Every few years, when the media needs something to boost ratings, they turn to the tried and true mommy wars. It's not a heavy lift and does wonders for ratings and ad sales! Every two years, we get redefined for the latest election cycle -- soccer moms, security moms, minivan moms. Retailers grab onto labels like "Wal-mart" moms for their own marketing purposes.
And just when you think its safe to go back into the bookstores -- VOILA! -- a new tome on how women are doing things all wrong is conveniently penned by a woman so the whole sister-hate thing can be milked some more.
Just as we're coming off the latest round of politically-motivated mom wars thanks to Democratic adviser Hilary Rosen and Mitt Romney's wife, Ann, it looks like we're going to have this pretend debate all over again just in time for Mother's Day with the release of The Conflict: How Modern Motherhood Undermines the Status of Women -- a book by a female French scholar who believes that American moms are totally into being martyrs for their children (not like those smart French moms!) and that all our problems would be solved if we stepped away from breastfeeding and all other things that come anywhere close to what some call attachment parenting.
While I haven't gotten the book yet, (I'm still waiting for that review copy), I have read many of the reports that have been all over the Internet, including one this week at The New York Times as part of its "Room for Debate" series, in which several women were polled and asked to write about whether this current thinking about motherhood will mean the death of feminism.
Again, I say -- sales, people. There is only one reason we're even talking about this. Readers. Eyeballs. That is ALL this pretend "conflict" is and, sadly, I'm sure it will all help promote sales of this latest book that will have many women beating themselves up over their choices and their lives. Remember that whole "opt out" conversation that made some good money for a few writers? It turns out that, once the actual scholars and data people looked at things, it was all just smoke and mirrors to sell books and newspapers. Yes, there was a day a few decades ago when women engaged in the stay-at-home vs. working mom judgment game. But these days, I think I'm safe in saying that most of the people I know are past that. There's not enough energy to be spent judging what other women are doing. I have a hard enough time staying on top of work and family commitments; I don't have time to mess with anyone else's head.
Few, if any, in the media are paying any attention to the real issue -- how we can best support all families. Not just women, but all families. And that includes families of all colors, shapes and sizes. It would take too much effort to drill down into the policies (or lack thereof) that keep many women and families in a state of never having any real choices -- the ones who have to work to put food on the table, even if it's a two-income family. The fact that anyone has time to have this mommy war conversation says two things -- you have too much time on your hands and you're not paying attention to the families who can't afford the luxury of this debate. The vast majority of working mothers in our country don't have a choice about getting to their job -- or jobs. They don't have a choice to stay home when they're sick or their kids are under the weather. There is no choice because they have to work.
Mommy Wars only touches the lives of those of us lucky enough to have a true choice, a group of mostly middle- and upper-income, suburban women who are white. There is no enslavement or oppression for the women lucky enough to have the time to have this nonsensical conversation. At the risk of overt self-promotion, maybe there's another book that politicians, scholars and the media ought to be taking a look at in these political and economic times to learn what real women -- real moms -- are talking about.
I'm no French scholar, but I know a couple of things about what real women are saying, and it ain't how to divide the world of mothers. Thoughtful conversations about the fact that women who are mothers are about so much more than they fact that they have kids, get pushed by the wayside. They don't sell newspapers and they don't make good TV (Anderson, I'm talking to you).
Joanne Bamberger is the author of the Amazon.com bestseller, Mothers of intention: How Women and Social Media are Revolutionizing Politics in America (Bright Sky Press). Joanne, a Washington, D.C.-based writer and political/media analyst, is the founder of the political blog, PunditMom, and is the 2012 Election Editor/Contributor for iVillage.