One of the most difficult decisions we as women face has to do with motherhood. I met Leslie during a Mommy Wars book presentation. I was a new mom at the time and was torn between staying at home with my twins or going back to work after a year of sabbatical. Leslie Morgan Steiner is an author, blogger, and public speaker on motherhood, parenting, and violence against women. She is the editor of the critically-acclaimed anthology Mommy Wars: Stay-at-Home and Career Moms Face Off on Their Choices, Their Lives, Their Families.
Why did you write Mommy Wars?
Whether you work or stay at home after having kids has become one of the defining issues of our generation for a lot of American women today. For me, as a working mom with three kids, I was curious about – and sometimes jealous of – moms who decided to stay home. So for Mommy Wars I asked 26 REAL experts on motherhood – MOMS — to explain what life is REALLY like for working and stay-at-home mothers today.
Is the tension between working or at home moms real or is it a war between all moms?
The “mommy wars” are not a typical WAR where one side wins and the other loses. Women are not looking to defeat other women. We are looking to feel good about ourselves as mothers – which is a pathetically difficult task in the US today.
The tension between working and at-home moms IS real. But the worst mommy war is the one that rages inside each mom’s head as she struggles to feel good about being a mom — no matter what her choices about work. This inner battle plays out on an external stage — through judgments about other moms.
Our society is conflicted, between the “selflessness” of motherhood and the very real need women have to provide for themselves and their families.
What have you learned from writing Mommy Wars and your blog?
First: Happiest moms tend to be the ones who have time with their kids AND paid work – they work for companies and have partners that give them the flexibility and support they need to be good employees – and good moms.
Second: We moms need each other –whether we work or not – and we’d be FAR better off if we supported all good mothering choices. We need to stand up for other moms, and stick up for ourselves.
A few other learnings from the blog and the book:
Motherhood should unite women, not divide us.
It is a myth or at least an exaggeration that in the US today women have unlimited choices and complete freedom.
Don’t blame yourself or other women. We have too much finger pointing as it is. This is a societal problem; blaming women makes it worse.
We’d all be better off if we did not battle each other – if we joined together to increase options and freedom for mothers, and stopped judging each other by our differences.
When was the last time you heard a woman say to another one, “You are a great mom”? When was the last time you saw an advertisement or read a magazine article that made you feel “I’m a great mom”?
Whether you stay at home or stay at your desk, you risk insanity when you become a mom, AND it’s TOTALLY worth it!
Do you have any tips for working and stay-at-home moms?
For working moms, establish your priority “buckets”: 1) what you need to do yourself 2) what other family members can do 3) What you can delegate or your family can survive without. Make sure you do one thing for yourself every day – exercise, call a friend, laugh, read a chapter in a book, watch a tv show in peace. Evaluate your work-family “balance” at regular intervals and make changes if you are too stressed or too guilty or too exhausted
For stay-at-home moms, I have a couple tips too:
Make sure you do one thing for yourself every day
Don’t neglect your financial independence over time
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