Stop the Mommy Wars – a Plea from a Fly-Over Mom

Hello, my name is Judith Munson and I have been a stay at home mom since the birth of my daughter four years ago. This is my plea on behalf of working moms, stay-at-home moms, working-from-home moms and moms everywhere.

I beg of you, major media, stop the mommy wars. It’s becoming obvious this war is propagated solely for network morning show ratings and magazine sales. Editors and news directors know, come sweeps or slow news cycles, this subject will keep sleep-deprived eyes glued to sets and magazine covers screaming “We feel your pain!” flying out of racks.

Although there’s been a bit of a lull in this coverage recently, I doubt it will last. Some pundit somewhere will find a new angle and breathe life back into it. You know these pundits. They live in Massachusetts and have nannies.

Starting with the birth of Sophie, I tried flipping through an Atlantic Monthly cover feature, “Dispatches from the Mommy Wars.” No simple task when one is nursing. The baby’s one free arm flailed about, tearing and smashing pages, while I tried to hold the pages down with my one free hand. But I thought maybe this writer’s experience mirrored mine. She too was a professional writer who opted to stay at home when her baby was born. The article focused on how she felt vindicated by her difficult decision, because all the other babies on her block were being strolled about by nannies. It wasn’t until the reader was a few thousand words into the piece that they were informed that despite the fact the writer didn’t work, she too had a nanny. She could come and go as she pleased. No wrestling with a car seat. No heaving a stroller into the trunk. No diaper bag. So much for relating to me.

About a year or so later, Newsweek gave us the “Perfect Madness: Motherhood in an Age of Anxiety” cover. Another East Coaster. Another professional writer. Another who opted out to stay at home. Her conclusion? Moms do too much for their kids these days. The issue of hyper-scheduling and micro-managing today’s kids was not exactly a new one, but again, I’m sure that issue of Newsweek and the writer’s pending book by the same title sold well.

Two years after Sophie’s arrival came the twins. Hank and George were in the house, and I was once again nursing, not just one, but two tiny babies. That’s just what I was doing when Charles Gibson stared me down one morning, reporting a new study found too many parents yell at their kids. Something that, Charlie noted with near disgust, never happens in his house. I instinctively reached for the remote, but almost lost Hank when I remembered I had no free hands.

Tell me Charlie, have you ever had to stop a two-year old from jumping head first off a couch while nursing two babies — without yelling?

Charlie, have you ever had to watch small children sans other adults for one hour, one day let alone an entire week while averaging four hours of sleep a night? And no, those four hours are not consecutive.

After a few brief months of blissful mommy-war-free news gathering, Good Morning America again incurred my wrath. This time it was Diane who had me captive (yes, I was still nursing twins). By her side was yet another Belt-way mom, an academic who decided to jump on the mommy-war bus, and GMA was right there to drive it full speed ahead.

Diane sat there with disingenuous wide-eyed amazement while the professor revealed – gasp! – staying at home can be tedious. Lonely even. Sometimes unfulfilling. Women should go back to work. Now that was one well-spent sabbatical. Talk about ground-breaking stuff. And it gave GMA enough fodder for not one, but two weeks of mommy-war mania.

The fact of the mommy matter is, is that no decision is perfect or easy, and a media that continues to pit women against each other helps no one. How many times have I thought to myself, “I am really bad at this. Charlie’s right. I’m a terrible mother, because I lose it sometimes. These guys would be better off in daycare.” But there’s the occasional payoff.

On a hot sweaty August day, after pushing Sophie and Hank in the double stroller up hill five blocks with George in the backpack, a women stopped me as I huffed and puffed into the grocery store parking lot. She wanted to tell me she saw me creeping up that hill a few minutes ago. She waved me off with a “You go girl!” Although not exactly a fan of that phrase, I have to admit, I was thinking, “Oh yeah, I go.” Maybe I was getting somewhere that day, and I don’t mean Mount Royal Fine Foods, the neighborhood market.

As a mom who lives in fly-over land with no family or other built-in babysitters nearby, I feel it is my duty to demand a halt to this “news” coverage. Beltway media moms and writers who once worked but now stay at home with their nannies have no right to exploit a subject that causes so much self doubt and insecurity for women whose income may be less accommodating. Go ahead, work. Or stay home. Feel good about yourselves because your baby is just a few feet away from you on the set or upstairs while you type. Just leave the rest of us alone.

Judith Munson is a former magazine editor. She wrote this article on Mother’s Day, 2006. With her twins finally sleeping through the night, she finally had the energy.

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