Sisterhood Blog

Mommy Wars: A Province of the Privileged

By Sarah Seltzer

  • Print
  • Share Share
time magazine

When I saw last week’s much-discussed Time magazine cover with its provocative mom-breastfeeds-toddler photo I groaned, worried that the debate over attachment parenting and breastfeeding would bring with it another chapter in the “mommy wars.”

When it comes to parental choices, such as staying at home vs. going back to work, breastfeeding vs. bottle-feeding, it seems that even some of the most die-hard feminists struggle to apply the rhetoric of reproductive justice — that every choice is unique to the woman who is making it and can’t be understood unless we’re in her shoes to the choices we make after birth.

But the media’s focus on the “mommy wars” ignores the real issue: Without policies that support families, no moms (or dads) can make those parenting choices that are so hyped up by the media. The folks at MomsRising are starting a campaign to ask Time to change its focus on covering families. They write:

What makes TIME’s decision to focus on trying to fan the flames of outdated, false “mommy wars” so utterly shameful is the fact that there are so many real and pressing issues facing America’s mothers right now that aren’t being covered. Issues like the fact that childcare costs more than college in many states, that 80% of low wage workers don’t have a single earned sick day, that women (particularly moms) face rampant pay discrimination, and that over 176 countries have some form of paid family leave, but the U.S. doesn’t.

These facts are stark. We remain the only country in the industrialized world without paid sick leave or mandatory paid parental leave. We have pitiful and costly daycare options, and there is little support for single mothers, poor mothers and others. Bryce Covert recently wrote a piece at the Nation about how new mothers are being driven into debt. She interviewed several women who had complications that led to their being driven deep into debt, or on a razor’s edge.

One such example:

Tina Villalobos was a schoolteacher working on Long Island when she became pregnant with her second child. Her school gave her five months of leave, but two of those were unpaid. During those months, she also had to pay for COBRA health insurance. Her husband was working part time, and the bills started to pile up. Taking time off “cost me about ten or twelve thousand dollars, not including what I didn’t get paid,” she said, which added up to about $18,000. “That went right on my line of credit. I haven’t been able to put a dent in it.” Now she fears she’s going to max it out and use all $32,000. “It’s scary,” she said, “because if I max out and I need some more I’m not sure where I’ll get it.”

If you’re not depressed enough by these stories, it gets even worse than that: These days, the state is actively prosecuting moms. There’s the case of Bei Bei Shuai, who suffered from depression while pregnant and is now being charged with homicide thanks to a suicide attempt that caused a miscarriage. The New York Times Magazine just ran a piece on prosecutors who are going aggressively after pregnant women who do drugs. There’s Marissa Alexander, the Florida mom who fired a gun in the air to warn off an abusive husband. Alexander is also facing a prison term for homicide. There’s the story of Raquel Nelson, a mom who was crossing a dangerous road late at night because there was no nearby crosswalk. When her whole family got struck by a drunk driver and the accident killed her son, she was charged with manslaughter. Julianne Hing wrote about Nelson’s story in Colorlines

Earlier this month an all-white jury of middle class folks who admitted they had limited experience taking public transportation in the area found Nelson [who is black] guilty of second-degree vehicular manslaughter and reckless endangerment.

The list goes on and on, so discouraging it makes my blood boil. Because these “mommy wars,” that tendency to judge mothers for not being up to snuff, feed directly into this kind of overzealous action on the part of the state. I so desperately wish that we’d turn our attention away from the “mommy wars,” which are the province of the privileged, to the war on moms, which mostly affects low-income women. We need to fight the war on mothers — not each other.


Permalink | | Share | Email | Print | Filed under: Time Magazine, Parenthood, Motherhood, Mommy Wars, Daycare, Breastfeeding

The Jewish Daily Forward welcomes reader comments in order to promote thoughtful discussion on issues of importance to the Jewish community. In the interest of maintaining a civil forum, The Jewish Daily Forwardrequires that all commenters be appropriately respectful toward our writers, other commenters and the subjects of the articles. Vigorous debate and reasoned critique are welcome; name-calling and personal invective are not. While we generally do not seek to edit or actively moderate comments, our spam filter prevents most links and certain key words from being posted and The Jewish Daily Forward reserves the right to remove comments for any reason.




Find us on Facebook!
  • "What I didn’t realize before my trip was that I would leave Uganda with a powerful mandate on my shoulders — almost as if I had personally left Egypt."
  • Is it better to have a young, fresh rabbi, or a rabbi who stays with the same congregation for a long time? What do you think?
  • Why does the leader of Israel's social protest movement now work in a beauty parlor instead of the Knesset?
  • What's it like to be Chagall's granddaughter?
  • Is pot kosher for Passover. The rabbis say no, especially for Ashkenazi Jews. And it doesn't matter if its the unofficial Pot Day of April 20.
  • A Ukrainian rabbi says he thinks the leaflets ordering Jews in restive Donetsk to 'register' were a hoax. But the disturbing story still won't die.
  • Some snacks to help you get through the second half of Passover.
  • You wouldn't think that a Soviet-Jewish immigrant would find much in common with Gabriel Garcia Marquez. But the famed novelist once helped one man find his first love. http://jd.fo/f3JiS
  • Can you relate?
  • The Forverts' "Bintel Brief" advice column ran for more than 65 years. Now it's getting a second life — as a cartoon.
  • Half of this Hillel's members believe Jesus was the Messiah.
  • Vinyl isn't just for hipsters and hippies. Israeli photographer Eilan Paz documents the most astonishing record collections from around the world:http://jd.fo/g3IyM
  • Could Spider-Man be Jewish? Andrew Garfield thinks so.
  • Most tasteless video ever? A new video shows Jesus Christ dying at Auschwitz.
  • "It’s the smell that hits me first — musty, almost sweet, emanating from the green felt that cradles each piece of silver cutlery in its own place." Only one week left to submit! Tell us the story of your family's Jewish heirloom.
  • from-cache

Would you like to receive updates about new stories?




















We will not share your e-mail address or other personal information.

Already subscribed? Manage your subscription.