Women: Will Someone PLEASE Start Asking the RIGHT Questions? (HINT: “Are You Mom Enough?” Isn’t One of Them.)

It was not my intention, when I started this blog, to get into political issues. I mean for this blog to be something of a place of respite – to maybe even provide some comedic relief. (Yes, I know that requires being funny, Snarky, I mean for ME, and I think I’m funny, dammit.)

But, sometimes stuff happens about which I just cannot stay quiet. (This probably explains why I have a blog.)

Believe me, I tried. First, the whole Hilary Rosen / Ann Romney thing blew up. As I read or listened to the media coverage, I got more and more angry, because – listen – I’ve been on both sides of that fence. The more it went on, the more I wanted to say something. I was horribly afraid, though, it would come out wrong. Then, the TIME magazine cover happened. (And, I am purposely not linking to it, because I’m mad at TIME, and I feel like being all petty about it. Plus, you know what it is anyway.) But, the icing on the cake was this crap from TODAY about how depressed stay-at-home-moms are compared to other moms.

ENOUGH!

I’ve been a work-out-of-the-home mom, I’ve been a stay-at-home-mom, and I’ve been a work-at-home-mom. What do all these experiences have in common? No matter what, I’m always a mom. Whether I dress up in Armani suits and Manolo Blaniks or yoga pants and a t-shirt decorated with strained peas and ketchup smears, I am a mom. Whether I am in dancing in the kids’ playroom to Laurie Berkner or presenting oral argument to the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit, I am a mom. Whether I carpool to a play date or to the office, I am a mom. Whether I pull an all-nighter nursing a sick child or finishing a client’s project, I am a mom.

Guess what else? Just like I sometimes really do not like my professional gig, sometimes the mom gig is the suck, too. Dropping my kids at daycare was often horribly gut-wrenching but sometimes blissfully freeing. Finger painting, going to the park and whipping up recipes in the kitchen is often maddeningly fun but sometimes … just maddening. Going to the office, pouring a cup of coffee, closing the door and listening to anything not related to Nickelodeon, Disney, Sprout or Cartoon Network was sometimes nothing short of orgasmic. Taking a “mental health” day to drive to the beach with the kids, singing “Found a Peanut” at the top of our lungs is marvelous, but so is sending them to school or day care anyway so that I can read a book, watch an uninterrupted TV show or – Heaven forbid – have marital relations with my husband. (Or, you know, just a hot meal of grown-up food we can eat in relative peace.) Also, can we just be real for minute? Does anyone really like cleaning up poop, cutting gum out of hair, scrubbing crayon off the walls or driving around in a car that smells like a locker room and sour milk?

But, here’s the most important thing I want — no, I NEED — you to know. I absolutely, indisputably, beyond any shadow of doubt and without an iota of reservation LOVE my children. Every second of every minute of every day of every week of every month of every year of every decade of every century and until the end of time. And, you can’t tell me I don’t, whether you are cheering about or horrified by what I just wrote above.

You know what else? I don’t doubt you love your child/ren either. Even if you don’t agree with a word that comes out of my potty mouth.

Because, hell yes I am mom “enough.” And so are YOU. Seriously, what the fuck does “Are you mom enough?” even mean? That’s like asking a woman if she’s a “little bit” pregnant. As a teacher and a parent, I often say there are no stupid questions, but congratulations TIME — you finally found one. Way to dig up that nugget, Woodward and Bernstein. (And, for future reference, NEVER ask a woman if she’s pregnant unless she’s spread eagle on a delivery table screaming for an epidural. You WILL thank me for this someday.)

Listen, this chain of recent “war on women” bullshit events wasn’t an accident. Oh, no. When journalists, politicians, religious leaders and ESPECIALLY other women ask accusatory, I’ll-meet-you-at-the-bike-racks-after-school questions via screaming mass media headline, the asker is purposefully playing on a mother’s most exposed and raw emotion: fear of failure. Every mother is susceptible to this kind of emotional terrorism, because kids don’t come with instructions – no weird IKEA-like drawings, no diagrams, no user’s manuals, no troubleshooting guides. So, we rely on – among other things – advice from people or sources we trust. You know, like political leaders, priests, pastors, rabbis, or – say – reputable (ahem) journalistic publications.

