Yes, I am a working mother—as preposterous, redundant and ridiculously, politically correct as that may sound—and I am not afraid to admit it.
To me, this means that I have worked both in and outside of the home, including standing on ladders to reach toys stuck on ceiling fans, as well as realizing sometime during mid-career that I hit my professional ceiling while working in several male-run corporate media giants. Can you guess which ones?
Without a doubt…working outside of the home has felt like more akin to a Club Med vacation when compared to staying home with my three daughters. Anyone who wants to invite me on such a vaca, please private message me.
This is not to say that I have “terrible children,” that I am inept at taking care of them, or that I am some stereotype of “the angry stay-at-home unfulfilled mother,”—on the contrary, I am damn great at it, and I even enjoy it. I describe my life like a reality survivor show: with a lot of muscle and love as its top producers, and a comedian as the writer. I only wish I could earn some sort of residual checks in the mail.
And that’s why it is hard. For 24 hours a day, seven days a week, I am here for my children. No coffee breaks, no 401K, no board meetings with coworker praises, and absolutely no time off for good behavior.
Betty Friedan, author of the groundbreaking book The Feminine Mystique, wrote in1963:
“The problem lay buried, unspoken for many years in the minds of American women. It was a strange stirring, a sense of dissatisfaction, a yearning that women suffered in the middle of the twentieth century in the United States. Each suburban housewife struggled with it alone. As she made the beds, shopped for groceries, matched slipcover material, ate peanut butter sandwiches with her children, chauffeured Cub Scouts and Brownies, lay beside her husband at night, she was afraid to ask even of herself the silent question: ”Is this all?'”
This book was written before I was even born, and some 20 years ago when I first read the deservedly acclaimed book during college, I recall thinking, “This won’t even be an issue when I become a mother one day; interesting historical account.”
But here I am: Single Mom, Voter, Reporter, and Overworked Female, feeling often both over and underemployed, at least when it comes to much of the political rhetoric.
I have been through “the terrible twos,” “the troublesome teens” and have been on call, working tirelessly as a CEO, cook, maid, chauffeur, tutor, doctor, accountant, therapist, personal shopper, coach, referee, advocate, coach, professional organizer, treasurer, referee, and all-around tireless supermom. Not to mention, according to some family members “the sibling with the most kids.”
The phrase “working mother” is the most redundant phrase that exists in the English language, and anyone who has ever had a mother or is one knows first-hand exactly what I mean.
When I heard the statement “quite by accident” on some new so-called political cable show, sadly, I barely flinched.
And why is that? Sadly and honestly, it is because I have heard this sentiment so many times over the years while I have struggled to make the sacrifices and put in the work it takes to be a full-time stay-at-home mother, without too much time to get involved with kitchen or boardroom political debates. I am usually too busy driving one of my children somewhere or cooking.
I know, how “unexciting” and “unimportant” those things are, tongue held firmly inside of cheek, as well as hand on feisty hip.
First of all, this is not a bi-partisan issue on any political front. This is a human issue, a woman’s issue, and a family issue.
And the fact that it is now being used as a political football shows just how out-of-touch most politicians are with women voters and the concerns and issues we face each and every day.
As a Mother first and Democrat most second, I have heard inquiries and jabs over the years from other mothers who work outside the home including, “What do you do all day?” “When are you going to work again?” and “It must be nice to relax all day,” and these are the edited comments.
A former in-law used to get upset and embarrassed whenever I informed people at social gatherings when asked what I did for a living, “I am a mother.”
She would immediately chime in nervously that I was also a journalist, had political aspirations and even sometimes attended a panel discussion or two on the arts or cultural matters in my free time.
My reaction to like comments has always been to smile, and then slowly and elegantly answer that I enjoy my current career as a stay-at-home mother, and that my only wish is that my daughters may one day enjoy the same fulfillment in whatever they choose for themselves, be it as single women, married women, or adopters and/or biological mothers of thirteen children and fifty pets.
“Choice” is the key word. Every woman struggles from financial, emotional and countless struggles as to whether or not she will make the choice to stay home with her children. And most women do not have any said choice on the matter, juggling several jobs over time, and without much credit from their peers.
