Illustration of a mother and daughter holding an umbrella in the rain.

The mommy wars vs the reality of working motherhood

Last updated on February 19, 2024

Here’s something: the US Bureau of Labour Statistics says that in 2011 only 16% of US households skewed 1950s, with a breadwinner dad and stay-at-home mom (SAHM). In Canada in 2010*, 20% of families had one parent at home – 90% of those were moms. In other words, MOST OF US WORK.

(Sorry for the all-caps; I couldn’t help myself.)

To which I have to ask, whither the “mommy wars”? Why all the frenzy of guilt and judgement about working, when it’s a reality for only a fraction of a fraction of households?

Other things we’re also still doing

  • Wagging our sanctimonious finger at women who openly acknowledge the working part of their lives (paging Marissa Mayer)
  • Asking each other how we manage to “do it all” – not that working and parenting isn’t a difficult juggle, but the question has a perpetually bewildered, wide-eyed naivete embedded in it, as if it’s not something that most mothers get up and do Every. Single. Day. Often without even the luxury of stopping to wonder about the how, because you’re just so busy with the doing.

In other words, if you’re as surprised as I am by the reality that over 80% of mothers work, then perhaps the problem is that we’re all consuming too much lady media. Because when I go to work, I’m thinking about health care and building websites and managing people and projects. So are most of the working moms (and grandmothers) around me. In the evenings, I’m usually thinking about friends and family, writing, Soviet Jews and whatever I happen to be reading. In between, I do the same things as you: varying combinations of cooking, eating, cleaning, laundry-ing, and just trying to muddle through the day. And in my case, those activities happen to involve a man and a tiny human, so yes, there is a fair amount of corralling into bed, teaching manners and tickle-fights.

But? Most of the media directed at women seems to think we only do the cooking, cleaning, child-care stuff. That we want it to be perfect, that there’s only one way to be perfect, and that it, of course, involves a pastel-hued and/or sassy retro-50s crafty-ness. It effectively addresses all mothers as a SAHM monolith, regardless of the reality. (I would even venture to guess that, gasp, some of those SAHMs might think about something other than their kids once in a while too. Just sayin’.)

Over 80%! Buh-bye mommy wars.

*This link on Stats Canada keeps changing – hopefully this more general one will ‘stick’.

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