Aaaaaaannnd, there you have it.

Well, chew on these facts for a minute:

  • As of 2010, 50.8 percent of the United States’ population is female. Yes, you read that right. Better still, the overwhelming majority of that female population is 18 or older (e.g., eligible to vote).
  • The demand for workers with a postsecondary education (and especially high literacy and math proficiency) outpaces the supply of such workers.
  • Between 1998 and 2009, women were awarded more post-secondary degrees of EVERY type – from Associate’s degrees to doctoral degrees. And this is true even when looking at the data for different racial/ethnic groups!

Now, think about what this means:

  • By sheer power of numbers alone, WOMEN can determine the outcome of almost any election.
  • We cannot afford to exclude anyone from the workforce who is educated and willing to work, or the United States will not be a competitive player on the global economic, technological, scientific or medical stage.
  • There will be more women than men qualified to enter this future workforce.
  • Unless men start lining up to swap their penises for uteruses and vaginas, women are also the most qualified for bearing and birthing babies.

What’s my point? We (as in the greater “we” not just the random few lovely people who read my rants) MUST find a way to make motherhood and professional careers co-exist. AND WE CAN! Fathom the power women could harness in the political and economic arenas if we would stop diluting our own strength. Imagine the force for social, economic, structural and pedagogical change we would be if we stopped the myopic focus on changing each other or placing blame at each other’s feet.

Because, guess what ladies. Your government officials have thought about this (see, e.g., current raging debates above). Your religious leaders have thought about this. (Ahem – Gospel of Mary – Ahem.) And the vision of women as a united force was enough of a nightmare that a solution was quickly devised: provoke gender in-fighting!

Has any group been more susceptible to the cannibalism of its political/social/religious/economic clout than women? I took a semester-long class in college about Black-on-Black racism, and the room was tremendously less hostile than the “Survey of Women’s Issues” class I took, where someone had the “audicity” to speak up in favor of staying at home. And I was in San Francisco, one of the more “liberal” cities you might find.

Mothers are the perfect catalysts for division of our gender because of our peculiar vulnerability to the pressures of our peers. Having a baby? You better not make my job more difficult or cost my business any money! Not having a baby? But, that’s what you’re SUPPOSED to do! Having an abortion? You are going to Hell! Having a baby you can’t afford? Leech! Going back to work after having a baby? How heartless of you to leave your children to be raised by someone else! Staying at home to raise your children? How dare you set back the progress of the “women’s” movement! Breast feeding? Not in my store/restaurant/airport/park you don’t! Not breast feeding? Selfish and ignorant! Vaccinating? You are dooming your baby to a life of disease and defect! Not vaccinating? Irresponsible! Cloth diapers? Bottles? Binkies? Blankets? Toilet training? Co-sleeping? Television? Is there anything we women can’t find to disagree upon – especially when it comes to raising children?

Look, I’m not saying that women should just bounce giddily along, singing Kum-Ba-Ya on the way to the ballot box. (But, hey, I’m in if you don’t mind the fact that I couldn’t carry a tune if it had a handle on it.) Beyond our commonality of gender, there is an amazing range of things we don’t have in common, and no one should advocate to change that. Instead, let’s just start talking to one another and supporting one another, or NO ONE is going to advance political, legislative, religious, economic or social change agendas that affect what matters most to us as the MAJORITY of citizens in this country. If we want equal rights, we damn well better start by treating each other as equals.

So, please, no more blowing up Facebook timelines, Twitter feeds, Google circle-thingys, MySpace pages (is that even a thing anymore?), email accounts, newspapers, talk shows, daytime television, political debates, sermons, or What to Expect When You’re Expecting books with stupid questions about whether we’re women enough, professional enough, mom enough, sexual enough, married enough, single enough, liberal enough, conservative enough or any of the other myriad ways we can tear each other down. Instead, let’s just stop taking no for an answer. Let’s stop taking the bait. Let’s find ways to unite around our differences and use them to our advantage instead of letting the minority control what we get paid, whether or when we work, what we do with our bodies, and what we do with our minds. Let’s think about our children — our daughters AND sons — and whether we want to leave them a legacy of anger and “war” or of progress and equality.

