Ritter: The messages we send when moms stay home
Tuesday, July 06, 2004
'Well, I could have just stayed home and baked cookies." In the firestorm that followed her comment, Hillary Rodham Clinton learned that you should never deny the virtues of stay-at-home motherhood.
Darn-tootin' you shouldn't. They say being a SAHM is equivalent to having 2 full-time jobs, on top of which I DO work outside the home part-time.
Nowadays, the candidates' wives prove their maternal merit by competing in a cookie cook-off every four years. In the decade or so since this line was uttered, women's rights advocates have grown silent on the topic of motherhood. Few dare to criticize the new stay-at-home mom movement recently discussed on this page in the Austin American-Statesman.
Why should they critisize the oldest profession? Yes, MOTHERHOOD is the oldest profession! Austin? This is from Texas? I'm truly shocked. I thought at least Texans understood the importance of mothers in the home. Texas, have you been corrupted too?
It is time to have an honest conversation about what is lost when women stay home. In a nation devoted to motherhood and apple pie, what could possibly be wrong with staying home to care for your children?
Several things, I think.
I'm sure you do.
It denies men the chance to be involved fathers.
I had no idea! To think, all this time that my husband has been changing diapers, feeding babies, giving baths, disciplining, praying with our children. Wait, he IS involved. What a dumb thing for her to have said!
This is a loss for them and a loss for their children. What does it mean when fathers are denied the opportunity to nurture their kids in ways that are as important as their work?
Um, I think fathers can nurture their children just fine. Besides, I consider putting food on the table and a roof over our heads to be pretty nurturing, and I tell my children so, frequently.
What do the children miss when they don't have fathers changing their diapers, picking them up from school, coaching soccer, making breakfast or dinner and doing homework with them? On both sides, the answer is too much.
Lady, I allready said, my husband does all that stuff!
Women who stay at home also lose out —
they lose a chance to contribute as professionals and community activists.
You can still be an activist. Heck, I even still work, giving to the community by caring for the elderly as a nurse. Just not at the expense of my children.
Parenting is an important social contribution.
Darn it, I knew there was a but!
we need women in medicine, law, education, politics and the arts. It is not selfish to want to give your talents to the broader community — it is an important part of citizenship to do so, and it is something we should expect of everyone.
How dare you! You flaming feminist! Why don't you just spell out your real agenda? NO CHOICES FOR WOMEN!! We fought to have you educated, now you have to go out and act like a man! That's what equality is all about!
Full-time mothering is also bad for children.
You ignorant (edited for content)! MY BEING HOME TO TAKE CARE OF MY CHILDREN IS BAD FOR THEM? You're honestly going to tell me that there is someone BETTER THAN THEIR MOTHER (or father) TO DO THAT? Well, heck, why did I have them then?!?
It teaches them that the world is divided by gender.
Bull Puckey. Maybe she doesn't understand that my children are growing up seeing an amazing partnership between their mother and father. They're growing up in a world where men and women work together as a team, not competing for everything.
This sends the wrong message to our sons and daughters. I do not want our girls to grow up thinking they must marry and have children to be successful, or that you can only be a good mother if you give up your work.
There are many forms of success, but aren't you saying that you're only successful if you go OUT and work, you hypocrite?
Nor do I want boys to think that caring for families is women's work and making money is men's work.
Even though it should be. And it's good honest work that people can be proud of. I hope I'm raising my son's to feel that they are special, because they provide for their families, and my girls are special because they care for their husbands and children. I much prefer that to the world women like Ms. Ritter are setting up where women don't need men, and men treat women like trash.
Our sons and daughters should grow up thinking that raising and providing for a family is a joint enterprise among all the adults in the family.
Ignorant, ignorant, ignorant! He makes the living, and I make the living worthwhile. That's what I call a joint enterprise!
The new stay-at-home motherhood movement parallels the movement to create the "perfect" child.
