A Mother’s Place

The backlash against the backlash has begun. If you are thinking and breathing, you may have noticed the high-profile “go home” campaign recently foisted upon working mothers by a slew of baby-care experts, conservatives and others. Finally, a few good moms have fought back, planting their perspectives on so many bookstore shelves that not even the most harried salaried mom could miss them.

Of course, most working mothers are too busy to actually read every contribution to the category. The good news is that we don’t have to. With exhaustive detail and a passion bordering on stridency, New York Times journalist Susan Chira faithfully debunks the myth that working mothers are neglectful and selfish.

Chira refutes each and every claim against working motherhood — from pop psychology that heralds the glory of “attachment,” to conservatives who sanctify the virtues of “natural” (read: stay-at-home) motherhood. However, the strength of this well-documented book lies in the coupling of sound research with the intimate revelations that begin each chapter. “For all my bravado as I marched back to work and all the evidence that my children were thriving, I was never really quite sure,” she writes.

Unfortunately, outside of these few vignettes, Chira never really addresses the personal conflicts many working mothers face. After all — despite an individual woman’s desire to work — pressure to stay home from husbands, in-laws and peers can be overwhelming. And all the research in the world can’t change the late-night discussions between a husband and wife who disagree on this issue. Chira’s only contribution is to admit that choosing to work is significantly easier when the rationale is financial.

It would be easy to assume that Chira doesn’t address these issues because she hasn’t had to — according to the book, she has had the same nanny since the birth of her first child. A fleeting reference in the acknowledgments gives credit to her “understanding” in-laws. And, if Chira’s depiction of her husband in the book is accurate, the man is in line for sainthood. Wouldn’t life be grand if all working mothers had her setup?

Tags: , ,

Comments are closed.