Yes I am a mommy.
But I am not now, nor have I ever been, at war.
In fact, I’m not convinced that the much-ballyhooed Mommy Wars – which pit working moms against those who stay at home - even exist outside the pages of books, media and the minds of people I fear are secretly thrilled, titillated even, at the notion of women at each other’s throats.
So it was with great sadness that I read this post over at Girl’s Gone Child in which Rebecca Woolf - a writer I adore - says that becoming a mother has magnified her distrust of women ten-fold. The post doesn’t talk directly about the so-called Mommy Wars, but rather about their root cause; what she perceives to be the viscious tendency of women – particularly women in groups – to turn on and tear down other women.
Again, I am not now, nor have I ever been, at war with other women.
And even though I do not for one second doubt Rebecca’s sincerity, it just makes me sad and weary to hear perpetuated the stereotype that women are, at their core, jealous, manipulative, catty creatures who are all too eager to judge and betray each other.
That simply has not been my experience, especially not since I have become a mother.
Have I encountered bitchy women? Of course I have. Sometimes in the mirror. I have also encountered men who are sexist jerks, children who are precocious brats and old people who are cantankerous curmudgeons.
We have all at one time or another encountered every stereotype in existence, but does it not behoove us to resist the urge to let age-old stereotypes shape our views of specific groups of people?
I belong to a mom’s group that pretty much saved my sanity in the early days after Graham’s birth. And I am ashamed to say that I nearly blew off these women, these incredible women, because I was afraid of a stereotype that, quite frankly, has never even been personally demonstrated to me outside the halls of high school.
The women in this group include working, stay-at-home and work-from-home mothers and there has never been a hint of dissension among us based on our personal choices.
And it’s not just within my mom’s group that I have encountered strong, supportive and remarkable women.
I work in an overwhelmingly male-dominated field for a female boss who is whip-smart and widely respected. She has been a friend and a mentor and she has never failed to credit me for my small role in her success.
I have a mother-in-law who survived Nazi occupation, a mother who worked full-time and still went to the ends of the earth for her children and a dynamic, diverse gaggle of female cousins.
I have a large group of funny, brilliant, quirky female friends, some working, some not, some mothers, some not, who have always been there for me in good and bad times.
Every day on this blog and dozens of others I read positive, supportive comments from women who trip over themselves to relate similar experiences or at least politely empathize when they don’t agree with what has been written.
In the two years since Graham’s birth I have been the recipient of hundreds of shared smiles and knowing looks from women struggling with their own children. Discovering this sense of camaraderie has been a pleasant and unexpected side effect to motherhood.
I know I am fortunate to have so much female support in my life. Possibly I’ve been far more fortunate than most people. Perhaps your experiences have been different… darker.
But I will continue to feel that the best way to build a female support system is for women to take chances on each other and not let misogynistic stereotypes keep them apart.
Because becoming a mother has magnified my admiration of women ten-fold. It has demonstrated just how hard it is to be a woman: to balance work and family and self, all the while worrying that if you voice your needs or opinions too loudly, you’ll be labeled a bitch and become an unwitting conscript in the Mommy Wars.
Tuesday, December 4, 2007
Yes I am a mommy.