"Mother: the most beautiful word on the lips of mankind." -Kahil Gibran
This coming Sunday is our "big day," moms. It's the one day a year when we get officially honored for what it is that we do. I don't know about you, but I usually find myself reflecting on exactly what my role is, anyway. Motherhood has evolved over the past two generations into a job which, many would argue, looks far different than the job our own mothers knew. And given the unfortunate-and oftentimes divisive-dichotomy between "working mom" and "stay-at-home mom" with which many categorize themselves, the job description sometimes gets fuzzier, rather than clearer. Does extensive volunteer work place you under the "working" or "stay-at-home" group? Does a part-time position at your kids' school or at your church push you out of the group with which you always identified yourself? And our role changes, after all, as our kids grow up. Options-as well as the resulting disequilibrium in shifting family dynamics-intrude on what once was a fairly easy job description to comprehend.
Controversy about motherhood is nothing new. Thousands of books, articles and commentaries have been written about our dilemmas ad nauseam. As if forty-and fifty something moms haven't wrestled long enough with their career-parenting decisions, young moms get additional fuel for their fires with glaring mainstream media headlines-just in time for Mother's Day. Throw in a new poll or two-as well as more advice and analysis by traditional parenting "experts"-M.D.'s and Ph.D.'s-and you have more psychobabble than the baby-burble running down these sleep-deprived mommy's sleeves!
Articles like the New York Times "The Opt-Out Revolution"; best-sellers like Perfect Madness: Motherhood in the Age of Anxiety; and critics calling motherhood everything from a "trap" to a "cult" to a "myth" to a "mess," turn notions about our role upside down and leave moms everywhere confused and conflicted. Look at some recent media messages:
? Author/journalist Judith Warner of Perfect Madness fame claims that: "a substantial number of GenX moms (are) too focused on perfection, too focused on their children, too competitive with one another, and that it's driving all moms crazy and providing their kids with no benefits." She asserts that there's an "oppressive culture of 'total motherhood' that "leaves no room for mothers' own interests" with "suffocation" the direct result.
? Sumru Erkut of the Center for Research on Women at Wellesley College, asserts that: societal expectations for moms have been "racheted up by professional moms who've 'upgraded motherhood to a bigger job than it used to be'" and views these moms as having "misplaced vigor."
? New York Times book critic Judith Shulevitz, commenting on Warner (who said that motherhood has gone from "art" to "cult") calls the job a "mess" and motherhood a "trap powered by fear of a loss of face."
? A recent article by journalist Meredith O'Brien in an online Boston paper headlines with: The Mommy Myth: Mothers pay a high price to be perfect. (Since when did we start attaching the word "myth" to "mommy?")
Pretty bleak picture of motherhood, huh? Hold onto your pantyhose. These journalists only paint part of the story. I dug into the facts, studied their articles, read the data and checked out their credentials. I came up with a totally different picture of motherhood and boldly challenge their assertions:
? A brand new poll (April 25) by ClubMom reveals that 63% of moms admit to feeling no pressure to live up to a "society-driven version of the 'perfect mom.'" This same poll finds that most moms are "happy" with their family relationships.
? 51% of those GenXer's they're talking about have traded super careers for motherhood because when they viewed the trade-offs required to "gun" their own careers (and some believe, through direct observation of their own working moms), they decided that the sacrifices required just weren't worth it.
? 79% of moms overall rate their own sense of well-being an "A" or "B"; 84% believe they are able to keep their minds sharp and active; and 76% rate their overall health (mental and physical) as high.
? In stark contrast to the "trap" or "mess" that these experts call motherhood, polls find that only 10% of working moms would choose to work full-time if money were no object, i.e. some 90% of moms would prefer the "trap" of motherhood to the workforce.
? Of Harvard Business School's women graduates of '81, '85, and '91-women currently in the fortysomething crowd-only 38% are working full-time.
? 26% of women at the cusp of the most senior levels of management do not want that next promotion, choosing more time at home with family over career advancement.
This job of motherhood is huge, it is vitally important, and those of us on the frontlines know it. Moms at home raising children today are there because we view our job as the most important one ever invented. I am working hard to help "put motherhood with excellence back on the map." That's what "rocket mom" is all about. I uphold with unapologetic optimism the distinct role we mothers play in shaping human destiny. If that's called "over parenting" or a "myth" or a "cult" or a "trap" or a "mess," than somebody better wake up and flip the pancakes.
I don't have all the answers; in fact, I have only a few. I don't pretend to be the world's best mother; just ask my kids how often I throw up my hands in frustration and resignation. But I am intent of helping moms-and our culture at large-review and renew the importance of what we do. I don't care if you work in the home or work in a beautiful office; divisions among moms are unhealthy. Truth is, once we have children, we're all in this together.
I just wish to inspire you, encourage you, and celebrate with you, the honorable role we play in shaping this whole next generation to greatness. On Mother's Day. And everyday.
Carolina Fernandez earned an M.B.A. and worked at IBM and as a stockbroker at Merrill Lynch before coming home to work as a wife and mother of four. She totally re-invented herself along the way. Strong convictions were born about the role of the arts in child development; homeschooling for ten years provided fertile soil for devising creative parenting strategies. These are played out in ROCKET MOM! 7 Strategies To Blast You Into Brilliance. It is available on Amazon.com, in bookstores everywhere, or by calling 888-476-2493. She writes extensively for a variety of parenting resources and teaches other moms via parenting classes and radio and TV interviews. Please visit http://www.rocketmom.com to subscribe to her free ezine and get a weekly shot of inspiration.
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