“Wanted: Mary Poppins. Call HELP NOW. Must have own transportation and speak English.” I’ve seen this ad more than once placed by mothers seeking solutions to life’s problems. The trouble is that substitution method of motherhood just doesn’t work. Substitution is a great solution for certain algebra problems. Whole milk is almost as good as half and half in your coffee (but not quite). Fix-a-flat may just get you home. When it comes to motherhood, there is no substitute and quite honestly, there are no second chances. Our children need us to be there and we are fooling no one but ourselves to think that we don’t matter.
Suzanne Venker tackles the 7 Myths of Working Mothers head on. She begins with this fabulous quote by Michael Niziol:
“It takes immense character to be able to give without recognition, to put aside the trivial material needs that seem so pressed but in reality are so trivial, to have the clearness of mind and the strength of spirit to look at what really matters and to give of yourself to make another better. And so the next time you question why the fabric of society is continuing to unravel at the edges, ask yourself what the emotional, financial, and intellectual value of motherhood is.”
One of the problems in the culture is that many women think they must have it all now. To be honest, there are not enough hours in the day. Being someone else’s mother is a full-time job and this is precisely why cramming in another huge work commitment simply doesn’t work.
Statistics are inflated to show a greater number of “working mothers” than actually exists. Anyone who makes any amount of money is considered a “working mother.” I think my favorite response to the “working mother” as only the one who works for money is the joke about the father who asks what his wife does all day. One day, she didn’t lift a finger to cook or clean, stayed in bed and read. If you have small children, you know exactly what I’m talking about. There is no more destructive force in nature than a two year old on a mission. It’s why Bill Cosby once said, if he had an army of two year olds he could take over the world. Naturally, the house looked like a war zone when Dad got home. “What happened here today, he asks?” She replies, “Nothing. Absolutely nothing.”
Venker also lets out a couple of well kept secrets. Kids are fun and mothers have fun when they get together.
Venker also points out that “our generation does not embrace sacrifice. The practice of doing for others, of finding personal satisfaction in helping others, is foreign to us. We have been taught that immediate gratification–whether in the form of a paycheck, a pat on the back or the ability to do what we want, when we want–is the only way to be happy. But as Sir Wilfred Grenfell once said, ‘Real joy comes not from ease or riches or from the praise of men, but from doing something worthwhile.'”
Nor does day care promote independence, which springs from stability. The single greatest feat of a newborn is emotional attachment. How does this happen if Mom is not there? How sad that some mothers have to come to this realization when their baby calls someone else, “Mommy.” Worse yet is one case I know of where the mother, a physician, purposefully changes her nanny every six months so her children do not become attached to anyone.
Societal issues, as always, have so much to do with how we perceive the culture. Venker illustrates these issues. There are things in life that are more important than money. We live in a divorce ridden culture that prompts women to know how to take care of themselves, lest they be destitute. The sad irony of all this is, of course, that the stress a second job causes to marriage may well be a self-fulfilling prophecy.
Mary Poppins is one of my favorite children’s movies. She sings like an angel, she’s cheerful and in her own gentle way she makes all the of the Banks family realize the importance of what they have. The trouble, of course, is that Mary Poppins is just a movie character. Reality is different. Real children need real Moms who there with them everyday. Children instinctively clue into the fact of whether or not we think they are worth our time. The days may sometimes be long but the years are short. One day we will blink and realize they’re all grown up.
To purchase 7 Myths of Working Mothers: Why Children and (Most) Careers Just Don’t Mix, click here.