While it may seem fine for politicians and pundits to make cute and glib soundbites about their views of working mothers, millions of women who work outside the home truthfully wish they had the luxury of staying home as some of their mothers and grandmothers, while they continue to struggle—even though working several jobs to barely make ends meet.
I am the first to admit that I struggle daily and deeply with my decision to stay at home with my kids and work as a freelance writer as I worry about my children’s financial future, in particular as to whether or not I will be able to afford to send them to college.
I often feel guilt as my daughters do not have some of the material things that are afforded by parents who both work outside the home; and quite honestly, there are more than a few days when I miss being a savvy hot-wired news reporter, even when I didn’t get all of the top stories that I fought and worked for.
While continuing to write on the political catch phrase “working mother” which causes me feelings of nausea, anger, and a primal brand of frustration, the positive is that we are, at the very least, talking about an issue that is of awesome importance to women on all sides and vague shadows of the political aisle, and that some politicians are “seemingly” paying attention; whether or not they actually care, we will have to wait and see.
Hilary Clinton, Bernie Sanders and of course, to the lover of all women, Republican front runner Donald Trump, are you listening?
Clinton once said something relevant to this issue that I noted, “There cannot be true democracy unless women’s voices are heard. There cannot be true democracy unless women are given the opportunity to take responsibility for their own lives. There cannot be true democracy unless all citizens are able to participate fully in the lives of their country.”
Let us hope that she also realizes the large inequalities, financial and politically, that women—who have not enjoyed her financial and social luxuries and choices—have and continue to face on a daily basis.
Insofar as a “war on women,” the truth is that women are not calling for any war, least among them most mothers—on any political or ideological fronts. We are too busy working, worrying, and getting the job done.
After speaking with and getting to know hundreds of mothers over the last 15 or so years, here are are the issues that I believe most moms care about:
1. We care about the physical, emotional and mental health and well-being of our children and families.
2. We care about the future of our children, of our parents, of our siblings and of our communities on a micro and macro level.
3. We care about raising decent, integral, strong, responsible and interdependent, happy children who will one day become responsible citizens and adults.
4. We care about our children’s education, about their futures insofar as freedom, liberty and justice to practice their chosen faith and civil-minded politics, and raise their own families in the way they see fit; as well as about their autonomy to carry out any goal and dream that they believe in.
5. We care about securing and supporting ideologies and interests that are not only sensitive to our moral and political ideas and passion for family. We also plan to vote accordingly for those in office who are willing to be flexible and inclusive to our sincere and integral hopes and goals as women, human beings, and important contributors to our communes—as a whole, not as a mere special interest group or cause for an “I am Woman, Hear Me Roar” soundbite.
What matters most is that women today rightly feel powerful because they are the majority of voters, whether they work outside the home, inside the home or some variance thereof.
And whether or not a political campaign decides to label issues that women care about as a “war” only proves how much they underestimate the power of women in this country.
Powerful because women today are not only the majority of the voters, but make most of the decisions about how to spend the family income, where to send their children to school and are today beginning more businesses and attending more colleges than their male counterparts.
As a supporter of children and of all women who should “never feel a need to defend their decisions or necessary actions,” I believe that what is in our best interest is that we come together as females and refrain from judging other women for the difficult circumstances they face and how they choose to best define their journeys.
And as this proud and feisty working mother and journalist can attest to, I am listening closely and will cast my opinion with my vote, my wallet and with my informed political conscience.
Now that is work well spent, paycheck or not.
Other work well spent will be when I spend time with my daughters tonight just talking about how their day went.
This is indeed the most priceless moment that a stay-at-home mother enjoys, and her paycheck.
And as far as any war on women?
It has no effect or influence on the four of us. We are far too busy enjoying being a family. And whether or not any politician ever understands that integral joy is none of our concern.
As I helped my daughter yesterday study for a history exam, she asked me:
“Mommy, who do you think should be our next president?”
I answered, “The candidate who is the most fair and just, to all of us, female or male, white or non-white, and most importantly, someone who looks up to our next generation, rather than past them.”
She gave me a high five.
The Working Mom Debate Continues.
Author: Francesca Biller
Editor: Catherine Monkman
Photos: Kheel Center/Flickr
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