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Friday, February 10, 2006

The "Mommy Wars" seen from a different (and darker) perspective

If you haven't been near the internet, a television or a newspaper lately, then you wouldn't know that there is a "war" of sorts going on. No, this isn't about Iraq (don't let me go there), but rather the pros and cons of working mothers vs. stay-at-home mothers. Seems that the guilt is being blasted into both camps where the former are made to feel they are letting down their children and the latter are being told that they are turning their backs on 35 years of gains for women's rights. The numerous books coming out on either side of the topic have been generating mucho sales for the publishing industry.

Well, it seems that those camps are not representative of all mothers, as pointed out in a recent Newsweek article. Author Lonnae O'Neal Parker, a reporter for the Washington Post and mother of three, has come out with a book that touches on the subject but from an African-American mother's perspective. The book, I'm Every Woman: Remixed Stories of Marriage, Motherhood and Work, is "equal parts memoir, history lesson and cultural critique." The book explores black motherhood dating back from slavery to present time. It is a breath of fresh air for many professional black mothers who just can't relate to the choices of staying at home versus working since many times there isn't a choice.

As Newsweek points out many of these mothers may be single parents, or, if married, may make more money than their husbands. But there's another reason why these women can't relate to issues of getting the right nanny, spending $800 for a baby buggy or whether their husband's income will allow them to take a "break" from working. "For generations black women have viewed work as a means for elevating not only their own status as women, but also as a crucial force in elevating their family, extended family and their entire race."

Pamela Walker, a mother and a professor at Northwestern Business College in Chicago, who attended a book club meeting where O'Neal Parker's book was discussed, agrees with that assessment. "My family can afford expensive things, but why would I think about spending hundreds on a stroller when I could help a cousin buy textbooks for college? That is not my world."

Black women aren't the only ones complaining about the elitist tones of the debate. Working-class mothers of all hues and ethnicities sees this as something not touching on their lives. Writer Leslie Morgan Steiner, a white mother of three and the editor of Mommy Wars, an anthology of essays to be published by Random House next month (in which O'Neal Parker is a contributor), says simply, "The conflict seems to be pretty much driven by white upper-middle-class angst, and the debate has been taken over by that."

Sharon Cullars Coffee Talk at 2/10/2006 12:53:00 PM Permanent Link     | | Home


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