Friday, March 7, 2014

Mommy Wars - How we can help each other and be on the same "Side" - International Women's Dy

Tomorrow (March 8th), is International Women's Day.  

A friend of mine, “the Psychiatrist” tore a page out of a magazine he was reading and said “here you should read this”. I did and I thought it was worth sharing for this week’s International Women’s Day. Whether you are a working mom, might become one, have a wife who is one, or just know one, some sage advice from Dr. Barbara Howard might not hurt!
Summary of : Help families clarify values about working moms. Clinical Psychiatry News Feb. 2014


“Mommy Wars”. It even has a name. This refers to the conflict between mothers working only at home versus mothers with outside employment. As the story goes, each group looks down on the other – the at home mom decrying the lack of caring for the family of the employed, and the employed smirking at the intellectual plateau and lack of earnings of the home mom.


However the bigger Mommy War is inside the individual woman: Am I fulfilling my potential? Am I doing right by my family? The turmoil and stress of mothers at worst can contribute to turmoil in the home, or at a minimum to exhausted mothers not having much fun.


How can we support others, or ourselves? Dr. Howard suggests start by thinking about your family’s values. The best parenting occurs when a women is satisfied with her role – whether at home full time or working outside. Being satisfied can be promoted by mindful consideration and acceptance of the choices they make. Make a list of your pros and cons – it can assist in assist in the evolution of more satisfaction than “what is”.


The benefits are many to children who have working mothers. The added (or only) income can provide important resources such as educational opportunities, sports, and the arts. Having a mother who studies, collaborates, or creates value through her work provides a natural role model for the child’s future success in a career, as well as in being a parent. This is especially valuable for girls who may have the same dilemma about work in the future, but also for boys who may have greater respect for women in the workplaces as well as in their future homes. Children might see more clearly the value in getting an education, and might have a better appreciation for the hard work it takes to get there when they observe their mothers in this role. Resentment is not likely as long as the mother shows affection and makes sure she knows her children well.


Often a working mother’s main concern is whether she is giving her children enough love and attention. Studies have shown that the average at-home mother spends 20 minutes per day of one-on-one time playing with her child. Dr. Howard recommends moms spend 15 minutes of Special Time every day with each child, following their lead in play. This is like gold to the parent-child relationship. This guaranteed time makes the child feel loved, reduces behavior problems, and assuages some of the mother’s guilt so she can keep needed childrearing limits.


One of the biggest stresses for women deciding to go back to, or to carry on at work is child care. Families worry about their children’s wellbeing at child care facilities or with nannies.  Old news stories of rare abuse stories or abductions can create unreasonable fears that limit the families choices and greatly affect their overall family functioning. But most families don’t make these choices lightly.  You talked to other mothers, you did your research, and you trusted your instincts, now it is time to trust yourself and relax.


Another question is whether her baby will “lover her the best” if he goes to day care. Dr. Howard reassures us that even for infants blood is thicker than water, and that the primary bond with mom will prevail. Multitudes of child psychology studies over decades have proven this out. And remember, no one can have too many people who love you.


Even in families with supportive husbands who endorse an equal role in parenting, mothers have been noted to do 75% of the maintenance of the family and house. Don’t go run off an blame your husband! Often this is driven by the mother who does not want to give up the control, or needs to make up for their working mom guilt. Try weekly family meetings to keep roles and responsibly on the table and trade tasks as needed. A not uncommon story is of a working mom being asked “how do you do it” and the response is “I don’t sleep”. Lack of sleep is epidemic in the US, but it has extra potential impact on mothers. It can lead to irritability, depression, inefficiency, and adds extra stress.  I hate Martha Stewart. What real mother can make little costumes for her candlesticks? Yet some women have trouble lowering their standards for “Housekeeping” to a feasible level . Remember, dust kittens in the living room and an occasional frozen dinner are a small price to pay for having family fun and maintaining sanity.


What about those Mommy Wars? I will depart from Dr. Howard’s article and say that as women we need to stick together and leverage what comes naturally to us. Women are sited as having a high need for collaboration and communication. Why not make friends across the employment divide and join forces.


The stay at home mom often has a great pulse on what’s going on at school or in the communities and I have found they are really happy to share their knowledge if you’re willing to ask. I thank the heavens for the stay at home mom’s in my neighborhood who lead the PTAs, help out in the classroom, and make my child’s school experience a great one.


Hopefully the stay at home mom can appreciate all that the working moms do too. They are great role models for their daughters and sons a like. Working mothers should look for those opportunities to be the classroom “special guest”  and talk about how they contribute to the community. I took part in a Science Fair at my child’s school and did a classroom tour to show how science is cool. Afterwards my child pointed out that “I was the only girl”, that made me glad I came!


Women in the workforce would not be where they are now if was not for the generations before who forged a path. Now it is our turn to work together to forge the path for the working women of tomorrow.

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