I don’t know about the rest of you, but now that I’m a parent I think I read the news differently. Stories about children, family dynamics, and the state of motherhood just seem to strike me in a different way now. I empathize more, which probably comes with being a mom, but I also tend to think of how I would react if it was my child, my family, or my career that was in question. Four stories really stood out to me this week and I thought I’d share my reactions in the hopes of starting a conversation with you, dear readers, about how you read them. But first, a gratuitous shot of Charlie, at the offline request of a few readers who reminded me that I haven’t posted one in a while…
1. The New York Mag article on SAHMs – First, I hate the title of this piece, “The Retro Wife.” What does that even mean? A woman making the very commendable choice to work in the home as a mother and caretaker does not make her some Mad Men-esque kitschy throwback. And this article seems to ignore two big realities that impact many women’s decisions to either work or stay home – 1) Most American families out there, today, are simply not in a financial situation to even think about losing one income. You can talk to me all you want about how you made the financial sacrifices and it was worth it, but it’s just plain impossible for some people and that’s that. 2) In certain industries, leaving for even just a couple years can doom your career forever, especially if you are a woman.
This article seems to make it sound like it’s just so easy to take yourself out of the game and then just go back to work if you feel like doing it later. Um no, so sorry. It doesn’t really work that way. Is it cool that women are damned if they do and damned if they don’t? No! But it’s the state of things right now and I think it was really irresponsible journalism to just sort of ignore it here.
I do agree that there is nothing un-feminist about staying home, having a piping hot dinner on the table for your husband when he gets in from work, and even giving him a nightly massage to calm his frayed nerves after a hard day at the office. But there is nothing serene and perfect about tending to a household all day, either, and the author seems to make it seem like being an at-home mom is just some dreamy wonderland.
Most of my friends couldn’t manage to get beyond the first couple pages of this article, but I read it all the way to the end for the purposes of writing this post and was impressed that they finally imparted a bit of realism in the final two pages of the piece. Some of us working moms sort of thrive on the stress of balancing everything, while also learning what’s important and what we can let go. I say that while also being jealous of the time my SAHM friends get with their kids. I guess this piece just touched off my usual issue with these sorts of things – that we can’t support one decision without taking little digs at the other. Is it so hard to say that there are choices out there for moms, these days, and that both of them have pros and cons?
2. The Steubenville Verdict – Yeah, you knew I was gonna talk about this one. I feel as if I read hundreds of pieces about this case, but the ones that really resonated with me were the one that encouraged us to explore the idea that these boys should be punished but that it’s okay that we also feel sad for them and the one that asks us to think about all women as people, none of whom “ask for it” when they are violated.
So yeah, I think the mainstream media coverage of this case was despicable because of all the sympathy that was given to these two young men, but I also think it’s sad that they were raised in a culture that made this sort of behavior seem even remotely acceptable. At the same time, I’ve found myself wondering about their parents and how they are coping through all of this. I’ve wondered about the victim’s parents, too. We all know that even the best parents can end up having kids who drink to the point of passing out at a party, or who end up violating someone, or who do nothing to stop such an attack. One of my greatest fears as a parent is that I will do everything I can to raise a thoughtful, good person, but all those efforts will go to the dogs because of outside pressures that I can’t control. I’m not excusing these guys for what they did…ever. But I wonder about their families and how they will move forward after this.
And in a sea of articles that seemed determined to make me eternally depressed about the state of parenthood in this country…
3. …there’s this guy. Now this, right here, is the type of person I hope my son grows up to be. Peaceful but activist. And with a sense of humor! Exhibiting his First Amendment rights, while never questioning the same rights held by the guys across the street. This guy is awesome. I bet his parents are like, “That’s our boy!”
Lessons learned this week – I still want all mothers to just support each others’ choices instead of finding reasons to condemn them in order to feel better about their own. Parents of children who do bad things are not always bad people themselves; we need to start looking at society as a whole and not just the two people paying rent, bills, and tuition. But it’s that same society that is turning out some really amazing people, too. Even though our media would sometimes like us to think otherwise, there are kids out there who grow up to do good, kind, and important things in this world.
What did these articles say to you? Share your stories here!