I’m reading a book called “Not My Daughter” by Barbara Delinsky. To give a really short summary of the novel, it’s about a group of 17-year-old girls who make a “pact” to get pregnant intentionally because they want to be better mothers than mothers they’ve witnessed. The narrator, happens to be the mother of one of the girls, and actually was in a similar situation when she was 17–pregnant, single, and ostracized for being such. Anyway the narrator worked hard to raise her child to the best of her ability, as a single working mother, and actually became principal of her daughters high school. Though, it’s when her daughter is pregnant–following her mothers footsteps–that the narrator’s mothering abilities are questioned. Part of this is the idea that her daughter followed in her footsteps(when if the mother did what was right she wouldn’t have), the other part is the idea that maybe–just maybe, if she wasn’t a working mother that her daughter wouldn’t have ended up in that situation to begin with. Throughout the novel, part of the speculation is that because the narrator is so busy with her work life, that she failed to be a mother to her daughter, which resulted in the pregnancy. One of her friends, even makes it a point to mention that as a SAHM since she is home often, her daughter didn’t end up pregnant like the rest of her friends.
Anyway this stood out to me, because this isn’t the first time that I’ve heard this opinion expressed by men and women alike. More often than not there seems to be stigma attached to working mothers in that they are often perceived to not be good mothers because they aren’t staying at home watching their children. Whereas SAHM’s are often coveted by society in the fact that they are pursuing more traditional roles, and have the ability to closely monitor their children. In other words there is a belief, tucked deep down, that SAHM’s are better mothers than working mothers. And while I see this opinion expressed by men, a majority of the time, I’ve also seen this expressed by women on occasion as well.
I find it interesting that this belief still exists in our society. When in large not every woman is lucky to be able to stay at home with their child, and when they are still GOOD parents despite the fact that they aren’t able to stay at home. The mere idea that “staying” at home make’s you a better parent is troubling to me. Especially when we take into account the sheer number of “new” moms making the decision to NOT stay at home because they decide to dive into the workforce. With the economy the way it is, with the number of men losing their jobs/careers, and with the number of women finding themselves in the “breadwinner” roles it just isn’t possible for every woman to pursue the role of a SAHM. And of course not every woman wants to. Though, overall being a SAHM is extremely gratifying and extremely difficult(my mom was a SAHM).
What bothers me the most is that women are considered “bad mothers” for not making the decision to stay at home, even if their situation dictates the need to go to work, or if they are quite unhappy staying at home. I’m not sure–when I do have a family–what role I’d take, but more of me is leaning toward staying in my career field and I’d hate to be considered a bad mother for deciding to do so.