What she said:

Melissa Harris-Lacewell on the extremist anti-abortion position of never allowing any abortions, even in the case of rape and incest:

Let‘s be completely clear about the facts here.  There is no place in the world and no time in history where restricting women‘s reproductive rights makes a people or a nation more free or more equal.  These extreme positions on abortion are without any question a war on American girls and women.

[…]I‘m from a people who really did experience the need to hold on to a God who would see them through difficult times, including generations of black women who in slavery were forced to bear the children of their rapists.  And I do believe, because I‘m a person of faith, in a interceding God that can help people through difficult circumstances.  But I‘m also an American who believes that the point of government isn‘t to make life so hard for half of our citizens that the only force there to help them is God.  We, as a government and as a people, deserve and should do better.

A detente to the Mommy Wars

Thanks for all of your comments, everyone.

I just wanted to clarify the main point of my rant post.  It wasn’t to demonize the stay-at-home mama, or the choices she’s made to have a domestic life.  Many of my friends and family members are such mamas, and I’m not out to make them feel bad about their choices (though my snarkiness may have had that effect — sorry, y’all).

My main issue is the dominant presumption that the  better choice for moms is to stay at home, full-time, with your kids.  Note that I said better choice, and not best.

These days it seems like discussions around this issue are becoming more realistic, and people are realizing that both parents working is the economic reality of most family situations.  That said, while there may be the acknowledgment of the pragmatism of the working mom, I resent the implicit longing for the better option (should finances allow) of her being able to stay at home with her kids.

I think both types of mamas present different opportunities for their kids.  As outlined in many of the comments, there are many benefits given to children who are raised with a full-time parent.  Likewise, there are other advantages given to those kids whose parents work.  It’s not a case of which is better, but a case of which is right for which family.

In my earlier post, when I said all those statements about teaching Emma to be self-reliant and such, I wasn’t trying to justify my reasons working outside the home — I was hoping to make the point of how hurtful it can be to take the sanctimonious side of issues.   My goal was to call attention to the fact that when it comes to the working mama vs. stay at home mama debate, I don’t hear a lot of sanctimony being said on the working mama’s side of things.

That said, I know this is still a hard issue and one with strong feelings on either side.  Here’s hoping the dialogue can continue, and in the end, we mamas are more allies than foes.

Mommy Wars

Dixie’s got an interesting post over on her blog, regarding the first 2 minutes of this clip from the film Mona Lisa Smile:

According to IMDB, here’s the dialogue:

Katherine Watson: There are seven law schools within 45 minutes of Philadelphia. You can study and get dinner on the table by 5:00.
Joan Brandwyn: It’s too late.
Katherine Watson: No, some of them accept late admissions! Now, I was upset at first, I can tell you that. When Tommy came to me at the dance and told me he was accepted to Penn, I thought, ‘Oh God, her fate is sealed! She’s worked so hard, how can she throw it all away?’ But then I realized you won’t have to! You can bake your cake and eat it too! It’s just wonderful!
Joan Brandwyn: We’re married. We eloped over the weekend. Turned out he was petrified of a big ceremony, so we did a sort of spur-of-the-moment thing. Very romantic.
[Katherine is stunned]
Joan Brandwyn: It was my choice, not to go. He would have supported it.
Katherine Watson: But you don’t have to choose!
Joan Brandwyn: No, I have to. I want a home, I want a family! That’s not something I’ll sacrifice.
Katherine Watson: No one’s asking you to sacrifice that, Joan. I just want you to understand that you can do both.
Joan Brandwyn: Do you think I’ll wake up one morning and regret not being a lawyer?
Katherine Watson: Yes, I’m afraid that you will.
Joan Brandwyn: Not as much as I’d regret not having a family, not being there to raise them. I know exactly what I’m doing and it doesn’t make me any less smart. This must seem terrible to you.
Katherine Watson: I didn’t say that.
Joan Brandwyn: Sure you did. You always do. You stand in class and tell us to look beyond the image, but you don’t. To you a housewife is someone who sold her soul for a center hall colonial. She has no depth, no intellect, no interests. You’re the one who said I could do anything I wanted. This is what I want.

I haven’t seen the movie in ages, but after watching the clip above, I re-watched it tonight.

