental question: “Do the paths of work dads and home dads intertwine enough to make them care quite so deeply as the ladies?”
What’s annoying about this article, besides that condescending premise, is that it traffics in the same old tired and simplistic stereotypes that falsely juxtapose men and women. For example, one 41-year-old stay-at-home-dad quoted in the article explained that staying home with his kids “requires a lot of confidence in who you are.”
That’s funny, because that’s exactly how I feel about being a stay-at-home mom. When I run into my law school classmates or former colleagues who are now partners at law firms, I summon my confidence to look them in the eye and explain what I am doing, which does not include practicing law. Every now and then I run into someone who doesn’t know jack about what led to my decisions, and I try to catch up with him or her when standing at a red light on the corner of Clark and Lake Streets. I have until the light turns green to explain that while my identity was formerly wrapped up in being a corporate lawyer, I now have a new identity that’s not so much wrapped up in a career as it is unwrapped and strewn across every room of my house (which is why I have a Cheerio stuck to my left butt cheek and an Elmo sticker on my elbow).
Good thing I have a lot of confidence, like those brave stay-at-home dads. (Does that sound defensive?)
Another stay-home dad was quoted as saying that he’s so busy with his three kids (ages 8, 3, and 9 months) that he doesn’t have time to worry about any rift between working dads and stay-home dads. Really? Because my friends and I have nothing but time to take up our arms to fight the mommy wars. During nap time and between activities, I check the battle lines and Tweet about the enemy’s maneuvers. The article reiterates the point, in case we didn’t understand that the harried dad of three doesn’t give a zip about any so-called rift: “He simply doesn’t have time to care.” Guess what? That describes every single mother I know.
But even worse than the insidious comparisons of stay-home moms and stay-home dads, all of whom likely made tough, gut-wrenching decisions or endured lay-offs that scar unseen parts of a person’s soul, is the way that the article portrays men in the first place. “When I do talk to them, the topics stay guy-safe. That is, sports, cars. After all we’re both still guys. We don’t talk about that sensitive touchy-feely stuff.” I have never heard my husband talk about cars, except to brag about our spacious mini-van. And while he does talk about sports, he also talks about his feelings about parenting and working with other men who are doing the same thing, which quite often, sounds dangerously touchy feely.
It’s not any more true that men only talk about cars and sports than it is that moms are deeply entrenched in a war with other women. (My war is waged against myself.) The truth is that we all have to make terrifying decisions that we may never know are the right ones. We are all tired, harried, anxious, joyful, bored, hopeful, and in need of an all-inclusive vacation. Why can’t we hear more about how to deal with all that?