Sweet Smell of Victory
Recently I heard something very gratifying on NPR – according to a recent Harvard research study, daughters of those moms we used to call “working moms” are more successful professionally than daughters of those moms we used to call “stay at home moms” – and their sons are more conscientious.
FINALLY vindication for those of us who pioneered as career women against most all odds!
Hearing about this research got me thinking about days past (something I enjoying doing for this blog) and the saga of the St. Something Afterschool Program. (I changed the name to protect the innocent).
The Battle Ground
Back in the early 90s my daughter attended a small Catholic grade school from 8:00 am until 2:30 pm. The school was in a “gentrified” urban neighborhood. The church was considered quite liberal in the day – offering social groups for not only oldsters and youngsters but even divorced and gay Catholics.
Over time a group of us “working moms” began to chat about the hassle of finding daycare for our grade-schoolers. As action oriented gals, we decided to get together to develop an after-school program at the school. Our idea was to create a fun and enriching program primarily for those kids who needed daycare until their parents got off work.
Our afterschool “committee” consisted of a physician, a lawyer, a marketing executive, an accountant and a computer specialist. Our “war room” was my dining table where we gathered in the evenings, drank wine, munched on cheese and crackers and attacked our project with the same zeal we mustered when working at our respective downtown offices.
Working Moms’ Battle Plan
A month or so after we began, we finished a business plan document – and it was damn good if I say so myself. It addressed financial, operational, educational and regulatory concerns. Had it been an investment opportunity, no doubt we would have attracted lots of capital! We described a self-supporting afterschool program open from 2:30 pm to 6:00 pm offering fun, safe and learning activities for the kids and convenience for their working parents.
We were STOKED and couldn’t wait to take our bows once the Pastor and Parish Council finished clapping.
Stay-at-Home Moms’ Battle Plan
Naively we asked to present our proposal and obtain permission to proceed. Unbeknownst to us, battle lines were being drawn and delay tactics immediately began. “The Parish Council has a full agenda . . . the Pastor will be on vacation . . . out of town . . . out to lunch . . . in the confessional . . . saying the rosary . . . otherwise indisposed . . . thinking pure thoughts . . .” (you name it).
Time to re-group and strategize. We decided to meet one-on-one with the parish power brokers to see what gives. The self-appointed Grand Poo-bah was a woman who had been a successful bank executive until her first child was born. She then used her executive talents to control the Pastor, the Parish Council and all other things “St. Something”. She was smug in her self-righteousness and overall a pain in the pitooty.
When she finally deemed to meet with our appointed spokesperson, she explained that she understood our desire for an afterschool program, but that she and the other stay-at-home moms had met and decided to torpedo the afterschool program proposal because (get this) they did not want to encourage parish mothers to have careers – particularly since they had all given up their careers to foster “the best interest” of their children.
As strong as our working mom group liked to appear, her words were like a dagger to our hearts. In those days as pioneer career moms, we had ambivalent feelings about leaving our children during the workday. We were in unchartered waters and clearly didn’t want to harm or disadvantage our children. Those were tuff and somewhat lonely times for working moms.
The Flanking Attack
Used to setbacks in our careers, we quickly moved to plan B – modifying the business plan to include a modest profit on operations and meeting with ancillary power-brokers and other working mom families. With the backing of a large group of the former, who also just happened to be generous donors to the parish, we were able to be added to the agenda of the next parish council meeting and get approval to proceed with developing an afterschool program. The afterschool program opened the next semester and it thrived and to this day is one of the school’s most effective recruiting tools.
Retreat of the Grand Poo-bah
One of the biggest ironies was that the Grand Poo-bah actually signed her own kids up for the program. It turned out that the working mom’s kids liked it so much that the stay-at-home moms had to sign up their own kids (at least a couple days a week) so as not to miss out on all the fun!
Back to the Research Study About Daughters of Working Moms
By the way, I shouldn’t brag – but back to the research about daughters of working moms doing well – I can attest to the fact that my daughter and her friends, whose mothers also worked outside the home, each appears to be doing well – one is a veterinarian, one is a non-profit executive and one is a lawyer/activist. All three (now 30-year-old women) are professionally successful, contributing members of society, and seemingly happy in life.
Has There Been a Cease Fire?
According to a 2013 Parents Magazine survey, 63% of moms believe mommy wars still exist but only 29% have ever experienced the impact first-hand. That said, when the author of the magazine article googled “mommy wars”, she noted nearly 25 million results! So, whether the war still exists or not, there continues to be lots of buzz about it.
The Moral of the Story – Let Us Move From a Cease Fire to a Truce
Once again I return to the “choice” theme of my blog musings. We boomer feminists worked long and hard to create choices for women and to ensure these same choices for our daughters.
I know many young women, including my nieces and young women attorneys with whom I work, who continue to struggle with doing the right thing for their children and for themselves. At least now they will have the benefit of the referenced research study to know that their work outside the home will not harm and will actually help their daughters.
The choice to work at home or outside the home is not easy and it is very individual. We should celebrate the choice and not judge our sisters for their choices.
Special Blog Post Song
Last, but not least, I hope you enjoy this post’s song, Although this parody does not address mommy wars per se, it is a very fun music video and makes some great points about working women.