Dixie‘s take on the scene above got me thinking — here’s part of what she wrote:

I just felt like Julia Robert’s line “You can do both” was too simple — it made it sound too easy. I tried talking about it with Marc before bed last night, but all I really got from him (he was trying to read a book at the time) was that she may not be saying it’s easy, just that it’s possible to do both.

A couple things to say, I guess. First of all, it depends on what your definition of “both” is. To some people “both” is having a job/career and having your children in daycare until they are school-aged (and possibly even then in those work hours before and after school as well). “Both” may be working part-time and being home when your children are home. […]

When I think of what “both” is: having a career and raising kids, I just don’t see how you can really do both fully. And that’s simply a matter of the logistics of time. Both take time.

After watching the film again, I disagree with Dixie’s “easy-peasy” characterization of the line of “you can do both.”  For one, the theme “you can do both” doesn’t just appear in that one scene — there’s at least 2 or 3 other places in the film where that line is used, and I don’t think it’s ever said thoughtlessly.

But beyond the film’s reiterated theme of “you can do both,” in the scene excerpted above, it’s the married student who was more flippant and arrogant about the roles of women.  Did you catch how quick she was to make a woman fit into a prescribed dichotomy?  As if the only options then (and now?) are to be either to be a career woman OR family woman.  Oy, I wanted to hurl things at the screen when she said that as a career woman she would “regret not having a family, not being there to raise them” — especially when it does NOT have to be a choice of one or the other!

My original comment I left on Dixie’s post was about how difficult it is to juggle two careers — one outside the home and the other within.  And y’know, it is difficult. Exhausting. Frustrating. Lonely. Exasperating. Many other negative adjectives could be used here to describe the struggles we working mamas face, negotiating two very different worlds.

But you know what’s even more frustrating?  Reading comments from other mamas that imply that working outside the home forces you to sacrifice your abilities to be fully present as a parent — because, after all, how can you work full time and be a full time parent?

Granted, over at Dixie’s blog, the discussion is still quite civil in tone — but within most of the comments, you can’t help but notice the unavoidable inference that the better mom is the one who’s there 24/7 for her kids.

And when I think of it, it’s easier to take the sanctimonious route when you are on the stay-at-home side of this issue.   Of course it sounds noble (and to some, ideal) to be the one who makes sacrifices and chooses to have your life revolve solely around your family responsibilities.  That said, I’m a little wary of women who complain that stay-at-home-mothering doesn’t get the credit it deserves — when for most of humankind, mothering was the ONLY career available to women.

So, now it’s my turn to be sanctimonious when it comes to this issue.

While the stay-at-home moms can brag that they never miss a moment of their child’s life, I can brag that I’m showing my daughter the importance of being self-reliant.  When Emma is an adult, I never want her to be in a place where she feels vulnerable and indebted to someone else’s income.  When she’s older, I hope she sees my choice of working outside the home as one where I was able to use my talents in spheres beyond domestic ones, and I hope she’ll also appreciate that I gave her the opportunities to learn from  adults other than me.

Because that’s the trick when you’re a working mama — you have to find the right people to help you in your parenting journey.  I don’t have extended family to call upon to play a major role in Emma’s life — but I do have great people/friends/and services that have filled that familial void quite well.

For instance, the daycare worker that Emma saw three days a week, Carol.  Carol is the mama to 2 boys, and she loved Emma as one of her own, too.  I never had to worry about Emma when she was in Carol’s care, and in fact, I think Emma is a better girl because of the time she spent with Carol.

Starting next week, Emma will be in the CASA program at Allegro Montessori School.  Jerry and I deliberately chose this style of schooling because we wanted Emma to have the best.  As harassed as I am by others (hi Mom!) about my choice of only having one child, I take pride that my choice means that I can afford to give Emma options that I would not be able to if we had more children in our lives.

So I know I’ve ended this post a bit snarky (and maybe even a little nasty), and it’s not necessarily directed to anyone (not you, Dixie) — but I’m just tired of having to feel lesser-than when it comes to the choices I’ve made as a parent.  I’m also tired of the presumption that the better parent is the stay-at-home parent.

“Women hold up half the sky”

Today while being a domestic goddess (unwillingly, mind you), I turned on a YouTube channel to have something on in the background as I worked.  I turned on an Oprah episode (I know, how cliche!), and all of a sudden, I stopped working to watch.

It’s an interview with the journalist Nicholas Kristof and his partner, Sheryl WuDunn, about their book: Half the Sky: Turning Oppression into Opportunity for Women Worldwide.

