Wednesday, March 08, 2006


Working and mothering and waging war

Statistics Canada released a compendium of data and reports yesterday in a 300-page tome on the status of women in Canada, collating information on subjects like demographics, employment, education, health, and family arrangements. It reported that while women still earn substantially less than men, they are filling more professional and and influential positions, and are almost as likely as men to have university degrees. It also reported that by 2004, 65 per cent of mothers with children under three were employed, a figure that has more than doubled since 1976.

Did you catch that? Two in three mothers of preschoolers in Canada are in the workforce. And yet the current government is in the process of dismantling agreements with the provinces to improve access to childcare and improve early learning opportunities.

There's a new book out called MOMMY WARS: Stay-at-Home and Career Moms Face Off on Their Choices, Their Lives, Their Families. I haven't read it, but I've read about it. There's even an excerpt here. You know what? I think I'll take a pass on this one. But it's rankling me, because it's stirring up all the tired old crap about 'rivalries' between stay at home moms and working moms.

And then, of course, there is this . I've been stewing on this for weeks. It's the Web site of Darla Shine, author of Happy Housewives - which, for the record, I also haven't read. But when I saw that the site was strictly for SAHMs, I got curious, so I registered. She says on her splash page, "You need to be a SAHM. If you are one, you know what this means. Is this exclusionary? YOU BETCHA!" And when you register, it asks you again, "Are you a SAHM", to which I answered "no". But it let me in anyway, and they sent me a password - which, if you're curious, is "hotmama". I took a look around, but I can't see any reason at all why they would choose to exclude two thirds of women, except for some inflamatory comments in her blog like, "Staying in daycare is just as good as being in the safe comfort of your home with your mommy? Calling your child about a boo-boo or missing the soccor games is okay?" in response to Linda Hirshman on GMA.

Why have I been letting this gnaw away at me? I give no credibility to anything this woman says, and yet I am deeply offended by her exclusion of me based on my employment status.

I don't get it. I don't get why it has to be about facing off, about choosing sides, about your way or my way. I don't understand why working mothers are always painted as urban vixens who carry Prada bags and spend $48 for eyeshadow who might as well leave their children in Dickensian orphanages as in child care. I don't see why, in 2006, there continues to be criticism of women who work. It doesn't matter whether they have to work or they choose to work - although I do believe that for the most part, choice is a myth for the middle class.

All the working mothers I know work to feed and house and clothe their families. And, why has nobody asked the question about what would happen to the economy if 65 per cent of the workforce suddenly removed itself?

This is all over the place, I know. You know why? Because I'm a working mother who has too much on her plate, whose expectations for herself are too high (thank you media and society), and who is too exhausted trying to live her life let alone spend hours formulating a coherent argument to defend it.

Happy International Women's Day.