Soon after I had my twins, I actively sought the order and system of a day job, something that could mitigate the demands of relentless motherhood. Every morning it seemed to me like I was leaving a battlefront, at home, to enter a ceasefire zone, at work.
But, as my children’s lisped out utterances began to shape my world, the guilt of leaving them to someone else overtook my concentration and all I could do was long for them; my babies.
So, I quit my job.
Yet, before long, the insecurity of not being able to define myself by a monthly paycheck overwhelmed me and I was back to looking at cubicle possibilities.
Guilt and longing nuance the choices we make and, at any time, either the guilt or the longing reigns supreme. In my case, it became a recurring cycle.
When Hilary Rosen derided Ann Romney for never having worked a day in her life, it brought home to me that as a society we are used to devaluing our own choices. It is clear that neither the stay-at-home mom, nor the working mother has an edge over the other. Yet, insensitive comments are too often aimed at one or the other.
In 2008, Rosen remarked that “We hear things based upon a lifetime of slights and therefore we hear them differently often than men do.” This was in response to the sexism that Hillary Clinton faced as an electoral candidate. Rosen’s recent dismissive comments are at odds with her earlier sentiments and add to the growing pile of judgmental rhetoric; a trademark of election years.
Many of you might recall Hillary Clinton’s remark in 1992, “I suppose I could have stayed home and baked cookies and had teas, but what I decided to do was to fulfill my profession which I entered before my husband was in public life.” That Hillary remark resulted in the same media kerfuffle that this Hilary comment is creating. What is even more disconcerting is that the persons leveling these derisive statements at women are themselves women.
As a stay-at-home mother, I dreaded the question, “Do you work?” It never failed to undermine my value and contribution to the family unit. On the other hand, as a working mother, I am immediately put on the defensive by declarations on the sacrifices and responsibilities of motherhood.
We often make conflicted decisions, and there is no clear right or wrong in the choices that we make or the paths that we pick. So why the irresponsible commentary on the roles that define us?