I was most struck by this statistic, taken from their book’s foreword:

It appears that more girls have been killed in the last fifty years, precisely because they were girls, than men were killed in all the battles of the twentieth century. More girls are killed in this routine ‘gendercide’ in any one decade than people were slaughtered in all the genocides of the twentieth century.

Hearing information like this takes my breath away.

Earlier this week, Jerry and I (along with some friends) attended the Governor General’s lecture that commemorated the 50th anniversary of the Canadian Bill of Rights.  Michaëlle Jean may be a governmental figurehead as GG, but she’s also an amazing advocate for women and First Nations peoples.  Her talk was inspirational, and I really wished Emma was old enough that I could have taken her along with me to hear such a woman speak.

During the question and answer portion of the talk, the first person to stand and speak was a man who was clearly upset with Jean and the panel of university faculty/students who were advocating for womens’ rights as human rights.  He incoherently rambled a rant that essentially boiled down to a concern that women were attempting to domineer their way in society as a vindictive attempt of establish a place of feminine power over men.

Of course, no one took him seriously. [Jean’s later response to his question was priceless: “domination is destruction — not only that, it’s boring.”]

I’ve had some issues with the whole mens’ rights movement, and while part of me wants to take it seriously (especially when it concerns fathers’ rights), there’s another part of me that thinks all of it is pretty silly, especially when compared to the plight of most women in the world.

I think I need to read this book, and maybe forward it to some of the mens’ rights advocates I know.  *That* could lead to some really interesting conversations over a beer!

Pragmatically pro-life

In an article “Libertarians Realizing Rand Paul Is Not One of Them“, there was an interesting section on Paul’s extreme anti-abortion views.  The quotes from the article are originally found in this Reason.com article by Jacob Sullum.  Rand Paul supports “any and all legislation that would end abortion or lead us in the direction of ending abortion,” including “a Human Life Amendment and a Life at Conception Act as federal solutions to the abortion issue.”

Part of the power of the pro-life position is in its rhetorical positioning of supporting “life,” and of course it sounds good to say “life begins at conception.”   There’s even rhetorical power in claiming that “abortion is murder” and that all such procedures should be banned — but what does it PRACTICALLY mean to hold such positions?

Sullum quotes this report by Ari Armstrong:

The logical conclusion of abortion bans is that government agents should forcibly restrain women to prevent them from getting abortions. After all, if abortion is murder, as advocates of abortion bans routinely claim, then driving down the street to obtain an abortion is morally and legally equivalent to driving down the street with a loaded shotgun to blow your neighbor’s head off. Police have every right to arrest and forcibly restrain threatening individuals. If abortion is murder, then a woman who declares her intent to get an abortion has threatened murder and must be strapped down if necessary to ensure delivery.

But a fertilized egg is not a person. A fertilized egg does not properly have the legal rights of a born infant. Abortion is not murder. Women have every right to take birth control drugs or obtain an abortion. Abortion bans place a woman’s body under the control of the government and threaten to unleash a heavy-handed police state.

This is the tack I like take when I’m talking to people who are anti-choice — mainly because I think it’s important for anyone to be able to recognize the logical outcomes of the position you hold.

I also like to point people to this NYTimes article Pro-Life Nation, that describes the quality of “life” for women in the country of El Salvador (the only country in the world whose Constitution codifies “life begins at conception”).

I’m not out to change people’s minds when it comes to this issue — but I am out to make sure people understand the reality behind the rhetoric they’re spouting.

What he said:

re: “Poverty and the Pill” by Nicholas Kristof

America’s widely respected Guttmacher Institute, which conducts research on reproductive health, says that 215 million women around the world are sexually active and don’t want to become pregnant — but are not using modern forms of contraception.

Making contraception available to all these women worldwide would cost less than $4 billion, Guttmacher said in an important study published last year. That’s about what the United States is spending every two weeks on our military force in Afghanistan.

What’s more, each dollar spent on contraception would actually reduce total medical spending by $1.40 by reducing sums spent on unplanned births and abortions, the study said.

If contraception were broadly available in poor countries, the report said, more than 50 million unwanted pregnancies could be averted annually. One result would be 25 million fewer abortions per year. Another would be saving the lives of as many as 150,000 women who now die annually in childbirth.

More here.

I still think the best “pro-life” argument out there is to provide women with the means to control their fertility.