Thursday, April 20, 2006
The New Republic has an interesting editorial (subscription required) in its May 1st issue questioning the hype surrounding the so-called "Mommy Wars."
According to conventional wisdom, there is an on-going ideological divide between stay-at-home moms and women who choose to put their careers above their families. A continuing cultural war of epic proportions seethes just under the fabric of American society.
But as with most things in life, nothing is ever quite that black and white. Indeed, in this context, as in many others, there are many shades of grey blending together when one actually takes the time to look at these work/family balance issues.
Indeed, the TNR piece points to:
"The Motherhood Study," a report issued last year by the Institute for American Values, [which] found no evidence of any ideological divide between mothers who work and those who stay at home. For all but the most privileged, the mommy wars are not only a myth, but a dangerous diversion from the true scandal of parenthood in contemporary America.
Even more provocatively, the editorial observes (I believe quite rightly):
The majority of children now grow up with both parents working outside the home--often out of financial necessity. But, taking its cues from reactionaries and solipsistic liberal elites, our public policy still treats working mothers as a casualty of the culture wars rather than an on-the-ground reality.
From this jumping off point, the editorial takes national and state policymakers to task for not providing more effective legal protection for working mothers and talks of at least one new approach being championed by a group of lawmakers. Under this newly-introduced "Federal Employees Paid Parental Leave Act," federal workers would be guaranteed six weeks of paid leave to care for newborns or adopted babies.
And although enactment of this bill would be largely symbolic because it would not have the scope that most workplace flexibility advocates would prefer to see, it would nevertheless be an important first step in overcoming the anachronistic world view of two sides bickering over whether mothers should stay at home or not.
As the TNR authors assert, it is time to start making workplace flexibility law based on the reality that many women have no choice but to work and that legislating protective workplace rules in this context is not taking sides in some non-existent mommy war.
I'll leave you with these concluding, powerful words from the TNR editorial:
The cultural revolution has already occurred. The real threat to the American family is the policies that lag behind it.
Hat Tip: Dana Nguyen