being choosy

M has an interesting conversation going on about the guilt mothers feel about choosing their choice when it comes to their day-to-day interactions between they and their kids. Mainly, why do stay-at-home moms (esp. those with degrees) feel like they need to justify their choice to stay at home with their children. Why do working/student moms feel they need to justify having children but send them to day care or some other arrangement which does not involve them staying at home?

In part 2 of the series, M asks, “Why do stay-at-home moms attack working moms and vice versa?” I’ve been doing some interviews as part of a qualitative methods class, and while I hesitate to discuss my preliminary impressions of what I think I’ll find (I’m still interviewing and coding), I can say that I find little evidence of this. Most mothers I know have very personal reasons for their choice, and recognize that other mothers have personal reasons for their choice. While many mothers feel as though they are doing what is best for their kids, they are also doing what they think is best for them and justify that decision with a feeling that what is best for them is best for their kids and the family unit as a whole.

Reasons for staying-at-home or working were seldom explained through language that implied they were reaching for a “perfect mother” standard, which is where I think the “mommy wars” supposedly come from – women disagreeing about what one needs to do or be to reach that mythical standard of perfection. Rather, they explained their choice (which is also problematic to define what it means to choose when the alternatives are not practical, but that’s another discussion) in terms of being the best mother they knew how to be given their backgrounds, social position, and resources.

I’m excited to continue my research while following this conversation, especially as a mother who has (is) struggling with reconcile my choices regarding the care of my children with my career ambitions.

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