Banish the Boogeymom!

By Jennifer Foote Sweeney

Published June 8, 2001 9:24PM (EDT)

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I returned to the workforce three months ago, after being home for almost 14 months with my only daughter.

I have almost completed my doctorate in family studies, specializing in marriage and family therapy. I am a family researcher. I know the studies, and I can read them critically for sample size, methodology and faulty conclusions. I have all the information I need to go to work armed with the knowledge that I am not damaging my daughter, that she is thriving in peer relationships, learning that there are others who can love and care for her.

Nonetheless, I have been wracked with guilt about my decision to go to work. I am one of those for whom it is not a financial necessity but rather a personal necessity and actually wish sometimes we did need the money so my return to work would be necessary to the financial well-being of the family. This is the twisted logic that comes from exposure to that generalized yet pervasive rhetoric that somehow it is bad for me to work.

Jennifer Sweeney's article, especially her comparison of this rhetoric to "bathroom humor," put a sorely needed spin on the situation. I wanted to write to express my appreciation for her perspective and her talent in conveying it.

-- Darci Cramer-Benjamin

I was in total agreement with Jennifer Sweeney's article, but feel she didn't go far enough. It seems to me that half of the solution to the negative effect that working parents supposedly have on children is to have the men who care so much give up their own damn jobs and stay home.

-- Julie Gavazov

I am the daughter of a working mother who didn't need to work but did, though her prize was self-respect rather than a BMW. I truly believe that in general, an at-home parent (mother or father) creates the most stable home environment. I also believe that when that at-home parent isn't there because he or she (and let's be honest, usually she) wants to be, the happiness of the child can't make up for the suffering of the parent. I love my mother. Would I have wanted her to miss out on the knowledge that she had found her calling and taken advantage of it, just so I could have grown up eating a few more fresh-baked cookies?

-- Haley Kish

I find it bewildering that this "working mom/stay at home mom" debate lingers. I took a year's leave from my job recently to spend more time with my young children, and was told over and over again how "lucky" I was. But, love my children as I do, I found the experience isolating, and learned quickly that my children actually benefited from the social interaction and structure of a quality day-care situation. They both adjusted quite easily when they came of school age.

I am now a "zero-guilt working mom" again. I do not sling arrows at mothers who have the means and the desire to stay home with their cubs all day, so why the assault against those of us who choose or need to work?

I also find it interesting that the very same people who are leading the charge against working moms are the most ardent supporters of "welfare reform," which forced poor single mothers into the workplace without concern for how their children would be cared for.

-- Janet O'Leary

You can't win as a mother.

There is a "mother ideal" to which every woman no matter how different in economic situation, ambition or temperament must adhere.

The ideal is defined by anyone and everyone with an opinion and a means to voice it.

So stay-at-home mothers get to relish comments about "stupid housewifes" and see their highest goals represented on television as a really clean toliet, while working mothers must try not worry too much about being held responsible for all of society going down said toilet.

The best advice to all mothers is what well-meaning moms tell their kids every day, "Just ignore them!"

-- Susan Ochs-Scher

Bottom line: It is optimal to have a caring and interested parent at home with the child. I don't understand why working moms feel so attacked by this idea. I am a working mom, and I don't have a problem accepting that.

Of course, I have a husband who stays at home. Talk about having your cake and eating it too! I think the real reason that we are afraid to discuss the real consequences of being "working mothers" is that when we see that there are consequences, we know that everyone's answer will be for us to get "back in the kitchen." I say, you simply change the rules of the game. You want to be a working mom? Find a dad who wants to stay at home. Of course that would require us to be much better at choosing mates. But that's a whole other article.

-- Andee Steinman

By Salon Staff

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