Saturday, November 29, 2008

First choices

When I read last week that Ruth Marcus winced when she first heard Michelle Obama refer to herself as "mom in chief," I winced. Why is it, I wondered, that we devalue the role of mom in chief? Why does it make so many feminists (although certainly not all, and I myself am definitely a feminist) cringe when a woman puts her children before her career? I suppose it's the "backlash of feminism." People worked so hard to get us where we are today, to get us to Nancy Pelosi as Speaker and Hillary Clinton as a First Lady turned Senator turned Honest-to-Goodness-Woman-Running-for President turned Secretary of State.   And then I come along and say, "Thanks but no thanks on that bridge to insanity." Because a career and a baby? I could try to "have it all," but I think my family would suffer for it. It's not what works for us. 

But it was really just Marcus' first line that jumped out at me. In her second line she says that her second reaction was to identify with Obama's words. I think that's what's important, what unites women as mothers, as professionals, and simply as women. There's this whole "Mommy Wars" business that the media like to stir up every now and again and so many people respond so quickly when they do. I'm always surprised by it. There are the people who argue that by dropping out of the work force to raise a child I am doing myself, Adriana, and society as a whole a great disservice, but there are also people on the opposite side of the issue. These people still think that mothers who choose not to put their careers on hold are hurting their families. 

I have a lot of friends who, like me, have decided that careers can wait for now. I have plenty of friends with children who have returned to their jobs as soon as their maternity leave was over. Some need the second income, while others simply love their careers. I have friends who do not want children at all, who, in spite of their incredibly successful careers will always face prying question from their families and in-laws. I think we all question our decisions sometimes. What kind of examples are we setting for our children? Should we show them that women (and mothers) can do anything? Should we really be spending so much time away from our families? Are we going to regret not having children someday? But here we are, all the same, making the choices that work for us. 

I love that Clinton was a different kind of First Lady, taking on policy roles in her husband's Administration. I love that Obama declares herself "mom in chief." I hate that both of them have faced criticism for their choices.

1 comment:

clara said...

I love this post and I agree that its too bad both faced criticism. We all need to support each other, working or staying at home --if you have kids, its all challenging.