Let’s start asking the right questions before someone needs a time out.

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35 comments on “Women: Will Someone PLEASE Start Asking the RIGHT Questions? (HINT: “Are You Mom Enough?” Isn’t One of Them.)

  1. Heather says:

    THANK YOU. *standing ovation* I am so tired of the “mommy” conversation (I’ve BEEN tired of it). It’s too early in the morning for my brain to come up with all the details about this “war” that tick me off, but I don’t know if I have much to add, anyway. You’ve pretty much said it all. Thank you.

  2. sj says:

    1. applause, applause, applause. This is fantastic.

    2. YOU USED MYRIAD CORRECTLY!!!! ❤

    • ProfMomEsq says:

      Yay! And thank you for not pointing out all the spelling mistakes I made in the email version. (I think I fixed them.) If SOME people weren’t distracting me last night with their Twitter wit, I would’ve been a much better proofreader.

      • ProfMomEsq says:

        You got a ((fist bump)) too, but WordPress is clearly conspiring against my this morning. Bastards.

      • sj says:

        Oh, I don’t get emails from wp anymore. It was too much to keep up with, so I shut them all off except for comments at Snobbery. Don’t worry, I didn’t notice anything that made me stop reading and say ‘SHE SPELLED THAT WRONG, HER POINT IS THEREFORE INVALID!!!’

        😉

        Also, shared this on fb – I think quite a few people have clicked through.

  3. I want to hug and kiss you right now. I made the statement that women are their own worst enemies last week to a man and he looked at me with confusion. “You mean you get catty with each other?”

    “Yes.” was the simple reply. I have long thought that perhaps it’s not the man who is keeping us down, it’s the wo-man.

    So thank you for writing a well written / thought out article that absolutely puts this entire situation into perspective. 🙂

    • ProfMomEsq says:

      It’s sad but true, isn’t it? And it starts with us so young. But, just like our moms (and grandmas, aunts, sisters, etc.) blazed the trails that starting cracking the glass ceiling and gave us more choices in the workplace, our generation of women must blaze the trail for our children to have more choices in LIFE and not just choices that are either/or.

      Thanks for much for your comment. Hugs and kisses freely accepted. 🙂

  4. I found your blog a couple of weeks ago and added it to my bookmarks, I love it!
    I wholeheartedly agree with your post, I’m so sick and tired of the constant public debates about what is and isn’t acceptable for mothers to do, and it seems it’s always the women getting the most heat up about it. I mean, come on, how about some compassion for our sisters, rather than judgement and criticism? (And I know it’s human to judge sometimes, but keep it to your fucking self when it comes to parenting, we all love our children and do the best we can!)
    Will share this on fb 🙂

    • ProfMomEsq says:

      Thank you very much. I love shiny new readers, so I am so glad you found me. Thanks also for the feedback on the post. I know the lovefest may not last, but I’m thrilled at the comments of solidarity.

  5. YES.

    I’ve been saying forEVER that we’re our own worst enemies. And the war on women (which the whackjobs are oh-so-quick to say isn’t real! We’re being hysterical! It’s all in our silly little lady-brains! Get back into that kitchen and stop trying to THINK already, gosh!) is a way to divide us further.

    “By sheer power of numbers alone, WOMEN can determine the outcome of almost any election.” _ YES YES YES YESSSSS. If we all stand together instead of tearing each other apart? We would be UNSTOPPABLE.

    • ProfMomEsq says:

      Now if I could just figure out a way to make that whole not-tearing-each-other-apart thing happen … I think I get so frustrated because the task seems so overwhelming. It’s truly reassuring to know I am not alone in feeling this way.

      You think we could get enough people to write you, Susie, and sj in on the ballot. You guys could totally govern out of the Egg. Who could be all Pissy McPisserson giving press conferences with the Egg in the background?

      • I think I’d be horrible at that. I don’t like to have a ton of people mad at me at any particular time. It gives me a headache. And when you’re a politician, SO many people are always mad at you. Ugh.