No it doesn't, you ignoramus. How can you compare staying home with genetic engineering? It boggles the mind.
It's not just that mothers are home with their children; they are engaged with their children constantly so they will "develop" properly.
What? You mean it's okay to stay home with them as long as you don't pay attention to them? Okay, Crazy Lady!
Many middle-class parents demand too much of their children. We enroll them in soccer, religious classes, dance, art, piano, French lessons, etc., placing them on the quest for continuous self-improvement.
Like you'd have any idea. Perhaps I just don't want my children thrown out into the world before properly rearing them. Oh, and I know way more working parents who do that, which always makes me think, when do they ever see thier own kids?
Many of these youngsters end up stressed out.
Like I am, reading your artcle?
Children should think it is all right to just hang out and be kids sometimes.
Right like the only way they can be kids is if I dump them in day care.
They should learn that parents have interests separate from their lives as parents.
I don't have to work to do that. But if my children don't learn that they're valuable from me who will they learn it from? The day care provider?
And we should all learn that mothers are not fully responsible for who their children become — so are fathers, neighbors, friends, the extended family and children themselves.
Ya, I don't think I have to be apart from my children for them to learn that, either.
Finally, the stay-at-home mother movement is bad for society.
You're kidding me.
It tells employers that women who marry and have children are at risk of withdrawing from their careers,
As well they should be.
and that men who marry and have children will remain fully focused on their careers, regardless of family demands. Both lessons reinforce sex discrimination.
And? I guess that's just a risk I'm willing to take. See, I think turning out good men and women is ultimately quite valuable to society.
This movement also privileges certain kinds of families, making it harder for others. The more stay-at-home mothers there are, the more schools and libraries will neglect the needs of working parents, and the more professional mothers, single mothers, working-class mothers and lesbian mothers will feel judged for their failure to be in a traditional family and stay home their children.
Oh, my gosh! I had no idea! You mean I have to weigh the needs that my children have for love, comfort, nurturing, education, etc. against the ability of a LESBIAN MOTHER TO GO TO THE LIBRARY? You are OUT OF YOUR TREE! But, in all fairness, I'll think about it.......Okay, done. My kids are more important than whether or not the working mothers feel judged. My goodness, you don't hear me complaining about how I feel judged for staying at home and being "just" a mom.
By creating an expectation that mothers could and should stay home, we lose sight of the fact that most parents do work —
Ya, isn't that sad?
and that they need affordable, high quality child care, after-school enrichment programs and family leave policies that allow mothers and fathers to nurture their children without giving up work.
You know what? As a socially and politically active mom, I believe that a parent should be able to leave work to care for a sick child without fear of losing their job...wait...they allready can! It's called FMLA, the Family Medical Leave Act. Maybe she hasn't heard of it. And I believe that if parents HAVE to leave their kids in day care, they should be quality ones. But why should I have to put my kids there if I don't want or need to? Because some moms do? Um, you've lost me there. I thought I was the best for my child. I wasn't aware that someone else raising them was the gold-standard! Oh, that's right, because some moms may feel guilty for not staying home. Well, maybe they should. But I'm not going to decide what's best for my kids based on someone else's guilt. Talk about a lame reason!
Raising children is one of the most demanding and rewarding of jobs. It is also a job that should be shared, between parents and within communities, for the sake of us all.
Yes it is rewarding, and it is shared by us all, SAHM or not!
Ritter is director of the Center for Women's and Gender Studies at UT and an associate professor of government and women studies.
May she stay there and quit telling me what's best for my family. And like was said at One Sixteenth, what about Stay-at-home-dads? Are they so detrimental to society? Pu-leeze!
Thus ends my diatribe. Tune in next week when I rip some other unlucky shlob a new one. In the most feminine and motherly way possible, of course. :-)
*I would like to add that while I believe generally mothers should be the ones at home, I have the utmost respect for families that, with the best interests of thier children in mind, have the father stay home or have schedules that allow one or the other to be there with them.*