I have already used up more than my share of newsprint about how the debates between "Mudslinging Moms" of the stay-at-home and working variety are largely irrelevant to the majority of the population. (See the Saturday Star if you want to read more.)
But I do want to mention a couple of insights that were worth noting during my long trudge through the mom lit. I discovered this summer that Mommy Wars: Stay-At-Home and Career Moms Face Off On Their Choices, Their Lives, Their Families, a collection of essays edited by Leslie Morgan Steiner, falls short of being the ideal beach book. However, there are a couple of pages that still remain folded down, simply because I so heartily relate to the writers, and because they made points I haven't heard much about in all the media mommy chatter.
Getting to Jane Juska's essay on page 308 was like hitting the water station on the last leg of a marathon. I slurped it up and it sustained me for the rest of the journey. In it, Juska reflects on the birth of her son in the '60s and how she had to return to work but was quite happy to. In hindsight however, she says she would have stayed home if she'd had the choice. The reason: her son was one of those babies who needed his mother. He wasn't ready for her to leave, she writes.
Some kids are. Some kids take early separation from their mothers in stride and adapt, more or less quickly, to strange houses and strange cribs and strange ladies asking them if they want to go potty. But some aren't. As as mothers we know which of our kids is which.
So true. But a point so rarely raised. I had both kinds of kids, and I knew which was which. And they are way too important to leave out of the dialogue. For the sake of those children, and the moms who have to head out the door, we need to put our energy in lobbying for solutions that minimize the stress, the patchwork childcare arrangements and the uncertainty, whether it's in the form of more on-site daycares, longer paid leaves for all mothers, or at the very least, qualified reliable caregivers who are properly paid for the important work they do.
Another noteworthy essay comes from writer Lila Leff, who happens not to be a mother but distinguishes herself as one of the many adults in our communities who still provide authentic "mothering" to so many needy children and youth.
Leff soul-searches about whether she can bear to leave the struggling students she has devoted her life to in order to have her own children. And in the process, she hits the nail on the head about the so-called "sequencing" that many mothers do in and out of the full-time workforce. Leff recalls asking her own mother if she considered her time at home with children as wasted years.
"No," she said with complete certainty. "I see is as one of the greatest chapters of my life. But all chapters lead to the next chapter, and there is nothing worse than hanging around in a chapter after it has already ended."
You can apply that to just about anything in life. And no doubt it would resonate with most women of any age and stage.
So now, onto the next chapter for me. I've been hanging around in the one on mommy wars for long enough. At least for this week.