        I’ll vote for Susie & sj if they want it, though. I’ll write their speeches, too. And commandeer The Egg. (Although, the Governor’s Mansion here is pretty nice, too…we could also take that over.)

  6. Thank you! My byline used to be ‘professional mother’ because I like to think that I bring a professionalism to all that I do. Being a mother to other peoples children is a commitment I make to the kids, their bio families and to my community. Am I less important or less valued because I am not earning a wage? Or because I choose to do this above my other career/s? Or because I did not give birth to these kids? Certainly not in my mind. To me, it’s a way of living my values. It’s a way to express my own personal version of feminism. I’m lucky enough to be able to exercise my choice in this because of the hard work and big picture thinking that has gone before me.

    • ProfMomEsq says:

      I have a tremendous amount of respect for what you do, Rose, and how beautifully you do it. No, you are NOT less important because no one hands you a paycheck for your hard work or because you are qualified to do things other than be a mom but choose not to or choose to put less of your time and attention into those things. That is exactly my point. My daughter’s choices as an adult may be limited by her autism, but what I want nonetheless for her and every other woman who goes with and after her are clear paths to family and career that aren’t FORKS in the road. Because, really, isn’t THAT why every woman worked so hard before them to shatter the glass ceiling? Options.

  7. Elizabeth says:

    This is the first time I’ve read your blog and *definitely* not the last. Wow! This is a must read for everyone, not just women. Wonderfully written. Thank you for putting into words what many of us are thinking.

  8. gkinnard says:

    Damn I loved this rant! If YOU could only moderate a presidential debate this election cycle my life would be complete!

    • ProfMomEsq says:

      Ha! I’d love to moderate such a debate, but I’d get all lawyer-like and start yelling objections at the candidates when they try to dodge my questions like I do at depositions when people won’t give me a straight answer. So, the whole debate would just be me yelling, “Objection! Non-responsive! Would someone PLEASE direct the candidate to answer the question?!?!?” Although it may make for interesting television, because I get a little purple when I get mad … 🙂

      Okay – that was a sassy response – so I should also say THANK YOU for the nice compliment you just gave me. I really do like having you around. You’re very good for my morale.

  9. LeMonde says:

    Thank you. Brilliantly said. Wtf we don’t see “are you dad enough” making the cover?

  10. Lexi says:

    Just fantastic! All of it! You said what needed to be said in all of this.

  11. Kelly Naylor says:

    Oh, how I love you! When the whole “mommy war” nonsense starts, I need to just cover my ears sometimes and say, “La la la la la la! I can’t HEAR you!” Also, I’ve taken to quoting The Bloggess… “If you didn’t come out of my Lady Garden, you can’t call me ‘mommy’.” Geez, even my own Offspring rarely calls me that anymore (of course, she’ll be 23 in a few weeks, so “mommy” isn’t as cool as it was 15 years ago), though I have gotten quite fond of “Mamacita.”

    Why the heck do we fight each other anyway? Are we nuts? Yeah, yeah… people are goading us into it. Are we nuts to take the bait? (I’m going with “yes”… your mileage may vary).

    Also, a wonderfully marvelous mantra I recall from the 70s… keep your damn laws off MY body. Still appropriate and relevant today, unfortunately. Oooh, and that gets my Irish up!

    This whole “debate” (yeah, like we have anything as civil as debate going on) is completely insane. Using some of the non-logic surrounding this issue, I should take umbrage with you for doing the lawyerly thing. Eh? I took a business law class for some bizarre reason and I’m fairly certain I lost 10% of my brain cells that semester. I cannot, absolutely CANNOT, comprehend what the heck you lawyerly folks do. On the other hand, I speak at least half a dozen computer languages fluently, including all the dialects of SQL.

    So… there’s room for everyone at this party. Let’s just have ourselves some adult beverages, nosh on our favorite foods, sigh when our kids pull each others’ hair or shake our heads at their nonsense if we’re Awesome Aunties, and plan how we’re going to take over the world.

  12. […] isolated exceptions (are you mom enough?!), I’ve never experienced such outright hostility toward and among parents than […]

It's boring when I do all the talking around here. Speak now, while you can get a word in edgewise.

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