Expert Commentary...New Battle in the "Mommy Wars"

The Mommy Wars are back in the news. Every few years women throw emotional rocks at one another over the issue of staying at home to rear a child or going out to work and leaving a child in childcare.


For as long as I can remember, this fight has reared its ugly head again and again over the years and the result is a deeper crevasse between women who should be friends.


Last week, law professor Linda Hirshman suggested that professional women are hurting society by not using their skills out in the world. The backlash was a battlefield of emotional rock throwing most of the week. Check out ABC's Mommy Wars on the Internet.


As a participant in the childcare world, I too have an opinion. As I step up to pitch a rock, I realize that I only have a catcher's glove; I have no rock to throw. Perhaps my opinion has been rendered broader and deeper than the opinions at the battlefield because of what I've seen.


Here’s the rub: I know that Hirshman was talking about “educated” women, and was not concerned with the undereducated riff raff so commonly known as middle America . But as the catcher, I can’t leave any women out of what has become a game. The battlefield game is not just who's throwing the biggest rock, it’s a dilemma about why rocks are being thrown at all.


If you divide families into groups, you have three general types of families: the educated, economically sound, mother-father team as type one; the single parent, therefore single income, child support (never enough) type two; and the down on their luck families who can barely afford housing as type three.


Only in one of the family types is a choice to work available, and many of these families have school debts, big mortgages, hospital debt, and other drains on their income that make staying at home unfeasible. So we again limit choices to stay home to a few women.


Childcare is a grand necessity today, and that's why it's important. Good childcare is crucial in the lives of families who rely on it as a means to make a go of their lives. How many parents would like to stay at home at least part of the time knowing the refrigerator would always be full, that the car and house payments would always be made, and the most crushing question in their lives is choosing the best vacationing place in the nation this year.


Hirshman, unfortunately is a terrible snob, and that rubs most American women the wrong way.  An education, free of family duties, is a luxury most women will never realize. Once an education is at hand, the struggle to continue in the field as a woman is another battle. Just like some men who battle the odds at rising out of a chaotic or poor youth into a “professional” field is all that they will ever do, an education against the odds is all a woman can do as well.


It's different for women than it is for men because of the issue of giving birth. Marriage is a partnership. But that partnership becomes lopsided once children enter the picture because no matter how much a man wants to help, he can't.


After battling careers and being horribly sick through a pregnancy, many women are even more eager to care for a child they may have struggled to bring into the world.


For some women with that grand choice, a decision to stay at home and give up the professional rat race is a very natural one. They've done the professional thing, they've climbed the educational ladder; they've begun rising professionally, but home and hearth somehow have a stronger reality for them, a more natural, more promising end.


They are the lucky ones. While middle America has no choice anymore, these women do. Linda Hershman should never be so arrogant as to take that choice away.