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Family Groups - Women - 7 myths of working mothers

7 Myths of Working Mothers
Why Children and (Most) Careers Just Don't Mix

By Suzanne Venker

Review by Jerica Griff

If separating is hard for you - set up opportunities to practice
separating. For example, arrange to drop your child off at someone's
house additional times each week until it becomes easier for you... When
you pick your child up, don't be overly emotional. It's OK to act glad
to see her, but don't start crying and hugging her excessively - to do
so only shows your child how hard separation was for you.
- E. Christophersen, Ph.D. in "Preventing Separation Anxiety"

No wonder children are growing to adulthood with serious misconceptions
about commitment and attachment! The most important people in their
lives, parents - and particularly mothers - are being taught that
leaving their children should become easy and natural. In 7 Myths of
Working Mothers, Suzanne Venker examines why increasing numbers of
mothers are entering the workforce, and how this decision resonates in
their children's lives.

If motherhood was understood by society to be a full-time job, Venker
believes it would not be regarded as something to be done "on the side"
of a career. She is quick to acknowledge, however, that accepting
motherhood as a full-time position does not translate into 18 years out
of the workforce; it only means creatively seeking ways to work around
your children's schedule.

Many working mothers fail to realize that day care centers and nannies
are raising their children, relegating the mothers themselves to the
role of a babysitter. Feeding the children and putting them to sleep is
a far cry from true motherhood. As Venker writes, "The real work of
mothers is done when no one is around." She goes on to debunk seven
fallacies that keep women away from their children.

The first deception Venker tackles is the idea that "Men have it all -
why can't we?" Men don't have it all. Many dads miss out on a large
portion of parenting - first steps, first words, soccer games, piano
recitals, etc. - because their commitment to providing financially for
the family means traveling, late nights at the office, and weekend

Second, many women believe that staying at home full-time means throwing
their education and work experience out the window. Before they ever
have children, before they look into the eyes of their own flesh, before
they have spent even one hour watching this new life sleep, they
completely dismiss the idea of staying at home full-time. After all,
they have spent the majority of their developmental years preparing for
careers. Venker acknowledges that a mother's education is of great
benefit to her children, but only if the mother is present to impart
that knowledge to them. Statistics show that children of mothers with
advanced degrees or work experience have a great advantage over their
peers. Instead of "wasting" their education, many moms have found
resourceful ways of pursuing other interests without compromising the
health and well-being of their little ones.

Third, many believe that women who choose to stay home with their
children must be wealthy. Venker contends, however, that except in
single-mother households and other specific exceptions, the choice to
put children first has nothing at all to do with economic status and
everything to do with budgeting and self-discipline. In fact, most
women's second income is almost entirely eaten up by commuting,
childcare, eating out, work attire, dry cleaning and taxes.

Fourth, some women believe that their stress level in balancing work and
family could be lowered if only they had more support. The feminist
movement completely negates this excuse. There has never been an easier
time to be a working mom. Working mothers are often puzzled and
surprised by how well-behaved the children of full-time moms are, and
they wonder why their kids are having trouble in school. But, Venker
argues, as with anything else in life, one cannot expect the same
outcome with an eighth of the time investment. No company would allow an
employee to hire someone else to do her own job, so how can a mother
expect to hire someone else to raise her own offspring?

Fifth, many women claim that they are better moms because they work.
Venker counters with the argument that consistency is the most
controlling factor in the health and well-being of children. By being
removed from the home, working mothers often neglect kids' basic needs
(proper amounts of sleep, healthy diets, regular exercise, consistent
discipline, help with schoolwork, etc.) because they are unable to see
to those needs themselves. How is this being a better mom? Still, we
wonder why kids are falling asleep in school, overweight, or coming home
with less than flying colors on their report card.

The sixth myth of working mothers is the claim, "My children just love
day care." Psychiatrist John Bowlby disagrees: "A home must be very bad
before it can be bettered by a good institution." Because children have
a basic desire for the familiar, red flags should appear when children
do not want to go home with their parents. As anyone who has worked with
children can attest, the things children claim they want are not usually
the best things for them, whether it be candy, staying up after bedtime,
or playing video games all day.

The final deception of working mothers, according to Venker, is the idea
that women can "have it all planned out." Thus many women plan their
lives around their careers while postponing beginning a family. They
wrongly assume that fertility and children will fit as easily into their
planners and lifestyle as any other appointment. Venker encourages young
women instead to choose careers that are conducive to motherhood, to
live near parents or siblings who could help out with creative work
schedules, and to be financially responsible. Taking these steps will
make the transition to motherhood smoother when the time arrives.

It is distressing that the incredibly fulfilling, joyful responsibility
of motherhood is often looked upon as a dull waste of an intelligent
woman's time. Venker does an excellent job fighting back against
society's prejudices. Her hope is that anyone reading 7 Myths of Working
Mothers will encouraged by the mounting evidence that the best place for
the next generation is right at home. Mothers who are the primary
cultivators of knowledge for their children will no doubt reap
extraordinary rewards.

Jerica Griff, a Spring 2004 Witherspoon Fellow with the Family Research
Council, is currently interning with the Georgia Family Council. She is
a recent graduate of Colorado State University with degrees in Business
Administration/Marketing and Music.


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